fbpx
Mother’s Day For Two Dads

Mother’s Day For Two Dads

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.

But for me, Mother’s Day is also a celebration of my mom’s success as a parent, without which I wouldn’t have a family at all.

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.

Best Educational Movie Musicals for Kids

Best Educational Movie Musicals for Kids

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all looking for ways to pass of educating to someone else…and why not with the best educational movie musicals for kids?

Occasionally musical theatre is the best story-telling medium to contextualize and educate kids and adults about history.

Many musicals are a delectable treat for sheer escapism. You can watch 42nd Street and She Loves Me on “Great Performances” on PBS. (And that’s a worthy investment of minimal monthly dues.) They meld acting with singing and movement, they’re a feast for all the senses. Further, they demand our children pay more attention than with typically schizophrenic movies.

But others are able to convey more emotion and drama to teach us all more about our ancestors and historic figures.

BroadwayHD is a streaming service presenting dozens of Broadway plays and musicals, mostly in their stage-presented context (as opposed to re-made in a Hollywood studio like Les Miserables.) Disclaimer – this is not a sponsored post pushing BroadwayHD. (Though fellas: gimme a kickback, eh?) It just happens to be about the only place you can watch some of these historic musicals.

Many old classics can be found on library websites. (HBO and Netflix don’t have a lot in the way of obscure musicals beyond Mamma Mia and Disney.)

And in some cases, you might need to seek out YouTube productions, snippets and videos. But that leads to a fun and educational deep-dive down the YouTube dumpster of endless clips. And that’s not a bad thing, if they’re focused and don’t end up on a some weirdo’s site.

Even if they get bored or fidgety, our kids often don’t care as long as there’s a moving image in front of them, amiright? Most of all: they can just learn to be patient and focused.

“Really? You’re bored? Would you rather I get you a stick and a ball and you just go make your own fun like I did as a child?”

(Even if none of us actually didn’t just watch hours of television…albeit not on demand.)

Here is a list of a a few of the best educational movie musicals for kids to entertain/educate them while you go on auto-pilot during COVID Curriculum.

Please share your thoughts and suggestions for more scholarly musicals in front of which we can just park the kids with less guilt and pour ourselves a drink.

I’d start this list for kids 6 and up. Some are heavy topics. But musicals make it art. Push the kids a bit. Should 6 year-olds be taught about Presidential assassins and public lynchings? These aren’t as graphically violent as any of the Marvel movies. Plus it helps teach about injustice, morality and history. So go ahead – push them with the best educational movie musicals for kids.

1776

This is a slightly lesser-known piece of brilliance from 1969 that exquisitely teaches more about the nuances in American history. Before Hamilton re-wrote the musical theatre history books, 1776 illustrates the many different personalities that formed our independence – especially the irascible (but irreplaceable) John Adams. The songs highlight the debates at the heart of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, especially the song about slavery, “Molasses to Rum” sung by delegate Edward Rutledge from South Carolina.

Most important, the musical shows that the debate surrounding the declaration were nuanced and extensive – about political issues, egos, personalities and principle.

(It particularly cracks me up that somehow those 1776 wigs seem from 1976. But I digress.)

Newsies

Definitely a way to teach your kids about workers’ rights, how the “man” will always keep the “little guy” down, and how grit, principle and passion can unite down-trodden folks to over-come injustice.

And it’s got awesome singing and dancing to entertain the most Scrooge McDuckiest of rapacious capitalists.

Available on DisneyPlus and on YouTube clips by hundreds of high school productions .

Jesus Christ Superstar

Let’s be honest – explaining Holy Week and the impact Jesus had on his contemporaries is very difficult to explain as adults, let alone understand as children. This musical, over-wrought though it may be, does a great job of contextualizing Jesus’ impact on his local society. Further, the show briliantly conveys the cult of personality in which human pbeings love to deify leaders and equally lovs to watch them torn down. JCS is true to the title showing how Jesus was treated like a rockstar of his era and inspired jealousy and fear in the leaders who felt threatened by his cult of personality. Easiest to access on the NBC streaming platform, this version of the Andrew Lloyd Weber rock opera is excellently conceived and stars pop folk your kids might already know: John Legend and Sarah Bareilles. And they both clearly did their homework to give powerful performances.

