With only two weeks left in the school year, it seems like so many activities are trying to cram inside so little time. End of year parties, goodbyes, birthday parties, final evaluations; you name it, it’s happening. Throw in there my own Dad’s birthday, his 76th, as he celebrates it with my Mom all the way in Arizona. Dad is six months into his recovery from total knee replacement surgery, and is still experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort. His mobility is minimal, and his spirits are low. I can hear it in his voice every time I talk with him, even though I am 411 miles away. Besides the surgery, he is also lamenting the fact that he has never met our third son Dustin, who is now 6 ½ months old with two bottom teeth and what seems like 411 very long eyelashes.
I felt really bad for my Dad, and the boys missed Grandma and Grandpa a lot, so despite my misgivings about missing kindergarten and preschool (although much less misgivings about preschool), I made plans for a surprise road trip to their house, arriving the evening of my Dad’s birthday. I booked a two-night stay at a hotel near them (they have plenty of room but three little ones showing up unannounced doesn’t seem like the surprise I was shooting for), alerted the boys’ teachers, and gassed up the minivan. Packing for 72 hours is fairly painless, but I did end up forgetting a razor (which the hotel had) and some paperwork that I wanted to work on (which I wouldn’t have had time to do anyway). When you have three boys with you, it’s pretty much all about them. No workouts in the snazzy fitness room, no TV (for fear of waking them up), and no sleeping in.
We left the beach by 8:30am with plans to arrive at their house prior to dinner preparations so that we could hopefully be a part of dinner. Eastbound traffic was sluggish until we escaped the confines of Los Angeles, at which point I kept the pedal to the metal the rest of the way. A stop for a pancake breakfast a few hours later, and then a stop for lunch a few hours after that. Sprinkle in a smattering of small potty breaks and “go run around” stops, and we arrived at the hotel. Coincidentally, Papa was leaving our house for an east coast business trip (Miami) at around that very same time, although the boys got confused and kept asking when Papa was going to arrive at our hotel.
We settled in briefly and then hit the road again for the 6-mile drive to my parents. We stopped in a store close to them and grabbed some ice cream cake with “Happy Birthday Grandpa” written on it (I had them add the Grandpa part), some candles, and a lighter. Our plan was to drive up to their neighbor’s house and park, walk quietly to their house, and call them on the phone from right outside their front door. We’d have a friendly chat, and then tell them to hang on a second because someone is knocking on our door, and then at the same time we’d actually knock on their door. We’d wait until they opened their door before yelling “Surprise!!!” I was proud of the fact that the boys came up with that plan.
In reality however, my phone battery died just before we got to their house. There was no room to park in front of their neighbors, and the ice cream birthday cake was melting rapidly due to the 106 degrees of stifling air. Instead we quietly parked, tiptoed up to their front door, and knocked. Their dog Lady greeted us first with a very loud yapping bark, which sent two boys scurrying around the corner. The remaining boy, dressed as cute as a button complete with an “I Love Grandpa” bib, began to wail at the top of his lungs from the commotion, at which point my parents open the front door and stare in disbelief. I think they wondered why only the baby and I were making a surprise visit. Pretty soon the infant caught his breath and the boys built up some courage to come near the dog and my parents.
The boys were in the pool in no time at all, where they stayed for several hours while I visited with my family and showed off Dustin. Thanks to the power of heat exhaustion, everyone slept well that night in the hotel (the boys in the king size bed, Dustin in a hotel-provided pack and play, and me on the lumpy sofa bed), and woke up refreshed for another day of visiting and swimming. Now here I am writing in my lumpy bed while my angels sleep soundly, ready to tackle the leisurely drive back tomorrow.
Checking some notes I jotted down during this journey, I learned a few things:
1) Never have a set time that you need to arrive at your destination when you’re driving with three little boys. The stress is so much reduced when you couldn’t care less how many times you have to stop for potty breaks and water and food and another potty break, and they want just 5 more minutes Daddy please running around the grassy area of the rest stop.
2) Always pack extra clothing (mainly shorts and underwear), and keep some handy in your front seat in case of accidents or spills. Having to worry about wetness here or a stain there is stressful for everyone. More stress equals more meltdowns. Less stress equals more love.
3) Bring electronic games, and happily give up your iPhone and iPad.
4) Make the ‘½ tank’ of gas mark your new ‘empty’ mark. There’s nothing worse than having to drive around with kids on an empty tank (and stomach), while your mind already visualizes running out of gas on the most deserted road of your trip, and then what do you do?
