A few years ago I was reminded of the unexpected realization that Mother’s Day for two dads is always kind of an issue. I was at the playground with my kid when he found a toy and wanted to take it home. It was a broken robot I’d wager was abandoned. I told him he needed to ask around to see if it belonged to any other children and, if not, he could take it home.
This was, btw, a total ploy to make him comfortable speaking with approaching strangers. #integratededucation
He approached a nanny a few feet away.
“Is this yours?”
“No,” she responded. “You should go ask your mom.”
As he turned away from her he said, “No I don’t have a mommy. I have a daddy.” He took a step, turned back, and finished, “No. I have two daddies. I have Daddy and I have Tatty.”
Then he ran onto the next guardian at the playground to continue his canvassing to figure out the owner of the toy.
The nanny smiled at me. That was the first I’d ever heard my son reference our family make-up.
It was awesome.
Often, we gay dads get a little defensive about conventional assumptions there’s a lady in our lives.
Mother’s Day for two dads, as I see on social media, often creates animosity. Lots of new gay dads will get a little huffy about being asked, “is it Mom’s day off?” or “Ahhhh, you giving Mom a break?” And we often get defensive and angry.
But we can all let that go. Societal convention is hard to break down.
My partner and I didn’t specifically discuss Mother’s Day during our months of debate over having a child. We did, however, discuss the significance of not having a mother in the household. He postulated, “But really – what if our kid’s missing something?”
I knew how I felt about the lack of a mother figure in our household: they wouldn’t be missing anything. We would love our kids as much as anyone else could and that was what mattered.
With several bottles of wine and hours of discussion, one could argue that my children might miss something by not having a biological mother in the household. What that might be is subject to animated debate.
But wasn’t I “missing” something when my father passed away when I was 8 years old? Aren’t innumerable kids “missing” something when they’ve lost a parent, or their favorite grandparent passes, or they lose both parents in a tragic accident?
The “what if’s” are endless.
But what my kids might theoretically lack (according to conventional definition) is over-shadowed by what they have: a loving family unit that will unconditionally love, support, educate, entertain, and enrich them.
So…my partner and I do not identify as mothers.
How do we “deal” with Mother’s Day for two dads?
It annoys me when people joke, “Happy Mother’s Day to you! Wait. Are you the mother? Or should we say it to your partner?”
Yeah, it’s happened a lot.
Listen, I know two dads is still (sort of) a novelty. But neither of us magically sprouted two X chromosomes when we became fathers. We’re two dads, not a dad and a pseudo-mom. We fill all the roles of child-rearing, whatever stereotypical gender rules have existed in the past. So…really – you don’t need to wish us a happy day. It’s not our day. You can simply wish us both a “Happy Father’s Day” in about six weeks.
In preschool a few years ago, our teacher gave us a heads-up: “There’s going to be a Mother’s Day project. We hope you don’t mind.”
Of course not. How can we be offended? Our kids know that some (nay, most) other kids have mothers. In each case, though, we’ve said, “Hopefully you’ll just discuss different types of families. Not everyone has a mother.”
(Funny enough, last year my son came home with an adorable clay planting pot he’d painted. Attached was a pre-printed letter wishing us, “Happy Mother’s Day.” I was mildly annoyed by that. The teacher didn’t need to include the letter. But whatever.)
I wouldn’t be opposed to “Parent’s Day.” Why do parental holidays need to be separated?- except stores might not as easily spread out the mass consumption of cards, flowers, spa treatments, ties and barbecues. But why couldn’t we combine these days into the celebration of “people who love their children”?
Just to be clear: I’m not offended by Mother’s Day or even wishes of Happy Mother’s Day. I know it comes from people who want to include me in everything that is the beauty of parenting. I just don’t think the Hallmark holiday really applies to me. So why not Parent’s Day?
Just a thought.
For me, Mother’s Day for two dads is a day when I think about the mother I lost at far too young an age.
I appreciate the increasing number of Facebook posts I see stating, “Here’s to those who’ve lost their mother and feel loss on this day.” Heck, I’m the one feeling loss, not my kids.
So my kids aren’t missing anything. Instead, they have something equally full and rich and beautiful as any other family with two parents, a sibling, a dog and piles of dirty laundry.
In a few years, we will probably have more in-depth conversations about it. Perhaps jerks will make them think they’re missing something. Or maybe they’ll grow up identifying one of us as the “mother”…and then I promise to write about a change in my own perspective.
Regardless, we will roll with the changes. Embracing our family reality will hopefully be the least of my sons’ worries.
At least that’s how I intend for it to be.
