By Rob Watson
It was the Friday before Mother’s Day. I had published a blog piece on thenature of Mother’s Day and the celebration of all who feel mother love running through their souls. I was finishing up a high-tech piece at my desk at work when my work associate, Kathleen, approached. She politely interrupted me to ask a favor. “I may need to work altered hours on Monday, if that is okay,“ she started. “I have a memorial service that I need to go to.”
I must have looked a little startled at the request. She continued, “Oh no, it’s nothing. Well, it isn’t nothing; it was a very distant cousin of mine. One I hardly knew,” and then, almost under her breath, “It was a suicide.”
With that, my chair spun around and I said whatever feeble words one can say to that kind of news. My friend’s eyes filled with tears as she told me the story of her cousin, who we’ll call “Grace.”
Grace had been a bit of a rebel and a free thinker. The daughter of a conservative Catholic family, she ran with a wild artistic crowd. The days with that crowd left her with independence, and a pregnancy. Her single motherhood presented yet another contentious issue with her conservative family.
Now that she had a daughter in tow, Grace started a responsible life. The rift with her family did not start to mend, as it became progressively obvious that Grace’s daughter, “Glory“ (not her real name), was a lesbian. In the central California region where Grace and Glory lived, it was not only a distant family that they had to contend with, it was also the homophobic mob mentality of their immediate community. Glory was taunted, abused, and verbally assaulted constantly. She was open about who she was, with the support of her loving mother, but her coming out only intensified the hatred perpetrated toward her.
Glory finally reached her limit. Grace came home at dusk one evening and turned down the path toward their cozy home. There she found Glory, who had hung herself from a large limb of their prized oak tree.
As a parent, I cannot fathom the hurt and devastation that must have slammed Grace. I freely acknowledge that I love my sons on a deeper level than I ever imagined possible. They have connected me to a selflessness that has altered all the values I’ve ever held dear. Whenever I have empathized with the story of a parent’s loss of a beloved child, I find myself facing a cold debilitating darkness, a thought that if such a tragedy were to befall me, I might never recover.
And so it was with Grace. She went to that place immediately. Her family kept their distance from the tragedy, not wanting to deal with the “lesbian issue.” That night Grace set her home on fire, hoping death in an intense heat would offset the frigid state of her grieving soul.
Grace did not die. She was saved from the fire, but not from her pain. She returned to the lot, which now held the shell of her former house, a dilapidated fence, an old shack . . . and an oak tree. She took up residence in the shack.
A family friend came by every once in a while to check up on her, to make sure she was eating. One evening at dusk, the week before Mother’s Day, he found her. She had hung herself from the branch of the oak tree in the same spot where Glory had taken her own life.
My friend and I sat and looked at each other as she concluded the story. “My family is actually only distantly related to Grace. But her family won’t do a thing. No funeral . . . nothing.”
“You take all the time you need. Whatever you need, let me know,” I muttered before she walked away.
The story haunted me all weekend while mothers around the country were glowing in the love of their families. I could not help but be in awe of the horrible force that homophobia still exerts in our world. It is the force that inspires a mob to destroy a teenage girl, it is the power that drives a family to abandon a daughter at a time when she needs them most, and, worst of all, it is a hatred that through its destruction can turn the brightest, most unconditional love a human being can experience in on itself and into a dark and evil grief that devours every iota of life. A black hole that dissolves the spirit into nothing, it is a mother’s day turned into an evil night.
I saw my friend that Monday morning, the day after Mother’s Day. She was not supposed to be there. She was supposed to be at a chapel honoring her cousin Grace. She saw my quizzical look, and she sighed angrily. “I know. I am at work. They wouldn’t let us do it. Her family put their foot down. There will be no funeral, no memorial service for Grace.”
“No memorial? “ I said, as irritated as she was. “No memorial? Oh, yes, there will be a memorial.” With that, I opened a notebook and wrote the words across the top, “Homophobia’s Cruel Mother’s Day.” I lifted the page and showed my friend what I was going to do. She nodded. As she started to walk away, she turned and said, “Just don’t use their real names.”
Dedicated to Grace and Glory. Your lives will not be forgotten.
By John Jericiau
On a good day I’m 5’10” tall and around 160 pounds. Not particularly big by any means. More of a runner’s build, with bigger legs like a cyclist and more of a chest like a swimmer. I guess that’s what 30 years of triathlon competition will do for you. Anyway I’ve done okay for what I’ve been given in life, although I was sized out of my first sport after high school graduation. While it seemed like nearly the entire football team sprouted over 6 feet tall in the course of our senior year, I was left in the under 6 feet crowd which made me search for another sport. Triathlon was it and I couldn’t be happier. No concussions in triathlons!
