Willow…

I am not 100% sure how many times I paced the birthing room they had us wait in. I anxiously chewed on my fingers, checked the clock, and walked to the door to peek down the hall. I had been waiting my whole life for the two of you. Papa took me in his arms, hugged me tight, and we just held each other for a few moments. Both of us praying that you and Brody were ok as you made your way into the world. I reluctantly released Papa to check the hall for the 100th time. Only this time instead of empty beige walls, two nurses were rolling an isolette towards us. And in that isolette were two little heads covered by knit hats. My heart squeezed, my breath escaped, I turned back to Tony already crying. We clung to each other as they brought you into the room.

I didn’t know where to look first, my eyes and heart wanted to soak it all in as fast as possible. I touched both of your cheeks, committing your faces to memory. Just in case….

Much later,when the chaos had cleared, your Papa tore himself away to go check on Zoey (who was just a baby herself) and put her to bed. She was being cared for by family, but had never been away from us before.

Brody was fast asleep next to me. The nurse finished your bath and placed you in my arms so that I could hold you skin to skin. For the billionth time that day I reminded myself to be careful, you weren’t mine yet… I had heard so many awful stories… Everybody told me over and over to shield my heart as much as possible. You weighed 6 pounds and 1 ounce, but somehow seemed so much bigger. With your head laying over my heart, you let out a sigh, it had been a big day, and in that moment I knew what had been true since the moment I heard about you. I was yours, I had never shielded my heart, I had fooled myself, but the reality was you were my daughter before I ever knew you were coming.

I have spent the last 5 and half years watching you blossom and grow into this spectacular force that stands before me in my kitchen, hands on her hips, stubborn pout on her face, as she justifies why her twin brother is tied to his bed.

You are the smallest of your siblings, but you are also by far the bravest. You need to climb the highest, jump the farthest, and run the fastest. Nothing scares you, and that terrifies me. I worry sometimes that I take your independence and strength for granted, that I forget that you are still just a little kid, so I get taken aback when you do need to run and hide in my arms and bury your face in my neck. I am always going to be humbled to be your safe place.

I think about the indominable spirit that lives in your tiny little frame. You have already conquered so much. To think that not too long ago you could barely see out of one eye. You have tolerated hours and hours of eye therapy every night, eye patches, exercises, headaches, doctors, and frustration. All tough stuff for even grown ups to deal with, but you are conquering it all. Your vision made recognizing letters, shapes, and numbers difficult. Somehow you have not only conquered your visual challenges, but you have managed to catch up in record time, and soon you will start reading.

I look at you sometimes and I wish I was half what you already are.

I know these days are numbered, days when you still want to be around me, to hold my hand, the butterfly and snow man kisses you give as we listen to Papa sing his lullabies at night. I wish I could hold onto them for just a little longer, but I know that is selfish. I am also excited to see what you do next, to see who you grow into. 100% for sure you are going to continue to be spectacular.

So my little Brown Eyed Girl… my mighty Willow tree… thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing me to be your Daddy. I aspire to be the man you think I am. I love you with everything I am.

Summa, Summa, Summa Tiiiiime

Summer is here!!! Yay… woo and hoo… Listen, if you’re like me (and I assume you at least aspire to be) you are probably living your best life right now. Just filling your days with super fun activities. Me and my little horde started a garden so that we can make our own calming aroma therapy sprays, There is nothing like getting your hands into the earth and you know… gardening or whatever. We spend our days combing the beach to add to our sea shell collection. That is, when we are not keeping up on our academics. We try to hit at least 3 museums a week.

Ok ok ok… I respect you too much to lie to you. We are basically just phoning it in. My kids have been sleeping in until at least 800 a.m., and it is glorious. My younger daughter informed me that she doesn’t hate showers anymore. That might have something to do with the fact that she hasn’t had one since school let out 2 weeks ago. What? She is in the pool EVERY DAY. I have learned a few things about life the past couple of weeks. Like Pop tarts will not ACTUALLY kill your kids, or no matter how many times I make eye contact with them, and assure them I am paying attention, they will say, “watch me” 5,000 times before they do whatever trick they want me to see.

