Mother’s Day hasn’t been much of an issue for the first five years of the boys’ lives. They just started realizing in June of last year that they might want to make a Father’s Day card for their Daddy and Papa. Mother’s Day, on the other hand, snuck by them, hidden behind the big celebration of Devin’s May birthday. They were content saying Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and Alen’s mother, with no questions asked as to why they had no mother of their own. Last year they were on the same preschool campus (but different classrooms), and maybe all the teachers got together and decided to be overly sensitive about Mother’s Day, because besides coming home with an I Love You art project there was no mention of the holiday.
This year is a different story. Devin is in kindergarten, and Dylan is on the cusp. The same preschool teacher as last year is again being sensitive in the classroom with Dylan. They made an art project in class this week, and as classmates looked at Dylan’s masterpiece and saw Daddy & Papa written all over it, they asked about his mother. His teacher relayed his explanation to us.
“Everyone has a mother”, they would say to Dylan.
“Well, actually, my babysitter carried me in her tummy for my Daddy & Papa. I don’t have a Mom”, Dylan declared. “I have two dads!”
I must admit that I did have a ping of pain in my heart when I heard this, because I want things to be easy peasy for my boys as they go through life. Yes they have two loving fathers, but they don’t have something that almost everyone else has, and you know how kids (and adults) are when there’s something (anything) different.
Because I had such a great relationship with my own Mom, and because I grew up watching The Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver, and The Munsters, where loving, caring Moms were central figures on the show, I have some sadness when I think about my boys being motherless. Yes we try and surround them with strong, loving women whenever possible. Women like our surrogate (aka the babysitter), our sister and sister-in-laws, our own mothers, and mothers of classmates and neighbors. But for our sons, especially the ones conceived through IVF, they don’t have a Mom. And thanks to the people at Hallmark, they’ll be reminded of it every May.
My oldest son is in kindergarten, and the festivities have ramped up. It goes beyond art projects this year. Now (well actually in about an hour from now), a Mother’s Day Luncheon will be held at the school. Devin had to wear a crisp white shirt and black pants as part of some surprise performance during the two-hour gala, and I’m invited. His teacher is so open and compassionate and all-inclusive, so the invitation from her several weeks ago was no surprise. Devin seems happy that I will be there, although when I picked him up yesterday from school he said he wanted to go tell the teacher something with me by his side.
“Teacher, my birthmother cannot make it to the luncheon, so my Daddy will be there!”
Devin knows his birthmother’s name, and that he was adopted, but we have not talked about her for a while, so this was out of left field. His birthmother lives nowhere near us, and is not an active part of his life, so her presence at this luncheon was never even a consideration. She wanted minimal contact with Devin, although if he ever wanted to contact her when he was older, we have her information. She did send a birthday card to him on his first and second birthdays, which pleased Daddy & Papa very much. A note in his second birthday card requested some pictures of Devin. I was more than happy to oblige, but I can still remember that as I was licking the envelope that would deliver to her two incredibly cute pictures of him, I thought to myself that she will love them but they may bring her some pain. I think I was right. We never heard from her again.
I’ve gotten to know most of the Moms from his class, some of them quite well, so I’m not expecting any sideways glances from them. It’s the classroom full of kids that I wonder about. I’ll be back with a report after the luncheon.
It was as if I had boobs and a dress. Besides being called Dad during the introductions, not a single child even thought twice when they saw me there with Devin. Every Mom was smiling, proud, and loving toward me, just as I had expected. And best of all, Devin gave me an unexpected hug in the middle of the lunch and whispered in my ear with a mischievous grin “Thanks for coming, Mommy.”
My son Devin is turning six years old this month, and I couldn’t be more proud. The calendar shows that there are about six more weeks of kindergarten left, and he seems ready for first grade. He’s reading and writing. He does his math homework. He’s learning Spanish (he’s already fluent in Armenian thanks to Papa and his side of the family.) While he tolerates his violin class, he really enjoys his karate class, his Glee class, his dance class, and his yoga class. He has progressed well in swim lessons, where now he can swim freestyle and backstroke across the entire pool. And yes, as I’m writing this I am realizing that he may be a tad bit overscheduled, but that’s a different story.
Above everything else, Devin seems to be in love with basketball. He’s hoping one day to be as good as “The Kobe”, but for now he plays in a league at our local YMCA, where we have a family membership. He has a strong desire to improve his game, and he has asked us to find him a basketball camp this summer. Although he is already enrolled in Camp Daddy, which will start promptly after school lets out and we return from our annual two-week summer vacation (the location of which is still being determined but last year was the first annual in Costa Rica), I think a one or two-week basketball camp might be really fun for him. A few of his friends have expressed interest as well. It’s not like there’s a lot of time in the summer break; school’s out June 11th but starts right up again on August 22nd.
