My First Day as a Father

June 21, 2013 by  
Filed under Rob Watson, Same Sex Parent

By Rob Watson
jason newborn

My “dad” instincts started when I was very young. My earliest memories are from age three. I believe a significant event kick-started the memory-recall part of my brain. It was the news that my mother was pregnant and I was going to become a big brother. I was going to have someone to care about—start my fatherly training, if you will—and I better remember it.

One of my earliest memories is of my mother was in the hospital awaiting delivery. My father had taken me to the gift shop to get a present for my new little sister. I remember the glass shelf it was on. It was an angel holding a red heart. I could think of nothing better to give this new little life than an angel who would watch over it, protect it, and love it.

That ceramic angel became cherished and has topped my sister’s birthday cakes for five decades now. I loved being her big brother,

When I was in college, something else started taking over my consciousness. I was coming to the realization that this “gay thing” within me was not going away. It was not a “phase,” as I had tried to tell myself hundreds of times. It was me. In my belief system, that meant I would never become what I wanted to be . . . a dad.

That thought took me to a dark place, and I considered ending it all right then and there. I prayed about it, and as I laid out my threat and my plan to God—fix me now, or I am going to do it for you—I was overwhelmed with a message and the sense that I was to carry on. I was not to limit who I was, and I was to find my destiny as the best gay person I could be. I put down the blades.

Years passed and the fathering instinct in me made me anxious to be more than someone’s big brother. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be a dad. The drive to be my best kicked in. My then partner and I trained for foster care and a more advanced level of care which would enable us to care for drug-exposed newborns. It felt like my true north, on my way to being fully me.

We had a number of placements. These were infants whose mothers endangered them through short-term lapses in judgment. These women were offered reunification services that would train them on how to live and protect their children, and once they achieved the plan, their children were returned to them. It was good practice for us, and it was gratifying to help families work on problems and move toward healthy lives.

We knew at some point we would get a child whose birth parent was unwilling or unable to adapt to sobriety or a non-abusive life, and that child might become ours permanently.

One day, late July 2002, we got the call. A baby had been born. He was premature, six weeks early, and born after his birth mother ingested heroin. He weighed four pounds and had heroin in his system. Reunification services were going to be offered to his birth parents, a young married Catholic couple, but as they were both heroin addicts, it was likely that they would have trouble staying clean and taking responsibility for their child. As it was, their actions while he was still in the womb could have killed him. We would be his foster parents for now, and, potentially, his permanent adoptive parents.

Nap time

I was told that I could meet my new son that evening. The birth parents would be told the time of our arrival so they could be out of the care unit and we would see him alone. As I drove to the hospital, I felt I was in a dream state. That morning I had been just a gay guy with a partner, and now, that evening, I was finally becoming a dad.

The birth parents were not much into the rules. In spite of the request to give us a private moment with the baby, they were there and met us at the door on our arrival. It was shocking to meet them, not only because they were the birth parents of the child we would be taking home the next day, but because they in no way looked like the people they had seemed to be on paper. I knew that the nineteen-year-old birth mom had been addicted to heroin since she was sixteen, and it was her now husband, two years older, who had enticed her into using the drug. They both had circulated on the street and with gangs.

The people we saw before us did not project that history. They looked like sweet-faced teens. She was in a fluffy pink bathrobe, her beautiful hair pulled back into a pony tail. He was kind and attentive.

They did not have my focus for long. My attention was on the baby who lay in the clear plastic incubator bed, with IVs in his tiny extremities. Despite all the medical apparatus, he was beautiful. He had gotten most of the heroin out of his system, and would only need painkillers for another day. I marveled at the being I saw before me. I wondered what natural survival mode could have propelled him to leave his mother’s body so early to be free of the foreign narcotics within him.

We chatted with his birth parents for a long while. They were amazingly traditional and “ordinary.” There were only a few telltale signs that they came from a different world from ours. One was their litany of friends who had lost their children into the protective care system. The couple quizzed us as to whether we knew this child or that. Quietly I shook my head and wondered what it was like to be in a social environment where those separations were commonplace.

The nurse brought my new son over in a blanket and I held him softly on my chest. I look into his eyes and we connected. He was home, I was home. This was right. Deep in my heart, I knew this child was, and would be, my son forever. He would be named Jason. Loving, protecting, and defending him would be my life’s calling. While I dutifully listened and took down instructions such as an evening babysitter might receive, I knew I was embarking on the love of my life. I knew that this was my first day of being who I was meant to be. I was a father. My son had fought his battle getting into this world, this far. It would be up to me to help him the rest of the way. He would never have to fight alone again.

