Gay Dad: The First 4 Surprises of Parenting

April 14, 2014 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By John Jericiau
IMG_6674

The Poop! – The first black tar that comes out of your child is shocking.  After that the months are a blur but the amount of poop you’re handling and butt you’re wiping is etched in your brain.  The quantity increases exponentially with each increasing size of diaper.  When you’re at a 4 and you find a leftover NB on the bottom of the diaper bag that you finally have a free minute to clean out, you wonder how the NB fit on your baby, let alone hold any poop.  You try to stay ahead of the tide of poop and be prepared to move up a size before the quantity becomes overwhelming, but it’s futile.  When you least expect it (meaning when you have no change of clothes available and you’re in the biggest rush), the poop will find its way out of your toddler’s clothing much like the Blob found its way out of each building that they tried to contain it in.  If you haven’t experienced the poop crawling up baby’s back and exiting through its hair and neckline, you haven’t lived!

The Meltdowns! – Your child is having the best day.  You haven’t seen him so happy-go-lucky and carefree.  He is enjoying every moment of quality time with you, his siblings, and anyone else who we meet along the way.  You’re thinking to yourself, “This is so great.  I must be doing something right.  And I lucked out with such a healthy, normal kid!”  Then it happens.  You accidentally toss out the wrapper of his granola bar with an eighth of an ounce of unfinished bar still lodged in the unripped end of the wrapper.  You didn’t see it in there.  You have a brand new bar, with six yummy ounces all waiting to be devoured.  But no matter.  The ground shakes and the sky falls, as all hell breaks loose.  You see the two eyes of your offspring merge into one as the deafening sounds explode and the body goes limp in a pile right in front of you and other horrified spectators.  The show goes on for what seems like eternity before the anger turns into a cold shoulder with intermittent shuttering as the emotions wind down.  The magic is gone, and all you can do is hope that there will be another day soon when it will return.  You walk on eggshells the rest of the day, and breathe a sigh of relief when the bedroom door is closed after the last good night.

The Activities! – Who knew there were so many activities for kids in this world?  Maybe it’s because we live in the shadow of a mayor metropolis (Los Angeles) whereas my childhood was in a very rural area (upstate New York), but who has choices like this?  Is this normal to have five different activities to choose from for each half of each weekend day?  And websites that are geared toward letting parents know what is available (i.e. Red Tricycle).  For slow half days you always have the fallbacks like Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, the beach, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, Kidspace, the Zoo, or Underwood Farms.  Of course that’s if you don’t have a play date planned with your child’s friend, or friend of a friend, or sibling of a friend.  Or with one of the above mentioned does not have a fabulous birthday party to which your child is invited.  If you have relatives nearby that’s always an intermittent visit.  Then there’s always the library!  The point is that all these venues and events have been created for the sole purpose of getting you sanely to around eight or nine o’clock at night, where it’s then all up to you to “put down” your child.  Personally I’m waiting for someone to devise a “put down” party.

The Love! – I used to hear parents say that they would gladly lose a leg for their child, or even give up their life, and I would kind of chuckle to myself.  I like my legs, and I’m in no rush to end my life.  But now that I’m almost seven years and three boys into the whole parenting thing, I would throw in a kidney, an eyeball, and a tongue for them.  Every day I’m doing things that I would never have imagined myself doing before the boys were here.  Scoping out the road as we make our way across the intersection.  Putting the texting machine (i.e. my cellphone) in the trunk as I drive the boys around town.  Catching a sneezeful of snot in my bare hand so my sniffly older son will not infect my still healthy youngest.  But those pale in comparison to the ways that my sons show their love to me.  Asking, “Can we snuggle?” as we catch the last bit of TV before bed.  Running over and making sure I’m okay when I hit my head on the corner of an opened cabinet door.  Yelling, “I love you, Daddy!!!” out the front door as I start on my jog down to the beach, over and over again until I am simply too far away to hear that it’s still happening.  It is surprise number 4 that makes surprises 1, 2, and 3 so easy to deal with.  I just hope I’m ready for 5, 6, and 7.

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Gay Dad: Do As I Say, Not As I Did

April 7, 2014 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By John Jericiau
rockefeller center christmas tree

Born in the 60’s and living as a teenager in the mid to late 70’s, my early years seem so much different than anything my sons are sure to experience when they hit their teen years. That’s a good thing because the world has so much more to offer now. Alas, that’s also a bad thing. They have a hyper vigilant father, because in this day and age I know I have to be. There is social media, the Internet, and cell phones to contend with. Predators get their own five-week coverage on CNN, so we learn every scary detail about them. Across the nation gay men and women are enjoying a ride to the land of normalcy as we speak, but with that comes the extremists and religious zealots who will stop at nothing to prove their point, even going as far as to hurt our children.