So back to me being proud. It’s overflowing, bursting at the seams, and all that kind of stuff. He never ceases to amaze me, and I’m so thankful of the day that his birthmother, with six weeks left in her pregnancy, chose Alen and me to be his fathers. Our adoption journey had been a long and painful one, but for it to end with Devin in our lives made it so sweet.
Of course, our love for him is unconditional, and we constantly remind him of that fact. You say you want to be an actor instead of going to college? We will be supportive. You say you want to be a priest? We will start going to church. You say you’re gay? Let’s talk.
We want Devin’s life to be a smooth road, but let’s face it: the gay life can be filled with an above average number of potholes, especially if one has to spend most of it in the closet, where life becomes a string of lies that seem so real that even the liar starts to believe them.
Which brings me to Jason Collins. He’s the black professional basketball player that just made history by being the first athlete to come out of the closet while playing in one of America’s big sports. Martina Navratilova did it 32 years ago, but I guess tennis is not big enough. Ian Roberts, the incredibly big and incredibly macho professional Australian rugby player, did it in 1995, but I guess he’s not American. And Billy Bean (baseball) and John Amaechi (basketball) are two athletes who have come out, but they waited until they were safely retired before making their announcement.
Jason has twelve NBA seasons under his belt. He’s not even on a team roster for next year as of yet, since he is now a free agent, so he potentially has a lot to lose by coming out. But he has so much more to gain. The respect and admiration of millions of gay men and women around the world. A more stress-free life that naturally comes when the lies disappear. The knowledge that in all likelihood he is saving the lives of young athletes who are struggling themselves and need a role model to know they are okay being gay (and that it gets better, which was last year’s catchphrase.) Best of all is the freedom to be himself and love whomever he wants. Here’s hoping we hear wedding bells soon. And that he’s in a state that allows them to ring. And that Devin can, if he so desires, follow in his footsteps. Or The Kobe’s. Either way, Papa and I will be right there cheering him on. And loving him. So much.
Why make things more stressful than they have to be? I ask myself this question nearly each and every day, as I face the challenges of raising three sons. My three sons – how I love thee but oh how it might be the death of me.
I have always had to fight my natural tendency to procrastinate. Most people that know me might find that hard to believe (except for the editors of this blog who I apologize profusely to as the hours go by after deadline), but it’s true. If I’m faced with a challenge or project that’s difficult, boring, or time-consuming, and I feel the desire to put it off until another time come creeping into my head, I dive into the project head first and don’t come up for air until it’s all over. For example, we decided literally the night before to begin renovation on our garage the next morning. This garage, and its accumulation of 20 years of disaster, was filled to the brim and needed to be emptied. Literally without thinking I grabbed some items from the garage, placed them in our shed, and repeated until a couple of hours later it was empty. It felt so good to have completed the work. I try to remember this feeling so I can use it for motivation on the next project.
My housework and daily duties of daddyhood can be dull at times, so I try to use the feeling to push me through those activities too. I use it to empty the dishwasher, fold and put away the laundry (my least favorite job), and clean the turtle tanks (the boys have little turtles but pay almost no attention to them, so I’m stuck with their daily feeding and cleaning which I knew would happen and this is why I say no to a dog until they’re older.)
Some duties are not so bad, but I have learned to do them in advance to make my life easier. For example, to make the one hour pre-school morning easier (from wake up to out the door is about an hour), I will place the boys’ clothes in neat piles the night before, complete with underwear, socks, and the appropriate attire after a quick weather check on my iPhone. I will prepare the lunch box for my kindergartener as soon as it makes its way home empty, wet, and with a few crumbs, so that all I have to do in the morning is grab the box and stick it in the backpack, and then stick the backpack on my kindergartener. I will get the diaper bag of my five-month old restocked and ready for the next day and put it in its place in the minivan so it’s one less thing to think about in the foggy (brain) morning. I’ll put my keys on top of my wallet and these both go on my desk to be retrieved as I’m walking out the door.
I’ll even go as far as placing two empty cereal bowls and the accompanying spoons on the kitchen counter with two cups ready to be filled with their morning milk. I pack the minivan with all the necessary supplies, including karate wear, swim wear, a violin, yoga mats, water bottles, snacks, Spanish workbooks, and coupons to Yogurtland. I’m constantly checking supplies including the thickness of my wet wipes and the state of my diaper supply. The worst is to run out of diapers while on the road.
The boys don’t even notice the work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare for a single day, and my husband and friends get perhaps a slight rise from it. But this is not for any of them. This is for me, and it makes me happy.
