Some thoughts on Father’s Day

My dad, 53 years ago

Relationships between gay men and their mothers are legendary, but the dad relationship can sometimes be more complex. But on this Father’s Day, I think we all know how important a dad can be.

Everyone thinks their dad was the best, except for those who think he was the worst, and both are probably right. “Dad” is the worst job in the world, that’s for sure: It comes with no instruction manual and less of a “paternal instinct” that moms get. As fathering goes, there’s no right way, or at least no way to know it’s the right way. My dad is of a generation that wasn’t much for changing diapers (he famously changed mine only once, when I peed in his face). He himself was the youngest of seven kids; his parents were well into their 40s when he and his twin brother were born, and he was orphaned by the time he was 15. My dad turned a lot to his H.S. coach as a father figure (he almost adopted my dad and Uncle Ron) so he understood the value of a father figure.

Dad was only 24 when I was born — not much more than a kid, really. He was a jock in school and a soldier when I came along. He certainly didn’t have any reason to know what to do with two kids; it’s not like he could Google “good parenting — fathers” and watch YouTube videos. Dad then became a high school coach and phys ed teacher himself, and at my house, we always referred to the young men he coached as “his boys.” It made me feel a bit on the outside, because they were all older and more athletic and I had a back brace for much of my childhood that limited my mobility and made me not the star running back my dad probably would have wanted, or at least known what to do with.

But that didn’t stop him from supporting me. He taught me archery, which didn’t require speed. Every night, for as many years as I can remember, my dad came into my bedroom while I was in bed, stood across the room and threw a football to me — back and forth we went, with the rule that we had to have X consecutive catches without a drop before I had to go to bed. Eventually, it got to be 100 in a row. I remember a few times he fumbled around 98, and to this day I don’t know if he did it on purpose just so we could spend more time together. His name for me was always “Buddha.” I’m not sure when he stopped calling me that; I sorely miss it.

Sometimes, he would just hand me a toy gun and take one himself and we would have shoot-outs in the living room (when I was older, we had light saber battles); but I still recall the time my sister told him (correctly) that I had shot my pellet gun (small, rubber pellets in a plastic gun — nothing major) at her and my dad took my gun to the back porch and stomped it into shards while I watched on in tears. Playing with toy guns was OK, but he was teaching another lesson — about responsibility.

He also taught me about the birds and the bees, and walloped me a few times I remember, but also played the guitar a lot and taught us to sing and drove all night 450 miles in a station wagon so we could go on family vacations. My strongest memory is probably the summer I learned how to dive head-first off the high board. I did it, finally, on the last day our club’s pool was open, but dad was away at a track meet. No cell phones, mind you — so I waited by the door in my Speedo with a towel around me so I could show him when he got home. The pool closed at 10; dad pulled into the drive about 9:44, and we drove like crazy to the pool so he could see me dive. I did it — three times — while he looked on. I don’t think I dove off the high board ever again in my life.

When he took me to movies, which I loved doing with him (together, just the two of us, we saw Star Wars, Alien and Star Trek The Motion Picture), he liked to buy as many snacks as we could carry. In intermediate and high school, I did theater, including once a drag role, and he would beam — he was happy for me and very encouraging.

But he made a lot of mistakes, no doubt. He wasn’t a perfect dad any more than I was the perfect son. When I was a kid I’d overhear him say some homophobic things which frightened me about coming out to him, but actually he’s been totally supportive of me and always been nice to my boyfriends (or at least treated them with dignity). I got my name and my sense of humor from him. I like to think I got his looks, too, though he was far handsomer than I’ve ever been. And he always treated my mother right. I think that’s the best thing a father can teach his children: To respect their mother and to love the person who means the most to you.

He rarely raised his voice. He is a hugger and a kisser and has never hesitated to say, “I love you.” He is the only dad I’ve every known, and therefore the best dad.I wouldn’t be who I am without him. But then, he wouldn’t be who he is without me. It’s a two-way street, the dad job. I doesn’t come with a gold watch. In fact, it comes with bills and worry and heartache. But also memories and the legacy of showing the world a piece of yourself. He’s always been proud of me, so how could I ever not be proud of him?

I love you, Dad. Your son, Buddha.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Gay Dallas dads Cooper Smith, Todd Koch discuss J.C. Penney ad on Daybreak

Dallas dads Todd Koch and Copper Smith with their two children, Claire and Mason, on WFAA's Daybreak on Tuesday morning.