The biggest lesson I have learned this summer, and this is tough to admit, I …. hate playing. I know… it came as a shock to me too. I am basically a giant man baby who should not be left unsupervised. When Tony comes home from the station I am pretty sure that he is just as surprised as I am that the house is not on fire. To clarify, I love the chasing, the tickling, the wrestling… but the rest of it? Thumbs down.

Normally I could just accept my shortcomings and be confident in the fact that I am at least mediocre in the rest of the parenting arenas, But thanks to my husband, that isn’t an option. You see HE is GREAT at playing. He will drop whatever he is doing to build a space fort, or a Barbie princess tent, or play a made up game where the rules change every 5 seconds. And he… LIKES it. Now before you get a sappy grin on your face, and let out the inevitable “awwww”, can we at least take into consideration how this impacts me? I have given my very life force to these children. I smile all the time at the things they do, and the things they make. God knows I do not have the collagen left in my face to be smiling all day. I should be resting my facial muscles. And do you know how many times a day I wipe their butts???? I am TOO invested to just let him have the title of “Favorite Parent”.

Just yesterday my daughter handed me a doll, “That’s King Ben, you need to be the dad”. Apparently she didn’t appreciate my diatribe about toxic masculinity and the outdated patriarchal institutions that further enslave us as a society, because 5 minutes into it she asked if she could be excused to go clean her room and eat her vegetables. “It’s ok Daddy, I’ll just wait until Papa gets home to play this game.” My son will saunter into a room, “Where’s Papa? I want to play Vampire Ninja Space Detective!!” I’ll play with you Buddy. “Uh…. well…. that’s ok Daddy, how about if I just yell for you like I am on fire when I need to be fed/hugged/can’t find something/ or you want to sit down for 5 seconds?”

Tony, bless his heart… he will try to throw me a bone. He will offer to take over the scheduling, and the cleaning, and the cooking, etc. so that I can be the fun Dad for awhile. And I appreciate it. He just does it all wrong (i.e. not the way I do it), and despite what you might think, you can’t just fold towels any way you want. There is a code. And that code must be followed.

Sigh… I will admit that watching this big giant man hold the tiniest plastic tea cup, pinky outstretched, with a princess Tiara on his head is beyond adorable. Ok, and maybe watching him patiently explain to Brody why he needs a “blah blah blah” to build his space fort makes me involuntarily smile. And you know… I do have enough leverage (in the form of video footage of him dancing and twirling to Disney songs) to comfortably keep me in trips to Target for a lifetime. Maybe this arrangement isn’t that bad.

I guess we can’t be everything to our kids, and luckily for all of us I don’t have to be. Besides, I guess if I really want my kids attention all I have to do is go to the bathroom by myself.

#girldad

There is a lot on the old interweb about “Boy moms” right now, and how tough it can be to raise the Tasmanian devils that seem to possess our little guys 90% of the time. Hell, my husband and I WERE little boys and yet Brody often baffles us. So to the boy moms out there, I feel you…. I do… but let me tell you, being a girl dad isn’t all Wonder Woman dress up tea parties and giggles. The screams alone can be deafening. And have you ever had to clean poop out of somebody else’s vagina?

As a young gayling growing up in the 1980s… ahem…late 90s rather, I was pretty sure the female anatomy would forever remain a mystery to me. I definitely never imagined that I would be having daily arguments with little people about keeping their vaginas healthy and itch-free. I mean… it seems to me like the first time not wiping/ washing/ etc. didn’t work out, you would want to do better. But nope, every day we get to argue about whether or not the, “It’s my body. It’s my choice” rule applies to wiping and washing.

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The squealing… it’s constant. They squeal when they are happy, when they are sad, when they are furious, when they see a pony, if someone looks like Wonder Woman, or if they are on fire. If you are not careful you will find yourself running up the stairs every 30 seconds convinced their limbs have been severed. That’s why I am developing a device that differentiates the sub sonic sounds into threat levels. That way you know what level of intervention is necessary. By the way, I will crazy murder, and finger paint in the blood of, anyone who tries to steal my idea. Patent Pending

Just yesterday I overheard my poor husband and my 6 year old in a heated conversation. Zoey had gestured to a pile of dolls, and asked Tony to hand her the Belle doll. Here is where he went wrong, he then asked her which doll was Belle… Zoey was INCENSED.