I ran into a fellow swimmer at the Santa Monica YMCA Annual Healthy Kids Day, a celebratory event held in their basketball gym, complete with bouncy houses, arts and crafts, giveaways, handouts, and vegetables. Events like these are schedule fillers for parents who are trying to fill up their weekends with activities designed to fatigue children. Healthy Kids Day from 11am to 1pm Saturday – check!
So I had my 5-year old boys and 5-month old infant in tow, and my swimmer friend had her 4-year old girl. The daughter bore a striking resemblance to Mom, who is a strikingly attractive and newly single doctor Mom. I know her, although not well since she swims in the next (slowest) lane over from me during Master’s swim workouts. There can be upwards of 80 swimmers in the pool during any one workout, so there isn’t much time for chitchat, especially if you don’t share a lane (lanes are arranged by swimming speed capabilities.)
We were having the most extensive, least superficial conversation of our relationship right there on the floor of the gym. She was impressed as she watched me handle my three boys, and confided in me that she desperately wanted another child. Since she currently has no man in her life, it would have to be via IVF with an anonymous sperm donor. The tears started to flow as she went on to say that she’s had to keep all of this on the down low because she feels judged by everyone when she tries to share her exciting plans.
“Isn’t your daughter enough for you?”
“Why do you need another child?”
“Aren’t you afraid of having a stranger’s sperm inside you?”
I was in a similar situation almost a decade ago (except for the stranger’s sperm part) when I decided to adopt a newborn as a single guy. For every supportive friend was another one who wondered why I would ruin my perfectly comfortable beach living and triathlon and running career, and probably derail any future chance for romantic love. Who would start dating a guy with an infant?
Although devastating at the time, it turned out to be a stroke of luck when the birthmother of my 2-day old son came back to collect her I-suddenly-realized-I-cannot-live-without-him-but-thanks-for-all-the-financial-support son who I had already named Ryan and spent 24 hours with in my home. Soon after that debacle I met the future love of my life, and three sons later the rest is history. However, knowing my husband, I don’t think that an infant would have been a deal breaker, considering just how strong our connection was (and continues to be.)
So I give this swimmer Mom the only advice I have ever followed myself: go with your gut, and if your gut tells you that you want another child, then listen carefully to it. When I started to talk up about child #3, many people were negative:
“Why stir the pot?”
“Three kids with two hands are difficult to control!”
“Think what else you could do with the money!”
“What if something’s wrong with this one?”
“Back to diapers? Are you sure?”
But just as many or more were very supportive and happy about our decision. I lost no sleep once we made our choice (until he was born of course.) While this Mom wants the anonymous sperm donor to sign a contract stipulating that her future son or daughter can meet him on their 18th birthday, I just wanted to grab the DNA and RUN. And while she wonders if she will have enough energy now that she is about to hit the advanced age of 40, I was sure I haven’t even reached my peak at 50.
I say follow your heart, and enjoy the unique path that takes you to parenthood. I’ve enjoyed mine so far. We’re not even sure if we’ve made it down the entire path or if we still have more to go. Only time (and the size of our house) will tell.
By John Jericiau
I just returned from the birthday party of a classmate of my eldest son Devin, who is deep into kindergarten. The party was held in the city’s only bowling alley, which happens to be just a few blocks from our house. Twenty-two boys and girls enjoyed a game of bowling, which took just under two hours, along with some pizza pies and veggie platters. The game was not competitive at all; however, I was pleased to see that Devin came out of it with the highest score (87).
Devin seemed to have a great time among friends, and I have to say that I did too. I had our 5-month-old son with me, looking as adorable as ever, and during an early-in-the-party conversation with other parents he abruptly nodded off to sleep, snoring angelically for the duration. I enjoyed immensely the other parents and their jokes, and sensed that some of us had bonded, now that there’s eleven weeks left in the school year. Topics included summer camps, the kindergarten teacher’s recent elopement, and the desire to plan a “Parent’s Night Out” for all of us that are “barely hanging in there.”
One of the best (and the worst) experiences that goes hand-in-hand with having children in school is meeting new people, all who share a common bond. I love getting to know how everyone else’s family works (or doesn’t work), where they’ve come from, and where they are going. On the downside, there’s the gossip, judging, and backstabbing, but you have to take the good with the bad. You have to hang in there, if nothing else but for your kids. So you force yourself to talk to others, even if you don’t particularly want to.