After J.C. Penney’s June catalog hit mailboxes last week, Dallas gay couple Cooper Smith and Todd Koch have been in the middle of attacks made by One Million Moms.

In May, a lesbian couple was featured in the Mother’s Day issue, sparking another boycott from One Million Moms. The group is affiliated with the American Family Association and has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The group stated on its website last week that the public should send back the catalogs until J.C. Penney stops going “down the same path of promoting sin in their advertisements.”

The couple appeared on Daybreak with their two children this morning to discuss the negative attention and the positive support they’ve received.

“We expected some of it. We didn’t expect to go unnoticed at all,” Smith said on Daybreak. “We certainly didn’t expect the newspapers in London and all over the world to be calling and emailing and writing about this.”

Koch said the “support has been overwhelming positive” from family and friends.

In response to whether the ad reflects a new movement or the modern family, Smith said the ad “just reflects our life. We care about the exact same things any other parents care about. Are our kid safe, are they happy, are they getting to school on time and have they eaten lunch yet?”

Smith previously told Instant Tea he and Koch were asked about the One Million Moms situation before they agreed to be in the catalog in February. He said the couple was not fazed by the possible criticism and embraced representing diverse families.

“Obviously we’re not ashamed of our family,” he said. “It’s very tastefully done.”

Watch some of the news coverage below.

—  Dallasvoice

One Million Moms attacks J.C. Penney’s Father’s Day ad featuring gay Dallas couple and their kids

Dallas couple Todd Koch and Cooper Smith are seen here with their two children in J.C. Penney’s June catalog.

Dallas couple Todd Koch and Cooper Smith and their two children are featured in the June edition of J.C. Penney’s catalog.

Smith said he was asked by a casting agent in Dallas in early February to be in the Father’s Day issue after the agent saw his family’s Christmas photo on Facebook.

They agreed and did a photo shoot in Addison shortly afterward. He said the picture is very natural with the kids, Mason, almost 3, and Claire, 3, running around and having a fun time.

“The photo is just a one-second photo of our life,” Smith said. “It’s a candid moment of how we interact with each other.”

The ad features Koch and Smith in a relaxed home setting playing with their two children under the words “First Pals.” The text reads, “What makes Dad so cool? He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver – all rolled into one. Or two.” The text at the bottom right-hand corner reads, “Real-life dads, Todd Koch and Cooper Smith with their children Claire and Mason.”

Smith said the agents were seeking a variety of families for the issue, but they are the only gay family featured.

“They were just trying to present a wholesome gay family and I guess we fit the bill for that,” he said. “They’re really trying to represent what America looks like, and that’s not just heterosexual white people.”

The company’s inclusion of a lesbian couple with their daughters and one of the women’s mothers in the May issue sparked the anti-gay hate group One Million Moms to reactivate a boycott of the store. The unsuccessful boycott had been dropped in March after J.C. Penney stood firmly behind its hiring of lesbian comedian Ellen DeGeneres as a company spokeswoman.

Smith said they were asked about the OMM situation before they agreed to be included, but he said it was not an issue.

“Obviously we’re not ashamed of our family,” he said. “It’s very tastefully done.”

Catalogs started going out Wednesday, and One Million Moms responded Thursday, writing on the group’s website that J.C. Penney is “continuing down the same path of promoting sin in their advertisements.”

The group urges the public to return the catalogs in protest, as well as call and email the company.

“It is obvious that JCP would rather take sides than remain neutral in the culture war. JCP will hear from the other side so they need to hear from us as well,” OMM’s statement reads online. “Our persistence will pay off! One day we will answer for our actions or lack of them. We must remain diligent and stand up for Biblical values and truth. Scripture says multiple times that homosexuality is wrong, and God will not tolerate this sinful nature.”

The full statement is below.

—  Dallasvoice

Father’s Day ideas

I wrote a story this week about two gay dads who treat every day like Father’s Day. But for those of us who like to celebrate more traditionally, here are some things you might do this weekend:

• Dish restaurant at the ilume in the gayborhood, has a three-course brunch option for dads on Sunday.

• If Dad runs more to the meat-and-potatoes side of lunch, the Highland Park Cafeteria has a medium-rare prime rib or bone-in ham lunch for just $10.99 on Sunday.

• Another story this week extolls the attractions of Uptown. You can put those to work for you by buying a commemmorative trolley token for a buck, and using it at area restaurants for discounts on food for Father’s Day, including 25 percent off dinner at Breadwinners, Grimaldi’s and Uptown Bar & Grill. Visit for details.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones