I’m thankful for Alen, who over the last ten years has been referred to first as my boyfriend, then lover, partner, domestic partner, better half, and now, thanks to the judicial system, my spouse. Soul mate, man, mate, and partner-in-crime also come to mind, although we have never broken any laws together (well maybe if we were in a state in the deep South.) Alen has the patience of a saint, the brain of an Einstein, and the body of a supermodel, but best of all he is incredibly loving and kind to me. I can’t imagine Thanksgiving (or any other holiday for that matter) without him.
I’m thankful for my three sons, and not the television show, but the reality that is my life. Now ages 6, 5 and 1 (yes, my life is a math equation), Devin, Dylan & Dustin amaze us in every way possible, every hour of every day. Watching them grow up in front of our eyes to become awesome individuals has been and will continue to be one of the greatest joys of my life. I wish that I can see them and be with them for their entire long lives; alas, the math just doesn’t work out in my favor. That’s why I will live each day to the fullest and enjoy every moment.
I’m thankful for my health and fitness. Yes, at nearly 52 years of age, things don’t work as well as they used to. But I do have my memories. I can remember catching the winning touchdown in Pop Warner. I can remember winning my first triathlon and my first 10K, and any that came after that. I can dream about my solo bicycle ride across the US (5500 miles), my swim race around the island of Key West (12 ½ miles), and my first Hawaii Ironman (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). I’m not in that kind of shape right now, be it because of lack of desire, lack of time, or lack of sleep, but I’m so thankful that I had the chance to compete at that level and enjoy every bit of that lifestyle. I’m hoping to get back into it some day, but if not, I’m still happy to say remember when.
The rest are miscellaneous thanks that end up allowing me to live a truly blessed life. I’m thankful for my friends, who make me laugh or give me a supportive pat on the back. I’m thankful for manicures, massages, and movies. I’m thankful for the roof over my head and the American soil beneath my feet. I’m thankful that my boys want to cuddle with me and that my parents want to speak to me. I’m thankful for the drivers that let me on the road during traffic, and for the baristas that truly want me to have a great day. And I’m thankful to those that read this blog weekly or when they can, and to those who take a second to send me a comment or note.
Thanks to all. And Happy Thanksgiving!
Over the last five years, my husband and I have gone to almost 250 movies. Every week, thanks to our good – I mean great – friend and surrogate to our two youngest sons, we have enjoyed a date night. We’ve stuck with Saturday night for almost all of them, although in the last two months or so we have been giving Friday night a trial run with moderate to good success.
Some might say we are stuck in a rut, but we don’t see it that way. We still enjoy our standing date, which starts with a meal of some kind. Lots of time we go to a street in Los Angeles that has a wonderful cluster of Asian delights, and we chow down on sushi or Pho food. Or we hit a local Thai place. And occasionally we will do the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that’s located in the same mall as our usual movie pick. The buffet is quantity over quality, so we have to be extra hungry to hit that one.
Next we get a massage. Once a month we will make our Burke Williams appointment (we are members) for the royal treatment. Sad to say, but this is most often our least favorite massage. We just never really found this place worth the expense. Our favorite is a place directly across the street from the movie theater. It’s an open room with a dozen massage tables and about two dozen massage “therapists” who are roaming the vicinity, ready to work at the sound of the voice of a nice woman who is always at the front desk. She seems like the Queen Bee of the place, and they listen to and obey her every word, or at least we think they do. No one in the joint speaks any English.
The massage starts in the sitting position, with your feet soaking in some seriously searing water. They pay special attention to your upper back, neck, and shoulders. Next you switch to the face-up position while they dry off your feet and rub them thoroughly, including all the spaces between all your toes. They work their way up your legs (as best they can since you are completely dressed in date night clothes), and then proceed to stretch your hips and back. Finally you’re face down, at which point they’ll start at the top and work down to your feet, pushing and probing and squeezing as they go. It always ends with some drumming and slapping on your person. Not exactly a happy ending.