Z: Are you trying to be funny Papa? Belle, from Beauty and the Beast…

P: I understand your words honey, but I don’t know who that is!

Z: SHE’S BELLE!!!!! She’s like only my 906th favorite doll in the whole world!!!!!!

Now at this point I should have intervened and rescued him, but I have a strict policy against interacting with them when they are like that unless I absolutely have to. Plus, if IIIIIII have to know all of the princesses, super hero girls, super hero princess girls, or whatever, so does he.

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They cry a lot. I mean like an EXORBITANT amount. I am continuously pushing fluids into them because I fear dehydration. My girls will cry because they are sitting too far away from each other, or because they are too close and breathing on each other. Willow cried last night because her brother went into the bathroom she was thinking about using. Oh yeah, and yesterday they both threw a legit FIT over having to share their Pretty Princess dress up tiaras, boas, and costume jewelry. I was like calm down, we share in this house…. and I just put this stuff on.

The things they want to play are extremely complicated, much like trying to navigate the minefield of their emotions. You need a script, a back story, and a 20 minute class before you even get started. And even though you think you are prepared, inevitably you will draw their anger because they changed said script, and you just unwittingly killed Princess Barbie Power Monster or whatever. Nothing makes the back of my hair stand up like hearing, “Daddy, will you play with me?” Not even if it would cure cancer…. is something I think, but never say because I am obsessively afraid that might make them grow up to be a stripper.

They both know every one of my buttons and heart strings, and are not afraid to use them against me. And just when I think my eardrums are going to burst from the volume of her shrieks… she wraps her little arms around my neck, and whispers in my ear “You’re the best Daddy in the whole world.”, and I know without a doubt that I will play dolls, or make-up, or fashion show, or anything else their amazing little imaginations desire. Because nothing beats butterfly kisses, or watching them twirl around in the sun, giggling because of the way their dresses spin. There is no greater feeling in the world then they take your hand and smile up at you.

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Actually, you know what? I take it back, being a #girldad is the best thing I have ever done. I wouldn’t change a single thing. Well… except that bit about the squealing.

Ah… summer time…

Can we all agree that now that the weather is warm, and people are opening doors and windows, that we are all going to just pretend not to hear each other screaming bloody murder at our kids? Every summer all my neighbors get a bouquet of flowers, plate of chocolate chip cookies, and a card that says, “Brace yourself. It’s gonna be loud.” I feel like it’s just a fun little way to remind them not to call CPS every day.

Still, despite my best efforts, there seems to be one or two that cannot decipher societal norms. Unfortunately they are also the ones who conveniently seem to be jogging, or walking their dog, by my house when I am outside with my kids. Never when I am inside… hiding from them… you know, behind the curtains.

Let’s talk about old man Bob. Bob walks his 3 geriatric dogs 97 times a day. Every day. So for the next ninety something days of summer break I get to participate in the following daily exchange:

“Oh hey there Hurleys! Imagine running into you here. Outside of your house. In summer. So what was B getting into this morning? That W sure does sound like a scamp! Is Z still putting glue in her brother’s hair?”

Move it along Bob, nothing to see here. Besides, I think the acoustics are such that you hear better from your house. I mean, I assume that’s why you can hear me from so far away, but the demon horde living in our home can’t hear me from the next room.

I sort of feel like I should be wearing a body cam. If for no other reason than to prove that I start the day as Mary Poppins. Joan Crawford is just where we inevitably end up.

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Mommy-Dearest Paramount Pictures

Our neighbor Joyce is THE worst though. She wants to be all “judgey” just because she lives 3 blocks away, and can still hear me yelling at my captors. She’s a single mom and only has one kid. While we hear a lot about her 9 year old’s accomplishments, we don’t see much of her as she is allergic to sunlight, grass, dirt, concrete, and fresh air. Also, she is apparently busy working on being the next 9 year old to get into Princeton…. or whatever. Joyce really chaps my hide.