I’m torn because I want my sons to have a sense of adventure, but I’m afraid that if they do some of things that I myself have done or experienced, my heart will not be able to take it. I’ve gone skydiving, for example, just to check it off my bucket list, but with skydiving the odds seem very much in the jumper’s favor. Nevertheless, I will be horrified the day they tell me they want to try it (and I’m sure that at least one of them will!)

I’ve had other experiences that I couldn’t even fathom happening in this day and age. Like my solo bicycle ride across the US when I was 22. Several months before the summer of 1984 I announced to my parents that I would be bicycling across the nation in order to get to California, which I had recently come to learn was a mecca for both triathlon training and gay life! Who knew? Although my parents were a little nervous to say the least, there was no negotiation or discussion about the rationality or the intelligence of my decision. I was doing it and that was that. I could not imagine anything less than a ton of conversations with plenty of grilling going on with my boys if they were to want to do this trip.

For two months (91 miles per day average), I pedaled west (and then south down the entire Pacific coast), not knowing where I was going to sleep each night until I got there. If it wasn’t a church yard, or school yard, or behind a billboard, or in the woods right off of the beaten path (I had a lightweight tent and sleeping bag with me), then it was in the home of an absolute stranger that invited me in for the evening. I hadn’t watched ‘Nancy Grace’ or ‘America’s Most Wanted’ prior to my trip, so I had no reason to think that anyone had any bad intentions. In other words, I was extremely naïve. That would not be the case with my sons. I would totally load them up with fear.

Another time, when I was a young athletic 15-year old just learning about sensuality and sexuality (I was a late bloomer), my family took the hour-long car ride to New York City to see the big tree at night in Rockefeller Center during Christmas break. We ate at a fairly upscale restaurant right across from the tree, with a beautiful window table so we could see the tree as we dined. It was halfway through the meal when I noticed him. An older guy (30s?) was smiling at me through the window, and then the current of the crowd would take him away. Minutes later he was back, giving me “the look” as he was again swept away. This went on for the remainder of the meal and I could hardly contain myself. When he saw us getting up after settling the bill, he was gone and did not return to the window, despite my every attempt to will him back.

We went close to the tree where a crowd was of course congregating all around, celebrating and meandering as the holiday music played and flurries fell in the freezing cold. I was standing a couple of rows behind my family, just so it wasn’t so obvious that I was searching for my guy with the jean jacket over a white hoodie. All of a sudden I could feel hands come from behind me and slip effortlessly into each of my pockets. I knew right away it was he as he pulled me close to his gymnast body and said, “You are so sexy.” I think I said “You too”, but the music was crazy loud by now and anyway it didn’t matter what I said. I stood there and enjoyed his hands for the next several moments until he was gone, just in time for my parents to say, “Let’s get going” to my siblings and me. I now know how easy it would have been to pull me away to a windowless van waiting down the street.

Overall I think my experiences affected me positively but clearly I dodged some bullets. My parents didn’t have the World Wide Web. They had seven television channels, one of which was extremely fuzzy unless they shook the rabbit ears just right. I will do my best now to stay ahead of the learning curve, be on the lookout for the danger de jour, and talk talk talk to my sons about what lies ahead, and beneath, and above them. Learn from my mistakes, I’ll say, no matter how pleasurable they actually were.

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Gay Dad: Be Prepared!

March 31, 2014 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By John Jericiau

be prepared

I often have this same recurring dream. I just woke up from it in fact. I’m in my Honda Odyssey. It’s been parked outside a party or some kind of get together. The event has ended and I’m in the driver’s seat about to start it. The road that I’m parked on is extremely steep, and I’m parked facing uphill. There is snow on the ground and all my windows are foggy from the cold except for the front windshield. I have black gloves on.

I proceed to turn the key to start the engine, and nothing happens. The engine doesn’t turn over. However, I do begin to roll backward. Ever so slowly at first, but I quickly pick up speed. Nothing I do to prevent this from happening works. I can’t turn off the car. I can’t shift gears. The other partygoers that are meandering back to their cars start to scream. I feel large objects as my Odyssey drives over them.

