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.
When you have kids, I think you become even more sappy and sentimental than your ordinary sappy and sentimental self. I’ve been touched lately, at times to the point of crying, and here are some examples.
• When my son’s kindergarten teacher holds his face in her hands, looks in his eyes, and tells him how proud she is of the way he is trying to do his best in class, and how well he treats his classmates.
• When I see a Mom from school (who reads my blogs!) standing in the checkout line at Costco, and I sneak up behind her and jokingly ask her in a disguised voice if I can cut in line because I’m in a big rush. Without hesitation, and without yet seeing that it is I, she sings a cheerful “of course” and starts to selflessly step aside.
• When before going upstairs my guy kisses me good night, and I mean really kisses me, as if we will never see each other again, or as if it’s the first time we’ve ever kissed. Take your pick.
• When I overhear my oldest son, with his friend in the back seat of our minivan, say to his friend “My Dad is the fastest runner in the world. Isn’t that awesome!”
• When my nearly 11-month old son rolls onto his back and smiles from ear to ear when he sees me enter his room
• When our friend/surrogate, driving home with me after a particularly challenging excursion with the boys where my parenting skills were put to the test, tells me that she would do anything to carry one more child for us “because you’re that good of a dad”.
Isn’t life great?
I had a horrifying experience the other day. I picked up my son from his kindergarten class, and as we walked past the door of one of the five other kindergarten classes in the school, a guy caught my eye. I’m not blind; in fact, I’m fairly aware of my surroundings, so a guy catching my eye is not unusual. My boys’ school is in a great part of town with lots of power parents and celebrities. Pretty people and toned people. Well dressed and well off.
What was different about this guy, walking out with who I assumed was his son but possibly his grandson, was that he looked like someone I used to know. Actually, I thought right away that he was the father of the person I used to know. A heavier, more wrinkled, less hairy version of the guy I used to know. Just like the friend I remember, except that he has just gone through a course of prednisone, or has just woken up from a long long nap.
I quickly calculated that it had been 12 years since we had seen each other as coworkers, but when our eyes locked it was confirmed. It was definitely my friend!
We went through the usual oh-my-gods and how-long-has-it-beens, and I’m hoping so hard that I am concealing the surprise … er, horror … that I am feeling. Finally he was looking at me, taking in my entire body from head to toe, and I thought to myself, “Here it comes. He is going to go on and on about my youthfulness and how I haven’t changed a bit, and how my waist still looks nearly a 29, etc etc etc. I hope he doesn’t leave our reunion feeling terrible about himself”.
The words came out of his mouth and I had no time to deflect them.
“John, you look so …. so different! I hardly recognize you, but then again that’s you in there, for sure dude. I guess we are all getting old.”
What? I don’t feel old. Okay, it’s harder to get out of bed in the morning, but I blame whichever of the boys woke me up the night before for that. I can’t run 100 miles per week like I used to, but I am running at least 10 miles every other day. I seem to catch guys’ eyes now and then, but I admit it is more then than now. There was a time when not a day went by without some kind of flirtation from someone. Like the guy who quickly wrote “YOUR ADORABLE!” on a piece of paper and plastered it against his driver’s side window as we randomly waited at a red light together during the commute to work. Back then I even found the misspelling of “YOUR” endearing. Or the long list of guys who followed me out of the gym or Albertsons or the pool. When friends would say that maybe I should carry a fly swatter to keep them all away (or most of them), I would chuckle because sometimes it was nearly that bad (or good, depending on how you look at it.)
But life is different now. I drive a minivan, for God’s sake. I push a stroller with a 9-month old. I hang out with parents of my boys’ friends. And I don’t give off that “come and get me” vibe that I used to, because I got the man I want and couldn’t be happier.
Still, it’s a blow to the ego when you’re told in so many words that you look older. It happens to everyone, of course. We are all getting older. But I do not like it. So much of it is out of my control. No matter how much I exercise, my hair continues to thin. No matter how much I groom and loofa and exfoliate, my ears still sprout hair. No matter how many vegetables I consume, my eyesight continues to worsen.
