Being part of a “two-dad” family, I knew there were going to be curve balls thrown at us when raising our babies. Living in New Orleans, we are really blessed to be embraced by this awesome city. From all walks of life, we can feel the genuine love which radiates from most of the people we encounter. We belong to the sweetest and most loving church I have ever been a part of. Saint Anna’s Episcopal Church accepted us from the very beginning… with open arms. Quite literally, actually! We love them and our city so much!
From the beginning months of our first child, I knew I wanted to read children’s books to her which one day she could relate to. Before I go further, I absolutely love traditional children’s books, too! Eric Carl is one of my favorite children’s book authors. There are so, so many books we love. Unfortunately, coming from such a small slice of the population, being two dads, I wanted my baby to recognize similarities in the illustrations she could relate to in her own life.
Unfortunately, the more I looked, the more frustrated I got. Although there are some really great options out there which help represent ‘same-sex families,’ they are definitely hard to come by, especially when looking for high quality books with beautiful illustrations.
I remember getting so frustrated at just how easy the traditional family had it when introducing relatable materials to their children. It was unfair how with my own family, it wasn’t so easy.
For a few years now, I have enjoyed being a lifestyle writer and blogger. I created my website, because I wanted to write about our own experiences before and after baby. I felt it was incredibly important to give other people hope from my own LGBTQ community. Creating a family as gay parents is incredibly difficult and often times heartbreaking. I set out to inspire those other hopeful same-sex parents. Unbeknownst to me, while doing so, I also allowed every other person the opportunity to see the love which radiates from our family. You see, we love our children just as anyone else does. We just happen to be two dads.
With a few years of writing under my belt, I had another calling. I wanted to help put more reading materials out there for not only children of same sex parents, but for all children in our country, and the world!
When you have a child, you want nothing more than to make sure they are safe, loved, and healthy. You do everything in your power to see that they are happy and thriving. You want them to understand their family loves them unconditionally, despite any differences they may start to recognize.
There are almost 8 billion people on our planet and each one of us is part of a uniquely beautiful and different family all their own.
Our little ones’ minds can go to unimaginably beautiful places with endless possibilities through books. Representation of how our families look within the stories helps allow this to happen, especially when there are illustrations kids can relate to. The possibilities are endless when you help stimulate imaginations and curiosities.
Telling my kids about having two dads is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many situations and circumstances which are different when dealing with a family like mine. It is the deep and impactful story lines I find hard to come by.
There are topics which are highly sensitive and super delicate. For example, adoption and the origins of how parents like us were able to find our children. Also, being someone who dealt with bullying growing up, I know first hand how embarrassing and hurtful the topic can be. Unfortunately, there are not many children’s books which help with these topics and also add the ‘same-sex’ component to the mix.
As we had more kids, the frustration grew while looking for more options to help enlighten our babies through books.
Representation is crucially important for anyone, but especially when you are a child. Positive visibility helps break the taboo stereotypes, also expanding a parent’s mind on accepting all loving families for who they are, despite any differences they may have.
Respect and tolerance are keys in paving the way for a well rounded and loving heart.
I love writing. I always have. I also love helping people. And I knew I needed to do something about the problem I was seeing about the lack of availability of these sensitive children’s books.
I always heard of quotes like, “if you dream it, be it.” Or, “Sometimes if you want something to happen, you just have to do it yourself.” I realize now why they are so impactful. It’s because there couldn’t be any truer words spoken.
So, with a dream in my pocket and friends by my side, I was able to set the wheels in motion to create something which could last forever and have potential to help families all over the world. I was beginning the process of writing my own children’s book!
The Adventures of Addie Underwater
Having a multiracial family of my own, who are also raised by two dads, I felt strongly this was the perfect scenario which would not only captivate young imaginations, but help melt away insecurities felt by some parents.
Most of all, having 3 children of my own, I want them to have access to materials which will help them develop into loving and accepting young people. Of course, we teach them this through our words and our actions, but I want them to see it first hand in a tangible object they can use to visually stimulate their little minds and allow their imaginations to run wild.
These beginning years are incredibly crucial for their comprehensive and emotional development. I wanted a children’s book series which tackled the difficult questions in life, and hopefully will create a much needed dialogue between parents and their children in a natural and tactful manner.
By introducing adoption, skin color, loss of a family member, dealing with bullies and seeing the beauty of all families, we will create the perfect opportunity to have such a delicate and serious conversation while keeping things lighthearted and fun.
My own babies can control the direction of the conversation. They can ask as many questions as they want as each answer helps build their character and tolerance without them even knowing.
My children, and others too, for that matter, need to see although all families are different, they all love each other in the same way. It is so important children learn at an early age how some families do not look like their own. This is especially true as they grow into their school age years.
As my oldest gets closer and closer to kindergarten, I wanted it to be super easy to read and to understand for her, too. I thought it was also very important for beginning readers to have fun reading it.
Children in all walks of life need to have access to books like these. Unfortunately, there are places around our country that still don’t accept differences in other families.
This causes a lasting, heartbreaking effect, because those feelings, emotions, and comments trickle down to the children in their own lives which carries on the cycle of intolerance. It is so sad. If more parents would just embrace everyone for who they are and teach love and acceptance despite what differences they may have, I assure you, this country and world would be a better place to live in.
As my book neared completion, I knew that I wanted to figure out some way to get this book into libraries across America. Children from all walks of life need access to this message!
As the conditions worsened across our country and the globe, it felt like another avenue was needed to help uplift the spirits of the trampled and broken hearted. This global pandemic has brought the world to her knees and I wanted to help in some way.
I learned long ago in my youth group at church that one smile can help change the world. It can effectively stop the cycle of anger and sadness in its tracks.
What better way to do this than to create t-shirts, onesies for babies, and face masks… ALL with one goal in mind. TO INSPIRE.
I partnered up with an incredible locally owned clothing company in Los Angeles, California, called Kid’s Dream, which is run by CEO, Chewy Jang. They have essentially stopped in their tracks to help the front lines of the
Covid-19 pandemic by making, donating and shipping thousands of hand made face masks to the essential workers all throughout America.
I feel strongly with all of my heart, as long as we can help keep people smiling, the brighter everyone’s candle will be to get us through each dark night ahead by being someone’s “Light in the Dark.”
To get my new book into libraries across America, a very generous portion of the sales from my ‘Inspire’ clothing collection will go towards purchasing copies of these books and shipping them libraries all across the country. As sales continue to hopefully increase, we plan to add more locations in the future.
‘The Adventures of Addie Underwater: Every Family is Built with Love’
You can find “The Adventures of Addie Underwater” across the Audubon Institute campuses and at local bookstores around New Orleans like: Blue Cypress, Octavia, Garden District Books and the New Orleans Historic Collection’s gift shop.
On the Northshore you can find it in Old Mandeville at the Book Nook.
About Erik Alexander
Erik is a stay-at-home ‘papa’ to three beautiful children. He has lived in New Orleans for almost twenty years by way of south Mississippi. He met his husband Douglas in 2006 and have been together for 13 years. They both love New Orleans and have a deep sense of pride to call this eclectic city home. When Erik isn’t running behind a 3 1/2 and 2 year old he enjoys working out, cooking, baking, gardening and tending to our family’s short term rental. He also runs his blog called Nolapapa.com to help give other aspiring parents in the LGBTQ community hope and insight on parenting and personal growth. Erik strongly feels that visibility is crucial for a two dad family as it helps normalize what today’s families can look like.