My rationale mind takes over and I decide that I have to do something. My speed is increasing and I don’t want to crash someone’s dinner on the way down the hill. Blindly I cut the steering wheel one direction as hard as I can, and the behemoth I was trying to control raises its left front and left rear wheels. I softly (never with a bang) land and slide for a bit on the entire right side of the vehicle, until I come to a gradual stop. No crash, no explosion. I’m not hurt. Partygoers come running and I fearfully ask if I hurt anyone. Not a soul. It’s only then that I remember that I had a baby sleeping in the car seat behind my seat. I whip my head around to see that he is still sleeping soundly.

I’m not sure why this is floating around in my head. Some say that dreams are a reflection of our best hopes and worst worries. I shouldn’t be worried about snow. I live in Southern California (although I’m originally from New York.) It’s fairly flat in our beach community, although we spend a fair amount of time in the mountains surrounding us. Plus, in all my years I’ve never seen a car accident happen, let alone be in one (and I have probably jinxed – double jinxed – that streak.)

I have had some problems with my Honda. Now and then it would fail to start, much like in my dream, and I would have to find a jump. I recently had a new battery installed, covered by the warranty. And there was the time in the first month I had the Honda, where I felt that there was a delay from the time I pressed on the gas until the time where I started moving forward, and I rolled backwards in my driveway a few feet until the wall of my house stopped me. I’ve kept that boo boo covered for 1 ½ years with an Obama supporter magnet, but after many times finding it thrown on the ground by people passing by my parking spot at a store, it recently disappeared completely.

I’m surprised that I don’t have nightmares about my greatest fear: child abduction. I’ve stopped watching ‘Nancy Grace’ or ‘America’s Most Wanted’ long ago because of the head games those shows would play on me. I imagine that because of all the haters out there (and now that Fred Phelps has died there is at least one less) who will stop at nothing to extinguish my happiness, they will try to hit me right where it hurts. Not my wallet, but my heart. And as any parent knows, steal my kid and game over. I know it’s crazy to think that someone would take a child just because of whom their parent loves, but I’ve lived through 9/11, and I’ve read about the murders in Russia, so I’ve got to keep my guard up.

So as I’m sitting in my house listening to the boys play in the backyard, and there comes a lull in the noise, I find myself running back to check on them, or yelling back there “Everybody okay?” or I ask them to sing that song from ‘Frozen’ yet one more time.

As I’m driving I’m constantly studying my surroundings, inventing scenarios and the solutions to escape them. If that oncoming bus suddenly veered into my lane, what would I do? If that mild mannered Pit Bull on the ground ahead of us suddenly charged out at my boys, which foot would I use to kick it and knock it out? Or if someone in a nondescript van snatched one of my boys who was lagging a half a block back while we were walking down the street, would I chase it or call for help? The police would take about 5 minutes to get to my house; Uber about 3.

It’s tiring being so vigilant, always having to be on your toes. But the alternative is frightening, horrific, and maddening. So I will stay prepared, and maybe someday I will wake up from the nightmare called hate.

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Gay Dad: When The To-Do List Becomes To-Didn’t

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By John Jericiau
To-Do-List

It happens often, and it’s happening right now. Even though I have three boys and all the activities in their lives to orchestrate, there are times when our household is running like a well-oiled machine, humming through life day by day with ease. I have no worries, except wondering how I’m going to spend each moment of each fabulous day.

This is not one of those times. Maybe it’s because one parent (my other half) has been travelling for work a lot in an unpredictable pattern. It might be because the boys have passed around a cold virus like a ping-pong ball at the rec center. Or perhaps one might say it’s because we have three boys under 7.

While these might be factors that shake up the schedule, most parents are well aware that this is just how life works. Just when things are running smoothly and you’re getting a handle on your to-do list, getting back to consistent workouts, and actually reading a book, a rogue wave comes along to wash away all your careful planning.

Colds and other illnesses are always a danger. Besides having a miserable child, you have a miserable child who is banned from all their activities (so they are with you nearly 24/7 to infect you) and who is extra clingy (and ready to infect you with a productive cough that has your face as a target.)

The extended family is always a threat to a calm life. Aging parents have more reports of discomfort and pain than a classroom full of kids, and you’re recipient numero uno of those reports. Siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles have their own lives and troubles, babies and divorces, accidents and arrests, and depending on your relationship with the particular relative, you may feel like you have an extra child or two.