Every “therapist” does the same routine, as if the same master has taught him or her. There’s no privacy, the soft music is mediocre at best, and it’s difficult to communicate with these people, but somehow it works for us. We have, over time, found the “therapists” we like the best and we ask for them by name. We are able to call ahead and reserve a time (they have no reservation system to speak of – we noticed our massage times written on a napkin by the phone at the front desk once when we arrived) and everyone is very friendly, although I wish they would eat less garlic and smoke fewer cigarettes between massages. When it’s over we are happy to hand over our $25 each for an hour of a happy relaxing time, plus tip.
After being fed and feeling calm, it’s time for the movie. We always get a large popcorn and large Diet Coke to share. We always sprinkle on some Nacho Cheese seasoning that’s available, and we always use the bathroom just before heading in to the reserved stadium seating. We will always use the bathroom on the way out of the theater (due to the large Diet Coke), at which time I will stand in a stall and always check in to Facebook and give my one sentence review of that week’s movie. My man will always be waiting outside the bathroom for me to finish posting, and upon my departure from the bathroom will always ask, “So what did you think”? Always. We will always buy some ice cream on the way home, and we will always always enjoy the rest of the night.
This is our time to reconnect, get romantic, and be alone, without our beautiful boys. I love returning home late at night and peeking in on the boys, marveling at just how beautiful they look as they lay there sleeping. I’ll usually cover them in their blankets (do all kids toss off their blankets at night?), kiss them good night, and thank my lucky stars that I have date night every week. With a special guy, that is.
By Rob Watson
The day did not start off well. My schedule in the morning must work like clockwork. Two boys, ten and eleven years old, must be showered, dressed, breakfasted, lunches packed, and out the door. At the same time, I need to be showered, dressed (breakfasted—yeah, right), lunch packed, house closed down, and out the door. Some days, it works like a well-oiled machine.
Some days . . . not. That day, it did not. That morning, it was my older son, Jason’s, hypersensitivity and hypoglycemia. His blood sugar had dropped, which made him irrationally emotional, and the only resolve was for him to eat—but because he was upset, he did not want to eat. While tears erupted, I had to manage my own emotions and frustrations over trying to get him to eat in order to ease the emotions that prevented him from eating. Finally, he relented and took in the cereal bars, the food hit his system, and his normally sweet demeanor began to reemerge.
It is events like these that make life with my sons not “typical.” If I ever start to harbor any thoughts of ill will about that, I have to reflect on what they have already been through and conquered in their young lives. Both my sons were adopted as babies through foster care. They each faced things at very young ages that I could not imagine. My older kicked the heroin running through his body at birth in a few weeks. My younger, also drug exposed at birth, was terrorized and abused by an aggressive birth parent. Today they are both well-adjusted, happy boys, but special needs and challenges still arise.
A few hours later, I was at work. One of my tasks for the day was to write an internal memo about a project on which my boss and a few others in my company had been working. They had raised $6000 towards a $7500 goal to “adopt a wish” for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The $7500 would go to a single child’s wish.
As I wrote, I told the stories of several children, all between the ages of four and nine, who had wishes granted. Like my sons, they had gone through things that most adults would find devastating. Their dreams were not cheap, but then that was understandable. None of us dreams to be under a budget, and these kids were certainly going to be oblivious to “what things cost.” It was not the point of the program to make them understand that. The point of the program was to give them the overwhelming experience of a miracle so that they could then expect a similar miracle in fighting the life-threatening challenge that they share with the others in the program.
As I put the finishing touches to the corporate memo, one of my co-workers emailed me a link to something unfolding an hour away in San Francisco. The BatKid had come to town, and the entire city and its surroundings had fallen in love with him.
For good reason. Like my sons, five-year-old Miles Scott had already fought an adult-size battle early in his young life. When he was eighteen months old, he came down with leukemia. Miles did not focus on the battle behind him, however; he dreamed instead to be . . . Batman. “He is my favorite super hero,” Miles explained simply. Nuanced motivations are not required when one is five.
His folks took him to San Francisco, on the pretense of getting him a Batman outfit. Yeah. And a whole lot more. It seems that almost everyone in the city was in on the transformation into a little boy’s dream world that day. He donned the outfit all right, but then he went from adventure to adventure: The chief of police called on him to save a damsel in distress, he witnessed a flash mob in his honor, and he brought down the bank-robbing Riddler. Even the president of the United States chimed in with a “Way to go, Miles!”