5) Bring their pillows from home on the trip. They’ll sleep better.
6) Never ever buy ice cream cake in Arizona.
By John Jericiau
We just returned from seeing Before Midnight as our date night movie, right after Thai food and a Thai massage. This movie sounded good on paper, but I didn’t find it all that.
Nine years after Before Sunset, their highly-regarded sequel to Before Sunrise, director Richard Linklater reteamed with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, which finds their characters together raising twin daughters. Jesse (Hawke) attempts to maintain a relationship with Hank, his teenage son from his first marriage, but their bond is strained even though Hank has just spent the summer with his dad and stepfamily. Meanwhile, Celine (Delpy) must make a difficult decision about her career.
Almost the entire movie is spent watching the two main characters, together for years now, banter back and forth, trying to one-up the other with clever words (Ethan Hawke’s character is a writer, and as I know, sometimes the words in a writer’s head slip out of the writer’s mouth instead of out of the writer’s hand.)
But this is not a movie review piece, or it least I didn’t mean for it to be. What happened in my mind as I watched this movie in our reserved stadium seats with a large popcorn and large diet Coke is that I spent most of the movie waiting. Just waiting for something to happen. The opening scene lasted about 10 minutes as we watched through the car windshield as the main characters talked back and forth while the twin girls were asleep in the back seat during a very long and windy trip in the countryside from the airport back to town. I sat with my mouth shut, not wanting to ruin my husband’s experience by telling him how sure I was that something awful was about to this family. I waited for the car to careen off the rocky cliff. I anticipated the head-on collision each time an oncoming car came toward them. I expected the terrorists to show up, kill the mother, beat up Ethan Hawke, and kidnap the beautiful twins that Ethan would try to rescue for the remainder of the movie.
But nothing happened! They talked their way through the movie, ending with clever words as quickly as it started. And I realized just how jaded I have become. All of the movies I’ve seen, all the news I read, all the Nancy Grace I watch – all of it has affected me in a very dark way. My expectation of tragedy has percolated into my daily life, especially as a father.
I worry about the kids. As they’re playing in the back yard, I listen from the kitchen (where I am barefoot) and wait for the scream of searing pain as one son bonks the other over the head with a newfound brick. If I hear a door slam, I wait for the sound of a finger to thump on the floor below, followed by the blood-curling scream of a 5 or 6-year old. And if I hear nothing at all, I peek outside the front yard and the street for a sex offender carrying my sons under each arm to his unmarked waiting car bound for Mexico. I worry when they’re at school. I keep alert for any phone calls from the school – I imagine that one of the boys “just disappeared after he walked out of the classroom to use the bathroom” or “he succumbed to injuries after the earthquake hit the school today.”
I worry about our parents. Between the two of us, Alen and I have four parents in their seventies: one who’s had a stroke brought on by chemotherapy treatments for cancer, one who just had a knee replaced, one who has diabetes, and one who had a hip replaced and cataract surgery in the same year. In my mind I can hear the constant countdown to the end, despite every attempt to silence it. No longer is it a question of IF something is going to happen, but WHEN. Where will we be in ten years, when they should be in their mid to late 80s? Odds are that things will be dramatically different.
I worry about the world. Plenty of natural disasters all around the world. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, blizzards, and floods. Lots of hatred and terrorism from our enemies. I’ve been prepared for the worst, ever since 2001 when I arrived home one morning after enjoying an early morning 50-mile bike ride before work. I sat down in front of the TV with my breakfast (two eggs and an English muffin) and was caught by surprise when I turned on the news just in time to see the World Trade Center, which my father helped build, fall into a heap of sadness.
As a family with two gay dads, we have to be even more vigilant. As more and more states recognize our relationship and force their people to recognize us too, whether by marriage equality laws or changes in the Boy Scout rules, I can’t help but worry that more hatred will come out of the woodwork and find its way right to my family. We have to plan vacations with safety in mind. We have to consider our surroundings every time we want to enjoy a “spontaneous” public display of affection. It gets old after a while, and I would be much more lackadaisical about it if it weren’t for our three sons. I hope that as we get older, our sons will understand that we did the best we could to balance safety and freedom in order to provide them with the best childhood possible. I really hope we can sit down in fifteen years and discuss all of this as a family. Unless, of course, my heart gives out before that.
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.”