Fortunately for me, I’ve always been fairly outgoing with people from a young age, and have tried to instill that curiosity and openness in my own kids. I was lucky to be this way when I made my way across the country alone on my bicycle at age 22. I had no problem meeting new people as I stopped in a city or rural town at the end of my day, which was fortunate since I had 60 ends of days. No sooner would I be chatting it up with someone outside a grocery store or fruit stand or mall when I would receive at least one invitation to spend the night with a roof over my head instead of ants beneath my body. Once we got to know each other, my new friend would expand their offer to include dinner, a shower, a clean comfortable bed, breakfast the next morning, and a packed lunch to last me through half of the next day. Occasionally I’d receive even more extras like cash, gift cards, hotel accommodations set up for the following night in a town along my proposed route, and yes, even a massage.
One of the most unique encounters I had was with Native American Indians right smack in the middle of the country. I ran into a family of them in a kind of rest stop along the main highway that bisects this midwestern state. The highway is peppered with connecting roads that lead to reservation after reservation.
The family quickly offered to let me stay with them, and although I felt some hesitation, I found myself slinging my bike onto the back of their pickup truck and hopping in. We arrived to their very modest house in no time, and upon entering through the front door I was greeted by a living room that had nothing but a brand-new, large color television right smack in the middle of it, with children and young adults alike gathered around it like a campfire.
I was offered a beverage, the choices being either water or beer, and then was shown my sleeping quarters, which turned out being a mattress in the basement with a rather large collection of cats. Needless to say the place smelled like cats and their byproducts. I wished everyone good night and laid my sleeping bag atop the mattress and hunkered down for a much needed rest.
It wasn’t more than an hour into the smelly night when someone opened the door to the basement and began their tiptoeing descent toward me. I could hear heavy breathing and a few cat cries as the person got closer and closer. With two feet to go I could see that it was the mother of the house, Ruth, who was feeling a little tipsy and very amorous. I had to fight off all 275 pounds of her for what seemed like an eternity (but was probably no more than a minute or two) before her keen-hearing brother dashed down the stairs and saved the night. After they left, I kept watch until the morning, but the coast remained clear. And I hightailed it out of there at the first sight of the sun.
The rest of my bike trip was eventful and memorable. Everyone has a story to tell, but for the times I had other interesting encounters, the cat’s got my tongue. At least for now, that is.
By John Jericiau
We just returned from a last-minute trip to Palm Springs to cap off Spring Break. Yes, I was content to stay home and enjoy the stay-cation and go to all the local activities and play dates that I had planned as part of Camp Daddy. And yes, having to search for and book a hotel room, pack for five, and clean out the minivan was going to add stress to my already stressed schedule. But my husband, hard working as he is and preparing for his medical board exam (a passing grade is required every ten years to keep his medical license), felt that a short trip out of town was just what the doctor ordered. Plus the boys love going on trips and staying in hotels. Also, our nearly five-month old had yet to spend a night in a hotel room. So I quickly hotwired and kayaked until I found a hotel with lots of pool activities and a fun twisty pool slide for the boys, and a workout gym for the fathers, and off we went.
I must admit I was looking forward to the weather. Our beach community refuses to let go of the thick marine layer these days that keeps the temperature in the low 60s, so I did find myself salivating at the 90-degree predictions showing up on my iPhone. Although the days of lounging by the pool, alternating between napping and reading as my skin soaks in the rays of the sun and my tongue laps up an ice-cold drink, were a fantasy right now due to parenthood, it’s still quite enjoyable to hang out by the pool and watch the boys enjoy the things that I used to enjoy.
As I drove my family the 114 miles east to Palm Springs, my thoughts drifted back to all the fun I’ve had there. In the late 80’s and early 90’s my friends and I would spend New Year’s Eve there in sprawling all-gay resorts and hotels, dancing the night away to tunes such as Like a Prayer (Madonna) and Miss You Much (Janet Jackson). One year my physical therapy program at USC offered a short internship at a Palm Springs hospital, so I quickly jumped at the chance to spend the first two weeks of the year in a school-subsidized three-bedroom apartment. I requested an early arrival, as in December 29th, thinking that I could secretly bring my friends along and they could enjoy the apartment with me (and we wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel that year) as we celebrated New Year’s Eve and a few days of after-parties.
My request was granted. “Just pick up the apartment key at the management office down the street from your apartment”, I was told. My plan was working. I would drive my carload of friends to Palm Springs, park around the block from the management office, and run in and collect the key. Then it’s on to partying like it’s 1999, only a whole decade earlier.
The woman at the management office was very nice, giving me advice on where to run and exercise and eat and catch a movie. She removed my apartment key from the top drawer of her desk, but instead of handing it to me she says as she starts heading for the door “Okay, let’s go check out your place. Should you drive or should I?”
“My car is packed with stuff, so can you please drive?” I begged. “Just let me run back to my car for my wallet.”