I ended up marrying a guy with identical measurements of height, weight, waist size, shoe size, etc. Convenient to say the least. Conventional wisdom might assume that as we grew our family, our offspring, particularly if they were boys, would be similar in stature to us. However, three boys later, and they’re turning out to be almost completely the opposite.
Okay, now Devin is adopted, so one wouldn’t have any expectations with him. And here he is turning 6 years old in a few days, and all signs put him significantly over 6 feet tall by age 18, which is so great, being that he really wants to be the next Kobe. I’d like to take some credit for his 6-pack abs that are taking shape, but unfortunately I can’t. He’s got great genes in the muscularity and looks department, but truth be told: they’re not our genes.
Dylan is a different story. Our big boy is barely over 5 years of age and is already tipping the scale at 70 pounds. He towers over most of his preschool classmates (and even a lot of Devin’s kindergarten class) by at least a foot. According to all the equations that allow you to predict adult height and weight by plugging in toddler height and weight, my son will be 6’5” when I watch him graduate from high school.
Whether I can take credit for his gigantic girth and humungous height is unknown, since Alen and I both threw our genes into the mix during the IVF procedure, which essentially randomized the XY chromosome and anonymously provided the DNA. Although some of Dylan’s other physical features might lead us to lean toward one of us over the other as the bio-dad, we both have some huge men in our genetic past, including my father as well as both brothers of Alen. Over the last five years, random people have made just as many comments about how much Dylan resembles me as they have about how much he looks like Alen.
Now it’s five years later and we are watching our third son develop.
“What is in the water in your house?” his doctor demands to know as she pokes and prods him at his 6-month appointment. “All three of your boys are large!” she gasps as she measures his head circumference (huge!), his length (long!), and his weight (above average). And again, due to our mutual donation of DNA, we have no idea which family tree to look at to predict the potential size of this apple that has fallen out of it.
While the riddle of the DNA has absolutely no effect on their upbringing, their size certainly does. And try as I might, sometimes I fail trying to keep up with their growth. First failure has to do with the groceries. I remember my Mom complaining to my brother and me all the time about how quickly the milk disappears, and years later here I am singing exactly the same tune. I buy many half gallons of nonfat milk at a time, but before I know it I’m nursing the last few drops of the last container into their cereal bowl because I just can’t make it to the grocery store every single day. Someone suggested trying a milk delivery system, but I haven’t had a chance to look into it.
Even worse than the milk problem is the clothes problem. They grow so fast that I cannot keep up with the increase in sizes. Baby Dustin flew out of the 0-3month bracket so fast that many of the cool outfits I had ready for him did not even make it on him. Dylan has shot to a size 10 pant literally overnight. It’s happened that I’ve squeezed him in pants and sent him happily on his way to preschool, only to find on his return home that he was unable to clasp them shut after a potty visit. And Devin always seems to be wearing shirts that show his bellybutton, while his waist has remained a size 4 for the last couple of years.
Organizing clothes and sifting through them to weed out the too-small items takes time. Time that I don’t have. So for now the dresser drawers are so stuffed with the old and the new that they can’t even close entirely. No child has ever died from stuffed dressers, so I let it go for now.
Most dire is the need for more space. Not so much the space in their room, although we are working right now to move them to a bigger room in our house. I’m talking about the room in their beds. For the past couple of months or more, neither Devin nor Dylan has been able to stretch out at night on their back. The size of the toddler bed necessitates that they if they want to sleep on their back they either have to sleep in a curved configuration or else crick their neck to one side or the other. I snapped this picture of Dylan the other night (even bright flash doesn’t wake them up) who I found getting some relief by pouring part of his body off the bed onto the floor.
Or maybe he was praying for that new bed. Or more milk.
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.
By: Danny Thomas
here I am…
sitting on the end of the bed
with a pile of laundry
over my computer.
Everything is looming right now;
Jennifer and I
are occupying the land of loom…
it seems to happen with us a lot.
are we those people…
with the drama,
and the constant crises?
all of us are.
the last six days,
have been intense.
How many parenting and family blogs have that line in them?
How self reflective can I be in one blog?
I started my new job full time.
I haven’t had a full time job in ten years…
The whole time Jen was in grad-school
we got by with me
being a home maker
and bringing in a little extra dough for
beer and wine and whatever recreation..
and food stamps.
I am not one of those people who claims to have put my spouse through
I have very much been in
that’s a big shift.
But that is only one aspect
of our intense week…
all three children
got a stomach flu.
And it lasted for the entire week in ‘Zilla’s poor little belly…
Another reminder how they are all unique,
not just in how they look
with the world…
but even down to their chemistry
and how their guts work…
that the same flu
can sit with one kid for 4 days
and be through the system of the other two
over the course of 36 hours.
But that’s a blog for a different day.