Other things I call administrative in nature can take up a huge chunk of your time and energy, and believe me sometimes these things are the bane of my existence. Finding time to work on these silent killers (silent because they get no press, no pay, and no applause) can be frustrating. This is usually how I find myself spending the hours of 9:00pm to 11:00pm much to the chagrin of my other half, who nevertheless understands that I honestly have no other time in my day to perform the administrative duties. Preparing taxes (heavy on my mind right now), paying bills, and picking out summer activities. Planning vacation, making doctor’s appointments, and buying new clothes for boys who are growing like weeds. Laundry, dishes, and general cleaning. I say general cleaning because forget about getting to more specific cleaning. Weeks have gone by where I’ve noticed a random pile of dirt or a toy in the corner, and I have literally not had a second to pick it up. Sounds utterly crazy, but I know you know what I’m talking about.

Renew a passport. Call a friend. Get a vehicle’s oil changed. File some papers. Buy the monthly anniversary gift. Reorganize the closet in the foyer. After a while the list that constantly loops through my brain becomes a loud numbing buzz, one that paralyzes me and prevents me from doing anything on the list. So I get nothing done that can be characterized as a “project.” Except now I am really really good at making lists. And complaining about the length and difficulty of them to anyone who will listen – which is no one because who listens to an aging parent?

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Gay Dad: Our Surrogate, Our Friend

March 17, 2014 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By John Jericiau

Image: Private 1st class Rona Operio, the first female marine drill instructor from the first batch of female enlisted marines, command her troops at Fort Bonifacio military headquarters in Taguig city

It’s a very unique situation, to say the least. Here I am, a stay-at-home Daddy who is almost seven years deep into the whole parenthood thing. We’ve got three beautiful and thriving sons, two who are 6 years old (but are 8 months apart to the day), and one who is a tad over 16 months old. They’re doing great in school, and participate well in every activity they’ve got going on right now, including tennis lessons, swim lessons, gymnastics, Cross Fit, basketball, and Spanish Immersion. A significant percentage of the time I find myself navigating the day’s (and night’s) events by myself, due to the intensely packed schedule of my husband who is working his doctor butt off on the job while also putting his nose to the grindstone trying to complete successfully his physician executive MBA program. With that and our mutual desire to maintain a high heart rate for at least 60 minutes per day, trying to fit in all that is expected of us (and intimacy – don’t forget the intimacy!) is a huge challenge given the speed that the earth rotates around the sun (meaning there are not enough hours in a day.)

Look around you. Some families have a nanny or two. Not ours. Other families use babysitters to help bridge gaps or provide some needed relief in the schedule. We’ve never used one. And some families have extended families available at the drop of a dime. Ours are not local; although when times are tough we can manage a drive over there for a bit of a break.

The uniqueness I alluded to earlier is that our help comes in the form of our surrogate/friend. Beginning as coworkers, our relationship blossomed into a nice friendship but then absolutely flowered when she offered to carry not one but two of our three sons. And although she was not interested in a biological relationship of any kind (and neither were we – hence the use of egg donors), she was keenly interested in the experience of pregnancy, as she had never experienced that miracle of life previously, and by examining her biological clock, would probably never get the chance to, given the middleness of her age. I’m trying to put lightly that there is no husband in sight and she’s getting up there.

Every Saturday night our surrogate/friend has watched our two boys and then the third as well when he came along, in order for us to enjoy date night. I can count on one hand how many times we have missed date night in the last half a decade. This alone is huge, and we are enormously grateful (which still pales in comparison to the grateful we feel for carrying our sons, which is humungous.) But the kicker is that there’s more! On her days off, on weekends, on her vacations, she will come over to hang out and lend a hand. Ever have moments when your three boys are acting out and screaming and pretty much acting crazy and you think to yourself that you wish you could grow another hand? In our case my friend’s hand magically appears like a pond in the middle of a desert. She is truly a big help, the boys really like her, and she has definitely become one of the members of our family.

With all this good, which is really good, you have to know that there’s gonna be some bad, albeit not real bad. Just some things that might not occur to a person who has not had a chance to stand in our size 10 ½ shoes. Such as disciplining. The differences in style can be a little more than perplexing. While we might try to reason more and explain our decisions and the rationale we used to come to those decisions, she might be more Army Sargent in her approach. The boys know they only have two parents, but we want our friend to have some disciplining power to handle the boys, especially in our absence, so we tolerate her differences when they appear in our presence, even if it’s not exactly how we would do it.

