First off, I want to thank you for viewing my blog. I’m new at this…not being a Dad (I’ve been doing that for 20 months now) but blogging. Enough people have told me to start one that I’ve decided it was time. Time to offer my advice, share my struggles, and hopefully entertain you. Please feel free to laugh at or with me 🙂 Whether you are raising kids, raised kids, want kids, or just wonder what life is like with a toddler and newborn triplets, I know you will find something of value in the posts yet to come…
Wow. I’m still reeling from a phone call I had a yesterday. Let me first preface though…
Growing up, I failed. I’ve missed a field goal. I didn’t get elected class president. I wasn’t accepted to every fraternity I pledged. I did not receive an acceptance letter to every college to which I applied. I was kicked off my club soccer team in what would be my final year playing soccer. I didn’t pass every test. I didn’t make the lead in the musical. And I failed at so many other things that I could never list or even remember.
As a kid, you feel each and every failure and it hurts. You don’t always understand why and sometimes it even seems like the end of your world.
As a parent though…I recently got the first taste of my children not being accepted to something. Now, it might be trivial. It might be for the best in the long run. But right now? It hurts more than anything I ever went through in my life in regards to my own failures. I feel like I failed them and it is the worst thing in the entire world.
As adults, we see and understand more of the behind the scenes. The politics. The favors. Nepotism. Money. The humanity and therefor imperfect decision making. And when you always want what is best for your child, it becomes even more frustrating when these types of obstacles stand in your way.
So I guess the question is, how do we handle this as parents? And how do we teach our children to handle it? How much of what is behind the actual curtain do we explain to them and at what age? With the holidays upon us, the first thing that came to mind is Santa Claus? Most of us, me included, want our children to believe in magic as long as possible. We build up the fantasy of Santa to stimulate their imaginations. To see their wonder and awe. And at some point, when they are emotionally intelligent enough to understand, we expose the myth but hopefully turn it into a lesson on the joy of giving and the overall magic of Christmas.
So I guess I’ve answered my own question. I continue to let them believe in magic and make the best of their situation and I put all of my time and energy into finding success the next time or elsewhere. And eventually, when they are ready, I will teach them to do the same.
I have a story to share and it’s not because it’s National Coming Out Day or Mental Health Day, or anything of the sort. It’s something that I have not only built walls around to protect myself, but an entire fortress. That fortress came crumbling down yesterday and I feel like if I do not share this and find a way to let it go, it is going to eat me alive. I’m also hoping this might help at least one other person who has gone through or is going through the same thing. Or even better, a parent who is making the decision on what to do with their child.
I love my parents because they are my parents. That does not mean they were good parents. They have always been model pillars of the community. They donate most of their time to others. They value appearances. However, they have one son who is still not self-sufficient at 29 years old and another son with painful and persistent emotional scars from the mental and physical abuse suffered at their hand from age 15 until he finally chose himself over their financial support at 21 years old. And even to this day, they find ways to reopen past wounds.
When they found out I was gay by breaking into my safe and reading my journal, searching the hard drive on my computer, going through my room and my car, and who knows what other insane invasions of privacy…they decided to turn to conversion therapy. There was no unconditional love, there was no support, there were no shared tears. There was a problem to fix, a soul to save, and I was the broken one in need of saving.
To date, 16 states and over 50 municipalities have laws forbidding conversion therapy. LGBT youth are already among the highest suicide rates in the country and those forced into conversion therapy are 6 times more likely to fall into depression and 8 times more likely to attempt suicide.
At times I would pretend to go along with it. Other times I was truly trying to be “straight” with all my heart and soul. To “pray the gay away.” It overshadowed everything else in my life. I could not be a normal teenager. And no one could know the challenges I was facing because my parents insisted on keeping up appearances.