News of Miles’s adventures filled Facebook, Twitter, and the media. It was easy casting; the part called for a metropolitan city to sit in complete and total awe as a masked superhero saved its day. We in the area grabbed our role and went for it with gusto.
As is the case in many superhero sagas, however, there is always a drag-along naysayer. The proverbial spoil sport. Eric Mar (even the name seems to be out of central casting—Supervisor Mar, the guy who had to mar the fun) tweeted his form of bah humbug, “Waiting for Miles the BatKid & Wondering how many 1000s of SF kids living off SNAP/FoodStamps could have been fed from the $$.”
I do understand Supervisor Mar’s concern (albeit it poorly timed). There are many kids in need, and $7500 is a lot of money. In BatKid’s case, probably much more was spent, although city revenues certainly increased as well. Opportunity costs are not linear, however. There is no denying that big gifts do carry powerful significance. Miles’s mom, Natalie, stated, “This wish has meant closure for our family and an end to over three years of putting toxic drugs in our son’s body. This wish has become kind of a family reunion and is our celebration of his treatment completion.”
Those who donated to the funds that brought us BatKid were not likely to be sending the money to food stamp kids instead. In my workplace in our make-a-wish efforts, we vie for Airline, Cher, Eagles, or San Jose Shark tickets in a raffle. Others may forgo an extra lunch or a luxury item in order to give. It is also not to say that big prizes are routinely given in our society to those in need. All one has to do is turn on the TV to see cooks, sports enthusiasts, and no-discernible-talent people vying for big cash prizes. So the conundrum of one $7500 event versus one hundred $75 gifts is not a real one.
It is also not the point. The point of BatKid was so much bigger than one Miles Scott, as adorable and deserving as he is. It was an act of many people coming together to make a dream come true. It was an act of healing and vision, to give a child that which he or she hoped for, and to demonstrate that hope is worth having.
It is to show that we collectively can take a dream that should be all but impossible, and make it possible. Twelve thousand volunteers pulled the event together, and tens of thousands more participated. It is rare, but not unheard of, for a community of people to come together with such a singularity of vision.
The fact that this was done for one single child is irrelevant. Similarly, when I tell the stories of my sons and their gay dad, it is not because I want people to care about only us. The point is we are representative of many like us who need that care. Some look at the adoption of babies born to drug addicts as their own lifetime “make a wishes.” LGBT parents adopting them into safe homes, to lives of care and protection, make their newborn dreams come true. It is saving one child at a time.
The profound effect is also that of making strangers care about one another. When strangers care once, they then know how to care again, and again and again. Caring once allows us now to imagine how we can continue and help more children, and maybe more adults. It is the contagion of ideas and willingness to help, aid, and love.
Usually it takes a mass shooting, a terrorist event, or something horrible to create this mindset. This was not a dire situation. We were not desperate to collectively get over a shock.
On the contrary, it was an effort of hope, love, charity, and the imagination for something wonderful. We collectively looked at an impossible dream and made it a reality.
For Miles, it was a great day. For those of us in its midst it was a necessity. We needed to know it could happen. We needed to know that the possibility of making it and other impossible dreams happen is within our grasp. It was a journey that rescued us from cynicism and took us into a community of hope.
Holy paradoxes, Batman. We thought we were doing something great for this little kid, and he may have been the one who rescued us, after all.
As happy an occasion as it is, the first birthday of your last baby is also filled with lots of sorrow and nostalgia. Of course I’m glad that we’ve made it through the first 365 days relatively unscathed, although his forehead has had more than his fair share of bruises now that he is cruising around the floor at a respectable pace.
I mean, I want him to develop normally, hitting all the milestones right on time with all the hoopla that comes along with them.
But as cliché as it sounds, it all goes so darn fast, and even faster when it’s your last time through the racecourse. As an example, I cannot believe my son is already in size 4 diapers. He went from N to 4 in the blink of an eye. At least I learned, and this took me three children to learn, to move up faster in diaper size than you think you need to, because before you know it the bodily waste is squirting out the sides and up the back at the worst possible time, like when you are in a rush or when you are far from home and forgot any change of clothes. I also now know that, except for maybe your first purchase of a larger diaper size, stick to small amounts (i.e. don’t buy the huge warehouse-size boxes) so you don’t get caught half way through your supply of diapers that are now too small but you use anyway because these rectangular absorbent things are expensive.