If we’re enjoying a family night out, whether it’s dinner, the movies, or what not, invariably someone will say to our friend “Beautiful kids, Mom!” especially if my better half is not with us and it appears more likely that we are a heterosexual couple. Now, I’ve been out of the closet a long time (30 years to be exact), with no intention of going back in, but comments like this (harmless and as well-intentioned as they might be) don’t feel right to me. I do not want to appear (or act) any other way than the way I really am, which is really gay. The not-right feeling gets a notch stronger when my friend will, without hesitation, say; “Oh, thank you!” right back. The hairs in my ears stand on end as I smile graciously and take two deep breaths. I find that I am often reminding myself of the gifts that my friend has altruistically given to my family. Inside I am embarrassed of these feelings, for I want to give back to my friend a little happiness, and share some of the feeling of family that runneth over my cup, and stop being so concerned with my own selfish feelings. So I take the opportunity presented to me to hug my boys, thank the stranger, and give a big wet one on the lips of my husband.

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Gay Dad: Have No Kids, Will Travel

March 10, 2014 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

gay dad and family

I got the call from my sister about two weeks ago. Would I be able to fly up to their house for Family & Friends Day at my nephew’s elementary school? My nephew has recently joined track and he thought it would be really cool if his ex semi-professional athlete uncle were there for him to show off.

My immediate reaction was no. I looked in the mirror and only saw the shadow of a top age-group athlete. I looked at my to-do list and only saw a never-ending list of things to accomplish by as soon as possible. I looked at my other half and only saw the look of fear in his eyes at the thought of being alone with our three rather rambunctious rascals.

But then I reconsidered. Our youngest son Dustin is turning 16-months old this coming week, and he and I have never been separated for more than an hour or so while I am out for a run or a swim. Our other two sons, Devin and Dylan, are both 6-years olds. Except for a four day trip to Fiji that I won and their two Dads enjoyed alone as their “honeymoon” when they were infants (we left them with the grandparents – one kid per pair of grandparents), they have not spent any time on this earth without their Daddy.

My husband travels a lot for work (all over the country) or for his MBA class (in Indiana), while Daddy is solo at home 24/7, sometimes for up to close to a week. So why not let him experience that joy? I would make things easier for him by putting out sets of clothes for school, giving plenty of instructions, and enlisting the help of our friend/surrogate for the entire duration of my trip. It would be a Thursday night through Sunday night, and she happens to be off work on Fridays through Sunday!

So I approached my better half, and to my pleasant surprise he was supportive in a nervous kind of way. My sister and nephews were over-the-moon excited. And I could barely contain myself, although I took great care not to show it in front of the boys. I began to daydream about sleeping in without the alarm of a crying baby waking me up, taking a shower without wondering if a toddler wax being pummeled to death in the next room, and spending quality time with my nephews (10 and 6) who were growing up way too fast.

The time came for my trip, and for the first half of it I was enjoying it immensely. It was great to see my sister and brother-in-law, my nephews, their basketball games, my parents (who recently moved from Arizona to live near my sister), and my ex-classmate from Physical Therapy school that lives near my sister

But I found myself daydreaming and wondering what the boys were up to. I would peruse their pictures on my iPhone and start tearing up. And I began to long for my partner of almost 10 years. I hadn’t anticipated just how much I would miss him too. My cup was overflowing, or whatever the expression was. I was anxious to get home.

I got some text pictures from my family, and did talk via Face Time, but I was happy to get on the plane to return to Santa Monica. I would be taking a taxi directly to our favorite massage place to start our date night (which was delayed for one day due to my absence), and I would be seeing the boys the next morning when I would wake them up for school and get to hear them beg to stay in bed for just one more minute. And life will be in full swing again, just the way I love it.

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Gay Dad: Sit up Even Straighter

By John Jericiau
spine

After last week when I blogged about some postural hints for parents from a physical therapist’s perspective (mine), I was pleasantly surprised by the feedback:

“Good tips, thanks!”
“Is that really you in the picture?”
“Got anything else to share with us?”

Well, you’re welcome, sorry that’s not me, and of course I can scrape up a few more pointers. Here goes.