I started to lie, for the first time in my life. I lied about everything that had to do with being gay. I was scared about going to another therapy session, another weekend conference put on by Focus on the Family. Most of all, I was scared of my Dad’s temper. I have been hit more times than I can count. I have been grabbed by my throat and thrown up against a wall. I have been hurled into my closet, breaking down metal shelves. I have had my face ground into the carpet of my parents’ bedroom. In my mom’s defense, she actually tried to come to my aid that last time and my Dad picked up a belt and whipped her with it. I have never been so utterly horrified in my entire life.
This continued all through high school. I would tell myself that I just had to make it to college and get out from under their roof. I moved into my dorm two weeks early and finally felt some freedom and that I could be myself. However, I was still constantly questioned and monitored. The could tell if I left campus because they checked my cell phone bill each month. I would dread holidays and summer breaks where I had to go home and be under constant supervision once more. I had to pretend to be someone I was not. After my junior year, I decided to stay on campus for the summer and take summer school just so that I did not have to go back home.
At the end of that summer, I was given an ultimatum. Miss my fall semester and attend an in-house , secure conversation therapy program until I was “healed” or he would pull the funding for my senior year of school. It was the summer before my senior year at Indiana University. He thought his money still provided him the power over my life. He was wrong. I went to my Uncle Jeff (his gay brother) for help, but when my Dad found out he threatened my Uncle’s life should he provide any type of assistance. So I went to the financial aid office. My father was devious…he had waited until just after the deadline for financial aid had passed to confront me. Luckily, there was a special program for students in situations similar to mine where I qualified to separate legally from my parents so that the school could waive the deadline. I was able to borrow enough to finish school. I did not speak to my parents that entire year. I allowed them to attend my graduation since they paid for 3 years of my education but I spent no time with them before or after.
I moved to Los Angeles at 25 and found my own life. I have been back to Indiana a handful of times, mostly passing through just for one day on a work trip or to see my best friend who still lives there. There is nothing left for my in Indiana but a reminder of the past and painful memories.
I’m not sure exactly when it was, but my father gave me a gift. It was a large wooden box with a plaque that read “Letters from Dad.” In it, was a 3 page typed letter explaining what the box was for and that I would be receiving letters from him that would regale me with stories I didn’t know, share with me his advice and wisdom, and through written word, perhaps be the father I always wanted. To this day, I’ve not received a single letter to put in my box. Instead, the box is filled with past letters that I saved from him…condemning my lifestyle, condemning my “choice,” condemning my soul.
In 2014, my husband and I got married in Kauai. My father was the only immediate family member than chose not to attend even though I invited him through a personal letter. He felt that his attendance would mislead me into believing that he supported my right to marry. I remember my mother mentioning that his bible study group asked her why she was going to Hawaii without him. When she told them her son was getting married, they were shocked. My father had never mentioned it or even that i was gay. The pretense of perfection was always more important than anything else.
In 2016, I was once again at a crossroads. We were pregnant with my son. I did not feel like my father had the right to be in his life, but painfully deliberated what would be best for my unborn son and put my personal feelings aside. I called my father and told him point-blank that I would allow his presence in my son’s life but if he ever tried to push his agenda on him or shared his feelings about my marriage, that would be the last day he ever spoke to my son.
Since then, we have kept the peace. He gets to spend time with his grandchildren and the only conversation between us is about his work. The only thing I ever hear him talk about is his work. Nothing real. And he and I have no relationship whatsoever. He stays quiet because for him to speak, would only be to remind me his views have never changed. I’m sure he believes he would anger me and then not be able to spend time with his grandchildren. So he chooses silence. And until today, that has been enough. Until now…
My mother chose to inadvertently remind me that they both take no ownership of the mental abuse they put me through. To this day, she wants to excuse my father’s physical abuse and blame it on my lying as a teenager. Not only do they refuse ownership, they have yet to apologize. And any time the topic of how they raised me comes up, she makes it about her and says, “So we were just never good parents?” No mom, when you leave lasting scars on someone…that kind of outweighs attending soccer games and providing financial support.