“You know, if you gently redirect them to a positive activity you don’t have to yell. Yelling is the same thing as locking them in a dungeon, or tying them to a sticker bush. 100% for sure it will turn them into drug addicts.”

Hey Joyce, how about you refocus yourself on down the road? Be sure NOT to look both ways when crossing the street. Hee Hee. Not kidding. I despise you.

I think this summer, if we hear our neighbors getting loud with their kids, we should just send over a sheet cake with, “You’re doing great! Only ___ more days till school!” written on it. Unless it’s that Joyce. If you hear her yelling, record it and send it to Princeton Admissions. That’ll teach her.

All The Help I Can Get

I have been reading a lot lately about how easy 70’s, 80s, and 90s moms had it. I get it. I mean nobody had CPS on speed dial, a pediatric consult wasn’t required before making snacks for your daughter’s Girl Scout meeting, intolerable play dates were not a thing because you just opened the door and pointed them toward the park or… patch of grass… or street… or whatever. OH OH OH… and in the 90’s at least, the clothing was baggy and less binding. I guess they did have it pretty sweet.

But… could they turn on the T.V. from their phones while hiding in the bathroom?!? No Becky they could not. And too bad because this is a magical, game changing, life saving tool. I can turn on the television, put on The Magic School Bus, control the volume, and summon my kids away from whatever they are destroying. All while huddled in my shower scrolling social media.

I know that the “good parents” are going to chime in with how we are supposed to limit their screen time. Mmmmm hmmm… but look my floors need to get done, and I am not creative enough to pull off some sort of crafting adventure, or reading scavenger hunt. Also, I suspect those crunchy “good moms” might be swiping their kids Adderall. I am just saying that level of involvement and time commitment on Pinterest, just to keep them occupied in order to clean up whatever is sticky at that moment, isn’t occurring in nature. My guess is Adderrall…. or the devil. Guuuuurl you know I don’t judge. I would seriously sell my soul myself to be rested enough and to poop alone.

Let me back up a little bit to when I was about 6 and my mother and I were at K-mart. She was talking to the lady in customer service and the man ahead of us had just put out a cigarette in the ashtray. Yes, that’s how old I am. They let you smoke in K-mart way back then. Or maybe that was just in Butthole, Louisiana? Anyway, I could see that it was still lit and I was curious. So what did little 6 year old Mikey do? I reached down and put that used nasty cigarette butt IN MY MOUTH and inhaled. I then proceeded to cough so hard that I puked. I did not stop puking until long after we frantically made it to the parking lot. I think that might even be how I caught the gay (J.K. don’t email me)! You know what would have avoided that? An iPad.

I am not kidding. You give my kid their pad for 10 minutes and they will barely move. So until someone takes my suggestion seriously that chloroform air vents be optional in all mini vans and SUVs, the iPad is gold. Say what you will, but did you know there are 5 dwarf planets in our solar system? Because my 5 year old son does. He can name them and tell you anything you want to know about them. You know why he knows that Becky? iPad. My girls are obsessed with pretending to be Kacy Catanzaro from American Ninja Warrior. She is this incredibly strong female athlete my girls worship, you know how they found her? You guessed it. iPad. So let’s all stop pretending like we aren’t at least tempted to glue those things to their hands some days.

Oh and I was just reading that we can track our kids while they are out of our sight! You guys…. we can put GPS on our children! I guess we SHOULD be shoving them out the door to go explore like previous generations of moms and dads, I mean we have access to satellite imaging and NASA technology for the love of Kelly Clarkson! Alas, we could never do that though could we? No we could not. A huge sarcastic thank you sent out to Detectives Stabler and Benson and the creators of Law and Order SVU. Life ruiners the whole lot of them (Just kidding Chris Meloni please answer my letters).

It does seem like there is a lot of pressure on parents today, we have to somehow feed, clothe, and nurture our babies, while at the same time keeping them safe from a world that appears to be infinitely more dangerous than the one we grew up in. We know too much about the damaging effects of… everything. It is all so incredibly daunting. So grab your phone, head into the bathroom, crawl into the tub, and cast Paw Patrol to the T.V. while you scroll through Facebook or that Snapogram. Give yourself 10 minutes of peace. It is ok to make your life easier sometimes. I promise.