Assassins

This is an extra-credit, over-achiever assignment for you. Byond Tony awards snippets (see below) this show is super-smart and super-poignant. It’s almost a psycho-sociological study of the minds of all those who attempted (successfully or not) to assassinate American presidents. The album is badass and is over-flowing with historical trivia that will definitely help your kids (and you) eventually win Jeopardy. (The revival in 2004 starred Neil Patrick Harris when we still thought of him as a washed-up Dougie Howser.) Pop that album into your music-player for a road trip or, hell – you don’t have anything to do during the pandemic. This is excellent for laying on the couch and letting the words, music and history wash over you.

A musical about Presidential assassins? Just trust me. You’ll learn a lot.

Hamilton

Obviously this is the new gold standard for musicals that teach history as well as historical revisionism. It’s safe to say before the award-winning musical (based on the award-winning book by Ron Chernow), Alexander Hamilton had fallen to a secondary position in U.S. history books. But the musical, through deft musicality and astounding vocabulary displays, shows the pivotal role Hamilton played in our nation’s founding. Enjoy a deep-dive into stories about the making of the musical, listen to the album, and even give a stab at reading Chernow’s book. It’s excellent.

Carousel

One of Rogers & Hammerstein’s best works, Carousel teaches children about life in a New England fishing village at the turn of the century. There are, admittedly, some real clunkers and eye-rolling songs. However, the version on Broadway HD stars Kelli O’Hara, which means the lead character is as good as it gets. It’s old-fashioned, but sumptuous. Go ahead: expand those kids’ horizons.

Pippin

Available to view on BroadwayHD. This performance of Pippin is not only historic in Broadway history, but it’s also the story of Charlemagne’s son. Now, there’s not that much for historical accuracy, here, but it is based on ancient literature and fables sure to add to any child’s trivial and cultural knowledge. It’s also freakishly 70’s-esque. You’ll love the guitars and laugh at it’s charming datedness.

Les Miserables

Okay. This one’s a toughy. It’s too long, too dramatic, and too much. But you’ll cry in all the right spots in spite of your (my) cynicism. Despite trying to melt a 1,000-page French tome into 2.5 hours of musical, much of it is thrilling. The performances pale in comparison to actual Broadway performers (Sorry, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway.) But the movie version gives an excellent visual rendition of French revolutionary history. To see the barricades in actual streets, to see the utter squalor in said streets, to see the mud and filth in which these people lived..you really see how misérable were these folks.

For a fun dive down YouTube, check out these best education musicals for kids in snippets, Tony Award highlights and bootleg videos:

Ragtime

Here’s another that’s not based on any actual history but does an amazing job of contextualizing American history in a beautiful package. Unfortunately, you’d have to venture to the NY Public Library to watch it in the confines of a booth where you can only watch it once. But a deep dive on YouTube can thrill you, as well. The album is genius and the original book is one of the 100 best novels of the 20th Century. So there’s plenty to expand your cultural understanding of the conflict between whites, blacks and immigrants in New York at the turn of the 20th century.

Parade

The true story of a trial and hanging of a Jewish factory manager who was unjustly accused of raping a young female factory worker in 1913 in a small Georgia town. a racism and anti-Semitism that gripped a small Georgia town in the 1920’s. Yeah – not uplifting. But spectacular music and performances.

Side Show

The musical based on the real-life Vaudeville lives of the Hilton sisters, conjoined twins exploited on the Vaudeville circuit. (They became the biggest stars of their day, as well.) Some of the songs are confusingly “on the nose”, but “I Will Never Leave You” sung by the (again: conjoined) twins is a classic in the modern American musical cannon.

Titanic

Okay – bear with me. This one is, well…over-wrought. However, don’t we all go through a slight Titanic obsession at one point in our youth? This one does bring together storylines and costumes! of the many different demographics who went down (or escaped) the ill-fated liner. But for a REALLY fun YouTube moment, pull up a glass of champagne and feast your eyes on this gem from a few summers ago at a regional theatre who staged and ACTUAL sinking of a “ship” into the lake behind the theatre. OMG. I love this.

What about you? Have you got more suggestions for this list of best educational movie musicals for kids?

How to Cut Your Kid’s Hair (COVID-19 Desperation)

How to Cut Your Kid’s Hair (COVID-19 Desperation)

Trust me – never did I imagine planning to say “here’s how to cut your kid’s hair.” I do NOT recommend cutting your own kid’s hair, least of all short hair…which tends to be more tedious than a long.