So that’s my truth. And today, I’m just happy to be blessed with my four beautiful, healthy children and a wonderful husband. All of which I was told that could never and would never have because I’m gay. Life is far from perfect, but I’m trying to be a better person, husband, and father every day of my life. Our time on this earth is so short, and even shorter with our children at home. I plan to make the most of my time here and letting this go was a necessary step. The positive I take from all of this is that it has made me more aware of how I treat others and how I raise my children. And I hope that when my children are older, we can have the relationship I never had with my father. And maybe one, they will even tell me what a great job I did. And THAT would be the best moment of my entire life.
I woke up this morning and realized I was 38. I ran a company for 10 years and then retired overnight to be a full-time Dad the next day.
It is a full time job that pays nothing. I cannot quit or be fired. I get 4 performance reviews almost daily. I have to pay all my own expenses. I’m on call 24/7 and I have no sick days. And it is the absolute best job in the entire world.
I got to get Kai out of bed this morning and get him ready for school picture day. The kid has a million smiles and he and I worked on the one he should use for the picture that Papa will put on his desk at work.
I had the pleasure of seeing Quinn crawl backwards down the stairs, tell me with a sign and his words that he wanted up into his seat and a banana.
One of my favorite things I see every day is the second I walk into the girls rooms. The smiles on their faces, the excitement of the new day, and the word Dada escaping from their lips the second they see me is happiness beyond words.
There are still difficult days. Sometimes I miss working. Sometimes 1 or all 4 have a rough day. Once in awhile, the days seem a bit monotonous because I spend so much time at the house. But there is not greater joy and no greater birthday gift than being a Dad to these four.
Kai, Vivi, Rowan, and Quinn are the four chambers of my heart and pump life and love through my veins. Thank you for these blessings and happy birthday to me 🥰
So…back to school is no joke. I always wondered what the big deal is, but now I get it. Kai only had two weeks off in between his previous school and his new one. However, getting back into a groove definitely took some doing and after the first week, I was seriously questioning my sanity. Now part of that is that week 1 at his new school is “transition week” so they had us stay at school with the kids Tuesday-Friday, 8:30am-12pm. My gym time is normally at 10am, so lack of excessive definitely contributed to my stress. And though Kai is fine with me leaving him at school, it took him a minute to get adjusted to all his new classmates and how to share once more.
Week two gave me hope again, with Kai being his normal, sweet self. His favorite thing now to to tell my how good he did or how nice he was to everyone after he finishes school or one of his extracurricular activities.
In the end, I’m not sure if it’s more difficult having the four of them home all day long or our new schedule. I think now that we are back in the groove, the schedule works but in our house, things are constantly changing and evolving as the triplets (and Kai) get older.
For anyone interested in how it works with a family of four, 20 months apart, here’s my week:
7:00 kids up
8:00 get Kai dressed
8:30 school starts
11:00 triplets nap
12:00 pick Kai up
12:15 Kai lunch
1:00 Kai naps
1:30 triplets wake up
1:45 triplets eat lunch
3:00 Kai wakes up
3:30 Either Music, Gymnastics, Piano, Swimming, or Hip Hop Dance Class
7:00 Triplets bedtime
7:45 Kai’s bedtime
By 8pm, Dad is normally exhausted and ready to just sit in silence for an hour. However, I still wouldn’t change anything for the world.
I will say that I don’t know what people did years ago without today’s technology and I’m hoping that it continues to keep pace with my children so that when I have to start worrying about them having four different activities in four different places, we will have self-driving Uber’s that can safely deliver them to their practice or whatever. That’s a problem for another day though.
