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Full House: Four parents and two kids make for one big happy family

On the sidelines at his son’s football game, Geoffrey Bateman is filled with a watery-eyed sense of nostalgia and wonder. Zian, 8, is completely in his element as a “Crusher,” barreling into other little boys. They look like stocky, miniature men in their full pads and helmets. Geoffrey can’t help but think back to his own experience playing football in middle school and high school, and it makes him cringe. He hated it.

“I would never wish that on my child,” he says. “But when you come out and you watch it and you see him out there — he loves it. He needs that. He needs a coach who’s going to kick him in the ass, basically, and get him to do what he needs to do, and I can’t be that person. As parents, you can’t be everything. You want them to find those niches, those things that make them who they are, and it’s this wonderful puzzle to figure out what’s the best context for that.”

Geoffrey hated football because it wasn’t his niche, but it was what he thought boys were supposed to do. Zian and his 6-year-old brother, Eliot, are being raised in a very different context when it comes to gender roles. A few years ago, when Zian was obsessed with construction toys, Geoffrey offered to help him with a building game he was planning.

“No, Daddy, this is a game for moms,” Zian told him. “You can go cook dinner.”

Geoffrey, a full-time lecturer in DU’s writing program, is Zian and Eliot’s father. They also have two moms — lesbian couple Indra Lusero (a DU law student) and Allison Hoffman Lusero — and another father, Geoffrey’s partner, Mark Thrun. The boys took their mothers’ last name — Lusero.

“People often ask how does it affect the kids, having four parents,” Geoffrey says. “For them, that’s just the way it is. I remember being in the Portland airport. Zian is 3 or 4, and he walks up to this complete stranger and says, ‘I have two moms and two dads,’ but in a very proud way.

“Another night, around the same time, we were talking about other families we know and their parental arrangements, and Zian said, ‘Aw, they only have one mom and one dad,’ and he said it with this sense of sadness, like, ‘That’s not as many as we have,’ like it was a deficiency instead of the norm.”

Forming a gay and lesbian family

Geoffrey, Indra and Allison met 17 years ago during their freshman year at the University of Puget Sound. They were involved in a gay and lesbian student group and distinctly remember the day when some gay and lesbian families came to speak to them. One family had two moms and a dad. “That was a radical idea we all were intrigued by,” Indra says.

The idea stayed with them when the three roomed together their senior year. Four years after college, Indra and Allison — who by then had returned to Denver, where they both grew up — decided they were ready to start a family. They wanted their children to know their father, and they wanted the father to be Geoffrey.

Gay and lesbian families can face daunting legal challenges. Read more about the legal landscape.

“We were nurturing that idea, and our relationship, all those years,” Indra says. “We referred to ourselves as family, and we were deliberate about maintaining our family.”

Geoffrey donated sperm so that Allison could conceive through artificial insemination, but he was living in California finishing up his master’s degree.

“I was trusting I was going to be a part of the family and we would figure out the distance thing,” Geoffrey says. “When it became tangible, shortly after Allison got pregnant, I began to think, ‘What the heck am I doing? I want to be there.'”

Zian was born in April 2001. Geoffrey finished his master’s program in June and immediately moved to Denver. Within six months, he had bought a townhouse next door to the moms and met and fallen in love with Mark, who quickly became a second Father — aka “Papi” — to Zian.

The family’s plan always had been to have two children, with Allison and Indra each taking a turn as the biological mom. When the time came for Indra to get pregnant, they asked Mark if he wanted to be the biological dad, but he decided he wasn’t quite ready. So Geoffrey also fathered Eliot, who was born in 2003.

That’s when the parents began hunting for the house where they would raise their children. The home they bought in 2004 was a charming new duplex in northwest Denver that today boasts a swing set with a climbing wall in the backyard, alongside a basketball court and a massive garden that Allison and Geoffrey tend together. The dads live in one side of the duplex and the moms on the other, but the homes are connected by a door they built between the boys’ bedrooms.

“I get the whole house and my parents only get half,” Zian explains of the setup.

As soon as Geoffrey moved to Denver, the parents drew up a contract and put their values down in writing. Words like simplicity, sharing and generosity became their mantra.