As I have shared stories of my family since that time, some people have claimed that I have done my son a disservice by being his father and a gay dad. They have asserted that depriving him of his birth parents was an act of violence against him. I understand that the Million Moms are petitioning advertisers to get The Fosters, a program that depicts a family like mine, off the air. They think we are dangerous.

But the birth parents were given over a year of chances to get themselves together to be ready to raise a baby, particularly one with special needs. They never actually spent much of the time they were given with Jason to bond with him, and he never knew them as parents. The birth mother went on in the next few years to bear several more drug-exposed babies, each one more severely exposed than the last. The birth father ended up in prison. Neither kicked their heroin addiction, and there were numerous rumors around that both had died of overdose.

That night, after saying goodbye, my thoughts went to all the arrangements we had to make to prepare for Jason’s homecoming. He was going to need very specific care and handling. We were prepared and mobilized. I was about to embark on the most significant journey I could imagine. I was a dad. I was on the brink of my destiny. I stopped doubting why I was here. I had to get a move on.

When I hit the lobby, however, I paused. There was something I had to do first. I walked across the marble floor to the gift shop and scoured the glass shelves.

I needed to buy a ceramic angel.

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Something Different

June 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent, Shannon Ralph

By: Shannon Ralph

 

 

I have not celebrated Father’s Day in quite a long time. My own father passed away when I was eleven years old. My grandfather on my dad’s side died when I was an infant, and I have no memory of him. My grandfather on my mother’s side was around well into my adulthood, but he scared the living shit out of me. He had twelve children of his own, but his paternal instincts were questionable, at best. When I was a kid visiting his house, I vividly remember him barking, “There’s no crying in my house!” whenever any one of my thirty-something cousins would begin crying, as small children often do. He terrified me, so I talked to him as little as possible. Being a lesbian, I do not have a husband. Nor do I really have any living father figures in my life. Father’s Day luckily falls in the summer, so I do not have to figure out to whom my kids can deliver their home-made classroom cards. All in all, Father’s Day has been a moot issue with me for years. Just another humid day in June. That may all change soon.

My partner, Ruanita, has had nothing to do with her father since she was a small child. He left her mother when she was pregnant with Ruanita. His girlfriend was pregnant at the same time and he left to start another family with her, leaving Ruanita and her brother to fend for themselves with a mother who was both mentally ill and a completely non-functional parent. Luckily, they had amazing grandparents who shielded them from a great deal of their mother’s egregious maternal shortcomings and helped raise Ruanita to be the amazing woman I fell in love with.

Several years ago, stricken with an obvious bout of guilt, Ruanita’s father called her out of the blue to try to make amends for abandoning her as a child. He asked for her forgiveness. She responded by saying that she had nothing to forgive as she never really knew him and, therefore, did not feel that she was missing anything.  Her grandparents did a fine job of raising her. She told him she had no feelings for him, but wished him no harm. They left the conversation at that.

In recent months, however, Ruanita has reconnected with her father via email and, via Facebook, with the half-sisters she never knew. She explained her about-face by saying, “I was not ready then. I am ready now.” She is now sharing photos of our children and commenting on photos of the nieces and nephews she has never met. It’s all quite surreal.

She has come to some sort of peace with her father’s decision to leave. Perhaps it has something to do with the years upon frustrating years she has dealt with her mother’s illness, and the realization that everyone has their breaking point. Or perhaps it is becoming a parent herself. Or maybe it has to do with wanting to avoid regrets once her aging father is gone.  It could also have something to do with his seemingly open and completely accepting attitude toward Ruanita’s lesbian family. Whatever the reason, she has moved into a place of forgiveness and seems to be all the better for it.

As a result, we are going to meet her father when we are in Kentucky this coming weekend. He still lives in the same town Ruanita and I grew up in. We will be there visiting my brother, so we made plans to have dinner at her father’s house with her father and one of her half-sisters. I am not sure what to expect. I am not sure whether it will be a sweet, tender reunion or an awkward comedy of errors.  It could very well end up being a really bad Sandra Bullock movie. The movie you wouldn’t pay good money to see in the theater, but will watch over and over again ad nauseum when TNT airs it ten times in one weekend.