So last night, Marcus and I had dinner with two friends from Monaco who have two gorgeous boys of their own, also through surrogacy. The topic came up of the questions they are asked about the boys’ genetics and I learned that not only are they asked the same questions I loathe, but they have been asked IN FRONT OF the boys on multiple occasions. I shared my feelings with them and told them I had written a FB post before Kai was born about that very subject which received a tremendous amount of positive feedback. I promised them that I would try to find that post (not knowing how I was going to do that). Well, I woke up this morning and apparently it was exactly 3 years ago today that I wrote it and FB was kind enough to pop it back up on my feed as a memory. So that being said, I want to share that original post here:
To all my friends and family that continue to ask Marcus or me “whose sperm did you use” or “whose (kid) is it?” I have smiled and continued to give polite, witty banter back for months now hoping that you would digest the situation and realize the insinuations you are making. That somehow…due to genetics, our child is tied more closely to one of us than the other. That our child is not just simply “ours.” Growing up gay has not always been easy, but it’s made me stronger and allowed me to weather your curiosity and questions that seem outside of the love and compassion I expect from all of you. Growing up with an adopted brother; I can already share with all of you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that blood does not constitute family. I am strong enough to shoulder the burden of your ignorance in asking these questions over and over again. However, our child should never have to endure such comments and curiosity. Like any child, he has this entire, crazy world to face…and that’s scary enough for a new parent. I’m asking all of you from the bottom of my heart to think before you speak around him or anyone that does not necessary fit into a social norm. Being different is never easy, but it’s part of what makes life interesting and beautiful. Our son is coming and he is going to be a LOT of things…and I cannot wait to discover what those things may be…but one thing that I already know in my heart that he is…is OURS.
So Doing it Daddy Style is about parenting, but in order to be a great (co)parent, you have to constantly be on the same page. This is no easy task so I’m going to give you five things that I think are most important:
- Make time for you. Give your partner time for them. This one is super important. You both need time to workout and do a few personal things each week. This keeps you healthy both mentally and physically.
- Make time for you (plural). I will not lie, this was super tough the first year we had the triplets because having a babysitter put four kids down for bed or dealing with more than one waking up is almost impossible. We are just now starting to get out again, but we will put the kids down first and then venture out. And we are always home by midnight because it’s back in Dad mode between 6am and 7am the next day. A school administrator once reaffirmed this by telling me they have seen so many couples go through divorce in the first 2-5 years of having children. It makes sense because you are two individuals sharing a life and all of a sudden, one (or four) come along and they because your sole priority and focus. Making time for you as a couple will help to maintain your relationship and, in turn, make you better parents.
- Argue behind closed doors. What I mean is do not contradict each other in front of the children. Even if you think what your partner is saying or doing is wrong, you want to present a united front to your children. Speak to them after and agree on how you want to handle that particular situation moving forward. This will help to prevent the kids from asking Parent 1 and then going to ask Parent 2 if they do not get the response they wanted. It also keeps your kid(s) childhood magical. They do need to see you arguing or fighting with each other.
- Be present with your children when you are playing with them, explaining things to them, or even joking around. The are little blank slates. They do not have your experiences. They do not process information they way you do. Think about what you are doing or saying and how it will affect the young adults they will become. For a lot of adults, this is difficult to be that hyper-aware so this is where your partner comes into play. It is much easier process these things when you are observing it then when you are participating. Always be aware of the interactions your children are having and be ready to step in or make a mental note to discuss later if appropriate if you notice something going on that may have a negative impact on the child’s thought process or behavior.
- Set goals and have discussions on the adults that you want to raise. It is not enough to provide and play and hope for the best. You need to take them time to set goal with and for your kids. They will change over time, but if you do not have goals for milestones or the people you want them to turn out to be, you are flying blind. And talk about them. We usually discuss these at night when all the kids are down and we can finally take a deep breath and allow our brains to wind down a bit. We talk about their days, funny things they did, things they did that were not funny, what new things we have noticed, and what one might need to work on. Sharing these observations again helps us to be more connected, closer to our kids, and gives us the ability to parents in sync and to the best of our ability.
This is nowhere near a complete list, but I hope it helps. I think having four kids in two years amplified all the issues that may arise which might sound like a bad thing, but I think it also maybe made them easier to identify and therefor figure out a way to handle them faster than we would have otherwise. And I am always open to suggestions if you have them 🙂
So traveling with kids. Let’s talk about it for minute.