“Simplicity and sharing are part of why we decided to live so close to each other, so we didn’t have two of everything,” Indra says. “Generosity has been important as a reminder of how we want to be with each other — when things are hard or in conflict or not going how we want, we try to be generous with each other.”

In the beginning the parents also met monthly with Lynn Parker, an associate professor in DU’s Graduate School of Social Work.

“They’re an amazing group of people who are very proactive,” Parker says. “They wanted a facilitator to help them through various issues and help them make conscious plans. They are the most intentional family I have ever seen, even without my help.”

The Catholic question

As part of their plans, the parents decided to raise the boys Catholic — and send them to Catholic school — but not before calling around to ask how different schools would deal with a gay family. Even though the boys’ school is progressive and does not fall under the Archdiocese, Indra says it was a careful process for the parents to decide they were going to align themselves with the Catholic Church at all.

“It was certainly a decision made with a mix of emotions, not the least of which is a general sense of betrayal by the church and a sense of not being wanted — or actively being excluded,” Indra says.

Ultimately, the parents decided that Zian and Eliot would not only attend Escuela de Guadalupe, but they would go through the Catholic rituals of baptism and first communion as well. Last year, Mark’s dad, a deacon, baptized the boys in a ceremony in which all of their families took part.

“It ended up being the first time that our family was publicly, ritually affirmed,” Indra says. “It’s definitely not something any of us imagined or could have seen coming, but here we are, and it feels right.”

Mark, Indra and Allison all were raised Catholic, and Indra and Allison attend a local Catholic church together. Geoffrey is not Catholic, but he appreciates the difference the school is making in his kids’ lives.

“Religion, spirituality and faith are rich things,” says Geoffrey, who likes that his non-Catholic role gives the boys a built-in outsider’s perspective. “They’re learning about community, ethics. They’re getting some good human stuff by being in that school. It’s academically rigorous, they do exceptional things. The Catholic package just makes it more complicated and interesting.”

Having so many hands on deck has allowed the parents all to maintain rich careers while making sure there’s always someone around to care for the children and cheer on the sidelines.

Mark is a doctor at Denver Health Medical Center. He also leads all the HIV prevention work around the city and county, manages a staff of about 30 and is campaigning for the Colorado State House. Indra works part-time from home as the assistant director of the Palm Center, a think tank at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Allison is a postsecondary coach at Mapleton Public Schools. As a social worker, she recognized early on how important it would be for the family to come together to talk.

“There is a lot to work out,” she says. “Couples when there are two people have interpersonal relationships to work out. That’s quadrupled with us.”

The parents live their lives openly in an effort to be role models for other nontraditional families and to hopefully squash stereotypes. Though they’re bracing themselves for a time when Zian and Eliot meet the cruelty of kids, so far the parents have not seen the cruelty of adults. Colleagues, teachers, fellow parents and coaches all have been supportive.

“I’m always ready for those judgey people with my fists up,” Allison says. When Zian had just started preschool, he came home with a Mother’s Day gift for her, a painted pot. She called the teacher that night to confront her about why there was only one pot. Before Allison could say anything, the teacher asked, “Oh, did you get your gift? I was all ready for Zian. I bought two pots. I was ready to talk to him about his special family and he has two moms and how special that is and he gets two pots … and he said, ‘No, I’ll do one this time and next time I’ll do one for Mimi [Indra].'”

Allison hopes the boys won’t come to her one day as adults and say how crazy or hard it was growing up with four parents, but it’s not something she worries about. Instead, she feels very conscious of how privileged the boys are to have the attention of four parents and four sets of grandparents and live in their big house, and she worries about keeping them grounded. Her hope for them is pretty simple: that they will do things that make them happy. “I don’t know that it’s anything more complicated than that,” she says. “Their family is their family, and the way it complicates their life is just what they get.”

So far, the parents have no regrets — not about the big stuff, anyway. Like any parents, they second-guess the little things all the time.

People often ask Geoffrey if he cares if his kids are gay or straight, and his answer is a resounding no. “It’s fun to speculate in any direction for them and their future about career or personality or identity, but none of that really matters,” he says. “You just want them to be who they are.”


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