I’m also crying in my pillow about the loss of the use of formula. It says right on it “0 – 12 months” which couldn’t be much clearer. Stop using it! However, I’m stretching out my last couple of cans under the guise of “the transition”, which is the period of time where I feed him formula with increasing amounts of fat-free cow’s milk mixed in. I refuse to throw out even one scoop of this “gold powder”, which costs twice as much as anything I personally eat. And besides the money, I’m really going to miss the convenience of the powder. I just need water, which I always carry, and the powder, and he is fed. In just a few days it’s going to take a LOT more planning. And I know he is going to be a big eater. He has been watching his two older brothers devour food for a whole year, and the little food we have already fed him (a little bite here, a little nibble there) has been no problem for him.
The cute clothes are another thing. Even though I tried to weed out his brothers’ hand-me-downs, there were still some clothes that I never got to even try on him! The hand-me-downs I did get to use allowed me to relive the first years of my older sons – I could picture them in the Gap shirt and the cute overalls as if it were yesterday. Now I have a friend who is pregnant with her third son, so like a conveyor belt the clothes are going from my washer/dryer directly to her storage room, with little more than a tear or two from me.
Have you ever watched a parade, and then at the end of the parade the sanitation workers and the street sweepers are right on its tail, cleaning up to erase any sign that a parade (and the thousands of spectators) had just come by? Our house is starting to feel this way, and I can’t say I’m happy about it. Then again, just the other day my spouse made this statement as we watched our one-year old giggle and clap to music: “The three beautiful boys we have made it easy to imagine having a fourth one.”
Anyone have any newborn hand-me-downs?
By John Jericiau
My spouse and I are coming up on ten awesome years together. We marked the calendar from our first date together: June 11th, 2004. Most of our hetero friends start the clock as of the date of their wedding, but since we weren’t afforded that opportunity until June 21st, 2008 (during a small window when California said we could before putting a stop to all but the first 18,000 gay couples who got hitched), we include the four years prior to our marriage in our calculations. For us I wouldn’t really call it a wedding, since as of yet we have not blurted the “’til death do us part” speech to each other in front of 200 of our closest friends and family at a fabulous venue as we stand ankle-deep in sand on a beautiful tropical beach. Instead I dragged him to the Los Angeles County Clerk’s office in beautiful downtown Norwalk, CA the night before his birthday with our two oldest sons, signed some legal documents, kissed on the lips in front of someone representing religion, and then continued on our way to Newport Beach to enjoy the night in a ritzy hotel.
The almost 10 years have been a whirlwind adventure to say the least. Starting a business together, more job responsibilities for him, the title of stay-at-home dad for me, and another son later, we’re about to start on the second decade of our relationship. It’s mind-boggling. It’s hard to believe. And it’s better than ever.
We have our moments, don’t get me wrong. A lot of them. At times I wonder if two men can actually cohabitate. But that’s the minority of the time. Most of the time it works, and I think it’s because we complement each other.
I say complement, not compliment, although for sure the one with an ‘i’ has helped us through some tough patches as well (do you know how sexy you look when you’re screaming at me?) What I’m really referring to is complement with an ‘e’, which in the dictionary means:
Something that completes, makes up a whole, or brings to perfection.
For us, it’s how the cool, detached man is attracted to the warm, outgoing one. It’s how the disciplined one admires the free spirit. The smart one is in awe of the even smarter one.
We even work well in the parenting department. Not so much as good cop/bad cop, but rather one of us is softer, more inclined to cuddle, and more freely says to the boys “I love you” just because, and uses “don’t worry, everything will work out” for almost any other reason. The other imparts wisdom and shares the tools needed to navigate this great big scary world. In sickness, one of us barely flinches until an offspring has over a 103-degree temperature or has bright red blood spurting out of a major artery. The other worries about the effect of our iPhones on their development, and seriously considers homeschooling a viable option for our boys (I can’t imagine it, although it sounds like it’s working for many families.)
Bottom line is it’s working. We are growing as people, as parents, and as a couple. And I cannot wait to report back in ten more years, because deep in my heart I know that everything will work out. I love you, babe.