But CV19 is leading us to be resourceful like none of us in the privileged, entitled world of 2020 ever imagined or desired.

But glass half full – we get to try new things an probably have a long time before anyone sees us outside a Zoom call (in which hats are probably always acceptable, amiright?)

I intended to get my 6yo’s hair cut back in January. Then weeks went by and missed opportunities went by and suddenly we are in a COVID quarantine and I never got his damn hair cut.

He was complaining, I thought it looked awful, and he’s not a long hair kinda kid (yet?)

I mean – who doesn’t love having a pony tail once in their life, right?

So I contacted a dear friend of mine who used to cut my hair (before she ventured off to become a dietician.

She walked me through an hour-long IG live tutorial in cutting my kiddo’s hair. It’s not perfect, and it’s not really close enough to his scalp. But – we had no tears (or blood) and only two oopsie’s.

But I forgot to hit “save” after the video.

So it’s lost. But that means I made a second video for you that’s only 10 min (not an hour)

Again: I’m NOT AN EXPERT. In fact, I’M A FOOL.

But my only goal is to show you it’s possible to do it and not be awful.

Get yourself

  1. “good” scissors (it’ll be a lot easier than with your kitchen shears)
  2. A hair clip (like a long barrette that can hold top hair out of the way)
  3. Towel to protect the neck
  4. A sheet on the floor to collect hair
  5. A comb/brush
  6. A way to wet the hair to reduce flyaways. Plus, it’s easier to control/cut the hair

Couple main pointers for how to cut your kid’s hair–

  1. Always have your knuckles against the scalp and cut the hair protruding from your fingers
  2. Just cut a million times in the above fashion. It’s methodical and not extreme. It takes awhile, but you’ll get there.
  3. No matter how much you may want to cut off those Roy Orbison sideburns, save them (and the neckline) for last.
  4. Don’t cut straight across sideburns. Sweep hair forward and cut the hairs stretching onto the face along the natural hairline.
  5. AFTER you’ve done the “knuckles against the scalp” trimming on the back of the head, do NOT cut straight across the neckline. Instead, make a million tiny cuts up straight up into the hair to texturize. This would cover up the horrible look you’d make if you cut straight across.
You Know What I Miss? Scouting

You Know What I Miss? Scouting

I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I thought I loathed it as a kid, but…you know what? – I miss the Boy Scouts, because as an adult I realize that scouting made me better.

When I was in ninth grade, my mom bribed me to achieve the highest rank in Boy Scouts: Eagle. It was contingency-based bribery where I got a stereo at Christmas (one of those big box ones that included CD player, dual tape deck, radio AND record player on top)  but said, “But I’ll take this back if you don’t earn Eagle by the end of the year.”

It worked.

But a far greater motivation was getting out of scouts to reclaim my cool, since at the time, it was not the case that scouting made me better; it tortured me.

I was far too obsessed with being cool in school, desperate to eschew any sense that I was “less than” – (which largely meant gay. Yeah – that was my fear – that I’d be called “fag” or “pansy” or whatever label that essentially meant “less than.”)

And being cool or at the top of the social food chain meant I wouldn’t be considered “less than”.

Being a Boy Scout was not cool – especially in junior high and ESPECIALLY in high school. And that was what I hated about being a Boy Scout. Sadly.

In my suburban Denver scout troop, we didn’t have some conservative religiously-veiled dogma. There was no cultural preaching. There was just an over-arching sense of Scouts doing “good” and the difference between right and wrong. And I found a niche within my troop that ultimately meant scouting made me better at being me.

It wasn’t a troop full of toxic masculinity in the slightest.

Tons of my favorite childhood memories were made through scouting: camp-outs (which I thought I hated, but in reality were really fun), camp (not over-flowing with with toxic masculinity and generally care-free), and a consistent community of quality guys that got together weekly to…I can’t even remember now…have meetings and…talk about stuff?

Put all these things together and I learned not to be afriad of nature, leadership, and random skills most of which I’ve forgotten but actually gave me tremendously broad experience. Further, scouting made me better at poker, shit-talking, late-night conversations and a certain amount of political arguing. Again: thanks to camping.

The Boy Scout values are, in my adult hindsight, invaluable. I paid little attention to the Scout law or the substance of the words that we recited at every turn:

A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.

(I typed that without google help – it’s still ingrained in my muscle memory.)

And when I occasionally think on the significance of those words, what better brain-washing to give a kid, eh? Think about each one of those values.

What more could we ask for of ourselves, of society, and of our children?

I reflected on how scouting made me better at being adventurous when I camped twice with my kids, this summer. They were skeptical, at best, and I anticipated a high amount of whining and me kicking myself for the effort.

But when I said “we will roast hot dogs over a fire”, they were IN.

We kayaked forty-five minutes on the Connecticut River to pitch a tent in a clearing on an uninhabited island.

Honestly, it wasn’t hard-core at all. We built a fire, roasted hot dogs and ate M&M’s, hiked for twenty minutes (all the while me thinking TICKS TICKS TICKS TICKS), while I sipped a thermos of Moscow Mules.

But I know this is unthinkable for most people. Scouting made me better at thinking “Come on! Let’s just do it! It’s not rocket science. Pack a bag of M&M’s and let’s camp!”

This is for sale on ebay. It will not be warm or lightweight. So.

I bored my kids with my “when I was a kid this was SO much harder” routine as I reminisced about the shitty camping equipment I was forced to use. Trust: military quilted sleeping bags and tents from the 70’s were NOT user-friendly, durable, warm, compact or lightweight.

I don’t know how on earth my parents’ generation of wannabe John Denver campers found it remotely fun to schlep such awful equipment anywhere, let alone on their backs.

(This blog is adorably nostalgic, but none of the people in these pictures could possibly be happy schlepping the ungainly equipment.

Anyway.

At the little campground with my kids, I was all about “yes” and not setting limits. They explored, they dug around, broke sticks, and poked around in the fire. I had no reason to say “no” (the Moscow Mule helped).

At one point, my younger kid looked guilty as he made the fire flare up after tossing a pile of dried leaves on top. But I said, “It’s OK, buddy. I want you to learn about fire’s behavior. Plus, I get it. It’s fun to poke around.”

Isn’t poking around in a fire the best part about camping? (Scouting made me better at s’mores, too. Obvi.)

I mean – no forest fire are going to start in humid-ass Connecticut. And if our fire had sparked, I was prepared to quickly stamp it out.

This is all part of it – experimenting, pushing limits and learning.

I didn’t bring Swiss army knives or even an axe (the fallen wood for fire-building was plentiful…and we will carve wood next summer.)

But this wasn’t glamping, either. I mean – my phone didn’t work for Christ’s sake.

But I gave them the flavor of camping. And they liked it!

(My 40yo+ body was not a huge fan. My neck and back were seriously creaky, afterward. For summer 2020: get a blow-up pillow.)

But this has all made me think my kids are missing out on these experiences I took for granted (nay: supposedly loathed). My friends found it such a big deal that I was camping, and despite being a gay tap-dancer, I wasn’t remotely intimidated to strike out on this mini-adventure. It’s in my educational background to know camping ain’t that big a deal (particularly when the weather’s perfect and you’re only 30 minutes from home) and nature is meant to be experienced.

Of course I’m looking past the conservative religious hijacking of Boy Scout culture, their leadership largely being old, conservative men, and their tumultuous history with the queer community. Let’s face it – they’ve adapted pretty amazingly DESPITE their leadership and strong rooting in conservative communities. And they’re coming out on the right side of history by including girls in the ranks and embracing children through the the queer community .

On that note, the Mormon Church, which once made up 20% of the boys in scouting, will officially separate from the BSA at the end of this year. I wonder why?

So anyway, now that my kids are growing up in NYC, I feel like they’re at the ripe age for having SOME KIND of value-laden extracurricular education.

I wish there were someone else lecturing them on the difference between right and wrong (besides me) and giving them survival skills (besides me).

When that internet apocalypse comes, the Russians hack all our phones and Trump’s tariffs stop all imports from China, all hell will break loose. And suddenly tying knots might actually be super helpful – not to mention reading a map, using a compass, and not fearing nature.

There are several NYC-based Scout troops (most of them affiliated with Catholic Churches), but none of them are convenient for us. (And by “convenient”, of course I mean within a ten-minute walk of our apartment.)

Wouldn’t it be awesome to start an inclusive troop at the LGBTQ Center on 12th Street? – ground zero for the gay rights movement?

I love the irony.

And hopefully so would the BSA.

But this is not a manifesto for me starting my own Scout Troop. I’ve got bags to sell.

Can someone else do this for me, please?