I used to travel for work ALL the time. I could pack in 10-15 minutes. I could get from my house through the airport and to my gate in 90 minutes max. I never checked luggage. Oh, and I got to relax and read on the plane.
NOT ANYMORE! 🙂 Now I have to start packing weeks in advance to make sure I have everything I need for the upcoming trip and that it fits. We have to schedule a car service if flying and if we do not have enough adults to hold all the babies, then we have to arrange for car seats. When we went to Hawaii over Christmas, we needed an extra car for our 14 (yes 14) bags. Four of those bags are just for the two strollers and extra seats. Two were for my parents. That leaves eight full of diapers, food, bottle, formula, toys, and extra everything. We leave for the airport 2.5 hours before our flight and found a wonderful company that assists us through the airport to the lounge and then our gate. It is a process. Plus, we are their constant source of entertainment for the entire flight. Forget enjoying a meal, reading, or taking a much needed nap.
Now I always said that my choice to have multiple kids would never take away from us being able to give them all the experiences I had growing up, especially traveling. So we brave it. And the kids are actually all really good travelers. Except when it comes to sleeping. At home, they sleep a solid 12 hours a night. On vacation…not so much. They were maybe 7 months old when we went to Hawaii and everyone ended up having to sleep with a baby the entire trip. They refused to sleep in their portable cribs. Fast forward to Easter in Santa Barbara. Nope. Almost 1 year old and Marcus and I have all 4 kids in the bed and did not get much sleep at all. So, I decided that before heading to Cabo in August, we would take a little mini trip down to San Diego and see how they do now that they were almost 14 months.
We drove down to San Diego which is about a 3 hour drive and they all did fantastic in the car. It was about 1pm when we arrived at the San Diego Zoo and they loved all the animals. We got to our hotel, the U.S. Grant, around 6pm to give us time to rinse off, change and go downstairs for dinner. Now they were wonderfully accommodating and set us all up in a private dining room and they kids all sat through an almost 2 hours dinner and ate very well. So I thought, hey, super smooth so far and they have to be exhausted so we’re good! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Now I don’t know whether it’s a new environment or that they are all constantly teething now, but Quinn refuses to sleep in a portable crib but he also will wake up if you have him in the bed (I think he gets too warm) and then he lets loose a blood curdling scream. When we just had Kai, there were two of us and one of him. He always slept between us and if he got up, one of us would rock him back to sleep and that was it. Now when Quinn lets loose, there are 3 other kids in the room. It is instant panic mode. You do not want the other babies to wake and cause a chain reaction. In San Diego, he woke up Rowan (who does NOT like to be woken up…not sure where she gets that…lol) who in turn, lets out a scream of her own. Vivi and Kai were angels and slept through all of it, but Daddy and Papa once again did not get much sleep.
We did SeaWorld on the way home the next day and again, the kids were fantastic and loved all of the sea animals. We did not see the Orcas out of principle, but we pretty much saw everything else. And I will say, not having to deal with formulas or bottles anymore is a game changer. It’s one less suitcase to pack and they can eat packs on the go in between meals.
So…wish us luck for Cabo next month. They are now able to walk so they will want to be up and down the aisles of the plane and don’t understand why they have to stay in their seats for takeoff and landing. Bless my mother for getting them all Fire tablets on Prime Day. It should be enough to distract them temporarily.
One last little tip or piece of advice to all the parents out there who think traveling is just too much. When you (and your children) look back on their life, you are not going to remember your child throwing a fit on the plane. You won’t remember the stress of losing one in the airport for a split second. Lost or delayed bags will be a distant memory. Even the lack of sleep for the entire week of vacation will not matter. The memories you make on those trips though will be remembered forever and they will shape the adults your little humans end up becoming. I know schedules are easier, monotony prevents chaos, but what kind of a life is that? Push yourselves. Teach your kids that sometimes, the most difficult things are the most rewarding. And get out there and travel. Expose them to other cultures, different ways of life, people who grew up drastically different from them. They will be better for it.