By Rob Watson
Universal Studios Hollywood recently pulled the plug early on its Bill & Ted 2013 Halloween hijinks. The B&T shenanigans centered around a cliché-ridden, scantily clad “gay” Superman in numerous homophobia-inspiring situations. The show portrayed gay men as sexual predators and vapid hedonists and included maligning the married and revered out actor George Takei.
The blogger sphere spiked high as video and excerpts from the show spread. At first Universal benignly defended the show. Then they announced its demise.
Of course, the other shoe has to drop on that kind of resolution. Jamie Lee Curtis Taete, West-Coast editor at Vice, who broke the story and criticized the show, called the cancelation “a massive overreaction.”
Some actually talked themselves into thinking that the show was almost…pro-gay. Blogger Scott Weitz stated, “The proudly, openly gay members of the Bill & Ted cast never took offense … I attended this same Bill & Ted show in late September along with friends, some of whom are gay, and no one in our group found any offense in B&T’s over-the-top social satire.” On the GLAAD website a reader complained, “Whoever was offended by this show should go back into the closet they have no business being gay. Thanks for ruining my favorite part of Halloween,” to which Wilson Cruz, national spokesperson for GLAAD, wryly replied, “You’re welcome.”
For some, it brought out the “boogey man” they fear: the Big “PC,” Political Correctness, the talking point Fox News loves to hate the most.
The criticism of “political correctness” is rationalization for something offensive and an excuse not to care that the offense hurts someone else. “PC” might more accurately be known as “perspectives challenged.” Those who are bothered by doing the sensitive, right thing become downright cantankerous about it.
A commentator in the Los Angeles Times, calling himself Computer Forensics Expert, invoked it, “So, I guess Halloween is now subjected to ‘political correctness.’” Blogger Jim Hill complained, “It would really bother me if the politically correct—as part of some well-meaning effort to protect the feelings of the greater gay community —inadvertently wound up taking the edge off of two Halloween traditions.”
So were the criticisms of the show just silly hurt feelings, or were Bill & Ted really doing tangible harm? After all, the people who like campy things actually laughed at the characterizations.
As a parent, I took a degree of interest in this whole situation. My sons are approaching their teen years and being “cool” is important in their book. I try to stay abreast of what is “cool” even if it has the class of a fart joke and about as much intellectual capital. I worried about the “coolness quotient” of Universal Studio’s Bill & Ted show and its moronic satire. As a parent and a witness to what anti-LGBT sentiment causes, my “coolness” was frigid cold. I was not the least bit sorry to hear that the show was going away, so I decided to outline my thanks in an open letter to Larry Kurzwell, president of Universal Studios Hollywood.
Dear Mr. Kurzwell:
As the dad of 10- and 11-year-old boys, I want to thank Universal Studios Hollywood for ending this year’s run of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure. I’m sure that this decision was not without its financial and public opinion costs.
For our family, we are glad not to have the image of LGBT people and of Superman melded into a clichéd-sex, wanton embarrassment. My sons were both babies in the foster care system and they appreciated T-shirts I gave them that read, “Superman had foster parents too.” For me, as a single, working, gay dad, I had my own Superman T-shirt. I wore it to bed so that when I got up the next morning and faced a day filled with more challenges than seemed humanly possible, I could look in the mirror and feel I was invincible.
Those who would tell you that canceling this show was a rash or bad decision will cite that you warned patrons. You told them that this was a show for “mature audiences.” Patrons could choose to censor simply by deciding not to purchase tickets.
But this situation is more complicated. Your show really was not for the “mature,” as these critics maintain. (It was Bill & Ted, after all, I mean…come on.) It was also not one that would affect only those who viewed it firsthand. The reaction to it would reverberate further into their world. It was marketed to and recommended for those “over 13 years old.” Believe me, this made it the hottest ticket in town for 12-year-olds.
Your target audience for this show was the exact demographic that currently perpetuates and is victimized by bullying. The homophobic humor and degradation would not be lost on them. They would delight in its irreverence, howl with their perceived superiority, and step out to mimic its spirit: to ridicule any and all people perceived to be gay.