Most important: to everyone who is a mother or identifies as a mother, thank you for loving us: your children. Happy Mother’s Day. And for those who feel loss and just a tinge of sadness as they remember their wonderful mothers: you’re not alone.
Feeding my kids happiness is one of my highest parenting priorities. Usually that means foods that make me happy. Sometimes it’s theirs. If there was any doubt, let me shuffle-ball-change out of the closet loud and proud: I’m a food snob. I wholeheartedly embrace Michael Pollan’s “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly vegetables.”
When I was the perfect parent (meaning: before kids), I knew fast food would never touch the lips of my precious snowflakes.
Admittedly, it’s easy to avoid fast food living in New York City. You’re never in a car, the kids haven’t fallen asleep in the back, and all food is fast.
But I understand that fast food drive-thrus are a godsend…in desperate situations…international pandemics, zombie armageddon, and heavy thunderstorms. Oh, and when Daddy flirts with jail time during a road trip due to a desperate yearning for “friesandashake” and considers* leaving the kids asleep in the backseat cuz who’s gonna know and you’ll be really fast and besides the dog’s in there with them.
But we all know (don’t we???) that feeding my kids happiness through fast food contributes to the destruction of now-infertile fields from Fargo to Fresno, the dumbing-down of our collective national gastronomic taste for all things over-salted and over-sweetened, trillions of gallons of fertilizer run-off that’s caused the vast oceanic dead-zone known as the Gulf of Mexico, the inhumane treatment of cattle and fowl (and probably fish), the brain-washing of our youth to crave/demand/consume calories exceeding adult dietary needs, and the lowest-common-denominatorization of “family” time.
Anyway, I read Fast Food Nation. I know that there’s shit in our fast food meat. And by “shit”, we mean literal poop.
I saw Super Size Me. (And after seeing it, I craved McD’s fries.)
Having spewed in-eloquently for 300 words, allow me to expose my personal hypocrisy:
Me lovey some fried goodly-goodness.
Caveat being: never in quotidian life, frequently on road trips, and always at the airport. Because according to the Onion Newspaper in some issue that I KNOW I read 87 years ago and still rings true:
“McDonald’s doesn’t count at the airport.” **
So once upon a time I chose to feed my kids happiness in a suburban McDonald’s with a play place and all the features. (In what felt like a small victory in my masochistic love affair with Ronald McD, they don’t know it’s actual name, they just call it “The Happy Meal place”.)
I have no idea how to reconcile my train of thought in the above tangential/parentheticals, let alone my contradictory love for this scion of global dining degradation. My sodium levels are still elevated after feeding my kids happiness at the happy meal place.
My oldest kid opens the Happy Meal and actually says, “What’s in my Happy Meal? Oooooh! A napkin!”
Seriously. She squealed about a fucking napkin.
And my eyes welled.
My two children were so goddamn happy to be at the “Happy Meal place”. They pulled out five items, all gastronomically inedible, from their special boxes with increasing delight. (That there are no less than five “things” to discover – six including a napkin – is all the more thrilling.) Some of the “things” were food, some were toys, all were comprised of a majority plastic ingredients. (Excepting the twice-referenced napkin…perhaps the healthiest option in the box.)
There I was: SuperDad with two beaming children at America’s most hegemonic export. I felt like Tim McGraw and WalMart and Venti lattes all wrapped up in a big Made-in-China-American-flag; a new face of ‘murrica nestled in a plastic booth of sensory overload.
I took a sip of my 32 liter iced coffee containing 483 calories of god-knows-what, to cover the cry-quiver in my chin. Then I removed the bottom bun of my buttermilk-fried-mystery because removing one of the buns makes me feel a teensy bit less guilty, okay? And I took a pre-orgasmic bite.
It was underwhelming. I should’ve just gone for the Quarter Pounder; but somehow chicken seems minutely less naughty. But let’s face it: life is short.
If you’re going to eat at Transfatty McCancer, just super size that shit and get what you want, not what you think might be “better”.
There is no “better” for you in this shack.
Again: I digress. (It must be the insane amount of caffeine still coursing through my engorged belly.)
Feeding my kids happiness at the happy meal place made them insanely full of joy. I completely forgot about the fact that a mere 20 minutes previous, they’d been whining about who had the matchbox car first, one was kicking the back of my seat, and the other would not stop asking me about which princess was my favorite princess.
Seriously: I wanted to leave both of them at an orphanage at 12:45. But by 12:51, everything was good, again.