We’re supposed to age gracefully, but when you meet someone from your past who hasn’t seen you in a while, it’s just awkward. And this is just the beginning, now that I’m in my (very) early 50s. How am I going to deal with this? There are those people that seem to defy the laws of gravity and age flawlessly, but apparently my body has not gotten the memo. So I’m just going to focus on my husband and my three boys and the love that they shower me with every day. I will try not to take it to heart when my husband reminds me not to overeat. And I will shrug off comments from my sons such as the doozie I got the other day: “Daddy, please don’t lose any more hair. You look so scary and it makes me cry.”
Me too, son. Me too.
By: John Jericiau
I’m going to warn you right now: don’t try this game. My saga started the day I ignored this sage advice from close friends. In a moment of wanting some junk food for my brain, I clicked on the colorful app that had been calling my name from the display of my iPhone 5. Life has not been the same since. It’s been two weeks of living hell.
My husband has been bringing his iPad to bed every night, staring at the brightly lit screen in an otherwise dimly lit bedroom. As I tried to fall asleep I couldn’t help notice his blank stare into the screen, with an occasional swipe of his index finger followed by a burst of multicolor fireworks. I refused to look any closer, however. My life is so incredibly full and I have no time for another recreation. Plus, my fingers are really really tired by the time we crawl into bed around 10pm.
He and our surrogate/friend would have occasional conversations about saving each other or hitting a tough level or desperately needing a life, but I would show no interest in the conversation nor ask for any explanations. My top talk topics these days are more like back-to-school shopping, five-year old bedwetters, and tonsillectomies. My mother-in-law, who is barely computer savvy, jumped on the bandwagon, as did her sister and her sister’s daughter-in-law. I would get an errant posting on my Facebook newsfeed about how one of them reached a certain level in the game, but I had no idea that Facebook was to blame for this nationwide addiction.
For those two or three of you out there who don’t know about Candy Crush Saga, this game is a variation of match-three games such as Bejeweled. Each level has a game board filled with differently colored candies, and might contain obstacles. The basic move of this game is horizontally or vertically swapping the positions of two adjacent candies, to create sets of three (or more) candies of the same color. It was released over a year ago for Facebook, and then released for smartphones on November 14th, 2012, just three days after our youngest son was born. Maybe that’s why I personally never got the memo, but certainly plenty of people did. As of March 2013, this game became the most popular one on Facebook (sorry, Farmville), with an astounding 45.6 million average monthly addicts – I mean users.
In contrast, there are roughly 1.2 million crack addicts in the USA, but that’s where the differences end. Just like crack, Candy Crush Saga is so addictive that it sinks its poisonous teeth into your cerebrum after the first use.
Addiction specialists describe the effects of crack in this way:
Addiction hits hard and fast, usually acting on the brain within eight seconds of the time it’s used. However, the length of a high is relatively short, lasting under 10 minutes in most cases. With even one use, it can become incredibly physically addictive, largely due to its intense effect on one of the brain’s vital chemical messengers called dopamine. This rush of dopamine causes users to immediately feel happy and high and then depressed and restless, causing many users to immediately re-dose. This cycle can continue for days, leaving users feeling simultaneously exhausted and wired.
Crack is the poor man’s cocaine; Candy Crush Saga is even more available. It costs nothing out of your pocket (the app is free), unless you get so desperate that you want to prolong your high by paying $0.99 for just one more hit even after you failed to progress to the next level. Embarrassing to admit, but one late night I paid $4.95 (through my iTunes account) because I got so close to completing a level that I was sure I would find success with one more try.
So after two weeks I must bid adieu to this pitiful pastime. No more cries for help from all my Facebook friends that need lives to keep them playing the game. No more draining my iTunes reserves. No more sneaking into the bathroom so I can get in another game without being disturbed. No more constantly checking my watch because I was notified by the game god that I had to wait 12:33 until I was allowed to resume playing. My three boys need me. My husband wants me. But recovery is a life long process. I think – no, I KNOW I can do it. I just need to take it one day at a time.
By: John Jericiau
Okay son number 3, it’s time for you to receive your first letter from your Daddy. I’ve done the same for your two older brothers. I hope when you finally read this (or have this read to you) you will realize what a special and unique person you are.
Happy birthday! You’re 9 months old today! We will continue to celebrate your birthday monthly, or at least refer to your age in terms of months, until you’re between 20-22 months of age, when we will start saying you’re almost 2 years old. I have no idea why this change happens then; it just does. Your Daddy and Papa prefer to celebrate monthly anyway, which is how we celebrate the anniversary of our first date, which was 110 months ago today.
Yes, you have two fathers, both who love you very very much. I pray that by the time you are able to read your letter, the fact that you have two dads will be met with an “oh cool” or a “yeah, so?” by your classmates. Right now the momentum in our country is pushing toward marriage equality for all, including your two dads (who got hitched back in 2008 after both your brothers were born). I hope that this momentum will continue – so much so that you will be stunned to learn that there was a time when this country did not think your Daddy and Papa should share their love and lives with each other, just as I was stunned to learn when I was growing up that there was a time in this world when our black friends would have separate bathrooms, water fountains, and schools.
Speaking of your brothers, one of whom happens to be black and one white, they love you very much. Don’t let their actions fool you, like today when your oldest brother tried to dump you out of the door frame jumping contraption but your Daddy came just in time to catch you before your head made contact with the hardwood floor. Or like lately when your other brother will not let you play with any toys because they suddenly became toys that he wasn’t done playing with. No, your brothers, just like your two fathers and four grandparents and eight aunts and uncles, are infatuated with the very person that you are, and could not wait for you to arrive.
Your Daddy and Papa worked hard to get you here, with the help of an angel who you already look at in a very special way. She kept you safe and warm in her body for us, so that you would enter this world in a healthy, happy way. And you did. You were born in Los Angeles (whereas your oldest brother was born in Santa Monica, and your other brother in Hollywood) at 6:10am and we were there to welcome you with open arms. Some day if you want to hear the E Hollywood True Story edition of your journey from before conception until after birth, we will be more than happy to tell you.
You are an extremely happy baby with forever a smile on your face, except when you’re crying, which is not often, which is a good thing because it’s loud. You get tons of admiration for your charm and good looks, both which come either from your Daddy or your Papa. To us it matters not from where your DNA is from, but if it does to you, then one day you can find out. Right now it feels as if you came from the union of your Daddy and Papa’s love, and that’s good enough for us.
You are sitting up very well, and eating some baby food that we have either bought or made in a blender. Today you had a concoction of apple and banana that Papa and the boys made for you, and you absolutely loved it. You weigh between 20-24 pounds (your weigh-in is tomorrow at your doctor’s appointment), and you fit into clothes for a 12-month old. You’re saying Dada to me and everyone else, and lately when I walk out of the room you cry, and when I return you greet me with the greatest smile. Even your eyes smile, eyes that have not yet settled on a color but seem to be somewhere between hazel and green at the moment.
You appear to show absolutely no interest in crawling at this time, and you’ve done only a little bit of rolling, mainly to get to these little stuffed giraffes that you’ve seemed to take a liking to. Yesterday you stood in your crib while grasping the railing for nearly a minute, so you may be one of those babies who bypasses the crawling and goes right to the walking. Your oldest brother walked at 11 months and 1 day, but no pressure!
Dustin, I’m so happy that you are in our family. When you arrived our family felt complete, and you’re everything we could ever hope for in a son. Maybe the magic of our family birth dates reflects your unique, special quality. Daddy 12/22, Papa 6/22, Devin 5/22, Dylan 1/22, and Dustin 11/11. You still made it 22 but in your own way. Here’s to keeping that going your entire beautiful life. I love you.
As I’m going through the day-to-day of life with a husband and three boys, I find myself wondering if other stay-at-home parents are having similar experiences. I say parents because this is not a mom or dad thing. This is not a young or old thing. This is a life thing.
Having both an infant and a pair of toddlers in my life comes with its own craziness. If one kid is not sick, it’s another. If one son doesn’t have a birthday party to attend, then for sure the other will. If one kid is in a mellow mood, then one of the others will surely dive into a meltdown of epic proportions. If one child wants mac-and-cheese, the other will only want anything but that. If one crashes early for the night, another will choose that night to have insomnia.
But putting the kids aside for a minute (please, I’m just asking for a minute), what I’m really referring to is the life that is going on around the kids. The life that you squeeze in while you’re standing and eating your lunch for 30 seconds, or when you’re sitting on the toilet (and inevitably that will be when all hell breaks loose.) It’s the life you try to live when you’ve ducked into another room for a second under the pretense that you will be right back with something for everyone that is so incredibly exciting and so amazing, and it will be yours as long as everyone behaves and stays as quiet as possible.
If life is one huge pie, I can take a small slice out of it – let’s say the last 48 hours — and give you some examples of its current craziness. I won’t even mention the ear infection that we are right now trying to work through, or the push to begin eating solid foods, because remember that this is about the life that is not directly related to the kids, but life that they unknowingly try to thwart at every turn.
Having decided to stay in Santa Monica for the time being, progress continues on our remodeling. Today our two boys’ loft beds and bedroom furniture arrived, along with two trusty assemblers, to be set up in their new bedroom (which was the guest room.) The new guest room (our old office), already occupied some nights by our number one guest (our surrogate/friend), continues to be enhanced with Internet and phone connections, some pictures, and an overall cleaner disposition. Our new office/gym (our old garage) has regressed somewhat into a storage area because we are in desperate need of a purge, but it’s still a work in progress as I get a bid for a new modern fancy windowed and insulated garage door today. Besides a storage facility, the garage is doing a good job as a gym, as I’m cycling on the stationery bike at 100 rpms while I write this blog on my laptop.
I have a few hours to dig deep while Alen takes all three boys to a three-hour birthday party, a shindig I really wanted to attend because it has some fun adults attending, but you can’t have everything. Plus someone needs to stay and supervise the assemblers and meet with the garage door rep. Plus it’s rare that I get time at home with NO kids, although as soon as they drove away from the house I began to miss them. I want some time to myself but I really miss the boys.
We have three rental properties in Venice, one of which is becoming vacant in a few days. An ad I placed on Westside Rentals two days ago has already yielded 175 calls, emails and texts, lots of which I had to simply ignore because I just did not have the time to respond. Some of the ones I did respond to had questions about the noises in the background, perhaps because of my kids or a friend’s kids or it was pickup time at surf camp or we were on the beach or at Universal Studios, or else prospective tenants had been unable to leave a message because my voice mailbox was full.
I remembered my sister’s birthday yesterday, and we got in a singing message from the boys as we drove home from Grandma’s house. I spoke to my gardener about some trimming, and I shopped for groceries last night right after I went to redeem a mani/pedi gift certificate I received from hubby from our last month’s anniversary celebration. Yes, men have mani/pedi’s also, but no I don’t really like calling it that.
Last night I paid bills until I ran out of money, and then I shopped for my sister’s birthday on Amazon (yes it was yesterday so yes I am late) as well as my nephew’s birthday (it was last month so yes late again) until I was too tired.
I picked up the backyard (the gardener will not move toys to mow the yard, so I have to), answered some email, and went for a long run so I can at least live to see my boys graduate from high school. I trimmed the nails of thirty fingers and thirty toes, and bought birthday cards and gifts for today and tomorrow’s parties.
It’s safe to say that these past 48 hours, packed with some trials and tribulations, are an accurate reflection of my life now. How about yours?
We finally returned from two weeks of “vacation” in Puerto Rico, and it felt good to have my feet on the mainland. It had been a rough go, what with a sick infant and a sick toddler and a sick daddy, but overall we made the best of it and had a good time, despite the monsoon rain showers, sunburn, and high cost of everything. The important thing was that the kids had fun. So what that Daddy and Papa never got a single second to themselves. It doesn’t matter that Daddy hasn’t felt this sleep-deprived since the baby was two months old. There was a pool and an ocean there, and that equals fun for our boys. Well, that plus plain penne with Parmesan cheese on the side for every single meal. I don’t think I saw a single vegetable the entire trip. We’re usually pretty good about vegetables, but these were desperate times and we just needed to keep our sons fed and hydrated so that we could just get them back home alive.
We arrived home to a house that was completely empty on the first floor, except for refinished hardwood floors (that looked awesome) and repainted floors, cabinets and ceilings. The paint job left a lot to be desired. Missing paint in some places; too much paint in others. Ruined window treatments and a missing toilet paper holder rounded out the disappointment.
I had to keep remembering to breathe as I began to realize, now that we were back to reality, what was ahead of me. The next seven or eight weeks of summer vacation (okay, 52 days but who’s counting?) has been billed by Daddy as the mother of all summer fun (AKA Camp Daddy), but how could I start taking the boys to this beach and that hike, this play date and that movie, when I have an almost impossible to-do list staring me in the face? With a storage POD full of furniture and boxes waiting to be unpacked and gently placed back onto the perfectly unscratched floor, an eight-month old (who currently insists that if Daddy is in the vicinity then Daddy should be holding him) really puts me at a disadvantage. I have not yet learned how to unpack boxes with my feet.
As if the unpacking isn’t enough, I still have tax returns to finish, thanks to an extension we got prior to leaving on our trip. Maybe if I have a second I can read up on the changes that will be happening, thanks to the recent demise of DOMA.
I immediately did 8 loads of laundry upon our return, but I still have a crusty minivan that needs cleaning at the car wash as well as routine maintenance at the dealership. We had Devin’s epic 6th birthday party before we left, but we’ve only opened five of the seventy or so wrapped gifts that remain in our garage.
Friends have been calling for play dates, and I’ve been postponing. I’ve been trying to pay some bills but some will be late. And of course, as always, there are nails to trim.
Home renovations need to continue, since we are on a roll. The upstairs needs carpeting replaced and paint applied, so we will be clearing out that level next. We need new bunk beds for the boys, and we need to assemble the guest room’s IKEA sofa bed that sits in a box just outside the back door. Anyone who has ever bought IKEA realizes that I have just lost a day of my life from that purchase alone.
I’m going to completely ignore the fact that I have hardly worked out in the last three weeks. Looking ahead to the rest of the summer, I’ve been gently encouraged by my husband to start the P90X home videos that we have waiting for me in our home gym. Something, anything, to work off the baby fat that has accumulated on my bod in the last six years – fat that has catapulted me from my race weight of 150 pounds to my current too-much-on-my-plate weight of 170 pounds.
Groceries, doctor’s appointments, swim lessons. Managing investment property, going to the park, writing. I’m going to keep my cool, maintain my composure. For my sanity, as well as my family’s. And that’s just how I roll.
By: John Jericiau
As it has every year near the end of May, my mind wanders to the sad event that happened to me just over 9 years ago. To remind those that have read my blog in the past, and to get the rest of you up to speed, here’s a brief synopsis. I tried adoption as a single guy. My biological clock was ticking, and I was done waiting around for Mr. Right. After completing all the requirements, I was chosen for fatherhood by a young attractive girl when she was four months pregnant, and for the next five months we became emotionally and financially entwined, our long distance relationship strengthened by the intense phone conversations we would have every three days or so.
Just before she was slated to fly to California for the birth, my new son decided to make his debut in the world a couple of time zones away. But as she had promised, there she was a few days later, hobbling off the plane at LAX with a brand new beautiful baby boy (I expected nothing less from her!), plus a brand new boyfriend (him I did not expect!). After changing my son’s diaper on the floor of the bathroom at LAX, we were off to Santa Monica where she (and the boyfriend) could wait out the 48 hours before signing the relinquishment papers, while my son and I could go home and get started on our new life.
It turns out that as I was in heaven changing diapers, feeding, and burping my son, my friend the birthmother was going through hell from the pain of separation from her son. At the 24-hour mark, the party was over for me. She had called the social worker and said she wanted to return home right then and there with my/her son. Of course, I was devastated beyond belief, and I asked the social worker but was denied any further contact with my best friend of the last five months. I guess I thought maybe I could talk her out of it. No one besides me thought that was a great idea.
Of course, I spent the next who knows how long second-guessing my words and actions of the last five months. Should I have given her more money? Should I have put her up at a better hotel? Should I have let her name my/her son? Was it because I was gay? Was it because I was single but casually dating someone who I let her meet?
There was no one to answer these questions. I had no choice but to move on and hope that someone was looking out for me. And indeed someone was. Flash forward nine years and here I am on a family vacation in Puerto Rico with a husband I adore and three sons I cherish. I met my husband only a couple of weeks after the devastating event; something that I’m fairly certain wouldn’t have happened had the adoption gone through. And without this incredible man, I would not be sitting here with the three boys whose umbilical cords I cut, whose butts I wiped (and still wipe), and whose lips I kiss every night after we say our I love you’s.
Still, I’ve been having the dialogue with myself every year.
“I wonder how he is doing.”
“I would have a 9-year old son now.”
“Where are they living now?”
So imagine my surprise when, just the other day, I was checking my Facebook account on my iPhone, and up pops a friend request from the birthmother. I stared at it for quite a while, just to be sure that I was actually remembering her name correctly. Once I was sure, I clicked on ACCEPT. And I waited.
Okay, I only waited 15 minutes, and then I sent a personal message directly to her.
“Hi! I was surprised to get your Facebook request. It’s been a long time. Just over 9 years. To cut right to the chase, how is he doing?”
Of course, we both know about whom I’m talking.
“Hi John, I was a little hesitant to send it and wasn’t sure if you’d accept. He’s doing ok, he has Asperghers Syndrome. He was diagnosed at 2. He”s functioning much better then they thought he would. There are a few pics of him in my photos.”
I felt my chin drop to the floor. Asperger’s Syndrome is one of a group of neurological disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Asperger’s is considered to be on the mild end of the spectrum. People with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulty primarily in three areas:
• social interaction
• engaging in repetitive behavior
• rigidity in thinking and a focus on rules and routines
Since our next-door neighbor has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome, I was well aware of the difficulties that can arise in activities of daily living. I had always been so thankful that my three boys had been spared that syndrome (although it’s still young and I guess anything can happen.)
Is that him? Cool name (although Ryan is cool too but I understand why you changed it). I’m not mad or upset with you, but at the time it was as if someone tore my heart out. I’m happy now with THREE boys: Devin, 6 yrs old, Dylan, 5 years old, and Dustin, 7 months old. Check out their pics on FB.
She ended up changing his name, or I guess I should just say naming him (since he was only called Ryan by me for one day) something similar to Ryan. I always wondered about that.
Yes that’s him I know and I’m so sorry that happend. I wanted to contact you so many times to apologize but wasn’t sure exactly what to say. I felt so bad about it all that I almost called you to come get him but I couldn’t. The boys are so handsome, congratulations.They look so happy.
If I had known at the time that she was so close to calling me, I might have taken some drastic steps to get in touch with or find her.
Thanks! I was at the pediatrician appointment when the social worker called me. It was a shock but I’m enjoying our boys so much. I guess it was meant to be. Don’t feel bad another second. He was your son and meant to be with you.
I guess you are not with that guy who came to LA with you?
I didn’t like that guy and I always imagined that it didn’t last long.
I think my mistake was thinking that I could spend that much time with him and still go through with parenting. I’m now with an amazing man, and I moved.
That’s good for her and her son.
That’s awesome! Congrats! Looks like he enjoys fishing with your amazing man. How is he doing in school?
Obviously, I’m curious.
The fishing pics are actually my amazing man’s 12 year-old son Dustin. And my son is doing really good in school. He does very well in any structured settings but gets pretty uncontrollable if anything goes awry.
Wait, are you telling me that both her and I have sons named Dustin?
Btw I read a few of your blogs. Great job !!!
If you get around to reading this one, my friend, thank you from the bottom of my heart for reaching out. I can honestly say that I have closure. And for that I am forever grateful.
My editor probably thinks that I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, but I haven’t. Just the face of the continental United States. My family and I are right in the middle of a two-week vacation in San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico. My parents lived here for five years in the late 90’s, but I haven’t been here for vacation since my Grandmother brought my family and I here when I was in sixth grade. New Yorkers love to go to the Caribbean for vacation.
We had planned on making it a tradition to go on vacation for the two weeks after the boys get out of school for the summer, especially since the success of last year’s Costa Rica vacation. I wish I had more time to plan it, however. Being the event planner, I felt a lot of pressure to live up to last year’s trip. Unfortunately, it seemed like time hit the acceleration pedal around the beginning of May, and before I knew it we were just a few weeks away from our intended departure date. Once you throw in kindergarten graduation, preschool graduation, and a teething infant, time is just sucked out of the day.
To add to the pressure, we decided at the last minute to have some needed home renovations done while we were out of the house, including refinishing our first floor hardwood floors and painting. The contractors of this work thought it would be best if all of our furniture were out of the house, so I rented a POD storage system that could hold all of our first floor belongings.
The day before leaving on our trip, while the boys were enjoying separate play dates at nearby parks, I drove to a nearby area where day laborers congregate and wait for people like me to drive up and ask them for help. Luis and Rodrigo were more than happy to take me up on my offer of $40 each to do the furniture transfer. I thought I had everything set to make their job simple, but I found myself frantically boxing up things and emptying furniture that was too heavy, pulling out wires and feeding two men, until we finished three and a half hours later and me $200 poorer. All of us were fatigued to the bone.
Twenty-four hours later, while waiting for the taxi to arrive, I’m still packing that POD with last minute things, like a microwave, chairs, and kids’ toys, while also packing our four suitcases, three carry ons, a stroller and a car seat, while also preparing our three sons for a redeye flight to Miami and then to San Juan. Apparently my husband had some last minute paperwork to do, having just arrived home from a business trip the night before (in time for a date night that we fit in to celebrate our 9-year anniversary which had gone uncelebrated the week before), because he was MIA until the taxi arrived to take us to LAX for that flight to MIA.
Luckily my 7-month old infant-in-lap and I had a good five-hour stretch of solid sleep, and the other boys did pretty well too. Our connecting flight had problems, however, when we found ourselves heading right back to Miami soon after reaching cruising altitude, due to the heart attack in row 37.
We finally made it just in time to check in at our hotel, the four star Ritz Carlton planted right on the coast in San Juan. We had a great view of the ocean from nine stories in the air, but I was underwhelmed with the room, the kid’s club, and the pool. The airport was only five minutes away, but that made the area more industrial than hip. Other areas fifteen minutes away, like gay friendly Condado Beach, were much more up our alley. With a little research time, I would have known that.
Nevertheless, the boys are having a fantastic time. They love the beach, the pool, the hotel room experience, and all their new friends. They wouldn’t know that a hot dog at the pool costs $12, that our little hotel room leaves no time for Daddy-Papa time, and that they are not actually in the kid’s club due to the $170 extra charge per day required for that privilege.
We are half way through this adventure, however, so Alen and I thought we could bite the bullet and make it for one more week, but now we’re not so sure. Baby Dustin has come down with his first bad cold, complete with high fever and congestion. Devin, our oldest beach boy, is suffering from an ear ailment, probably due to the high number of flips and cannonballs he has performed at the pool that is shared by many other kids of all ages. And Dylan, who is never sick, has a hacking cough and slight fever. All three were up last night sucking down Motrin, changing wet pajamas, and begging for a cup (or bottle) of cold water.
I’ve got some congestion and a sore throat now, but Alen is feeling good, gambling in the casino on the first floor. All the boys are sound asleep, well except for Dustin who just coughed himself awake in time for his next dose of Motrin, and Devin, who just told me he vomited in his sheets. In-between writing, tending to my sons, and channel surfing, I am already researching for next year’s adventure, and I might have found the perfect one. I think it’s called a staycation. All the comforts of home, because you are home. Sounds right up my alley.