Despite a puzzled look, she agreed and said to meet her out front in the parking lot where her white Toyota Tercel would be waiting. I sprinted back to my friends in waiting, briefed them on the situation, and told them to follow the Tercel to the apartment where they could park and wait for further instructions from me. I ran back and squeezed into her car as we drove the half-mile to the apartment. We walked up to the front door of the apartment as I glanced behind us and saw my friends park across the street, anxious to start their Palm Springs experience. As the woman slipped the key into the hole to unlock the door, I heard her say, “You’ll have the back bedroom, and your roommate’s name is Josh, a PT student from Colorado.”
Roommate? I had no idea about a roommate. My heart sunk as I thought about my friends outside. I took a brief tour of the apartment and was told Josh would be home from his internship later in the day. I thanked the woman and told her I’d hike back to my car later, since I was a fitness buff. When the coast was clear I collected my compadres and we infiltrated the apartment, all six of us, like bees to their hive. I explained my dilemma but it didn’t appear to faze anyone, as margaritas were already being served in the kitchen. We brought in our suitcases from the car, squeezed into the two remaining bedrooms, and waited for our new roommate to arrive.
Josh arrived to find six sloshed guys who had taken over his space, but since he had just spent the past five weeks bored and alone in the apartment, he was happy to have the company. We all ended up having the best time.
“Daddy! How long until we get there?” a voice yelled in my ear, waking me from my daydream. I looked over at my husband reading on his iPad, back at my boys playing on their Nintendo, and at my new son sleeping away under his blankies, and I realize how much has changed. Not everything, however. I still want a Margarita when I get there, and I still listen to Madonna.
“What are you signing the boys up for this Spring Break?” everyone kept asking me as the last day of school crept closer and closer. That question alone makes me wonder what wonderful art or science or sport adventure I’m failing to keep my bunny tail up about. That simple query puts an unspoken pressure on the two-week gap in learning. I’m getting the feeling that I would be remiss not to fill that gap with the most brain-building, once-in-a-lifetime experience for my children. They can’t possibly just need some downtime from the hustle and the bustle of their grueling schedule? They wouldn’t benefit from sleeping in, hanging out in their pajamas around the house all morning, and then hitting the park for some quiet ball kicking or the beach for some lazy afternoon sandcastle building?
I admit I looked closely through the newspaper, the Internet, and Los Angeles Parent magazine, reading the descriptions of all the camps. Some of them sounded so amazing, I thought that I myself would even enjoy them. Who knew there would be a camp where the children could go horseback riding while simultaneously performing in Les Miserable, or they could go fishing, and then learn how to make sushi with that fish? One of the swim camps had the boys and girls swimming the English Channel (which is on my bucket list), but upon closer review it turned out that it was actually Malibu Creek. A home improvement camp sounded interesting, until I read that it meant that the campers would be cleaning the homes of all the staff.
Anyway, most camps run for maybe six hours per day, so in a week 30 hours will cost you around $525 or more, plus hidden material charges, insurance, and/or food charges. That’s creeping up toward $20 per hour, money that I decided to pocket and use while my sons enjoyed Camp Daddy.
Camp Daddy begins with a good night’s sleep. If campers go to bed at 9pm the night before (which is nearly two hours later than when my boys normally go to sleep), then the campers cannot get out of bed any earlier than 9am. Spring Break is a time to re-energize, recuperate, and recover. There’s a reason it’s in the spring!
Next is breakfast, which is open for discussion since there is no rush to get to school, no carpool to catch, and no need to shove bars down their throats while they get dressed. They can eat their Lucky Charms at a leisurely pace, one bowl or even two, with plain milk or even chocolate, and yes while watching SpongeBob (even though each episode must kill a few brain cells). We can cuddle on the sofa and even Daddy might join in the laughter.
Getting dressed for the day is next, and go ahead boys! Make it the circus act that you’ve always wanted it to be. Take your time, and then come back downstairs wearing a purple and white striped shirt with red shorts. Enjoy yourself in your favorite size 4 shirt on your size 8 body. There’s no judging at Camp Daddy. You are what you wear, and right now you’re on vacation, so look like it.
We’re off for the outside world, and at Camp Daddy this is their playground. Whether it’s the beach, one of the ten parks in our city, or a friend’s house, go with the wind. Let your pleasure guide you, my sons. We have no clock, no pressures, and no worries. We can swim at the city pool, ride our bikes on the boardwalk, or hang out for hours in the library. We can fly kites, catch butterflies, or even play at the expansive backyard at Camp Daddy.