The show fed into an already ripe bullying environment for teens, particularly LGBT teens. The website Bullyingstatistics.org describes that world: “30 percent of teenagers in the U.S. have been involved in bullying …Students who also fall into the gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered identity groups report being five times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe… About 28 percent out of those groups feel forced to drop out of school altogether… Teens are still continuing to bully each other due to sexual orientation …Teens reported that the number two reason they are bullied is because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender expression…About 9 out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation… About 30 percent of all completed suicides have been related to sexual identity crisis.”
The spirit of this Bill & Ted edition easily accelerated the intensity of hatelike behavior targeting LGBT teens, which would expose them to greater depression and possible suicide. Your message through your action is clear—that such harassment is not acceptable.
For that, I thank you.
I hope too that those who mourn the loss of campy low-ball entertainment will come to forgive you and appreciate the greater good you enacted. If you erred, you did so on the side of kindness.
As Mark Twain said, “Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
A gay dad, living the real super man life
It wasn’t until 3:11pm this afternoon when I plopped into a chair behind a booth at my boys’ school fundraising carnival that I realized that it was the first time I had sat down all day. Up since a 6am nudge in my bed as my middle son crawled under the covers, interrupting a perfectly good dream with lots of REM, I’ve been going and going and going. But it’s Saturday, so what do I expect?
My spouse was missing the annual Halloween Carnival as he filled his head with spreadsheets and expense reports at his almost brand new MBA curriculum halfway across the country. Hence the empty spot in my bed in which my middle son could invade. I hold no grudges against my husband whatsoever. I encouraged him to go for yet another advanced degree. I really truly am super proud of him. But it does leave me alone with our three boys at times. I’d go ahead and miss a carnival here and there, if I could. But I can’t. As the room parent (think teacher’s pet) for my kindergartener’s class, and an active parent for my first grade class, it is my duty (along with many other parents) to make sure that this event goes off without a hitch. Our childrens’ futures depend on it – or at least their music and art classes.
We had prepared since the beginning of the school year for this day, or at least it feels like it. Emails, signups, meetings, and more emails. The PTA royalty would send me the information and ask me to forward it to the parents in my class, “but add your own spin on it, something that complements your personality.” I PUT IT ALL IN CAPS.
The carnival started at 10am, and we wanted to get there early, but a last minute birthday party invitation thwarted our plans. The invitation wasn’t actually sent last minute – I just accepted it last minute. A Mad Science birthday party trumps the start of any carnival. We even had to bag the weekly gymnastics class in the park across the street due to the triple schedule conflict that we faced. Even the calendar of my iPhone didn’t know how to deal with the three events. Life is one big constant exercise in prioritizing.
While the boys were fixated on the slime-making scientist at the party, I had my almost one-year old in my arms feeding him different solids that are age-appropriate, and he was doing really well. Bits of strawberry, pieces of watermelon, and some crackers. He was doing really well – I thought so anyway, as did the moms in the room who would as usual keep one eye trained on me to follow what I was doing. “I’ve got this”, I thought. I decided to try the smallest piece of broccoli, and that’s when it all unraveled. After a couple of gags, my son proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach onto the floor, table, and each of us, and I immediately thought this would cause a delay in our rush to the carnival. I ran us to the restroom and managed to rid us both of the vomitus that was on us. Back at the party, I cleaned up the floor where I had been standing, and got us back on schedule.
Finally at the carnival, it really was a beautiful day and an awesome event. Due to the hard work put in by many in the weeks prior to the event, it practically ran itself. This carnival has been going on since at least the ‘70s, and they’ve got it down to a science. And due to the location of this public school in a community of affluence, lots of entertainment types and lots of paparazzi littered the area.
The boys had a fabulous time, using up every one of the $100 worth of tickets I purchased for the rides and attractions at the carnival. But Daddy was getting tired. Really tired. So when I plopped on the above-mentioned chair at 3:11pm in the afternoon, no one was surprised when I blurted out THANK YOU JESUS. That’s just who I am.
This parenting gig is incredible. As a stay-at-home dad, my life is filled with so many milestones and memories and happiness and joy. Each day our three boys amaze us with new words and deep thoughts and unconditional love. The experiences that my husband and I are sharing are at times so profound that they bring us closer and closer together as the fabulous years go by. We are getting close to hitting ten of those fabulous years.