When you’re lifting your child, remember to first get them close to your center of gravity as we discussed. Of equal importance, however, is making sure they are in your “safe zone.” Your safe zone is the area of your body between your chin and your belly button. So if your child is sitting or standing on the floor begging to get into your arms, be sure to kneel down so that your child can climb himself onto your body in the safe zone, instead of you reaching down and lifting your child up to your arms. In the same way, if your child is up on her loft bed and wants to get down for breakfast, do not try to grab her and lower her to you or the floor. A better plan is to ask her to climb down the ladder a few rungs until she is level with your safe zone, and then climb aboard. The likelihood of injury is greatly diminished with this technique, especially when it comes to some action that you might potentially do day after day after day, for years!

Here’s another one. I’ve been guilty of this, have you? I’m trying desperately to get my child to fall asleep in my arms on the sofa. He is fussy and cranky, and I admit that I am fussy and cranky too. All I want is to get this kid to sleep. I’m fantasizing about lying in my own cozy bed. But I’m stuck on the sofa and there’s no end in sight. But wait! He has found his sweet spot in my lap and has miraculously fallen asleep. I slow down my breathing and even reduce my heart rate so as not to wake him up again – I’m that desperate. I stay absolutely frozen in that position that he has chosen for me, but unfortunately it’s very uncomfortable for me. I’m developing a deep ache on one side of my neck, and one of my hands is falling asleep. I try to shut out the pain and discomfort. Sometimes I even manage to fall asleep myself right then and there, only to wake up hours later with more profound aches and pains.

This is not a smart move. Pain is your body’s alarm system. Ignoring the alarms can lead to more permanent changes and chronic pain. Make sure that you are comfortable before your child gets comfortable.

Keep yourself well conditioned. A rule of thumb of 30-60 minutes of exercise for 3-4 times per week is a good one. I personally try to incorporate walking, one of the world’s greatest exercises, into my conditioning regimen. Even though I run 10 miles or so about 4 or 5 times per week, and swim whenever I have the chance, or else ride the bike, I still try and squeeze some walking in. My husband recently gave me a Fitbit for Valentine’s Day, a device worn on your wrist that keeps track of your daily steps and syncs the data to your computer for your review. In order to maximize my step count, I’ve taken to walking around much more. I walk the stroller and baby to the store instead of drive. If I do drive, I try to park a block or two further away than I normally would park. I’ve noticed that my boys are even getting more used to the thought of waling everywhere. Just the other day I planned a visit for us to the in-law’s house on the other side of Los Angeles (26 miles away), and as we headed out the door my middle son asked “Are we walking or driving?” I think this is a good thing.

If you’re not a walker, at least try to sit less during the day. Sitting wreaks havoc on the spine, especially when done improperly. It’s not a coincidence that most of the occupations that involve lots of sitting (truck drivers, desk workers) also have a high rate of back dysfunction.

As you can see, there’s a lot of information to share. Hopefully I’ve made you at least more aware of some issues that affect you as a parent. Instilling this information in our children at a young age is one of the best things we can do to help them grow up to be healthy smart parents themselves. That is if we ever let them date.

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Gay Dad: Sit Straight!

February 24, 2014 by  
Filed under Healthy, John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

By John Jericiau

carrying-baby-

At the moment, I’m sporting a deep dull ache in my low back. It came to me one morning, quite out of the blue. I don’t recall any incident or event that would bring this pain on, except last week I did act as ball boy during my sons’ tennis lesson. I pay good money for the session and I didn’t want time wasted while they themselves retrieved balls in the middle of their session, so I darted around the court catching a ball here and reaching down for a ball there, just like you see the boys 40 years my junior do during Wimbledon.

This pain hasn’t reared its ugly head since my last smart move years ago while washing the white picket fence in the front of our house. Both boys were around two years old and had just started their midday three-hour nap, allowing me to pick a project each day and attempt to complete it in the allotted time. To save time on this particular day, I got into a good rhythm of plunging my sponge into a large bucket of soapy water, scrubbing a slat with said soapy sponge, and then lifting and moving the bucket to the next slat, where I would repeat the cycle of plunging, scrubbing, and moving. It was an efficient way to get the job done – unfortunately, I chose to perform this job while remaining in the bent-over position for close to the three-hour mark. Upon hearing one of the boys cry out from inside the house, thereby marking the end of my allotted time, I tried but was unable to get erect (my body), or retrieve from the crib two important individuals (my sons.)