All thanks to the happy meal place. (Lower case letters intended.) I didn’t want it to end. Except for the fact that I was composing this post in my head, checking my email and might have scrolled HuffPo twice (cuz a lot could happen during a 12-minute degustation), I was completely in the moment. I didn’t even take pictures to document. I just was.
(Also, my phone had died. So.)
But it was a magical family moment. And in that time, I appreciated McDonald’s for more than just a delectable airport French fry. I loved it for creating something that over-principled foodie snobs can’t appreciate: the delight in breaking bread with children…with delicious bread that can actually kill them.
I didn’t want those 12 (actually, I think it was 9) minutes of familial, convivial, quality time to end.
But then my asshole oldest child just couldn’t get enough. See? Therein lies the problem with this mega-corporation preying on our human addiction to salt and sugar. We just want more, more, more.
Yep, that older child had seen the well-placed pictures of milkshakes and ice cream that exploits illiterate 4 (and 44)-year-olds.
“Daddy? I want ice cream for dessert!”
You hear that? No appreciation for the magic I’d already created. She had yet to take one bite of his shit-filled “cheese” “burger”. Just: more, more, more.
(Disclaimer: I totes wanted a shake; and I kinda wanted to buy my daughter’s love via ice cream. Sadly, I justified these hankerings to myself – per usual – by recalling a completely not-science-based report I read in a 2001 edition of GQ stating that McDonald’s vanilla ice cream is “surprisingly good for you”…which is not the same thing AT ALL as saying it’s actually good for you.)***
(Once again…I’ve lost my own train of thought in the midst of my
steroidal use of parentheses. Probably from the crack that they sprinkle
on those fries cuz: DAMN!)
My kid demands ice cream.
I responded, “No, buddy, I’m sorry. This is enough treats for today.”
She whined and almost turned on her freakishly over-active water-works.
But then she had a moment of reflection. Perhaps it was the gratitude washing over her as her insides were lubed by peanut oil? Perhaps the musak playing Katy Perry hits reminded her of her first crush: Rosie, the pink train from the Island of Sodor? Whatever it was, she stopped whining. And McD’s climbed an inconceivably higher rung in my estimation.
She looked at me and said, calmly. “Well, Daddy. You said ‘No.’ And that’s mean. And ‘mean’ is what Donald Trump is.”
Wiping away a tear of pride for the political insights my 4yo shared (quite possibly thanks to the modicum of nourishment she received from her Happy Meal apple slices that had been picked, peeled, packaged and preserved but most definitely thanks to the quick discussion we shared in the McD’s parking lot where I saw a Trump bumper sticker on a car at which I scoffed and swore and my son said “What?” and I mumbled to myself “Seriously? In Connecticut? I mean…people are actually supporting that bigoted, inexperienced blow-hard?”), I desperately suppressed the guffaw in my throat, enjoyed another couple of fries, and watched my sons become exponentially uncontrollable as they over-dosed on 10,000 calories of wonderful, delicious crap.
Thank you, McDonald’s. See you, soon when I want to again be feeding my kids happiness.
All too soon.
* I said “considered” not “actually did.” I would “never” do “that”.
** Though I can’t find this in a quick Google search. It must have
been a statement on the Onion faux newscast. Clearly, it stuck with me.
*** I can’t cite this because seriously: how could anyone actually cite an article in GQ that justifies eating McDonald’s ice cream? Perhaps their “how to give her a 2-hour orgasm” is citable. Even dating back to 2001. But not some “study” of what you should actually eat, nestled between an ad for the first iPod and a salacious spread of Jennifer Lopez flaunting her rocks, pre-imploring us not to be fooled by them.
Like you, I lie awake at night and in the morning and have so many questions about COVID-19 and its effect on the world and on my kids.
For starters – did I just make CV-19 a thing? It’s very “2CV” (see below). Please say I did that. Will you join me? Heaven forbid I put in more effort.
Is this the end? Or the beginning?
Will my children see this as a fun, adventurous time where inept fathers masquerading as teaching assistants just yelled at them about doing their homework?
Will my kids learn ANY more in math since March 9th when they were last in school? Or will their math knowledge honestly end where I took over?
Will this be a generation of children who just have a gap in their collective and universal knowledge? Like when my kid is applying to college, will schools just wave the need to know division as a CV19 deficiency?
Will children forever be labeled as “dumb” by future generations because they just missed out on 4 months of formal training?
Will my children’s children forever refer to their parents with pity and condescension as being:
CV19 Generation. You know them…
hoard toilet paper
carpal tunnel in their thumbs
can’t do math.
Do we have to pay mortgages, now, or do we all collectively default? And if we do so, what will mortgage lenders do? Lay off all their employees…who have mortgages and need to pay their mortgages to mortgage lenders?
If we all just stop paying stuff…like – everyone…and chill out for a few weeks, could someone with economic clout (like Suze Orman) just be able to say “Okay. No touch-backs and let’s all just re-set. Together,” and then just go forward from there?
Will I be forced to eat that can of sardines inexplicably shoved in the back of my cabinet?
Will this the moment in my kids’ life that will define them forever onward? Please, Dear Gaia, don’t let anything worse happen in their lives.
All wars are about money. Oh, Jesus – what if the insecure, over-compensating white men who manage 90% of world government sand businesses find a way to parlay this into a war…for the economic stimulus alone?
Will Broadway come back? Sports heroes will be fine. But will billionaires with their overhead of mansions, boats and DisneyPlus subscriptions – will they be as equally fucked as the rest of us?
Who’s gonna pay the price for all of this? It’s never the rich and powerful, that’s for sure.
Will narcissistic influencers ever stop posting about their outfits and hair?
Why do I have to google “narcissistic” every time I use it? I won the spelling bee in 6th grade. What’s my problem?
Is EVERYONE on social media starting a relief fund and living room concert except for me? I’ve never felt so left out as I watch their highly-productive virtual lives.
Are we all in our own echo chambers of social media quarantine?
Why has no one challenged me to this push up thing? (Too late. I’ve absolved myself.)
So many questions about covid-19. Will you add to my list of worries?
Last February I learned that child-less travel is the best kind of travel. But before realizing so, I frantically brain-stormed a last-minute timeshare getaway to warmer climes with the family. It would include our 2-year-old and 10-month-old.
My stress over rising airline tickets and dwindling hotel availability prompted my partner to say, “You could just go on your own.”
(Disclaimer #1: Getting away for an adult vacation wasn’t feasible. We don’t have family nearby on whom to foist two kids under 2 and we can’t afford 4 days of round-the-clock baby-sitting.)
“What?” I sputtered.
“Yeah, I mean it’s so much work to take the kids. It’s expensive, it’s a headache, and it’s not relaxing. I’m all about taking my own solo mini-vacation, later. You want to get away more than I do, right now, anyway. Seems to me child-less travel is the best kind of travel.”
(Disclaimer #2 True. I’d been very full-time daddy for the past couple months…along with titles of “actor“, “writer” and “entrepreneur“.)
“So you just go for a couple days.”
“But, but, but…” I sputtered, “No! We need to go somewhere exotic and force ourselves to have a fantastic time and take the perfect family-of-four picture that’ll serve as our Christmas card that shows how insanely happy we all are on our vacation that’s really been a total pain-in-the-ass, unrelaxing, sleep-deprived getaway from our convenient snack cabinet”.
Even I couldn’t even finish that run-on sentence without laughing at my own absurdity. I knew such a trip would be 70% headache, 25% mildly fun, 3% relaxing and 2% exhilarating.
After talking to some friends with kids who all said, “YES! GO! DO YOU REALIZE HOW MUCH I’D LOVE TO GO AWAY ON MY OWN FOR A FEW DAYS?” I realized I was being given an incredible opportunity.
So I did.
Here are the reasons I’m a complete convert:
Saving money. Lots of it: food, airplane, drinks for one instead of four, fewer chintzy souvenirs. (I looked up how to spell “chintzy”. You’re welcome.)
Saving my smart phone. I don’t have to worry about getting sand in it, recharging the batteries because Toca Boca games drained it, or capturing limitless pictures of the fifteen minutes that the kids actually entertain themselves and act cute. Instead, I Instagram my beer and my book and then run the battery down, myself, playing my own inane games.
Pitying the exhausted parents around me. I got real sleep. Or I slept in. Or I lost sleep by my own volition. But I didn’t wake to a screaming child or a child demanding, “I want milk! I want milk!”
Speaking of demanding: there are none. But mine. And I want them NOW!!!
Anxiety-free meals. Let’s start with where and what to eat: my only dilemma was choosing the right meal for myself. No worries about whether the kids will eat or that I have to wolf down my food as fast as possible before post-dinner attention meltdown begins.
Read a book. Or not. The point is, I don’t have to worry about drowning children or sun-burnt children or fighting children or napping children. Just me. Read. Or not.
No more pressure to take the perfect family vacation photo. Nobody but parents want to see vacation pictures, anyway. Now I don’t need to get frustrated trying to stage the perfect vacation photo-op. Those pictures create more angst in myself than pleasure for others. I’ll take more candids at home. On vacation, I’ll just Instagram my beer and my beach read.
I get to miss my children and be excited to come home. Even a mere 5 days (two of them were travel days, so do they even count?) away made me homesick for my kids. What a wonderful way to end…excited to come home. Plus, I got excited to dream about vacations that will be much less hassle-free and much more appreciated by my kids WHEN THEY’RE A BIT OLDER. In the meantime…daddy solo time. Me likey.
Any others? What justifications can you add to save future guilt-ridden parents the agony of indecision and realize child-less travel is the best!
During our pregnancy with my first kid, I was on a quest for breast milk and researched tons of sources. Doctor friends told us it would be the greatest gift we could give our newborn.
We were lucky that a friend had twenty pounds of frozen milk in Denver just after Big E was born in Colorado Springs. We packed it on dry ice and overnight’d it to New York.
There had to be another way. This was unsustainable.
I’d already learned that milk banks weren’t the way for us.
For starters, I figured there was a milk bank in every major city in the country. At the time of this writing, there are twenty two. A few years ago, the closest location was in Massachusetts which would have shipped 4 oz of milk at $7/ounce plus shipping.
So…already this was tremendously cost-prohibitive.
Further, the milk banks pasteurize. This might be a good process for sick, fragile newborns, in which case, that’s awesome. They kill bacteria and cleanse the milk. However, these bacteria are what strengthen the baby in its growth and are a natural part of the child’s intestinal development. I mean – it’s not like they’re licking a subway pole.
Plus, milk banks often refuse milk from mothers who have colds or aren’t in perfect health. But sick mom milk is the best kind for growing babies…full of antibodies.
I asked doctor friends what needed to be avoided, and obviously I couldn’t feed my baby milk from a woman who was HIV positive and it would be smart to just avoid hepatitis.
But further, breast milk is absolutely magical, especially between the breast-feeding baby and the mother. (So in this case, it wouldn’t help me, but still…the science is fascinating.)
A doctor friend of mine in New York City would actually lick her newborn’s hands after being out in the city because it’s believed her body would receive signals about the germs the baby was exposed to, thereby triggering certain antibodies to be developed in the breast milk. LOL. And amazing.
But for us, the quest for breast milk at milk banks wasn’t worth the price of shipping sterilized milk. There had to be another way.
Posting locally in New York City, I quickly found generous women willing to give me their frozen supply.
When meeting them, I awkwardly asked, “Um, I don’t mean to offend, but I’d be remiss in not asking if you’re a meth addict or HIV positive or if you flavor your milk with Nestle Quik?”
In each case, the women laughed and said, “No. But you’re smart to ask.”
I trusted them. Who would go to the trouble of pumping, freezing and the rigamarole of posting of FB if they were Hep B positive meth addicts?
One woman, a yoga teacher, had a completely full freezer. I stuffed two Trader Joe’s bags and my backpack with frozen milk. Plus, Big E hung on my chest in the Bjorn. I swear they doubled my own weight. After walking innumerable blocks and taking a subway, I questioned whether my shoulder pain was worthwhile.
But my kid drank breast milk for two straight weeks. Because this donor was a yoga teacher, we called hers “soy milk.”
Another time, I carried Big E into outer Brooklyn for a pick-up. As I stepped onto the outdoor subway platform, I called the donor, as planned.
“Hi! I see you!” she answered.
I looked around and, twenty feet away, saw a woman waving to me.
When I reached her I asked, “How did you know it was me?”
“Because you’re the only white guy, here.”
I looked at the people around me. I hadn’t realized that every person in the subway was Asian.
Ah, the fabulosity of New York.
So…HM4HB fed both our children with a great variety of milks (and a great variety of nicknames). It’s an organization built on generosity and need and collective good.
My second born son, Colton, gives me tremendous experience in dealing with whiny kids. He is a magnificent study in extremes. He is adorable. He could charm the wallpaper off the walls. His seductive grin makes mincemeat of the hardest of child-hating hearts.
And at the opposite extreme, what I call: #tearlesscrying.
Not tantrums. It’s worse. He whines incessantly.
Seriously, y’all. It’s soul-sucking. Dealing with whiny kids is, well…parenting. I know. But this is another level.
Believe me, Colton does not lack for coddling. Remember the whole ‘He’s so cute” bit? He’ll snuggle for hours. (Well, 15 minutes). It’s heaven to hold him in my lap after a nap. (Though his nap mainly consisted of 30 minutes of silence and 20 minutes of what? You guessed it: #tearlesscrying.)