Of course, we are not going on this journey alone. For the first time in their short lives, our three children are going to have a grandpa. We have tried to prepare them for the upcoming visit, but it is all quite daunting. Since we do not really know what to expect, it is difficult to properly prepare them. They have never had a grandfather and do not seem to entirely understand the concept. Lucas knows that my father died when I was a child. And I tell the kids all the time how much he would have absolutely adored all three of them. Lucas was surprised to learn, however, that Ruanita had a dad, as well. He doesn’t quite have a firm grasp on the birds and the bees just yet. I assume he just figured his mom simply didn’t have a dad like he doesn’t have a dad.  He seems excited about the prospect of meeting his grandpa, however. Lucas is nine years old and has few male role models in his life. So perhaps this will be good for him. Then again, this is a man who abandoned his young children and cheated on their pregnant mother. What kind of positive role model will he be? Were these the acts of a selfish coward? Or simply a desperately unhappy man? Are we all entitled to a second chance? Are we all entitled to forgiveness? Or does there come a point when one simply forfeits the right, by his actions, to be a part of his children’s lives anymore?

I do not know the answers to these questions. However, I suspect we will get a glimpse at the answers soon. And the answers to these questions may evolve and develop in the upcoming months as we see how this relationship blossoms or doesn’t.  Either way, there will be no regrets. Ruanita is making the effort, come what may.

Our children do not need a grandfather. And Ruanita, at forty-eight years old, certainly does not need a dad. But perhaps we can find a place in our little family for something different. Something new. Something “Next.”

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Dad Looking Back at Me

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

I was at the eye doctor recently and my ophthalmologist asked me if my father was still alive. I was sitting in the dark, my chin on a cold metal shelf, staring wide as she aimed a bright light into my eye.

“He died,” I said.

I wondered if tears would cloud her search for cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. I wondered if she could tell I was going to cry before the tear actually dripped down my cheek.

“I lost my dad five years ago,” she said. “It’s hard to lose a dad.”

I explained that it’s been ten years, but it still feels fresh.

“Girls and their fathers,” she said. She’s got such a calm air about her. I like her low voice and her grey braids. I like the way she talks about my eyes as though they are good shoes – well made, but aging. She’s the kind of person I could tell my secrets to.

On the computer screen, she shows me the inside of my eye. She traces blood vessels and the clean line that means there is no degeneration. The image on the screen does not look like an eye. It looks like the surface of the moon – grey and pebbled. Another view looks like a road driven at night, bright spots illuminated by headlights for only an instant.

My eyes were washed clean with tears when my father died. My eyes get a regular bath when my children do well in school, when I read a poem, when I hear a sad story on the radio. I cry easily. It cannot be helped.

My dad’s eyes were the same color as mine. They squint at the sun the way his did and seep tears when I laugh hard. My dad looked at the world and saw beauty in everything. He saw possibility for art in the lowliest of objects. When I looked into his eyes, I saw love reflected back.

It’s June and the newspaper advertisements shout about Father’s Day. I will celebrate my husband on this day for he is a wonderful father and deserves more than just one day of parades and pancakes. Today, on a day that is not labeled “Father’s Day,” I will think of my dad and I will send him love. I will look in the mirror and imagine I can see him looking back through my eyes.

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A Letter to Mom on Father’s Day

June 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Family

By: Laurenne Sala

I think it’s only fair that you get a big fat celebratory hug today, too. You may have a vagina and you may not possess the other usual characteristics of the stereotypical dad, but in many ways you’ve been a better dad than many.

You bought me a skateboard and a wiffle ball and made sure I got a well-rounded childhood experience. I am not sure if that’s because you were playing a dad role or because you’re a tomboy yourself. But I liked it. Barbie was too pink for me, and she was really only good for planning sexy trysts with Ken.

You barbecued, fixed the house, and stained the deck yourself. In a traditional family, the dad would have done that stuff. In my family, I learned that a woman can do just about anything with her hands. Now, one of my most cherished possessions is my cordless power drill. Because of you, I am proud to NOT be one of those girls who needs to call a boy to help. Thank. Goodness.

You told me dirty jokes and taught me that farts are funny. That’s usually a dad’s job, but you did it really well. When you smirked and told me the real words to The Man from Nantucket my junior high popularity soared. Thanks for that. ‘Whose dick was so long he could suck it!’ Hahahaha.

You taught me all about the male psyche. When I was “dating” in sixth grade, you told me just what those little bastards were thinking. You weren’t a man but you sure knew that Caleb was flirting by calling me ugly. You were so smart. (Kinda wish you would have told me not to go see Ferngully the Last Rainforest with him, though. Horrible first date. [Side note: dating has not changed much since 6th grade].)

You came to every game or performance or big deal. And you drove me everywhere I needed to go. If there had been a dad around, you guys might have been able to rotate. But, nope. Your presence was for two, and that was enough.

I don’t think you deserve recognition on Father’s Day just because you performed the tasks of a “normal” dad. I think you deserve recognition because you performed every task. All by yourself.  That’s hard. You’ve been the good guy and the bad guy. You’ve planned every birthday party, and you’ve cried enough for two every time we’ve said goodbye at an airport. You’ve done it all, and that should be rewarded.

Maybe you don’t deserve a tie or a mug because, really, who does? But you deserve recognition and thanks and love.

Happy Father’s Day, Mommy!

 

 

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A Day For All Fathers. Even Dead Ones

June 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

By: Laurenne Sala

People with dead dads don’t usually love Fathers’ Day. It sort of says loudly, ‘Hey! Look at how everyone has a dad except you!’ However, since ads for toolboxes and necktie sales are blowing up, we might as well take the day to remember our dads and acknowledge them even if they’re not around.

I especially would like to pay homage to my pops, the weirdest and coolest dad I ever had. Here ya go, Daddy-O:

As a three-year-old, I thought you were a giant. I could sit in your size fifteen slippers. And when you came to pick me up at pre-school, I would wait for the top of your head to bob around the glass above the lockers. You were the tallest dad, and of that I was proud.

You had the driest sense of humor. I barely understood you back then, but now I think we’d crack each other up. Now I’d get your jokes. I wish you were here to discuss the state of Saturday Night Live. And politics. I bet we’d have drinks until late and laugh, laugh, laugh.

You always loved a nice scotch. And after a few, there was no doubt I’d find you sleeping in a chaise at any given family party. You had a snore like nobody I’ve ever known. Silent yet never unnoticed.

I bet if you were alive, I would call you up and ask you to read the newspaper in an accent. You should have made a living out of your impersonations. You could imitate any stereotypical twang, from ‘ghetto black dude’ to ‘Harvard scholar’ to ‘Indian 7-ll owner.’ I can’t believe you didn’t harness that. Or maybe if you had, someone would have shot you.

I think by now I would have persuaded you to go on Jeopardy. You were considered a genius by Mensa standards, and I’m sure you could have won us millions of quarters from Alex Trebek. By now I would have appreciated your intelligence. Back then I just thought you talked too much. But seriously, Dad. I asked you if unicorns existed and you spent two hours talking about all the different horse species and where the myth of the unicorn came from. Thanks, though.

You know what else you were good at? Wrapping presents. I used to think divorce was the way to go because of the silent competition between you and my mom on who would give better gifts. Yours always looked like they were wrapped by fairies. Ha. HA!
That just came out on accident. I wasn’t purposely calling you a fairy.
But let’s get that out in the open.

You were gay.

How cool is that? I love that you were gay. I love the fact that you had the courage to say it and live it. I’m so proud that you didn’t stifle yourself, even if it meant divorce.

Unlike many at the time, I thought nothing less of you. You were my dad. That’s it. My big and tall gay dad. I know you knew I supported you. I know you knew I stood proudly in the audience watching you sing in the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus. I really was proud. I wish I had made that more clear.

But I was thirteen. I didn’t really know how to talk about my feelings so much. Now I’m much better. I bet now we would have long conversations about how it felt to finally be your real self or your first experiences frolicking with men. I would love to know.

But thirteen was bad timing for me. I was insecure, ugly, and trying my hardest with padded bras to be popular. ‘Faggot’ was the most common insult in junior high. So I told you to tone it down when you came to the suburbs to watch me lead cheers.

This has been one of my only regrets. You built up so much courage to let your real self out after so many years, and here I was asking you to put it back in once in a while for the sake of my popularity.

I sometimes close my eyes and wish that had never happened. But time never lets me change it. If it did, I’d have completely erased the whole Hammer pants trend (You, by the way, were the first to tell me that those were out of style and that I should stop doing my bangs. You were right! Sorry I didn’t listen. You were gay; I should have known.).

Now that I see this whole life thing from a different point of you, I would have treated the entire situation differently. I would have told you every day how proud I was of you for finally shedding the weight of your lifelong secret. I would have talked to you about everything. I would have asked more questions and given more hugs. I would have screamed to all the cheerleaders that I had the hippest, coolest, gayest dad around. I would have made shirts that said MY DAD IS A FAGGOT AND I LOVE HIM. I would have gotten NBC news to do a story on us and how cool we were together. I would have bought us matching earrings. I would have made all my clothes out of rainbow flags and worn them every day.

But I didn’t. So I’m doing it now.