With all that being said, it’s time to set the record straight. Parts of this job really suck. And I’m not talking about the obvious. Not the poop you find on your forearm after a diaper change. Not the sleep deprivation that comes with the newborn months. No, I’m talking about the less obvious ones. The ones that parents from past generations don’t speak about, but would chuckle knowingly when they are brought up in conversation by new parents. Here are four of these unspeakables, in no particular order.
The boys might be at the park with Papa, or sound asleep in their beds in the dead of the night, but no matter. It’s always the same. Right around the time that I have started letting the water run through my hair after the shampoo, the screams of pain start. The cries for help commence. The sounds of muffled suffocation sear through the air. I used to turn off the water and listen, but I have learned that it’s just a curse. My mind is playing tricks on me. I stick my head out of the shower and listen to the silence for a second of two before returning to my asylum that used to be so enjoyable and relaxing but now is nothing but a quick soaping and a rushed rinse.
Dining in restaurants
We might as well take the meal money and flush it down the toilet; it’s almost the same as trying to eat out. We’ve tried toys and crayons and iPads and iPhones, but inevitably an individual of short stature will scream bloody hell about the shape of his pancake or the inequality of fries on his plate compared to his brother. Forget about reading the Sunday paper or glancing at email. Others demand your full attention. Even eating your meal becomes a challenge and a balancing act, as without fail someone will want to sit on your lap just as your piping hot food arrives. I’ve gotten used to eating cold eggs.
These three hours used to be good times. Working out at the gym after work, catching up with friends at an impromptu meal, or even just sitting and watching some mindless Jeopardy or Entertainment Tonight while digesting my pasta with my feet up on the coffee table. Now they have become a frantic three hours of homework, meal preparation for boys of starkly different tastes and meal requirements, baths, reading, and then finally pleading for everyone to stay in bed and go to sleep. We don’t even try to feed ourselves until at least 9:30pm, if we have still have the energy to raise a utensil to our mouth.
Three boys, two men, and a friend/surrogate who spends half her time at our house – we all make a lot of dirty laundry, I get it. And throw in washing sheets (some more frequently due to bedwetting), the throw rugs that surround our toilets (boys have bad aim), and the uniforms from twice-weekly swim lessons, twice-weekly basketball, twice-weekly gymnastics, and a weekly Crossfit class – and we’ve got an always-running washer/dryer. Each day as the laundry finishes drying it gets piled on my bed as high as the ceiling fan, and each night I have to stand there and fold it, sort it into piles by owner, and restock it in the appropriate location. If I don’t get to the restocking part due to time constraints or a boy or two waking up unexpectedly for water or a pee or a cry, then the sorted clothes have to wait. They quickly start to pile up on our dresser until they teeter-totter and finally collapse, necessitating a refold.
As bad as these things sound, it’s really a small price to pay for the opportunity to raise our sons and get them ready to go out in the world on their own. And before they start making their own families, I will be sure and let them in on these good times. Or maybe not. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise.
And here she comes, with all the latest baby gear, loaded with all kinds of baby accessories, slow and calculated walking, like Rambo with her ONE single baby, she gave me the “watch out I am a modern, smart, big deal mom” kind of look and all I could think was phsss I have 3 of those missy and half of the arsenal…
One thing that most women own and defend is the fact that they have the natural ability to be moms. That is serious stuff, their pride and prehistorical experience on that role is something you are not supposed to mess with.
Anytime a female discovers my role as principal caregiver of 4 babies with the total absence of a female in our household, something changes, I notice a subtle higher pitch in their voice, their attention becomes more acute and their body posture tends to acquire an upright position. My sensors tell me, it is time to go for the test again. I can feel the wave of emotions coming my way, it feels like their entire weaponry is pointing at me.
Its mostly pity the feeling they manifest, pity and some superiority. I can see how they shake their heads with their eyes. They are too smart to really shake their heads but not enough to hide the real feeling behind their expressions.
Some may feel fear and even defiance. They may think – Who in the hell do you think you are to usurp the job I have done exclusively for thousand of years, the role I played so well that no man ever, was able to even think about taking? This is my own nature you are insulting…
Then is when all the unsolicited advice starts to shoot my way. And yes they never had triplets but they took care of their cousin’s irish twins, and you don’t know how hard it gets later, and good for you! You must have your hands full. God BLESS you! Translation: ha you don’t know how much blessings you are going to need from now on.