Ugh… effing nature

You guys… he wants me to “camp”. Like in nature! Seriously he is planning on dragging me out into the legit forest, or the jungle, or whatever. I’m not 100% sure what the difference is. What I DO know is there are bugs and dirt there. And I think we can all agree nothing good happens in the woods.

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Credit: Warner Brothers

Let me give you a little background on my childhood camping experience. There is none. In fact, when Tony and I met he tried to trick me into becoming an “outside person”. We were newly dating and I was still successfully keeping all my crazy tucked in.  Also he’s a hot firefighter, so I was willing to put myself in danger for love. With much repidation, and feigned excitement, I consented to try this camping thing he kept going on about.

On our first trip Tony had all of our supplies purchased, he loaded up the truck, and even bought me some really cute sandals. When we arrived I put on my best “can do” face and pretended to be enthusiastic as I asked how I could help. You can imagine my glee when he pointed to a chair and told me to sit down. He built the little tent, he made the fire, he organized and set up the… you know…. other things. He did it all. He brought torches to keep bugs away, he made me a beautiful dinner, and the next day he drove me into civilization to eat indoors. It was all very “Brokeback Mountain”. I enthusiastically agreed to go again.

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Credit: AP/Focus Features, Kimberly French

On our second camping trip I grabbed and unfolded a camping chair as soon as we got there. I was thinking to myself that I would let go of the fact that I was unfolding my own chair. I mean he seemed very busy. As I settled in I called out my faux offer to help as I put my feet up. “Sure! Can you gather kindling?”, he yelled back. After finding out that “kindling” is just an outdoorsy way of saying little sticks, I went ahead and did my part. Still despite the hardships I was able to enjoy myself. I even learned that you can see the stars at night out there in the wild! Seriously, it’s not just a made up thing on T.V.!!!

Our third trip… that’s where it all fell apart. My shoes…. my beautiful shoes were taken from us in a devastating mud mishap. I …sob escapes… I had to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave them behind in the quicksand to save myself. Tony was so impacted by witnessing this tragedy that he drove us directly to the mall and replaced them upon returning to civilization.

OH! Let me tell you about the showers. They were abysmal. I had barely rinsed the all natural, vegan, gluten free coconut scrub off my face when the water turned frigid. As I reached to adjust the knob, I was confronted by a black widow spider hanging near my face. I turned to flee and my shower shoe caught the edge of the shower stall and I was airborne. Luckily there was concrete to break my fall.

Later, during our afternoon hike (Yes, the fateful hike that took my shoes), I was chased through the forest by a bear. Ok, ok, ok… it was a chipmunk, but he was aggressive! In fact Tony nearly lost a leg because of that little shit, but more about that later. But worst of all, he made me do stuff! Like work stuff! As you can imagine I shut that shit down. We had been dating long enough by this time that I was pretty sure he was hooked. I mean I had slowly started introducing him to all my other personalities and he was doing a good job at rolling with it. Anyway that was our last camping trip. For awhile.

A few years ago one of our very best friends gave me a trip to See Sam Smith at an outdoor concert venue that boasts a camping site. Seriously… they are super proud of it and people love it. Our friend even bravely offered to take care of the kids! You might wonder how I was convinced to go back into nature after the shoe trauma of our previous trip. I know. It was tough, however I soldiered on.

Also, I was desperate to get away from my kids. I love them, but we had been together EVERY DAY for YEARS. We all deserved a little break.

Oh and of course camping had evolved. And we were able to eat at restaurants and go to the movies. #Glamping

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But now… now he wants me to go into the forest again. And this time he wants me to bring our kids!!! Listen, they don’t just give you the title Helicopter Dad, you have to earn it. Can you imagine what that’s going to be like out there in the jungle? I mean does he not remember what happened to my shoes?

Pray for me y’all.