So that’s two aspects…
and a third
it’s the last week of school for Jen
stuff like that…
my point is
We. Made. It
We made it through the week,
and here we are, enjoying the weekend.
We had a great,
special adventure yesterday
celebrating free comic book day.
And we watched a movie together…
And we are
who loves each other,
and who eats well…
gets sick together too
and props each other up
these big shifts in life…
who guide each other
through the looming future.
And sometimes it takes the crucible of hard times,
or the catalyst of big changes
to see that
or be reminded of it.
We are a team
and we do well together
more often than we fail
and that’s worth noting.
It’s worth celebrating.
As a matter of fact,
as often as possible.
I have talked about this blog
being a vessel of positive
that when I started writing it
I made a conscious decision
to use this as a place to
Knowing that there are plenty of trolls on the internet,
and more than enough depressing pessimism.
I am not always jolly
and I don’t always write about easy stuff,
or good feelings…
but I think we can
lead an examined life
that is also a positive one
and that is a goal,
vision of mine…
That my better self
has a sense of humor
about being self-critical
and can be gentle about being critical of others…
and knows it’s necessary,
but also knows…
there is a way
to do it
and a way to reflect
that is helping us to know
we are okay
as much as it helping us
to be our better selves…
I was inspired and reminded of my
commitment to optimism
when I read this blog by Steve Wiens….
I am inspired to start
patting my parent self on the back
I hope you join me.
we are both students of theatre
so that has to be a factor
on some levels,
like many arts,
if you’re doing it right
is a vocation
in my music
and my writing
I work at playing too
and I play at working…
I was in the kitchen…
cleaning the thing
which we can’t decide
whether to call
a griddle or a skillet
so we call it a skiddle…
I was cleaning that
and I heard Jennifer say to the girls.
“You guys are working really well together…
you are playing nice.”
to the older girls
who were playing some math games
on the iPad.
I am just grateful that
I have partnered with
and get to co-parent
who, like me,
sees these things; “work” and “play”
as intertwined or symbiotic, if not actually one and the same…
who takes playing seriously and sees the fun in work.
Not long after Maya was born
I was talking with an acquaintance,
a guy who modeled at the art gallery where I worked.
(I got to meet some interesting characters in that job!)
I was talking about the idea that as much as I had wanted to be a dad
for nigh on 10 years
and that as much as we had prepared
by reading books
and watching movies
and talking to parents
our minds were still blown…
by becoming parents
and the responsibility…
the work of parenting
was particularly mind-blowing
in that it is work… it is Work.
but it is different than any other kind of work
i’ll ever do.
and the difference is ineffable
here I am trying to eff the ineffable…
but these are the places
my mind occupies
when I sit down
or maybe I should say
these are the things
that occupy my mind…
It is a unique work, and a work that relates to art making
in that it is creative
and born out of love,
at least under the best circumstances.
it is a work that most of us who do it
we feel obliged to or inspired to
It is a unique kind of
not free of resentment
but an commitment that comes with a tender reward
that can only marginally be expressed by the joy I feel watching the flicker of an eyelash and last final sigh before the rhythmic breathing of deep sleep settles in… or the ecstasy on the face of a mudcovered child… or the profound fear of watching a ball roll down the driveway, child in tow… knowing that I can’t get there in time and hoping that my voice does the trick… and the relief I feel when it does.
back to the story…
I was talking to this guy
who was not a parent…
But definitely was a dude
with an interesting perspective
a model, working on a degree
in ecology… sustainability in particular…
our previous conversations had ranged from
Carlos Castaneda, to Kurt Vonnegut…
and Pink Floyd to Complexity Theory…
This was in Eugene, Oregon, mind you,
a place where chances are high that your bartender has a PhD in Physics…
or is high on psilocybin…
So this shaggy, brainy male model and I were having a conversation on parenting and he recommended a book to me… the book was The Continuum Concept by Jean Liedloff…
A book not originally intended as a parenting book… but over time was adopted as one…
Many, many ideas from the book resonated with me, and as I have mentioned in the past, I don’t believe any book or author is a panacea, there is no magic recipe for any family, relationship or person… however… there are certainly lessons to be gleaned and important ideas to share and think about in so much of what is floating around…
So, of the many ideas that struck a chord with me – one of the prominent ones that applies to the ideas bouncing around in my brain today – is the notion that these indigenous tribes that Jean Liedloff spent time with had no concept of a distinction between work and play… they all just did what they could, with the faith that everyone was making a valid and significant contribution…
I should probably go look up that section of the book,
I may be characterizing it incorrectly
but it was something along the lines of they had no separate words for work or play…
We don’t live among the tribes of the Yequana Indians in the jungles of South America, so the reality is we can’t exactly mirror their lifestyle… but there certainly are lessons to be learned, and that knowledge can inform how we approach our work, and our play, and the work/play of raising kids.
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.