And the Spanish women… Oh well that is a whole new post… I don’t know if that is because of their culture or because we are both Latinos and they feel they can be more intimate with me, but they are especially animated and eye rolling when they learn I am a gay men with children.
They eyes open big, I am afraid their fake eyelashes are going to fall right in front of me. Then there are those few seconds of awkwardness when they are thinking of how to digest the news and be supportive and true to their own person at the same time, they can’t hide their surprise from me, I know it’s coming, I just relax my shoulders, take a big breath and think, “Bring it lady, bring it on”
I would hope all these impressions are only in my head and none of these are real but my gut assures me: You are under test, watch what you do or say. You are playing on sacred territory. Smile and keep walking, don’t look back because they could cut your throat in a blink of an eye.
One of the perks of being the parent of young kids is making new friends. It all comes at such a good time too. Once you start having kids, in a natural and gradual way the friends you had in your single, childless years start fading away. I’m not bitter about it, although there are some friends from years gone by that I would love to reconnect with. But I don’t blame them. A new parent’s world is so child-centric that anything else is very secondary, and friends can sense the changes. Six years ago, when I was caring for my 8-month old son when my second son was born, I was lucky to find my phone let alone use it. When I wasn’t cleaning bottoms I was cleaning bottles or floors or laundry. And when I wasn’t doing that I was napping. There was little time for anything else, especially something like chatting on the phone for hours on end with a friend.
Unfortunately, like a garden that gets no water, friends that didn’t hear from me just wilted away. Those relationships suffered. They didn’t understand that I what I really could’ve used was some help – something as simple as their company – at that stressful and challenging time. But again, I don’t blame anybody. They were as clueless as I was before I was a parent myself. I didn’t know that new parents were so sleep-deprived, or so hungry for even a few minutes of time alone.
Friendships and their importance to me have changed as I have gone through life. In elementary, grade school, and even college, I placed so much pressure on myself to have everyone like me that it was quite obsessive. Deep, meaningful relationships suffered as I spread myself way too thin. Class president here, this club there. A sport’s team here, a volunteer group there. Hang out with the jocks, and then turn around and mix it up with the brainiacs. Way too much! Even my romantic relationships suffered, as evidenced by the fact that my college sweetheart nearly married me, a closeted gay guy! I never let anyone get to know the real me, which is sad because the real me was/is a really cool guy.
As I was bicycling across the country by myself between college and the rest of my life, I decided that some things were really going to have to change. I needed to come out, of course, but also I needed to shrink my circle of friends down from hundreds to a manageable handful. Moving across the country helped with that, and so did announcing that “Yep, I’m gay!” at my high school reunion. That caused more shrinking than a cold swimming pool! Sixty days alone while cycling an average of 91 miles per day really gets your wheels turning. I made the decision to try to make a handful or fewer friends. I think I succeeded. Granted, quite an abundance of those “friends” turned into a romantic interlude of various durations (varying from one night to three years), but over the years I did have a few who became just friends, and really good ones at that.
But like I said, having three boys in tow is like an incredibly effective bug repellent – it keeps everyone away. No one has any idea what to do with you. For example, when is the last time that friends without kids met at a park? So quite naturally, fellow parents become your new friends, since you’re all in the same boat. And the timing couldn’t be better. Your old friends are gone, and you are just clawing your way out of the isolation period (i.e. the newborn months). Slowly, you start connecting. A fellow parent at a pre-toddler music class here, someone else at your neighborhood park there. This is all well and good, but you hit pay dirt once your kids enter elementary school.
Play dates, birthday parties, picnics, and more!
Field trips, after school activities, and sports teams galore!
That’s where I am now – weeding through the literally hundreds of parents available to find those few who are going to make it through the long haul. I already have a few who have made it a couple of years since preschool, but because we have dispersed to different elementary schools, I’m sure that, like me, they can feel the pressure to let go and focus exclusively on our own schools for companionship and friendship. We’re fighting hard to make it work. Newer friendships are blossoming too, and I’m meeting some really nice parents that I’m trying to do fun things with. I just hope our kids can get along as well as we do.