My Beautiful First Born…

My eyes were still puffy from crying all night as I made my way into the office that morning.  My officemate and best friend noticed immediately.  “I am guessing it didn’t go so well?”, she asked.  She was referring to the adoption agency meeting Tony and I had the night before.  And no, it had not gone well.  There were some additional barriers to adoption for us, additional barriers in an already incredibly daunting process.  The major one being that they did not think we had been together long enough to be “viable candidates.  Not at this time.  I wanted to start bawling all over again.  “I am telling you, let me be your surrogate.  I love being pregnant, and I do not want anymore kids.  I really want to do this”, she said.  She had offered this before and I had not dared to take her seriously, but all of the sudden I saw… possibility.

And so it began…

I had dreamed of being a parent since I was a child, I am not kidding I secretly played with dolls and used to dream about what it would be like to have a house full of kids.  When I came out at 15 my only regret was that I wouldn’t be able to have kids.  Gay parenting was NOT a thing in 1989.  As a young gay man I tucked the idea of fatherhood away in my fantasy world and learned to accept that this was not in the cards for me.

Until I met him and everything changed.  Falling in love with Tony, along with advances in societies perception about gay people in general, made everything seem possible.

Tony, M, and I naively entered into the journey of surrogacy.  There were some setbacks, long discussions, lawyers, doctors, lab technicians, and awkward moments in small “donation rooms” with “inspirational material” that might inspire most of their male patients, but was really more of a… distraction for us.

One morning M texted me and asked if she could drop off something her daughter had made for us at school.  As I met her at the security door to let her into the apartment building she thrust something at me. I absently took it as she exclaimed, “I’M PREGNANT!”  I cannot tell you what that moment was like.  And by that I mean there are literally no words to tell you how I felt, all of them fall short in describing the rush of emotions. We rushed up to tell Tony together and the 3 of us just cried.  Right there in my living room.  I don’t know how long we all just bawled and laughed and bawled some more, but I do know that for weeks I was impossibly cheerful and annoyingly happy.

M and I worked together, in fact we shared an office, and unlike a lot of surro parents I got to watch our baby grow.  I witnessed M get bigger and bigger.  I was able to dote on her as much as she would tolerate.  I was there to tell her every day how beautiful she was.  10 months seemed to simultaneously fly by and slow to an impossible crawl.  And then…

“Get ready.  I’m pretty sure I’m having her tonight.” I turned to Tony and fell into his arms.  He and I had spent the last few weeks on high alert.  I had completely scrubbed our entire apartment.  I mean COMPLETELY scrubbed.  Her clothes were all washed, folded, and put away.  Her furniture was waiting for her.  We were ready!  HA HA HA HA HA HA!

M did not have Z in a hospital.  She wanted to have her at a birth center and it was the most beautiful experience.  Z swam into the world in a calmly lit beautiful room surrounded by candles and quiet.  Well, except for the sobs that uncontrollably shook my body.  “There’s your baby!  That’s your baby!!” M exclaimed as the midwife placed this new human on her chest.  If I could have frozen that moment I would have gladly have stayed stuck there for eternity.  When I die my idea of heaven would be reliving the moment I feel in love with Tony and the birth of my kids on a continuous loop.  I can still the weight of her as the midwife placed here in my arms.  When I spoke to her she turned her head towards me.  She had heard my voice for 9 months and she knew me.  The moment that I had fantasized about my whole life, but never thought I would see was here… and it was real.  I couldn’t breathe.

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I knew at that very moment that my career, my acceptance into graduate school, everything paled in comparison, and would take a back seat, to her.

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Every dream I ever had about fatherhood failed to measure up to how amazing it was to be her Daddy, to share this incredible experience… this amazing journey with the love of my life.  I quit my job.  The idea of returning to work was too much.  I know that this is not a viable option, or not the right choice for everyone.  I get that.  Staying home is not for everyone.  After working so hard to get her though… I was unable to let her go, even temporarily.

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Z started school this year, and I will tell you that I am still waiting for that relief parents talk about.  At this point I just miss her.  I know that sounds helicopter-y, and I own it.  I miss her.  I smile and excitedly send her off to school with a big hug and encouraging words every day, but it’s fake.  She is this force that cannot be contained and belongs to the world, but she is still my little baby.

Last night as we were reading her book she snuggled in and I kissed her head.  “Daddy?  you know how I love school?”, she asked.  I do.  I responded.  “Sometimes I wish you could just come with me.  Because I miss you and sometimes I get sad.”  I kissed her head, told her that I missed her too, and reminded her of all the fun she has.  I reminded her that I am never far… but inside made a mental note to look into homeschool.