As we’re rounding the bend for the home stretch of Spring Break, I can see that the boys are starting to miss their classmates and some of their usual karate lessons and basketball practices, but not enough to prevent them from enjoying their days at Camp Daddy. They’ve been expressing some deeper feelings about a life without a Mommy, their desire for a pet dog, and their dreams for the future, all because we’ve had some extended quality time to share. At Camp Daddy we take these thoughts very seriously, and we take this opportunity to offer the boys an even more in-depth experience that we offer here at Camp Daddy, where they can really open up to Daddy and Papa and make memories to last a lifetime: Summer Vacation.
By John Jericiau
This week I reunited with an old friend of mine. Actually she was born exactly 5 days before me, so she’s not that old. I’ve known her since my first day of Master’s Swimming in Los Angeles circa 1994. I sauntered onto the pool deck, a cocky triathlete in a nice-fitting Speedo, and was greeted by many of the veteran men and women swimmers on the team. One of the friendliest would later become one of my closest girl friends in the world, but I could tell from the look in her eye that I would first have to out myself and quickly ruin any hope she had of romance. Turns out I didn’t have to do the outing; she overheard a conversation in the shower where one swimmer was gossiping to another about how her brother was going to ask out the cocky triathlete as soon as he got up the nerve. Once we got that business out of the way we were BFFs before there were BFFs.
We went swimming together, competed together, saw movies, and ate dinner together. We had much in common, including the desire to have children. She went first. Since I was unavailable (her words), she became a SMBC (Single Mother By Choice), and her beautiful daughter was born. I helped out with the childrearing every chance I could. It was almost a practice run for me. I was given the title “Godfather” and I did what I could to live up to the name. I enjoyed every minute of it, but it ended way too soon.
Not tragically, thank goodness. My friend accepted a high-ranking job (one even higher than the job she had here) and sadly they moved across the country before I could say ABC. Sad for me, anyway, because my loss was their gain. Better schools, better house, better pay. Being the mere Godfather, communication broke down and we all went on with our busy lives. I got busy with a husband and kids (boys!) of my own, and she got busy with a coworker and ended up falling in love.
It’s nearly 8 years since she left the West Coast, and my friend is just married and enjoying a honeymoon touring the coastline from San Francisco to Mexico. They’re stopping in Los Angeles for a reception at their hotel, with invitations emailed to former swim teammates and former coworkers. This will be the reunion I mentioned earlier. My instructions were to bring my boys “to see what kind of childrearing job I am doing.”
The reception is happening in a nice Santa Monica hotel suite from 5-7pm, and I’m nervous for a couple of reasons. Number one reason is that my friend is kind of a perfectionist, and she will be looking closely at the boys’ behavior during the event. That brings me to reason number two. As most parents have learned, the hours between 5:00pm and 7:00pm are witching hours of sorts. Young kids have a strange disposition at that time of day, brought upon them by the combination of fatigue, hunger, and their desire to reach their quota of meltdowns and craziness before bedtime arrives. I was especially concerned because on the day of said event, both boys would have swim lessons immediately prior to going to the hotel. On the day of said event my oldest 5-year-old was sporting a pretty good runny nose. And on the day of said event my other half was away on business, leaving me to bring the three boys alone. Not only would my friend see my boys for the first time, but also many of the swimmers there were anxious to see the reason why I have failed to show up to the pool for the last four months. Plus when you’re a gay guy raising kids, people will scrutinize and assess out of the corner of their eye to decide for themselves if we are a real family. No pressure though!
We arrived about 5:30pm and it was so good to see my friend and her new husband. Many of my fellow swimmers had only seen the boys on Facebook, so they were quite taken aback by how handsome the boys are. The boys barely noticed the adults as they made a beeline for the food service tables. My middle son quickly downed three whole apples and four brownies, and I wondered to myself what his stomach was going to feel like later. My four-month-old was asleep in his stroller thanks to a carefully timed bottle just prior to the party, so he slept angelically in the middle of the room as the adults around him oohed and aahed. I gave my oldest son my iPhone, my middle son played with another Dylan who was there, and I was actually enjoying the reunion AND the reaction from my friends as they marveled at the boys’ dispositions.
I boasted about how just the night before my baby had slept through the entire night, and I was about to prepare to accept a Father of the Year award when someone bumped into the stroller in the middle of the room, jostling Dustin awake. It only took five seconds before Dustin was producing the loudest scream of terror in his entire short life. And the scream went on. And on. And on. I guess he got startled after waking up right in the midst of a bunch of strangers. I finally had to take him into the master bedroom part of the suite to separate myself from all the glaring eyes (and throbbing ears) in the other section of my friend’s hotel suite. In that bedroom I tried everything to calm Dustin down but he was inconsolable. It hit me that he might be hungry, since he has had a ferocious appetite for the last few days. The stroller was still in the middle of the party, so I had to send my middle son (the apple and brownie eater) out to retrieve the bottle and formula waiting in the undercarriage.