I’m saying it here: Dad, I’m grateful that you ever existed. And that you were a bizarre quirky soul. You were silly and neurotic and cynical and hilarious. And I learned from each and every little piece of you. And I keep learning from the short time I got to experience life with you. Because you are half of me, and I happen to really like that half. I wish you were here so I could hug you harder than ever and tell you that you mean a lot to me. And tell you that I accept you just as you are. And wear your shoes.

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A Father Tells All

June 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

By: Jamie Beth Schindler

Jamie Beth Schindler and Sam Schindler are the parents of one child (so far!), a one-year-old girl, N. They are in their mid-30s, have been together nearly 13 years and both work outside of the home. They live in the San Fernando Valley but next month they are moving to Lancaster, Pennsylvania where they will be closer to their families of origin.

Just in time for Father’s Day, Jamie Beth interviewed Sam. They discussed labor and delivery, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and what Sam has learned about fatherhood in his first year as a dad.

JBS: We had a hospital birth with an epidural. I ended up pushing for four hours, the last hour of which they had turned off the epidural. Can you talk about the crucial role you played during labor and delivery?

SMS: At first, I was very nervous and I thought that you needed silence in order to focus, so I just kept my mouth shut and didn’t disturb you. I had internalized all of those goddamn TV shows and movies in which the wife gets all mad at a dumb husband who says and does all the wrong things, so I didn’t want to be that guy.

I had discussed this with E, our doula, a bit beforehand, but I really had no idea how it would go in the moment. At the outset, I was pretty silent. I didn’t tell you how I was feeling, because I didn’t think it mattered. I wanted to be supportive but you are very independent and I didn’t want to get in your way.

Gradually, I began to realize that you were kind of stuck — the labor wasn’t yielding any results. This was frustrating for everyone: you, E, the nurse, the doctor, everyone.

I talked to E in the hallway, and I said something like, “Should I take a more active role?” and she said I should, so I did.

I went back in and began to talk to you and was uplifted when your reaction was good. You didn’t tell me to shut-up, or ask for me to say more, but rather, you just listened. This is something you don’t do all that often — listen without rebutting, and this encouraged me, so I got more into it. What was happening for me was that I chose to be in the moment, instead of watching it. I was initially afraid to do that. I guess because I thought subconsciously that if I got involved that would mean it was really happening, and that soon we would have a baby and all the craziness would start, and I was very scared of that. But once I made the decision to let go of fear, or really, just be afraid and do it anyway, I got really into it, and figured I should just pull out all the stops!

I began to remind you of your Pittsburgh Steelers and the Superbowl game they had played versus the Arizona Cardinals just a few months before. I talked about particular plays in which Steelers showed great resolve and spirit and did amazing things.

For example, one player, not known for his speed, ran back an interception 100 yards for a touchdown – a crazy play, one of the greatest in Superbowl history. I recalled that play and said, “Do you think James Harrison was tired when he hit the 50-yard line? I’ll bet he was, but did he quit? No, he did not…” like that, like a football coach.

JBS: I feel the need to interject here that there may be people reading this who are rolling their eyes thinking “What a typical man, using a football analogy during labor?!” I feel the need to explain that the level of my Steeler fanaticism made this kind of the support the exact thing I needed at the moment and something my doula couldn’t have known or provided.

SMS: Right. Later I brought up the last drive, in which the quarterback, defying panic and fear in the face of real pressure, led his team down the field for the game-winning touchdown. To my amazement, these stories actually worked, and you made real progress with your labor, and N got closer and closer to being born.

Also, I was afraid of “seeing” – seeing all the stuff that was happening, the blood and all that, and so I was tentatively holding your leg when the nurse asked me to. But after I started the pep talk I grabbed your leg for real, where I could see all the “action,” and just said to myself, “ok, you’re in it, there’s no going back, you might as well just be there.”

JBS: After what seemed like an eternity of pushing with no success, N just popped out when no one was expecting her, making for a messy, uncontrolled delivery. What was that like for you?

SMS: I feel like I could have been more help when N was actually coming out — in retrospect I want to go back and protect you from that yucky doctor, and I wish I could have had the presence of mind to tell him to go screw himself when he asked me in this pedantic voice to come look at the area he was sewing up. I should have said, “hey, asshole, this isn’t 1950 and I’m not my wife’s keeper, so shut-up, sew her up and don’t make a big deal about it!”

I did sort of direct things during labor when, at one point, he was getting antsy about the lack of progress. I took him outside and told him that if we needed to we could turn down the epidural but that he wasn’t getting through to you and I would help you see that we needed to make some changes to make some progress. At least he listened to that so I exerted some power in the end.

JBS: In your family, both parents work fill-time out of the house talk a little about the division of labor. What works and what doesn’t?

SMS: I think the thing we have going for us is communication. That sounds trite, but what always works for us is talking through situations, talking about how we feel and listening to the other person respond and really giving them the chance to speak honestly.

Oftentimes if one of us feels that the other isn’t helping in the way that he or she needs, we’re at the point where we can say it. That wasn’t how it was in the beginning, in the first six months or so.

Since it was so new, we were working through how to live our lives as adults and be parents at the same time, and still have a relationship as husband and wife – very hard to do. A lot got lost in the mix. You are still the “default parent,” in a way. You make a lot of the decisions, about feeding and napping, etc., and you are the point person when N gets sick. I sometimes feel guilty that I’m not more proactive and I sometimes truly appreciate [without guilt] the fact that you are the point person. Some of this changed this past weekend when I had N to myself for four whole days, and I realized I COULD be the point person and do it well; I actually enjoyed being fully in charge because I didn’t worry about doing it wrong and being second guessed and my confidence in myself grew because I knew I HAD to do it – there was simply no one else to feed, change, clothe, etc.

This weekend helped me with the main thing that I think bothers both of us, me worrying that I won’t make the right choice or that I am doing a bad job as a parent. This leads to me hesitating and waiting for you to make a decision, which I think you sometimes resent. I think you just want me to have confidence and go with my instincts so that you DON’T always have to be the point person. I think you want a break sometimes but you don’t always say it. I think you tend to be a bit sacrificial, not in order to lord it over me later, but because you’re like that in general.

Often during the year (I’m a teacher) I would have work to do over the weekend and I think that you felt sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, overburdened because my job REQUIRES me to do work over the weekend whereas technically yours doesn’t (even though it totally does) and so the balance there was lacking. But recently you’ve managed to give voice to that and when you heard me say that I understood your feelings about this it changed the dynamic. I’m not sure the balance of duties necessarily evened out, but you saw that it was ok to say, “hey, I need help here,” and that I wouldn’t see it as an affront to my “time.”

JBS: what have you learned in your first year as a parent that you wish you would have known before or that you would like to pass on to other new parents?

SMS: That there are NO patterns! Even if she does something one way for 15 nights in a row, there’s absolutely NO guarantee that she’ll do it again on the 16th night. The temptation to ASSUME that she will is what gets you into trouble. I would say the best thing to do is to recognize that you have very little control over what they do early on, especially in the first six months or so. For your sanity it’s much better just to let go and say, “Ok, whatever she does she does,” and not to think, “Well, she did it this way for this long, so that must mean that….blahblahblah.” That’s a disaster waiting to happen. Because its just you the parent TRYING to maintain some semblance of control over the situation, which you don’t really have.

Also (and I have to do a better job of this), act “as if.” Even if you’re totally stressed out and mad and sad, when they get older they see it and know it, and they need you, most of all, to be calm. Even if you’re not calm, even if you’re the furthest thing from calm, you have to try your best to be calm, because that will get you closer to them calming down more quickly. (Again, not necessarily, but it’s much better than running around tearing your hair out.) A microcosmic example of this would be when N falls down and looks at us as if to say, “Am I fatally injured? Should I cry?” if you react impulsively and say, ‘Oh no!” she will cry. But 9 times out of 10, she’s not really hurt. She’s just checking in. So best to stifle that impulse and say, “Haha! that was a really big fall! That was silly! But you’re fine.” And she’ll realize, “Hey, I’m fine, and my daddy’s a big doofus,” and then you’re spared a lot of unnecessary chaos.

Another thing would be to support your partner, even if you don’t necessarily agree with what she’s doing, especially if she’s breast feeding. Breastfeeding can be a very precarious process; it is NOT intuitive and NOT simple, so even if things don’t seem logical or practical to you, just go with it, because in this case, she most likely DOES have knowledge you don’t have and it will make sense later on. Now, this may be unique to our relationship, but it’s certainly something very important that I’ve learned in the past year.

JBS: Your first father’s day was shortly after N was born – what do you remember about it and what would be an ideal way to spend father’s day #2?

SMS: I was totally stressed out. The first 3-4 weeks were really hard, additionally because of some health issue with my family back east. It was so new; I was so lost because everything was so hard to anticipate; there was so little sleep being gotten; it all seemed totally overwhelming and I couldn’t imagine it EVER getting easier. I was really down, feeling very sad, feeling that I couldn’t connect with N because she was just this screaming red thing that hated me. But you wrote me a fathers day card “from” N that totally killed me – in a good way. it was so sweet and it made me realize that I wasn’t useless and that you were very happy with me even though I wasn’t happy with me and that you loved me and thought I was a good dad even though it was really hard. I remember that day feeling really empty in a way because of what father’s day is “supposed” to be, but the card saved it for me.

This year is TOTALLY different. N is the cutest, sweetest, smartest little bear there is. I love the hell out of her. And I love my you more than ever for being such a relentlessly efficient and loving and terrific mother, managing to be a good wife and partner also. Just being with the two of you on that day, feeling as I do about fatherhood which is so drastically different from a year ago, all of that is cause for real celebration and a celebration in itself. it’s the world cup so we’ll watch games together and maybe get some food I like. It’s a special time for us as we get ready to move on to new things, so everything feels like a celebration — fatherhood more so than ever.
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[Photo Credit: 2nd Photo- (c) Matt Cohen]

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Happy Father’s Day To A Step-Dad

June 20, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

By: Joey Uva

Over the past years, I have had wonderful Father’s Days.  Friends and family send me gifts and cards.  This year I decided to shine the light on the other dads.  To all the step-dads out there who have stepped up and become parents by their acceptance and commitment to a family, this one’s for you.   Here’s my interview with my daughter’s step-dad, my partner, Trevor.

How did you feel when you first found out that I had a daughter?

Excited.  I have always loved kids and the thought about the future with someone who had a child was very exciting for me.

Did being a step-dad every cross you mind?

Not until I met you.  With my ex I wanted to have children but he thought he was too old to have kids.  He got me a dog instead.  This is so much better than that!

What did you think the very first time you met Grace?  How did it make you feel?

I thought she was adorable!  And, how much she looked like you made it that much more real for me.  I thought, “she’s a little Joey nugget”!

Looking back over the past years, what is one of your favorite memories or moments with our daughter?

Our Valentine’s trip to the tide pools when she was four.  I loved showing her all the sea anemones, sponges and stars.  Watching her experience them was so wonderful.


What is one of your favorite things that you do with Grace? I think I might know but you could surprise me.

Grace riding on my shoulders –to hear her laugh and enjoy it so much makes me happy.

You did surprise me.  I know she prefers your shoulders to mine but not how much you enjoyed it.  Maybe she knows that. If we could do one thing better as parents, what do you think that one thing would be?

I guess, plan our time out with her a little better sometimes and get as much out of our time with her as possible.

What do you think we do great as parents?

Eating every meal together at the dining room table.  I think it really emphasizes that we are a family and helps create a better family bond.

How has being a step-dad impacted your life with your own dad?

It makes me think about him more and reminds me of how great of a dad I have.  He has always been there for us.

How has being a parent enriched your life?

It has given me pride.  I am always proud to tell people about Grace and our life together.


What is something you have learned about yourself from becoming a step-dad?

I have always thought of myself as liberal and carefree, but at times, I find myself saying things like “Grace, eat over your plate” and then thinking, maybe I am not so much all of the time.

Do you want more children?  I think I know the answer to this and I am on board because I see your greatness when you are with Grace.

Yes, I would love to.  I think it would be great for Grace to have a sibling and for our family to be bigger.  That would be nice.

Step-dads are not to be taken for granted.  They can be that something more that makes a family richer, stronger, and add even more love where too much love is impossibility when it comes to a child.

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To Leo, on Father’s Day

June 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting

By: Tosha Woronov

Your daddy says things to you like, “This is just a ball.  But you, you are a BOY.  It cannot hurt you.”  I think that you’ll remember this.  I think his words will blip in to your mind as the ground ball rushes at you, giving you courage to dive hard and make that save.

Your daddy works 15, 16, sometimes 20 hours a day, but you do not know this.  I know, because it’s hard to run a household without him. Your daddy does not ask for a minute to himself (it’s you who needs the re-adjusting period; you’re more like me that way).  Rather, your dad is all smiles and stories.  His head feels yolk-y, his eyes are swollen, but to you he asks, “want to play some basketball before it gets dark?”

Your daddy takes pictures like this, of softballs and gloves.  I think it’s a little maudlin.  He points out that there are two gloves there.  I still think it’s a little maudlin.  But the point is, he loves you.

Your daddy hasn’t missed a thing you’ve said, or the way you said it, or the change from the way you used to say it.  I look over at him (we parents do that, we share looks), and he is always right there with me.  Every time.  I do not catch him staring at the television.  He hears you.  He notices.

Your daddy calls or texts me every weekday morning to ask, “how was drop-off?” He does this despite the fact you have been going to that preschool for two years and drop-off is old-hat to you.

Your daddy struggles with your current phase of constant poop and fart talk.  It’s not his thing. But he absolutely will not tolerate you talking like that to me.  He warns, “if you have to talk like that, say it to me.  But don’t you ever, EVER talk that way to your mommy, got it?  She is a lady.”

Your daddy likes to make sure you’re well hydrated during “sports league”.

Your daddy has been criticized for being too soft, for allowing too much.  But he knows what he’s doing.  I know in my bones that he knows what he’s doing.  And he’ll be tough on you when he needs to.

Your daddy’s daddy, Gramps, is, too, a good father.  From the time I met your dad, and every week since, I’ve watched him open these small envelopes addressed by Gramps that contain random newspaper clippings –often about sports, but also about books, and music – with only a post-it attached that reads “I love you” or “I’m proud of you.”  I know that when you’re a man, you and your daddy will have this too.

Your daddy loves our dog more today than he did before you were born.  Because he gets it, what makes a family, what completes his family.

Your daddy dreams of a retirement that looks this:  the two of us in an Airstream RV, cruising the country, dropping in on you at school to take you out to dinner.  Don’t worry.  I won’t let this happen.

Your daddy is a normal guy. He plays fantasy football.  But he named his team after you and has no problem being teased for it.

Your daddy takes you to the beach, to the pier, to Sports Chalet.  It seems he can’t just spend the day; it has to be an adventure.  Some times this irritates me, because I don’t understand why he has to make everything so grand all the time.  But I love when you two come home and share with me all the treasures you’ve found.

Your daddy gave me you.  And for this I don’t know how to properly thank him, on this day set aside to do so.

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Interview with A New Dad

June 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Parenting


My husband, Jordan Gill, always dreamed of becoming a father. On April 14, 2009 his dream came true when our daughter, Chloe Madison Gill, was born. In this interview I asked him to reflect on his first year as a father.

Q What has surprised you most about becoming a father?

A How totally distracting it is. There’s not a moment in the day when I’m not in some way thinking about her. People told me all about how much it would change me and how I had never loved anything as much as I would love this child, but nothing could have prepared me. I am totally smitten with her.

Q What moment stands out in your memory about seeing your daughter for the first time?

A The first moment was a little tense because she didn’t APGAR so hot. I remember thinking that there would be crying, and when there wasn’t, I got scared. But then she cried out and got more color, and through the weighing and bathing I was overcome with emotion. I remember holding her for the first time and looking into her eyes. She held eye contact and I felt like I already knew her and I felt like she already knew what was going on. She was born and then she was ours.

Q What do you love the most about being a dad?

A I love everything about being a dad. Even the hard parts, like if she wakes up in the middle of the night and I have to get out of bed from a deep sleep, are nice because I get to spend time with her and rock her back to sleep. Even when I have had a long day at work and I would give anything to collapse into the couch with a beer, I am happy to get to spend the end of her day with her, giving her a bath and putting her to sleep. Other than that, I really love watching her encounter and explore the world. She is changing so much everyday, and seeing her find words for things and develop right before my eyes is magic. I don’t even know how she knows what she knows. Most of all, I love that she and I have a separate relationship and our own special time. I give you extended time on Saturdays to do your own thing since you are home with Chloe all week, and I look forward to it all week. I put Chloe in the stroller or in the carrier, and we set off. We walk for hours, exploring flowers in the neighborhood or meeting up with family and friends at the local farmer’s markets. I feel like the gender stereotype is for the mother to do the lion’s share of the work, and sometimes we fall into that because you are with her more and know where you have everything stored, but on those weekend days, it is really nice and affirming to have to do everything myself. It builds my confidence as a dad.

Q What is your favorite memory from Chloe’s first year?

A There have been so many amazing moments with her. My initial thoughts go to the sound of laughter. There are so many times that I have laughed until I cried with her. She loves to laugh and is pretty good at getting the joke and realizing what it is that she is doing that is funny and repeating it. But the truth is that the most amazing moment of the first year is still the very first moment. Your labor was epic. There were days of contractions and false alarms and back and forths to the hospital and physical discomfort and lack of sleep. Finally, when the labor started in earnest, I watched you do the most amazing thing ever – watched you push herself further than I thought possible, and all of a sudden we were a family. It was that immediate. One moment a couple. The next a family.

Q What are your dreams for your daughter?

A I want her to be happy and comfortable in her own skin and to believe in herself and in her dreams. I want her to always feel that she has a home with us and a place she can come back to, but I want her to be brave enough to leave and chase her own potential. I can’t wait to see who she becomes.

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