I finally get what they say about these days moving too fast.  I wish that someone would just press pause for a few minutes.  And not only because I am running out of collagen, but because these… these are the good old days.

I was so busy trying to look like a good listener that I forgot to you know actually listen…

Does anyone else like to completely emotionally flog themselves by reading “Parenting articles”? I am not 100% sure why I like to start my day off in a panic over what household items are actually killing my kids, or by beating myself up over how I fail to measure up to these super moms who have time to clean their kids’ ears EVERY week, but it is one of my favorite forms of self abuse.

I recently read an article that said you should repeat 1 or 2 things that your kid tells you so that she feels like you are interested and listening. If you don’t there is a 100% chance that by puberty tbey will murder you in your sleep and post it on that Snapagram.

While I still believe my destiny includes rising to super star fame as an interweb sensation, It ain’t going down like that.

Now you may be looking down your judgey noses at me for having to be told to listen to my kids (Ugh. You probably never even dropped your baby either), but let me remind you that there are 3 of them. And they will tell me stories about places IIIIIII took them too. About things I witnessed. And when one tells me their version, the other 3 are bound to want to retell me the same story.

“And then the princess, but she’s not really a princess right? She’s just a pretend princess? And then the princess took my hand. This hand right here Daddy. And she…. no it was this hand because you were sitting next to this hand, so it had to be this hand…”

Right, I was there 30 seconds ago when it happened.

My son will talk about the formation of rocks for hours. Did you know that the largest volcano in our solar system is on Mars? Because I do. That’s a thing I have to know now. He likes to “quiz” me so I kind of have to pay attention to him, but up until now with the others I could get at least get away with listening to the tone of the drone, and then matching it with the appropriate responses.

But oh no, if I didn’t have enough “Mom guilt” about GMOs and … whatever hidden danger we are worrying about this week, now if I want to avoid their descent into the world of stripping and serial killers I have to listen to them too?!? When does it end? Parenting is so hard.

So I have been trying to take each of my kids into my room for snuggle/ chat sessions where they have 100% of my attention. No distractions. And as it turns out they seem like nice people. Yes, I still get lost in the drone of fart stories, booger jokes, and which Super Hero girl is the toughest, but you know what? I also found out that my daughter misses me when she is at preschool sometimes. I found out that my FIVE year old baby boy thinks he has a girlfriend (Hey, does anyone know if they even have all boys boarding Preschool?). And My oldest daughter doesn’t want any kids because “it seems like too much work”.

My kids are ridiculously cute, smart, and hilarious… and still I get so caught up in schedules, chores, appearances, etc. that I forget that none of that matters. I forget how much I love hearing my son laugh about his imaginary booger picking monster friend who only speaks in farts. I forget that my favorite sound in the world is W’s baby girl voice, or that Z is gone for MOST of the day and is having experiences and exposures that are opening up her world. I could miss all of that if I don’t put the fucking vacuum down and click in with my babies. Plus… I mean… vacuuming does kind of suck dirty balls.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

There isn’t much I won’t do for my kids.  I would give my very last breath for their happiness, blah blah blah and all that.

In fact a few summers back, when my babies were actually babies, the twins were playing on the floor of the kitchen as I made dinner.  The back door was open to let in the breeze… ok ok ok… the door was open because inevitably my “cooking” was going to set the smoke detector off.  Still, the breeze was nice too.  Suddenly from the corner of my eye I saw a GIANT tarantula skittering towards my chubby little babies!  With nary a thought for my own safety…. Or even my own life… I twirled and slammed my BARE FOOT down onto the Kong like Arachnid.

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I stood there for a moment.  I was pretty sure that the spider had already injected me with its deadly venom, these were my last moments on earth.  I lifted my foot to see the crushed remains …. of a leaf.  A frickin leaf.  But hey… it still counts!  I think this is sufficient evidence as to how far I will go for my children.

However… if you’re like me (and I assume you at least aspire to be) you have limits.  And my line in the sand is firmly set at “Daddy can you play/ watch sportsball with me?”