By Rob Watson
Recently, author Jennifer Finney Boylan commented about her transgender experience, “After all these years, my own identity has wound up less altered than I had expected. It should not have been a surprise, perhaps, but the most shocking revelation after 10 years in the female sex is that mostly I am the same person I always was, gender notwithstanding.”
Even without being trans gender, I relate greatly to Boylan’s comment, especially when it comes to being in a male body during the holiday season of Mothers and Fathers Days. While I identify with the physical description of being a “gay Dad”, the truth is, I am actually a Parent who mothers and fathers. I do not make an automatic assumption on characteristics or abilities based on the gender of the parent. I know there are others, even in the LGBT community, who see things differently. They see two holidays, one that honors physically female gendered parents and one that honors physically male gendered parents. This viewpoint was dramatized in a Normal Family episode when one of the fictional gay dads has a hissy fit over being perceived as “the mommy”.
In the book An Anthropology of Mothering editors Michelle Walks and Naomi McPherson state, “Through the consideration of the experiences of grandmothers, au pairs, biological and adoptive mothers, mothers of soldiers, mothers of children with autism, mothers in the corrections system, among others, it becomes clear that human mothering is neither practiced nor experienced the same the world over – indeed, even a single definition of what “mothering” is cannot be formed by the contributors of this anthology. Instead, while ideas of ‘good’ mothering exist in every culture, the effects of colonialism and migration, as well as different understandings of and relationships to food, religion, and government play prominent among many other factors, including age, relationship status, and sexuality of mothers themselves, to affect what is understood as ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ mothering.”
I would add gender to that list. As a parent, I am as Boylan describes “the person I am” and my parenting qualities are really not genderfied. I seek to be the full range parent to the best of my ability on all fronts.
As an LGBT parent, I felt disenfranchised this morning when I got a cheery email from an LGBT advocacy group I support. I want to make one point clear—the disenfranchisement does not bother me for myself. I am confident in who I am, and my kids are phenomenal with the love they express towards me. I am a lucky guy, amongst the luckiest on earth.
My concern here is for my kids and others like them in gay dad only, or lesbian only, led families. They are the ones left out in the planning, conversations and excitement over one of these two holidays. They are perceived as the “oh you don’t have one, and never had one…” crowd. They get the message that their family lacks something. It is not true. Most are mothered and fathered, nurtured and as adored as any other kids. They need to be appropriately included in the celebration of all that is motherhood, and in the subsequent celebration of all that is fatherhood, and the people that do each.
The email I received stated “In preparation and celebration, we and the makers of (Corporate Sponsor) are excited to announce the release of Mothers’ Day e-cards that are inclusive of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender moms.” This campaign struck me as odd on two levels, the first being the exclusion of male mom figures in the gay community, and the marginalization of a set of moms who are likely to be recognized anyway, by calling them out by their orientations. I wrote a quick note pointing out my concerns and received a pleasant but confusing note in return, “Thanks for your feedback. We have a similar e-card campaign coming up for father’s Day as well, since these are two widely acknowledged holidays where LGBT families sometimes don’t feel included. You are welcome to use cards from either’s campaign (Mother’s day or father’s day) and to share them with customized messages to reflect your own family.”
I wrote back: “I think you have some good-hearted intentions, but are missing the mark significantly. You are correct that these are widely acknowledged holidays where LGBT families don’t feel included, however, in my opinion, your campaign intensifies the exclusion. I do not believe my bisexual and lesbian mom friends feel excluded on Mothers Day… they are moms who rightly get the same recognitions that heterosexual Moms do. The families that feel excluded are the ones like mine where there is no female parent, and my kids are guided in school to make a gift for some more distant female relative instead of the person they actually come to for nurturing, love and warmth. We have a community where the concepts of mothering and fathering are larger than physical gender characteristics — your campaign, unfortunately, doesn’t diversify the status quo, it magnifies it, and seems to further marginalize women who already qualify for recognition on the holiday. Speaking from this gay dad perspective, on Father’s Day, I really do not want a “Gay Dad” card. I am not ashamed of being a gay dad, but I am proud on Fathers Day just to be a father among all fathers, even ones who are biologically female. I would be thrilled to see you come out, for that day, with cards celebrating my lesbian sisters who bring strength, power and fatherhood into their families, and recognize them on that day as well.”
I don’t have to explain any of this to my kids. They already get it. Recently, my son Jason was running from his brother and into my arms cheerfully screaming “Mommmmmmmmmy!”. I looked at him quizzically and asked, “who are you calling for there, Boo?” He looked at me in a matter-of-fact way, “No one. That is not what that means.”
