Homophobia’s Cruel Mothers Day

May 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Rob Watson, Same Sex Parent

By Rob Watson

flower300

It was the Friday before Mother’s Day. I had published a blog piece on thenature of Mother’s Day and the celebration of all who feel mother love running through their souls. I was finishing up a high-tech piece at my desk at work when my work associate, Kathleen, approached. She politely interrupted me to ask a favor. “I may need to work altered hours on Monday, if that is okay,“ she started. “I have a memorial service that I need to go to.”

I must have looked a little startled at the request. She continued, “Oh no, it’s nothing. Well, it isn’t nothing; it was a very distant cousin of mine. One I hardly knew,” and then, almost under her breath, “It was a suicide.”

With that, my chair spun around and I said whatever feeble words one can say to that kind of news. My friend’s eyes filled with tears as she told me the story of her cousin, who we’ll call “Grace.”

Grace had been a bit of a rebel and a free thinker. The daughter of a conservative Catholic family, she ran with a wild artistic crowd. The days with that crowd left her with independence, and a pregnancy. Her single motherhood presented yet another contentious issue with her conservative family.

Now that she had a daughter in tow, Grace started a responsible life. The rift with her family did not start to mend, as it became progressively obvious that Grace’s daughter, “Glory“ (not her real name), was a lesbian. In the central California region where Grace and Glory lived, it was not only a distant family that they had to contend with, it was also the homophobic mob mentality of their immediate community. Glory was taunted, abused, and verbally assaulted constantly. She was open about who she was, with the support of her loving mother, but her coming out only intensified the hatred perpetrated toward her.

Glory finally reached her limit. Grace came home at dusk one evening and turned down the path toward their cozy home. There she found Glory, who had hung herself from a large limb of their prized oak tree.

As a parent, I cannot fathom the hurt and devastation that must have slammed Grace. I freely acknowledge that I love my sons on a deeper level than I ever imagined possible. They have connected me to a selflessness that has altered all the values I’ve ever held dear. Whenever I have empathized with the story of a parent’s loss of a beloved child, I find myself facing a cold debilitating darkness, a thought that if such a tragedy were to befall me, I might never recover.

And so it was with Grace. She went to that place immediately. Her family kept their distance from the tragedy, not wanting to deal with the “lesbian issue.” That night Grace set her home on fire, hoping death in an intense heat would offset the frigid state of her grieving soul.

Grace did not die. She was saved from the fire, but not from her pain. She returned to the lot, which now held the shell of her former house, a dilapidated fence, an old shack . . . and an oak tree. She took up residence in the shack.

A family friend came by every once in a while to check up on her, to make sure she was eating. One evening at dusk, the week before Mother’s Day, he found her. She had hung herself from the branch of the oak tree in the same spot where Glory had taken her own life.

My friend and I sat and looked at each other as she concluded the story. “My family is actually only distantly related to Grace. But her family won’t do a thing. No funeral . . . nothing.”

“You take all the time you need. Whatever you need, let me know,” I muttered before she walked away.

The story haunted me all weekend while mothers around the country were glowing in the love of their families. I could not help but be in awe of the horrible force that homophobia still exerts in our world. It is the force that inspires a mob to destroy a teenage girl, it is the power that drives a family to abandon a daughter at a time when she needs them most, and, worst of all, it is a hatred that through its destruction can turn the brightest, most unconditional love a human being can experience in on itself and into a dark and evil grief that devours every iota of life. A black hole that dissolves the spirit into nothing, it is a mother’s day turned into an evil night.

I saw my friend that Monday morning, the day after Mother’s Day. She was not supposed to be there. She was supposed to be at a chapel honoring her cousin Grace. She saw my quizzical look, and she sighed angrily. “I know. I am at work. They wouldn’t let us do it. Her family put their foot down. There will be no funeral, no memorial service for Grace.”

“No memorial? “ I said, as irritated as she was. “No memorial? Oh, yes, there will be a memorial.” With that, I opened a notebook and wrote the words across the top, “Homophobia’s Cruel Mother’s Day.” I lifted the page and showed my friend what I was going to do. She nodded. As she started to walk away, she turned and said, “Just don’t use their real names.”

Dedicated to Grace and Glory. Your lives will not be forgotten.

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Gay Dad: Mom For A Day!

May 13, 2013 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

CarolBrady_thumb

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.”

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My Mothers Day Card to Gay Dads and Other LGBT Parents

May 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Rob Watson, Same Sex Parent

By Rob Watson

mothers day

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.

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Mother’s Day with Four Moms

June 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Same Sex Parent

By: Kellen Kaiser

To those familiar with my unique upbringing, a common comment is “How is Mother’s Day for you?” I joke that it is pretty stressful, what with the four moms. The truth is I get let off the hook perhaps because of their number. I am not expected to send flowers or cards because they know how expensive that would be. Most years the day involves only a sequence of phone calls, sometimes repeated if someone can’t immediately be reached.

This year though I went all out and drove home to visit. I can proudly say that on Sunday I managed to see all four mothers and without resorting to making them all come to me. Starting the morning in Mendocino County at the family cattle ranch where my 86-year-old godmother Helen resides, I rose from the bed wherein the night before I’d curled up next to her in replication of many nights from my childhood. We’d watched the Devil Wears Prada, on a tiny generator-powered TV, before falling asleep. She loves Meryl Streep. Waking up sweaty and thirsty, I padded out to where she sat reading the local paper. “You can make yourself some eggs; I ate a few hours ago,” she calls out. At nine am her day is in full swing while I feel like I’ve gotten up early. Asking what the plans for the day are, she says “well, you don’t have much time do you, before you have to get going?” Three hours but they go by fast. She asks my thoughts on the Occupy movement, and we compare the current economic crisis to what it was like growing up in the Depression.  I mention the destruction wrought on the black middle class and the conversation detours briefly onto Trayvon Martin before coming back around to the need for more programs like the CCC. “That’s how my brother got a job,” she says, “back in the thirties.” Noon sneaks up on us. Time to go.

I then meet up with mom Kyree and her girlfriend Kathy at the veggie Chinese restaurant on the grounds of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmadge. It’s a monastery built on a property that used to be a mental institution. The buildings have that particular creepy architecture as a reminder. It was perhaps not a traditional Mother’s Day brunch but the wheat gluten was delicious, the roaming peacocks were atmospheric if also making sounds akin to copulating cats, and we snuck a peek at the rows of geriatric and genuflecting black robed nuns on the way out. They were having services in the main hall, where a younger female voice’s chanting was amplified for the crowd to follow. Ten thousand golden Buddhas of various sizes lined the walls. Music stands held pamphlets filled with prayers written in Chinese, one each next to where they bowed to the ground. I worried a few wouldn’t be able to get back up. A line of walkers stood against a wall near where outside on a folding table,containers of tea appeared in a wide selection of capped jars, water bottles, and travel mugs.

Walking back towards her car, my mother Kyree crowed that she and the girlfriend have been together nine months and were still happy! She says it like she’s climbed Mount Everest. I think to myself that the fourteen years she spent married to my other mother Nina count as a Hollywood lifetime. A regular miracle.

She has brought her pets with her, one giant horse-like dog and one “chaweenie” as they call them, half Chihuahua, halfDachshund. They claw at the generously cracked window as we approach bearing gifts. We bring them a soup’s to go container full of water, it’s a day of curious vessels for liquids, and try to convince the animals to drink. The little one does so enticed by a treat. A passing SUV hollers out of their window to ask, “Is that a wolf?” “No, part wolfhound though,” Mom answers. “Cool dog!” they shout back. Before leaving each other there was a less than customary but rather primal feeling “tick check” which in this case yielded two culprits loitering near Mom’s hairline. Maybe they came with your dogs, or maybe they are your power animal, I tell her.

From there I drive to San Francisco, where I have plans to meet godmother Margery and her girlfriend of over nine months at a Japanese place in the Mission. Because it is the Bay Area we only eat ethnic food. We are all pretending to be Anthony Bourdain. It’s true. My sweet godmother is coupled seriously for the first time in thirty years. Margery turned seventy a few weeks before and much like the flowers that accompany her spring birthday, she is blooming. She’s fallen in love, a friend from high school and she were reacquainted, both “out” for years and you know that joke about what does a lesbian bring to the second date? A U-haul. That applies here. There is an innocence to her romantic endeavors. I have a hard time imagining a situation in which someone my age would act so “foolhardy” to just leap in. With her I find it inspiring. Nowadays with seventy being the new fifty, it is just a midway point. Perhaps before then she had begun to surrender. She has a voice she uses when she’s feeling like an old lady, her little ole’ me inflection, but for love she’s begun to get in shape, losing weight, being healthy so she and her sweetheart can go hiking, see the sights together.

Old people aren’t known to be compromising. They are used to providing for their own needs but also getting their own way.They negotiate sleeping in the same room. Her girlfriend has gotten “shotgunners” -big headphones to muffle the sounds of Margery’s snoring. They want to take a road trip to Oregon, so they have to figure it out. Renting two rooms would get pricey.

We talk over dinner about a recent Time magazine article on shyness. Included in it was a survey that helped to determine where on the spectrum of introverted vs. extroverted one stood. I’d come across a copy that morning at the Ranch and had read the answers Helen, my other godmother, had provided. It included statements like “I rarely feel lonely. I’d prefer to work alone.” Basically waste your fuss on someone else.  I have long held some concern over her living at the ranch all by her lonesome and her answers help to momentarily put those fears at ease. She wasn’t sitting by the phone afterall. I posed the same basic question to the two ladies I was sharing dinner with. Do they consider themselves introverts or extroverts? The girlfriend mentions a lover who died a decade before and how she shut herself off from the world as a result. Had she and Margery not connected she might have continued to live in exile.  She says in reference to Margery- she has such a full life, it’s like shock therapy.

Near nine pm I roll into my final destination where the woman who bore me sits in the house I grew up in, watching Criminal Minds on TV. In her hand sits a glass of syrupy Orange Muscat.She brags she has recently acquired a pet leech and would I like to see it? My mother is a nurse and also into all kinds of kinky things, it makes perfect sense to me that she would want a leech but I can’t stop my face from curling into a grimace when I consider it. “It’s for Blood Play!” She says cheerfully, “but somehow I can’t find anyone who’ll let me put it on them.” “You don’t say,” I answer drolly. People will let you stab and pierce and cut them but try and put a leech on them and they freak right out. I can’t imagine. She tells me that so far the only person she’s put it on is herself. You have to feed it every forty five to sixty days. “Did it hurt?” I ask. “Less than I expected.” This makes sense evolutionarily speaking, since it would be in the leech’s best interest to go unnoticed to get a full meal. Mom says that when the leech was full, it just let go and rolled right off her thigh. “Like a man after sex,” she says.

When I acquiesce to a viewing, she picks up a mason jar that’s been sitting in plain view on the coffee table. It has a cheery gingham cloth on its top and looks like the sort of thing usually full of beans for soup or cookie mix, a down-homey Christmas gift. In this case it holds cloudy liquid with a thick dark slick at the bottom. I might have guessed it was moonshine had the slick not begun to move when my mother put her finger on the side of the jar. In movement it changed shape oozing long then bunching up short following my mother’s digit like a cobra with a flute. “Her name is Bethie” my mother tells me, “Isn’t she beautiful? I love how she dances!” A minute later, a cloud of dark ink rises in the water muddying its color further. “She’s throwing up” my mom says, “I’d be really worried but the woman who gave her to me said it would happen. I’m still a little concerned.” We stare into the glass jar together watching the leech curl up and twirl. I find that despite my repulsion I am hoping the leech is okay. Mom says maybe it’s a sign she’s getting ready to eat again. I respond that if I wake up in the middle of the night and that thing is on me, we’re going to have big problems.  We go back to watching TV.

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Another Day for Mom

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

I woke up on Mother’s Day to find a note on my pillow. It read “Have fun!” and told me to go to my son’s room to find the next clue. I followed directions and found another note that advised “the love is ithin you. Find the missing letter.” I headed to my daughter’s room for the final clue. As soon as I popped my head through the door, she sat up in bed and shouted, “Get out!” I backed away quickly, but not before I heard the sound of paper being shredded. The last clue was no more. Today, love was going to say “ithin.”

While my husband tried to stage manage this current drama, I went downstairs where my son was engrossed in Minecraft on the Xbox. I’m pretty sure he gave a grunt that could be construed as a Mother’s Day greeting.

I have to admit to feeling a bit let down, but this lasted about three seconds and then I thought about how I could take advantage of the hysteria upstairs and the screen-related zombification downstairs and actually enjoy my morning. I poured myself a cup of coffee and opened the newspaper. After nearly ten years, I think I might actually be getting the hang of this parenting thing.

In what was a nearly unprecedented bout of alone time, I got through the entire New York Times Magazine, the Style section and most of the Week in Review before everyone turned up in a slightly better mood. My daughter brought down a box of cards and letters and signs and drawings that she’d been working on for the better part of a month. On every page were hearts and flowers and sweet words. My son put down his controller long enough to give me a potted plant and a great, big hug and then he came down with a fever and went back to bed.

This year, Mother’s Day for me included a lot of mothering. I mothered my feverish son and my daughter who was angry and loving in turns. But I also went to a yoga class and returned to a wonderful brunch cooked by my loving husband. I looked after my family and felt them return the favor. The love was not “ithin,” it was all around.

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Mother’s Day

May 14, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Kelly Rummelhart, Surrogacy

By: Kelly Rummelhart

Here I am. My first Mother’s Day as a single mom. So far, so good. Yesterday the kids and I went with my surro-best friend and her family to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and today we are hanging out at the house until we join another friend and her family for an impromptu swim party.

All of my children made me a sweet Mother’s Day Card and the two youngest brought home items they created for me at school. My oldest was concerned about getting me something, so I told her I’d buy myself something that I wanted and she could say it was from her. She loved the idea- and I love the new hat she got me. I loved all my cards and gifts from the kids, just like every year. But more so, I love the TIME I have with my children.

One of the things I have learned in my new reality of single mom who has to share custody is not to take my kids for granted. For years I have had control and have been able to be with my children everyday. Now, with my ex deciding to leave our family, I am limited to the time I have with them. It has really made me change my thought process: quality, not quantity. In the last five months I have tried to make sure the time the kids are with me is not wasted. Knowing that I won’t have them on Wednesdays and Thursdays and every other weekend has really made me change the way I spend time with them. It’s actually a positive that has come out of this whole ordeal.

I love my children with all my heart and being.  A mother has been the most challenging and rewarding job I’ve ever had- I wouldn’t trade it for the world. With all this being said, I guess I should stop blogging and go hang out with my kiddos! So Happy Mother’s Day to all.

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Smells Like Giorgio

By: Selina Boquet

 

I had tried to talk him out of it. As soon as I saw my dad making a present for my mom, my stomach twisted in anxiety, knowing that giving presents was not my dad’s forte. It was hard to burst his bubble, though. He had such a silly grin on his face as he joyfully prepared his special gift. As a teenager it was sad to see my dad try his best to make my mom happy, yet always end up failing. The previous year had been a disaster because the poor guy had forgotten Mother’s Day altogether. The year before that, the book he gave her was hurled through the air, gently grazing the top of my head. My mom’s tendency to throw objects at high speeds had perfected my evading techniques throughout my childhood. However this particular year, my dad was determined to give her something she would never forget.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” My little brother, my dad, and I sang in unison as we carefully laid our cards and gifts in front of her on the bed. Our mood was hopeful as every occasion we tried to be, even though we still braced ourselves for the worst. I imagined our gifts as a ceremonial offering to an easily angered god. Mom loves surprises and she was already astounded that her usually forgetful husband had remembered to give her a present this year. As she carefully opened the cylinder-shaped package I’m sure she had all sorts of high hopes. Maybe it was a new bottle of her favorite perfume called, ‘Smells like Giorgio’! The small, orange perfume came in what looked like a spray can and it didn’t last her long as she bathed in the cheap, imitation fragrance daily. Or perhaps he had gotten her a Victorian figurine! She could always use one more for her collection.

My mom loved all things Victorian and we would often enjoy tea and crumpets on a blanket in the yard amongst the Douglas Fir trees, with our floppy Victorian hats and horribly fake English accents. Time seemed to move slowly as we enjoyed one of the few Oregon days where the sun had managed to momentarily break through the stubborn clouds. My most familiar memory of my mom is of her sitting on the Victorian rose-print flimsy foam couch, in the living room where she had painted the walls bright purple, watching Days of our Lives. Characters from the show like Roman and Marlena are family to me as day after day they watched me grow up, awkward and bewildered. I can still hear the fizzle of the bubbles from her Diet Coke and the crunch of her Sour Cream and Cheddar Lays Chips as she snacked away while paying homage to her daytime soap opera.

My mom has always been a perplexing creature. Just when you think you can predict her reaction, she throws you for a loop. Her own mother had the Southern charm that allowed her tell people off while sounding like she was giving them a compliment. Christian values spoke strictly against gossip of any sort, yet it seemed as if anything could be said as long as a sympathetic, “Bless her heart” followed.

“She’s having such a hard time losing weight, bless her heart. You know that’s why she hasn’t found a husband, bless her heart.” It always fascinated me to listen to my grandma and aunts skillfully insult other unsuspecting family members with deep criticisms, disguised as concerned interest. My mom, on the other hand, has never had the patience for that. She tells you what she thinks exactly when she thinks it.

A friend once described her perfectly. He observed, “Your mom is the nicest and meanest person I have ever met.” It’s true! My whole life my mom was always helping to clothe, feed, and house complete strangers who were down and out on their luck, sharing what little we had. She taught me the importance of smiling at everyone you see on the street and always thought of creative ways to entertain us with little to no money at all. She was the first one to arrive at a party and the last one to leave.

Yet, even during the fun times, one of her infamous temper tantrums was always just around the corner. One quiet afternoon, my brother and I were watching after-school cartoons. Our dad, as usual, was putting around the house, fixing this and that in his familiar bustling way. Suddenly, a horrendous scream broke through the peaceful house.

“This place looks like a nigga shack!” In the dead silence following her eruption, we all looked at each other, shocked. Mom’s screams usually jump started us into a frenzy of cleaning fools, yet this time we all burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of her simile. Here it was, 1997, and she was comparing our house to those of the dirt-floored slaves’ homes of the Old South! Unfortunately, her racist roots would boil up from time to time. Even though some of her best friends were African American, the world in which she was raised had left its footprint on her subconscious.

Now that I’m an adult and I have my own kids to discipline, I realize that there is no perfect mother. We each do the best that we can. Some moments are successful, and some are embarrassing, yet hopefully our children turn into decent human beings. I thank my mother for all of the beautiful things she taught me, and the courage to laugh at the mistakes she made with me.

Waiting on that Mother’s Day so long ago for my mom to open the present my dad had made her was like bracing for the impact of a crash landing. Despite my hope that she would see the heart behind his gift, I knew she would not be pleased. Finally, the brown paper bag wrapping was torn away to reveal….a Victorian pencil holder! My dad smiled wide with pride, waiting for her gasp of pleasure.

“What is THIS?! A toilet paper roll??!!!!” my mom instantly exploded. My dad had taken an empty toilet paper roll and had lovingly stuck Victorian stickers to it. He had then glued the decorated toilet paper roll to a small piece of a wooden board from the shed. In his mind, it had been a fantastic creation she would cherish forever. Instead, we spent another Mother’s Day morning in our pajamas at Walgreens hunting for cheap flowers, cards, chocolates, and of course, perfume that ‘Smells like Giorgio’.

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There’s No Crying in Baseball (Unless Mommy is Coaching)

May 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tosha Woronov, Urban Dweller

By: Tosha Woronov

kids playing baseball

I had been a new mom for about six months when my first Mother’s Day came around. It was the happiest of days. Peter booked me a massage at Burke Williams, which was, back then, just up the block. (We moved, Burke Williams didn’t.) I remember the walk home, after hours of alone time and extravagant pampering. Freshly scrubbed and relaxed, I was made new again. Flecks of granite sparkled in the sidewalk. Birds sounded sweeter, the sky was clear, and it all made sense to me, finally. I was a mom, and I was lucky. I couldn’t wait to get home.

I must have well expressed my gratitude that day, because every year since, my husband’s mission is to make Mother’s Day extra special. It’s not even a day in our house, but rather a weekend. “Mom’s Weekend”. Date night on Friday, just Peter and me. Family Day on Saturday, which usually means a Dodger game. And, because Sunday, the actual day, is for Mom to be alone and do whatever she wants, I sleep in late, wake up to a hazelnut latte thrust in my face, open heartfelt and homemade gifts and cards (even from the dog), workout, and visit a spa. And, because “whatever Mom wants” actually does include being with my family, the perfect day – er, weekend – is capped off with a fun dinner together. And every year I’m left as I crawl into bed with that same realization from my first Mother’s Day: I am so lucky.

This year would be different. My husband is out of town on a seven-week business trip, and the knowledge that Leo won’t get to see his dad (nor his dad, Leo) for a very long time is far too weighty and painful for me to even think of myself on Mother’s Day. There would be no sleeping in, no date night, no dinners, no pampering, no alone time.

We would improvise.

People say that children model the behavior exhibited by their parents. Following in the footsteps of his thoughtful and romantic dad, six-year-old Leo stealthily purchased for (and hid from) me a heart-shaped cubic zirconia pendant from the 50% off section of the Macy’s jewelry department. (He had been worried the week prior about what to get for me –and how to get it with his dad away –and brought it up while at Macy’s shopping for sunglasses. I directed him to the sales sections, giving explicit instructions to not go over a certain amount. “Do I have to use my own money?” he asked. “No sweetie. Daddy will pay for it.” I recruited a kind and elderly sales woman to help him while handing her my credit card. She was tickled by his determination that I dare not see what he had chosen. She commended him for being such a “fine young man” and wrapped the tiny white box, which he promptly hid under his bed when we got home, announcing loudly, “It’s hiding under my bed, ok Mom?!”)

Instead of our usual Mom’s Weekend dinner out, we had a picnic on the living room floor. While I carved his favorite roast chicken, he set the “table”: a sports logo-covered blanket laid over the rug, paper plates, napkins, spoons (we didn’t need spoons), and a flower just-plucked from our back patio, resting on my place mat. (Man, he’s good.)

On Sunday, there would be no sleeping in. Hmph. Leo’s baseball team had a game scheduled for Mother’s Day. At 8:30 in the morning. But you have to be there a half-hour early. That means leaving the house at 7:30, getting Leo up at 6:30 (theoretically), and, because the dog and cat need attention too, getting myself up at 6:00. 6:00! On Mother’s Day. Geez.

But there’s more. Leo’s Little League has this insane 50-year tradition that the moms coach their kid’s game on Mother’s Day. I was nervous about it for days, hoping I wouldn’t have to pitch –one knee on the ground (they are little kids, after all), trying to not bean a kid in the head, making sure the overhand toss is good enough to yield a hard and mighty hit, avoiding being smacked in the face myself. I joked about it too much with the other moms in the games leading up to it. “Ha, ha, you’re pitching all four innings, right??”

When we arrived at the field the mood was jovial…and weird. The bleachers were filled only with dads and dad-coaches, each giggling hilariously at nothing –just the sight of females in the dugout, poring over batting orders and field assignments. There was heckling. “Hey Greg! Do I ever hold a coffee cup while I’m coaching?” “Is that her purse on her shoulder??” I loved it. I got in the mood.

But the actual game. What a mess. I couldn’t stop thinking, Really? Are we really this bad at this? Because we have VAGINAS these kids suddenly suck at baseball? Even our best, focused kids couldn’t make a play. Balls were dropped. Kids forgot to run. Moms screamed. “Aidan!! Run back to 1st! You have to run back to 1st!! TOUCH THE BAG!!” No one hit a thing. The pitching was, as expected, pretty horrible.

And then there was the crying. Crying! In baseball! One little boy was so distraught at being tagged out that his mom had to carry his helmet-topped, sobbing body off the field. Another, just pissed that he couldn’t get a hit off that crappy pitching, would do nothing but cry. For two innings he refused to leave the dugout. One mom had to don a catcher’s helmet because there were no longer enough kids to field. They were dropping like flies. When Leo started to tear up over the general shittiness of the game, I got right in his face, imploring him, “Please baby, don’t start too. We NEED you.”

And all the while the dads just rolled in the stands, hooting and guffawing, coughing and sputtering, trying to catch a breath. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were wasted.

And so, on my Mother’s Day, I thought a lot about fathers. I developed a new level of respect. I found myself amazed that, in 15-plus games with the dads coaching, the boys hadn’t cried. They wouldn’t. Even at their tender young ages, they simply do not cry when the dads are out there with them. It’s some kind of cool guy thing. Men, even modern, loving, sensitive men, have this “proper place and time” sense about sports that is completely opposite from the sentiment of “go ahead baby, let it all out” unconsciously offered up by the moms –not to mention knowledge, confidence, energy, and skill about the game that we just didn’t have. I hate to admit it, but we didn’t have it.

That night, I lay in bed next to Leo, recounting the day as we always do, and he started to cry that he missed his dada. It was the proper place and time to do so, and he cried hard. And I was so damn happy to be a mommy, a mommy who could be there to hold her little boy while he let it all out. And although this Mother’s Day was so different than the rest, I was again reminded of how lucky I am.

.

.

 

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Happy Mother’s Day?

May 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Kelly Rummelhart, Surrogacy

By: Kelly Rummelhart

Surrogate mom on Mother's Day

This year marks my 10th year celebrating Mother’s Day as a mother, 11th if you count just being pregnant. I have celebrated Mother’s Day with my kids since I gave birth to my first child, Ruby.  This year, I will not be with my kids on “my day”; instead, I will be celebrating with my own mother.  Even though I won’t even be in the same state, I know I can count on a phone call from my kiddos and husband, and, when I return, I’m sure I’ll get a card from Rick and handmade cards from my little sweeties.

The one thing you can’t count on as a Surrogate Mother is whether or not you will hear from your Intended Parents on Mother’s Day.  Now, don’t get me wrong, personally, I don’t expect to hear from any of my IPs.  I am not Natasha’s, Anjali’s, Gideon’s or Harper’s mother, so I don’t feel the need to hear from them on Mother’s Day.  Is it nice to hear from them? Of course!  I hadn’t really thought about this until a friend of mine, who has also been a surrogate, shared with me that she really hopes to hear from her IPs this Mother’s Day.  It made me think, do other surrogates expect or wish to hear from their IPs on Mother’s Day too?

I am the administrator of a Facebook group of almost 40 surrogates.  They have become my covenience sample for research of all things surrogacy.  Several are from Canada, but most are located in the United States.  Most of us are with agencies but there are a few who are independent.  We vary in age from mid twenties to early forties and several have been surrogates more than twice.  Some of them carry for straight couples, but the majority carries for two dads.  They are always great at answering questions and providing feedback when asked.  So, just like always, when I asked them about hearing from their IPs on Mother’s Day, I got various answers.

Most of the women feel the way I do: since they aren’t the mother, they didn’t expect to hear from their Intended Parents on Mother’s Day.  Most shared that, while they would love a call, card, flowers, or gift, they didn’t expect it.  One surrogate said, “I don’t expect anything but I do think it would be nice that they remember me on that day -only because they think I am a good mother to my own kids!”

Now, I do think that the sexual orientation of your IPs might make a difference.  If you carried for two women or a straight couple, there is already at least one mom, so the focus would obviously be on her/them.  (Although, just as I’m writing this I got a message from one of my surro-friends that the mother of her surro twins sent her a framed picture of the babies for Mother’s Day . . . so again, who knows?)  I think that two dads might be ore quick to associate their surrogate with Mother’s Day, even though the surrogate isn’t the biological mother.  There is no well-known Surrogate Mother/ Gestational Surrogate’s Day to celebrate, but World Surrogacy Day is set for November 4th.

When I think of a day more like a Mother’s Day for surrogates, I think of the surro-baby’s/babies’ birthday, or maybe even the day the embryos were transferred to the surrogate’s uterus. That just makes more sense,  a day to celebrate your journey together, a day that is special only to the surrogate and the IPs.  I think it would also help to remind the babies/children that the surrogate isn’t really the mother, even though she gave birth to them.

When I asked my “sample” if anything was done for them last Mother’s Day by their surrogacy families, several said yes –cards, flowers, jewelry, phone calls, pictures and the like.  My favorite response came from a friend who delivered a set of twins for two Florida men who sent her a Tiffany’s bracelet with a gift charm on it –symbolizing the gift that she gave them.  How sweet was that?

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A Day of My Own

May 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Family, Tanya Ward Goodman

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

At the outset, Mother’s Day was a challenge for my children.  It wasn’t that they didn’t get into the spirit.  They dutifully (and joyfully) drew beautiful cards and created a heart-shaped brooch of cardboard covered with buttons.  They showered me with kisses and held my hand even when we weren’t crossing the street.  But at a certain point (not so very far into it), they tired of it being my day.

“I’m not sure I’m such a fan of Mother’s Day,” my son said.  “I mean, it’s a lot about Mom.”

“Did you know that today is Panda-Panda’s birthday,” my daughter wondered.  She held up a small stuffed panda with bulging green eyes.

“Today? Mother’s Day?” I asked.

“Today.  He’d like a cake.”

“I’m reading the paper,” I said.

“Panda is very disappointed,” my daughter said.

I tried very hard to remain firm.  My husband encouraged me to relish my freedom.  He shooed the kids from the dining room and poured me another cup of coffee.  In his own nod to “my day”, he refrained from wondering if I would ever get in the shower so we could get to brunch on time.

Eventually, I did shower and we piled in the car and headed to a fancy place to eat fancy food with our reasonably tidy children. It was a bit of an experiment.  Our last Mother’s Day brunch at a real restaurant was at least three years ago and it was not the mimosas that left us with a headache.

This time, however, the kids were on excellent behavior.  They sat mostly still for a meal that ran on “adult” time.  They cheerfully ate all manner of challenging fare (Morels! Asparagus! Burrata!). They kept their napkins in their laps and their elbows off the table.  Our fellow diners smiled appreciatively and we smiled back.

At the end of the meal, we realized that we hadn’t seen any kids the size of our kids.  Of course there were families with tiny babies tucked into bucket car seats (more accessory than child) and families with sedate near-adult children, but we were the only family with walking, talking elementary-aged kids.  We congratulated ourselves for venturing back into the world of brunch.

And then we headed down the beach to the Santa Monica Pier and took a ride on the roller coaster.

As our car took the spiral turns, my daughter’s hair blew into my face, her warm little body smushed against my own and our shared laughter travelled into the blue, blue sky.

It was good to be a Mom.

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