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I am fully aware that my future consists of sitting in the stands on cold hard bleachers, watching various… you know… games or whatever.  I have come to some acceptance around this. I will be there for it all, and I will loudly cheer and gleefully embarrass each of them.   Although I am not sure I can pull of the uniform.  The hair for sure is going to be tricky.

And as far as “playing” with them, I assure you I will build, I will smash, I will paint, heck I will play doll tea party dressed as whatever princess you want me to.

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I am down for it all, bring it on…. But…. watching sports (when not legally required) is too much to ask.  I went to a “gay superbowl” party once before we had kids.   My expectations were high and the hosts did not disappoint.  The home was gorgeous; the décor was AMAZE balls and the food…. GUUUUUUUURL shoot. 

Here’s where they lost me.

They still made me WATCH THE FUCKING SUPER BOWL.  Seriously, 10 hours of watching men chase a baseball up and down the court.  I was literally dying inside while my sisters were hooting and hollering like … straight men.  All I could think was “What the VERY hell?”  One of the perks of being gay is the lack of athletic expectation.

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My kiddos, you HAVE a big, manly, sporty type dad… over there.  I CHOSE him for these very reasons!  This is kind of his whole deal.

Besides, I don’t even know how to kick the football into the hoop.

 

 

 

 

Looking for the Win

It was not my best parenting day…

My son, in all of his perfect adorableness, was being a … well…being a 4 year old boy. I however had reached a level of emotional exhaustion that left my patience below zero and his stubborn was set to high. After battling with him about seemingly everything that day, I finally lost it when in open defiance of my repeated request to not throw books, he hit his sister right in the eye with the biggest hard cover one we have. I snatched him up and carried him kicking and screaming into our room for a quiet time. Truthfully I just needed him one side of a door and me on another.

I slumped into the wall as I shut the door, trying to hold back the tears as I started to beat myself up for having lost my temper and raising my voice to such a decibel. No. Let’s be honest… totally honest… I screamed and yelled. I did not raise my voice. I yelled like a crazy person.

Daddy? I don’t like that.”

I looked down to see that both my daughters had come into the hallway. “What don’t you like?” I asked my youngest daughter, trying to sound interested as I tucked the guilt away for later, struggling to focus on her words.

You were mean to my brother. You did not take a breath. You let your big big emotion get TOO big and you screamed at him. And we do not like that.” She said, her eyebrows knitted together in a scowl, both hands on her hips.

It felt like a punch to the gut as the air escaped my lungs in a WOOOOOOOSH.

Before I could respond Z added, “You should apologize to him Daddy.”

I felt the defensiveness rise up my neck spreading to my cheeks. I could feel my heartbeat quicken as guilt and shame washed over me. I am no stranger to parental guilt, my favorite past time some days is beating myself up over any parenting hiccup. I looked down at my daughters’ faces and something dawned on me. A light bulb moment if you will.

My 4 and 5 year olds were able to come and express their feelings to me. They felt safe enough to tell me they were mad at me . They were not afraid to challenge me when I was wrong. I grew up in a house where the expectation was that I was seen and not heard. My thoughts and feelings meant very little, if anything. The expectation was that if wasn’t happy, I better pretend to be. In OUR home though my babies were able to come to me and share some really big emotions and observations. Some stuff that was super hard to hear, and I bet not easy to say.

I leaned down and pulled both of them into my arms, kissed them on their cheeks, thanked them for their honesty, and assured them I would fix it. Then I took a deep breath and walked back into the bedroom. “Brody, may I talk to you? I owe you an apology…”

Instead of emotionally beating myself into a bloody pulp for being human and making a mistake, I chose to lean into the win. My kids can come to me even when it’s scary. My kids can tell me that they don’t like something. My kids stand up when they see something they don’t agree with. And just as importantly, I took an opportunity to show my son that when a man makes a mistake he owns up to it and apologizes. In return the smile that engulfed his face as he lept into my arms, squeezing my neck, taught me a lesson too. Maybe I can be a little quicker to forgive myself, to not beat myself up every time I trip up a bit.

I have an idea. Let’s all look for the wins today. My guess is you deserve it.

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