“Oh?” I asked curiously. “What does it mean”
“It means that I need help right away, “ he explained.
“Got it, “ I replied. “And who do you go to when you need that?”
“You,” he said. And then planted a big kiss on my cheek before running off.
On Mothers Day mornings, my other son, Jesse leads the way in bringing me breakfast in bed with flowers. He got the idea on his own three years ago at the age of 7. “You do everything their mothers do,” he explained at the time. This is your day too.”
So with that, I would like to offer you an open Mothers Day Card for ALL LGBT parents, including gay/bisexual/transgender dads. I offer this up also as a Fathers Day Card for all lesbian/bisexual/transgender moms as well.
Dear Parent of the Heart and Soul
“Love is the only freedom in the world because it so elevates the spirit that the laws of humanity and the phenomena of nature do not alter its course.” Kahlil Gibran
You personify a Love that overcomes all obstacles, biases and inequities.
We enter the season that honors the two aspects of your parenting and the love that you bestow to the world. That love becomes realized when you give yourself to your children.
You are mothering when you nourish, nurture, and shower affection. You sow the seeds of confidence, vision and creativity.
You are fathering when you protect, guide with principle, instill values and inspire. You sow the seeds of morality, leadership and personal power.
During two days in the current months, we honor you, not as the perfect parent, since that entity is truly a myth, but as one who still wants to attain that status no matter how unrealistic it is. We honor you for the days when doing your best, with all good intentions, has to be the way it is.
You are magnificent. You are doing the most important work of which Humanity can ask. You hold in your hands our future, and you deserve nothing less than dignity and respect at your back.
To quote the song, you are “the wind beneath the wings” of life. We thank you. Happy Mothers Day. Happy Fathers Day. Happy You Day.
My son Devin is turning six years old this month, and I couldn’t be more proud. The calendar shows that there are about six more weeks of kindergarten left, and he seems ready for first grade. He’s reading and writing. He does his math homework. He’s learning Spanish (he’s already fluent in Armenian thanks to Papa and his side of the family.) While he tolerates his violin class, he really enjoys his karate class, his Glee class, his dance class, and his yoga class. He has progressed well in swim lessons, where now he can swim freestyle and backstroke across the entire pool. And yes, as I’m writing this I am realizing that he may be a tad bit overscheduled, but that’s a different story.
Above everything else, Devin seems to be in love with basketball. He’s hoping one day to be as good as “The Kobe”, but for now he plays in a league at our local YMCA, where we have a family membership. He has a strong desire to improve his game, and he has asked us to find him a basketball camp this summer. Although he is already enrolled in Camp Daddy, which will start promptly after school lets out and we return from our annual two-week summer vacation (the location of which is still being determined but last year was the first annual in Costa Rica), I think a one or two-week basketball camp might be really fun for him. A few of his friends have expressed interest as well. It’s not like there’s a lot of time in the summer break; school’s out June 11th but starts right up again on August 22nd.
So back to me being proud. It’s overflowing, bursting at the seams, and all that kind of stuff. He never ceases to amaze me, and I’m so thankful of the day that his birthmother, with six weeks left in her pregnancy, chose Alen and me to be his fathers. Our adoption journey had been a long and painful one, but for it to end with Devin in our lives made it so sweet.
Of course, our love for him is unconditional, and we constantly remind him of that fact. You say you want to be an actor instead of going to college? We will be supportive. You say you want to be a priest? We will start going to church. You say you’re gay? Let’s talk.
We want Devin’s life to be a smooth road, but let’s face it: the gay life can be filled with an above average number of potholes, especially if one has to spend most of it in the closet, where life becomes a string of lies that seem so real that even the liar starts to believe them.
Which brings me to Jason Collins. He’s the black professional basketball player that just made history by being the first athlete to come out of the closet while playing in one of America’s big sports. Martina Navratilova did it 32 years ago, but I guess tennis is not big enough. Ian Roberts, the incredibly big and incredibly macho professional Australian rugby player, did it in 1995, but I guess he’s not American. And Billy Bean (baseball) and John Amaechi (basketball) are two athletes who have come out, but they waited until they were safely retired before making their announcement.
Jason has twelve NBA seasons under his belt. He’s not even on a team roster for next year as of yet, since he is now a free agent, so he potentially has a lot to lose by coming out. But he has so much more to gain. The respect and admiration of millions of gay men and women around the world. A more stress-free life that naturally comes when the lies disappear. The knowledge that in all likelihood he is saving the lives of young athletes who are struggling themselves and need a role model to know they are okay being gay (and that it gets better, which was last year’s catchphrase.) Best of all is the freedom to be himself and love whomever he wants. Here’s hoping we hear wedding bells soon. And that he’s in a state that allows them to ring. And that Devin can, if he so desires, follow in his footsteps. Or The Kobe’s. Either way, Papa and I will be right there cheering him on. And loving him. So much.
Why make things more stressful than they have to be? I ask myself this question nearly each and every day, as I face the challenges of raising three sons. My three sons – how I love thee but oh how it might be the death of me.
I have always had to fight my natural tendency to procrastinate. Most people that know me might find that hard to believe (except for the editors of this blog who I apologize profusely to as the hours go by after deadline), but it’s true. If I’m faced with a challenge or project that’s difficult, boring, or time-consuming, and I feel the desire to put it off until another time come creeping into my head, I dive into the project head first and don’t come up for air until it’s all over. For example, we decided literally the night before to begin renovation on our garage the next morning. This garage, and its accumulation of 20 years of disaster, was filled to the brim and needed to be emptied. Literally without thinking I grabbed some items from the garage, placed them in our shed, and repeated until a couple of hours later it was empty. It felt so good to have completed the work. I try to remember this feeling so I can use it for motivation on the next project.
My housework and daily duties of daddyhood can be dull at times, so I try to use the feeling to push me through those activities too. I use it to empty the dishwasher, fold and put away the laundry (my least favorite job), and clean the turtle tanks (the boys have little turtles but pay almost no attention to them, so I’m stuck with their daily feeding and cleaning which I knew would happen and this is why I say no to a dog until they’re older.)
Some duties are not so bad, but I have learned to do them in advance to make my life easier. For example, to make the one hour pre-school morning easier (from wake up to out the door is about an hour), I will place the boys’ clothes in neat piles the night before, complete with underwear, socks, and the appropriate attire after a quick weather check on my iPhone. I will prepare the lunch box for my kindergartener as soon as it makes its way home empty, wet, and with a few crumbs, so that all I have to do in the morning is grab the box and stick it in the backpack, and then stick the backpack on my kindergartener. I will get the diaper bag of my five-month old restocked and ready for the next day and put it in its place in the minivan so it’s one less thing to think about in the foggy (brain) morning. I’ll put my keys on top of my wallet and these both go on my desk to be retrieved as I’m walking out the door.
I’ll even go as far as placing two empty cereal bowls and the accompanying spoons on the kitchen counter with two cups ready to be filled with their morning milk. I pack the minivan with all the necessary supplies, including karate wear, swim wear, a violin, yoga mats, water bottles, snacks, Spanish workbooks, and coupons to Yogurtland. I’m constantly checking supplies including the thickness of my wet wipes and the state of my diaper supply. The worst is to run out of diapers while on the road.
The boys don’t even notice the work that goes on behind the scenes to prepare for a single day, and my husband and friends get perhaps a slight rise from it. But this is not for any of them. This is for me, and it makes me happy.
I originally had something else planned to share today, but chose to share something different with all of you. Matthew and I have debated what we want to share as well as to what extent. We began our adoption process in August 2012 and became a “live” waiting family December 17, 2012. We just reached the four-month mark as a waiting family.
In my first post with The Next Family, I shared our excitement and sense of optimism after seeing the number of same-sex families that have matched and placed with the Independent Adoption Center (IAC). The Atlanta, Georgia office has two different bulletin boards. One of the boards portrays the brochures of waiting families that have matched and the other shows the brochures of families that have placed along with a picture of the new addition. The number of same-sex families that appeared on both of these boards was inspiring to Matthew and me.
This past week I received a photo from our counselor located in our agency’s Atlanta, Georgia office. The picture also included this message. “Thought you might enjoy seeing your letter on the match board.”
The past two weeks of our adoption journey have been filled with so much excitement. This picture prompted so much emotion for both of us. We struggled with just the imagination of our letter making it onto the board. This was a special morning for us and for her to take the time to send us the picture helped us both realize that this was actually happening. In this case, pictures speak just as loud as words. Matthew and I have matched with an amazing expecting mother. We will share more in the future as we await the arrival of baby “T-Rex” in late summer.
We decided we wanted to share this with all of you. We will share the blog that was supposed to post today “A Shade of Gray” next time.
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.