The pain eventually subsided – I think it was a week later – and now this current pain feels like a less intense reminder of that crippling incident. Luckily, I am a physical therapist, so I at least know what to do to soothe the pain (in general use ice, anti-inflammatories, and a good massage, but bag the useless Ben Gay, the TENS unit, and too much time on the heating pad.) I can help you to reduce your pain level, but as a knowledgeable PT I pride myself in being able to give information to help prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Some of this info is definitely applicable to us parents.

For one, think before you act. Don’t try to wash a fence in the bent-over position for three hours. Duh. Don’t just hop out of bed in the morning and start your Yoga routine, just because you’re worried that little Dustin will wake up at the sound of your first om. Get warmed up first. Walk around a little.

Don’t hold your baby over one hip while cooking, walking, or talking on the phone. That baby has grown right before your eyes into a 25-pound sack of potatoes. I doubt you would hold a 25-poung sack of potatoes for any period of time like this. You’d get on the floor or sit in a good chair and put said sack right in the middle of your lap, where your spine will remain protected and balanced.

Speaking of good chairs, your comfy cozy sofa is not one of them. Good low back support is crucial to maintaining the normal arch in the lumbar spine, and most sofas are notorious for forcing you to sit in a slumped position. Be sure to grab at least a couple of throw pillows and place them behind your back before you sit, so you can maintain what we call “lumbar lordosis” while feeding your baby and catching up on shows from your DVR.

When lifting or transporting your baby or toddler, be sure to remember these few tidbits: Keep breathing while lifting, so as not to increase the pressure between your vertebrae. Get your child as close to your body as possible before doing any lifting. It’s pure physics that having the weight as close to your center of gravity as possible reduces the strain on your back muscles and ligaments. This is exactly why you’ll see a fireman carrying a victim out of a burning fire slung over his shoulders instead of in his arms. And always ask your child to hang on to your neck/shoulders during the lift. Splitting the work with them makes everyone happy and healthy.

Easier said than done, but try to get some good sleep each night. A tired body means a tired back, and a tired back is more easily injured. Eat nutritious foods; what you put in your mouth directly affects your body’s ability to perform. Try to keep your stress level to a minimum. Stressed muscles lose a large amount of their normal flexibility, which means that simply reaching down to the floor for a fallen diaper can be met with disastrous results. Herniated discs have been known to occur simply by reaching for a pencil.

Any exercise routine would be beneficial to keeping your body in good condition, but if you only had time to focus on one body part I’d suggest your six-pack. It’s there (somewhere), and by performing a few crunches here and a couple of sit-ups there, you are keeping strong the natural “girdle” of your trunk. Act like you have strong abs at all times, keeping them squeezed in the “set” position during all activities. Do not protrude your stomach out and allow it to act as a shelf for your child to sit on while you carry him.

Our bodies don’t come with an owner’s manual. It’s up to us to use the knowledge we gain in order to break some of our life-long habits. And don’t be afraid to share this knowledge with your own children. Forming good postural habits at an early age (e.g. lift with your legs, not your back) will lead to a lifetime of good health.

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Gay Dad: Meet the Pioneers

February 18, 2014 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

pioneers

Last night we celebrated our friend’s birthday and enjoyed an evening of fun, frivolity, and meeting new people. Fun and frivolity are always goods, but meeting new people is always a crapshoot. You just never know what you’re going to get.

Well last night we got lucky. We spent almost the entire night with two different lesbian couples. One couple was about 3-4 months away from being ready for the adoption journey. We reminisced about parenting classes, the paperwork, the birthmother letter, and the home study. That seems like ages ago, but I was happy to give my words of caution. Having experienced the loss of a child after 24 hours in my home, I might have a unique perspective on the whole adoption thing. While the end result of my adoption journey was a beautiful healthy baby that is now a really great 6 ½- year old, I still find that I get a pang of worry for those embarking on this endeavor. Hopefully through the stories of my ups and downs, the new parents of today can have a little easier go of it. In some ways little ole me might be a kind of trailblazer.

Just when I’m up on my high horse, I meet the second lesbian couple and realize that I am speaking with true pioneers who took risks in the past that those of us in the current can hardly fathom.

Jane and Mary (not their real names) have been in love for 38 years. Jane had a son from her first marriage to a physically and emotionally abusive husband. The ex-husband is out of the picture, and the son didn’t turn out so well due to the collateral damage of divorce. In fact, although they live in the county next to his, they have no contact with him.