When he returned I had to quickly mix the concoction and then literally shove the nipple into the screaming mouth of my baby. He was silent in seconds, and I was able to breathe a sigh of relief since people (including my BFF) were anxious to use the bathroom. I packed up my supplies to head back to the party area with my angelic baby and let the formed line of people start to come in to relieve themselves, when all of a sudden my middle son screams, “I have to use the bathroom!”
“Are you sure?” I ask, hoping that maybe he could put it off until the rush of people comes through.
“Daddy, please I gotta go!” he pleads, and I sense some unusual panic in his voice. “Okay, then go!” I yell. He backs up toward the toilet in the pristine white bathroom that is so clean that the toilet bowl seal has not yet been broken. He rifles his pants down to his ankles and, while in that bent over position, proceeds to expel everything he was holding in his bowels, much like a fire extinguisher when you squeeze its lever.
Believe it or not, I got lucky. I checked the clothes he was wearing. Nothing! I checked the white mats and throw rugs. Nothing! He had managed to cover the porcelain bowl with his s*#t without any collateral damage. I was able to wipe the bowl (and my son’s hamstrings) clean with the pretty pile of washcloths daintily displayed on the vanity, place them in a plastic bag from the garbage can, and deposit the bag later in the maid’s laundry basket in the hall. My son thought he had one too many apples.
Before flushing the toilet and making my escape from the scene of the accident, my son asked if he could “wipe himself real good.” I felt so bad for him. He was both embarrassed and brave at the same time. I told him to go for it as I turned around to give my five-year-old some dignity. I turned back around when I heard him flush, and I watched the water in the bowl start to rise as my son relayed that he had to wipe himself ten times. The water got to within a millimeter of the top of the bowl when my silent prayers were answered and the water began to recede. We both stared down until the water disappeared and was replaced by a new bowl of water, at which point we both breathed a sigh of relief. We washed up and made our way back out to the partygoers, who were being entertained by my oldest son dancing to Gangham Style on YouTube. It’s nearly 7:30pm and some people are beginning to leave.
“Oh my gosh, John! I don’t know how you do it with three boys!” my BFF exclaims. “You must be so pooped at the end of the day!”
You have no idea.
By John Jericiau
My husband left me and the boys for a five-day medical conference across the country. He’s staying in a five star hotel with room service and all those other fabulous amenities. He’ll be giving a presentation to the largest crowd of physicians that he’s ever stood in front of. And he’s receiving a national physician award in honor of his work with end-of-life care. Sounds so exciting, doesn’t it? I think so.
I’ll be holding down the fort with the three boys, making sure they make it to school and their other assorted activities each and every day. I’ll clean the clothes, make the beds, wash the dishes, feed the hungry, wipe the pooped, rock the tired, and punish the bad. The husband’s left on a rocky note. Not only did we have a minor disagreement before his departure, we are in Day 4 of a painful left ear infection that’s attached to the head of our oldest son. He is barely participating in his activities. (He won’t swim, he takes breaks during basketball, and even his violin hurts his ear – okay at this early juncture his violin hurts MY ears.)
Our middle son is feeling scared or mad or sad at bedtime these days, so he can go downhill at any time without notice. And our four-month-old, although the love of our lives and overall a really really easy baby, has started to sleep more at night but not with any predictable certainty, making sleep for me a disruptive uncertain mess.
On top of everything else this week, we have just put a rental property of ours on the market, our housekeeper comes this week, income tax returns are nearly due, and a handyman is spending time (and money) around the house trying to begin to return our old beach house to its former luster. We’ve started to carpool with neighbors to kindergarten, so the morning crunch just got crunchier on the days that I have to get Devin to their house by exactly 8:05am. It is awesome, however, not to have to make the 11-minute schlep up to school.
Needless to say I’m completely spent by the time I duct tape the boys to bed each night. Actually we’re really fortunate, because they go down quite easily. The problem is that they get back up if we forget to leave fresh bedside water (with ice), or if we didn’t get the lighting just right, or they have to pee, or they need to say I love you just one more time. Other than that they are like adults. Our infant, on the other hand, goes down around 7:30pm and it’s a complete crapshoot as to when he will rise again, but it’s pretty much guaranteed to happen when I’m in my deepest REM sleep.
