Photographed by Levi FosterStyled by Wendell Brown
Twins Scout and Gus are ten-year-old New Yorkers, and their schedule is no joke. Up at six a.m., they get ready for school with one parent while the other squeezes in a workout at the gym. They are out of the door by eight a.m. and walk to 490 Hudson where they attend PS3 Charrette School. In the afternoon, they practice sports, build robots, and attend architecture and cooking classes (I hear Gus is a skilled cook) at Greenwich House.
Hungry and a little tired, they get home at six p.m. Only after dinner and homework, Scout and Gus can finally enjoy the best moment of the day: snuggle time with their own heroes, their dads.
It is also a special occasion for the fathers, vice-president menswear design David Root and vice-president brand creative Jason Oranzo, who are just as busy as their kids throughout the day.
“Sometimes we snuggle in front of the TV, as we watch their favorite cartoons, but, lately, we all jump in our bed. It’s the best way to relax, recharge and connect after a long day,” says Jason.
Like fictional heroes, Jason and David are attentive, protective, present and really—really— cool! With successful careers revolving around fashion, both men have exquisite styles and a constant finger on trends. They spend a whole lot of time in monochromatic outfits and impeccably picked sneakers.
The dads’ lives revolve around their children. They try to share parenting responsibilities equally. Occasionally, they even manage to take weekends for themselves while Jason’s mother, based in Madison, Connecticut, takes care of the kids.
Scout tells me that their dads are great because they make her and Gus laugh, particularly when Jason dances around the apartment, and David pokes fun at him—allegedly for his moves.
Dad David’s tickling games, which are Scout’s weakness, also contribute to laughter and bonding.
Dads and kids sit around a wooden table and recollect the daily routine. The atmosphere is sweet, and the smiles are touching.
As the West Village rumbles at rush hour outside the window, and my intrusive presence delays dinner, in the family’s living room, I witness warmth, responsiveness, and sensitivity, which, not coincidentally, are crucial aspects of parenting and predictors of children wellbeing.
But there’s more.
I observe a solid example of a recent redefinition of fatherhood, no longer described uniquely in contrast or relation to motherhood, but, more comprehensively, in connection to good parenting; a shift prompted by the rapid emergence of new family forms and evolving societal attitudes towards fathers’ participation in their children’s lives.
“Ten years ago, two gay men as parents were not nearly as common as it is now. We used to get a lot of smiles, stares, and sometimes random compliments,” explains Jason.
According to common sense and traditional beliefs, mothers are by predisposition better suited to parenting than fathers. However, research shows that heterosexual dads who are involved with their children influence their wellbeing and the formation of a positive view of self, others, and relationships.
But what about families with two fathers?
Professor Susan Golombok at the University of Cambridge is one of the world’s leading experts on the impact of new family structures on parenting and child development.In her book, “Modern Families: Parents and Children in New Family Forms,” she writes that children in these families fare just as well as children raised in traditional families. Her research identified higher levels of interaction and overall more positive functioning in gay father families. These findings don’t come as a surprise to experts, because children in modern households, from families created utilizing assisted reproductive technologies to those formed by same-sex partners, are very much wanted by highly motivated parents.
The way gay fathers interact with their children may represent an entirely new human experience mirroring both fatherhood and motherhood.
In a unique research study with poetic findings, Eyal Abraham and collaborators at Bar-Ilan University in Israel examined the sensitivity of male brains to caregiving experiences.
The team filmed mothers, straight fathers, and gay fathers interacting with their children and later monitored the parents’ brain responses as they watched the videos.
Straight mothers showed greater activation in areas of the brain associated with emotional processing while straight fathers displayed increased activity in socio-cognitive circuits.
Interestingly, the brain activation of gay dads was similar to that of straight parents of both sexes. Caring for a child activates a genderless brain parental network.
In other words, it is not only the existence of vibrant homes such as the one that Jason and David formed or the shift in societal norms and attitudes towards new family structures that are redefining the idea of fatherhood. It is also the human brain malleability to modern parenting experiences.
As Father’s Day is rapidly approaches we can celebrate a larger conception of fatherhood, one that highlights not so much the number, sexual orientation, or biological relatedness of fathers, but the dedication, presence, and warmth of good dads.
Admittedly, Scout and Gus have yet to plot surprises for Father’s Day. In any case, a proper celebration is guaranteed.
In the past, the family spent Father’s Day on the beach in East Hampton. Last year, Scout and Gus surprised their dads with a big, cutout banner that read “Happy Father’s Day.” On their end, Jason and David tend not to buy each other gifts, but rather shop together to honor personal style.
This year, on June 19, the family plans on will take a walk along the water in Hudson River Park, play mini-golf together, and then celebrate Jason and David with a family sushi dinner.
And, I bet, there will be extra snuggle time just for the occasion.
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