They brought a daughter into this world with the help of a gay friend with premium sperm, a turkey baster of some sort, and a cooperating uterus. Since it was illegal at the time and the place they were living (i.e. the United States of America), they had to suffer through a clandestine pregnancy and birth before presenting their daughter to the world.

They were finally able to consummate their relationship last year with a fabulous wedding attended by 800 of their closest friends. They are supremely proud of their daughter, who is successful in her business and out & proud in her own gay life with her own loving wife who is now pregnant with their first child, a baby girl.

Most of the night was spent learning about the great pains they had to go through in the workplace, in their daughter’s school, and even their own back yard. They remain completely amazed how things have turned around in this country, and how much easier it is to live as an out gay person. Alen and I had to confess that we often forget that we are actually a gay couple, not because sex after children has dwindled to a trickle, but because we perceive so much support from those around us, namely family, friends, and neighbors. We realized after we left the party that we owe our perception (and in most case reality) to all the Janes and Marys of the world who came before us and made today easier for us to survive. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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Gay Dad: Nature Vs. Neuter

February 10, 2014 by  
Filed under John Jericiau, Same Sex Parent

nature-vs-nurture

Originally sitting down to write a blog on nature versus nurture, my auto-correct took over and changed nurture to neuter. I decided that this change was appropriate.

We have three sons now, and one might assume that there might possibly be a smidgeon of similarity between at least two of them. After all, two of them spent nearly nine months in the same womb, were exposed to the same foods and the same hormone levels in utero (which some say makes a difference in the outcome of the child), and even had their cord cut by the same two guys (Daddy and Papa, that is.) It’s even possible that they both share the same paternal genetic material, since Daddy and Papa randomly donated the Y chromosome and let nature decide the rest. If you’re asking yourself why we would randomize it, we considered the feelings of our adopted son in our decision. We did not want him to think that the genetic link was so important that we would manipulate the conceptions so that each father would for sure be biologically related to one offspring each. Where would that leave our adopted son? Since there was no chance that our adopted son has a genetic connection to us, we wanted to show him that the parental connection is what matters to us the most, not the genetic one. Granted, it is interesting to see yourself in your son or daughter, whether through physical features or personality characteristics, but personally we could care less about the biological link. Anyway, even to this day, half the people we meet swear that the three boys are mini-Daddy, and the other half have no doubt whatsoever that they see Papa staring back at them when they look in our sons’ eyes. This is despite the fact that our adopted son is African-American, and our other two sons have light or blonde hair, while both fathers have dark hair and are obviously white.

Daddy and Papa often talk about the fact that we see our sons differently than others. For example, we are often taken aback when someone mentions that our oldest son is black. Really? We do everything we can to honor his heritage, we take pride in the fact that we have black friends, and we think he is an incredibly beautiful boy, but the black is often lost on us. We just see our son. And as funny as it might sound, and this might be a function of being at the birth of all three of them, but I actually feel like I personally gave birth to them. Of course I did not feel the physical pain, and I don’t want to minimize the role of the bio mom or our surrogate/friend, but the emotions I felt in the hospital were so great that I felt like I myself willed them through the birth canal.

The fact that we see our sons as homogenous parts of one big happy family, all nurtured in the same way by the same two guys, makes their differences all the more shocking. I won’t name names, because I don’t want one or both of them (although one of them is much more likely) to have a meltdown if or when they finally read this blog later on in their life. But how can one of our sons eat everything you offer him, while the other still to this day refuses a slice of bread? How can one son make friends the minute he walks into a crowd, while the other son treats everyone with trepidation and suspicion? Why will one 6-year old laugh at the top of his lungs when Daddy drops on the floor his just-made model Lego Dinosaur, while the other 6-year old collapses to the floor in the middle of a restaurant when his plain pasta (no sauce, no butter) arrives from the kitchen with a single microscopic drop of marinara sauce on it? Why will one son try (and mostly excel) at every physical activity presented to him, while the other will complain of a side stitch, roll his eyes constantly, and basically state that “humans were not meant to be treated this inhumanely. “

Honestly, I have to give that particular son more credit. He has a heart of gold, and is one of the most caring individuals I know. I love him immensely. And as he heads closer and closer to pre-puberty, he has shown signs of changing and maturing. When he is talking to adults, he finally is looking directly at their chest. He now likes yellow in addition to pink and purple. He recently licked a tangerine slice. Are we fathers doing anything at all differently to bring on this change? Not really. We’re nurturers remember, not manipulators. They are our sons, for better or worse. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope for the best. And love love love them.

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