So this week I found myself holding my head between my legs, rocking back and forth and moaning uncontrollably as all hell broke loose around me. It was 3 am right smack in the middle of the week when battle fatigue was already setting in from the 24/7 schedule. I was shaken from my sleep by the cry of Devin and his ear, as he came down the stairs complaining of the severe pain. I quickly offered him a spot beside me where I could get him comfy-cozy, and miraculously the pain subsided as a smile took over his face. “I got this”, I thought.
Less than two minutes later, Dylan slithers down the stairs, mumbling something about the spiders and the darkness and the bed is too small and “hey it’s not fair that Devin can sleep with you and I can’t!” Tipping the scales at 68 pounds (at age 5), it’s no easy feat to figure out how to configure Dylan in the current sleeping arrangement, but he finds a spot and after a quick whisper of “I love you so much Daddy” he is off to dreamland while I wonder where that Sleep Number bed is when you really need one.
Inevitably the little guy decides that right then was as good a time as any to cry for milk and some delicious attention. It took me nearly a minute to carefully extricate myself out from between two snoring 5 year olds, peeling away the limp limbs as I tried. And since Dustin did not instantly stop crying despite the nipple (of the bottle, not mine) being plunged down his throat, the boys gained consciousness and everyone was awake now. Orders rushed in for chocolate milk and fresh water and more blankets and a massage, but I reminded the crowd that those amenities were not available for another three hours or so. I feel my body shutting down quickly as I try to get everyone as comfortable as possible. I even suggest that all those who are under 10 years old return to their base positions (if they ever want to see their favorite toy again) but the boys stay put. I glance at the clock and watch my dream of exercising for an hour before everyone wakes up evaporate before my eyes. But then a few minutes later I look at my angelic sons sleeping soundly around me, and I realize that I truly am living the dream – and it’s an awesome one.
By John Jericiau
Now that our two oldest boys are over five years old, they are definitely developing their own personalities and forming strong opinions about what they feel and believe. One of them loves purple and pink, and feels bad for all the other boys who don’t enjoy the fabulousness of those colors. “Some boys love girl things, and some girls love boy things”, he says as he gathers together his ten Barbies and six Ponies (the Little ones) for a bath. The other one declares his love for blue and green and gold, and purple is not bad, but “liking pink means you ARE a girl”, he repeats from his lessons on the playground at school.
The boys lose focus on that heated discussion (since it’s been over 5 minutes, which is the maximum amount of time that their brains will allow them to think about one thing), and they move on to the next important topic: what to watch on television during the precious minutes that they are given access. “Strawberry Shortcake, Sofia the First, or The Backyardigans, please!” begs one. “Avengers, Ben 10, or Superheroes!” pleads the other. Cries soon follow, and Daddy the Referee has to come in to mediate the negotiations.
And so it goes on and on like that, day after day. Different kids want different things. I can only believe that things will start ramping up when our youngest son (only 4 months old now) starts asking for Dora and Diego. But this is all okay with us. Variety is the spice of life. We wouldn’t want them to be the same – never in a million years. But would love it if they could just breathe, understand that differences are okay, and live with each other with the help of the elements of harmony (which are six supernatural artifacts, each of which represent an element of friendship which are used to restore and enforce the balance of peace and order). In other words, stop fighting!
Okay, kids have and always will fight and argue. I get it. But the worst is when they turn their anger and resentment toward me, the parent. Luckily it’s few and far between, but it does happen that their feelings overflow and spill into Daddy-Son territory. And so much of the time, it catches me completely off guard. How can something so trivial, like:
- The head of a toy (that has just been rediscovered under the bed after a one year absence) falls off
- The child is limited to only 12 cookies after lunch
- The tip of a string bean on the dinner plate has come in contact with the pile of delicious chicken nuggets
lead to phrases like this?:
- Do you want me to kick you out of this house?
- I hate you!
- I’m never gonna talk to you again!
- Noooooooooooooooooooooooo !!!!
We did time outs until they weren’t in vogue anymore, so they’re out. Hitting and spanking, as cathartic as they might sound, are definitely a step in the wrong direction. Rationalizing, reasoning, and calmly presenting my side appear to have little effect. This brings me to punishing.
- No SpongeBob for a week.
- No more playing with Twilight Sparkle.
- You can’t go to your basketball game this weekend!
- I’m cancelling your play date!
Now they listen, but Daddy feels terrible. I see the hurt in their eyes and it melts my heart. Please just can’t we all get along? I know that in 15 minutes you won’t even remember how sad you are now or how mad you are now, so can’t we just move on?
Obviously we cannot. Daddy wants you to learn that there are consequences for bad behavior. There are ground rules. There are societal norms. But Daddy loves you, and he always will. If you really behave for the rest of the day, maybe Twilight Sparkle will be waiting for you when you wake up tomorrow?
Now how about you and I go get a big pink ice cream cone?