I wouldn’t be surprised this week if there’s a stronger-than-typical response today when Tom Breihan reviews Creed’s Number One hit “With Arms Wide Open.”
After all, both Mike and the Mechanics’ 1989 chart-topper The Living Years and Harry Chapin’s 1974 hit Cat’s in the Cradle inspired more comments than most of their contemporaries.
Fatherhood – or, to put it more broadly, parenthood – is not the most common Top 40 topic.
In part because of that relative lyrical novelty, Creed’s Number One hit earns two grades from me:
As a recording, it’s a 7.
I like its juxtaposition of the sensitive topic matter and the pop-grunge music (even the remix that plays up an orchestral segment works fine).
But as an example of vicarious parenthood, it’s a solid 10/10.
I’ve always had a complex relationship with the notions of being a father. I’m part of the last generation of gay men for whom coming out meant wrestling with questions of letting go of becoming a father.
In 1981, the year I came out, IVF was still relatively new. My cultural sense of gay men leaned more toward the Village People (only some of whom were gay) or Elton John (then known publicly as bisexual) than to any paterfamilias. I knew very few same-sex couples, and none were raising children. The few gay men I knew who had children had been married and become fathers before coming out.
At the same time: as a young adult, I faced the same questions my heterosexual friends did:
- Would I be happy being a parent?
- What did parenthood mean to me?
- Was parenthood the only way or the best way to contribute to the betterment of the world?
- Would I have regrets if I became a parent – or regrets if I did not become one?
Making my way through the challenging 1980s – discerning my own code of ethics and approach to physical and relational intimacy – meant my own growing up. That consumed my energy for years, and questions of parenthood went on the back burner.
It wasn’t until the early ’90s, on the cusp of turning 30, that I felt ready to look more closely.
By then, I had met a man 18 years older than I who had long since worked through that internal dialogue and did not desire to be a father. I still wasn’t sure whether I wanted parenthood. But I knew, more firmly and clearly than almost anything I’ve ever known, that I wanted a relationship with that man.
In a few months, we will celebrate our 30th anniversary. In all those years, I’ve become close friends of heterosexual and LGBTQ+ adults who have children. I’ve also become close friends of heterosexual and LGBTQ+ adults who, like us, do not.
What those years have taught me is that there are myriad ways to be generative and to create and cherish family.
All contribute to a better world.
Having recently turned 59, I’ve been reflecting with gratitude on the journey I’ve taken. At the same time, I’m grateful today’s LGBTQ+ young people can detangle understanding their sexual orientation and gender identity from considerations of potential parenthood.
Each process is essential to healthy development, and each deserves its own space and time.
In With Arms Wide Open, Scott Stapp of Creed sings:
“I don’t know if I’m ready to be the man I have to be.”
Though I’ve never experienced hearing that I’m about to be a father, that’s a question I’ll readily co-sign.
I’ve certainly felt that doubt of stepping into a new phase of life, one for which I feel completely unprepared.
Maybe that’s why this song resonates so with me.
Let the author know that you liked their article with a “heart” upvote!”