In addition to Thanksgiving, November includes another opportunity to be grateful — National Adoption Month! Just a little over 13 years ago, we created our family through open adoption, and we couldn’t be more thankful for the joy and fulfillment our son has brought to our lives.
In honor of National Adoption Month, I recently helped give a presentation* about LGBTQ parents at one of my chorus rehearsals. Afterwards, I wanted a place to share the links and photos from our talk, so decided to pop it onto the blog. You know I never pass up an opportunity to celebrate queer families!
I’m now the parent of a teenager. While that statement fills me with an expected amount of anxiety, I’m also unexpectedly hopeful. Or maybe that’s delusion. Or maybe my Starbucks is hitting just right this morning.
On the evening of my son’s 13th birthday, I was on the phone with my mom. We were reflecting about how Jon was becoming more independent, responsible, and mature – and just how much fun he is to talk to. She then added, “I haven’t seen him go through any angsty, isolated stage yet. And I don’t think he will.”
I quickly knocked on wood and jokingly scolded her for jinxing the next seven years. Yet in truth it was an encouraging observation from an expert in the field, having raised four boys.
So while I’m still in the throes of denial optimism, I thought I’d jot down 13 parenting lessons I’ve learned… to commemorate making it this far.
Shit’s getting real, y’all. Why does seventh grade seem significantly more ominous than previous grades? Perhaps because it’s the year kids become teenagers. Maybe because it’s when puberty kicks into high gear. Or it could just be that the word “SEVENTH” seems so much longer than “SIXTH” — I mean, it’s a whole ‘nother syllable!
I sing with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC, and for our latest concert we’re performing the east coast premiere of Unbreakable, a musical chronicles LGBTQ history in the United States. It covers everything from the origin of the word “gay” to the Stonewall riots to the AIDS crisis and beyond. During rehearsals, chorus members have given presentations on the topics covered in the songs to educate and give context.
I volunteered to talk about Dr. Charles Socarides, who we sing about in ”Happy Homosexual.” Socarides was a psychiatrist from the 1970s, famous for saying “There is no such thing as a happy homosexual.” He espoused much of the harmful theories still used today in conversion therapy. Socarides believed that homosexuality was a neurotic adaptation in men caused by absent fathers and overly doting mothers. He also claimed to have helped over one third of his patients become heterosexual.
Socarides died in 2005, survived by four children from his four marriages. In a beautiful bit of irony, his oldest son, Richard, is openly gay, and served as senior advisor on gay and lesbian issues for the Clinton administration.
Unfortunately, Socarides’ legacy of harm lives on, as conversion therapy continues to deceive, traumatize, and kill generations of queer people.
Our house of two dads and a son is never short on testosterone, so ensuring my kid has female role models is of utmost importance. And while he has plenty of real-life women to inspire him, I’ve also enjoyed introducing my son to the vast and vivacious catalog of heroines and villainesses from the worlds of comics, movies, TV and video games.
While I’ve already featured Black, Latino, and LGBTQ characters, I’ve not done a proper showcase for the ladies. And while this comes on the tail end of International Women’s Month, it’s never a bad time to celebrate Girl Power!
My hope with collections like these is to educate and inspire other parents to do the same. Each note below features a link where you and your kids can learn about that character, whether you’re looking to doodle them on a post-it note or enjoy a family movie night.
This past year marked the ten year anniversary of a couple of personal milestones: becoming a father and the birth of this blog. To commemorate a decade as both Daddy and Designer Daddy, I’m sharing a series of Top 10 lists. Each post will feature the most amazing/fun/memorable things/experiences/whatevers from the last ten years.
You may have noticed that I don’t write about my son as much lately. Once my kid (and perhaps more importantly, his friends) became old enough to read and surf the internet, privacy was more of an issue. It was cute sharing about my son’s potty training when he was a toddler. Not so much now that he’s a tween.
Nowadays my more personal writing falls mainly into two categories: sharing my vast (ha!) dad knowledge and reminiscing about the past. For the latter, I’ve enjoyed documenting many of my fatherhood faves from the last decade. For this list, I rummaged through the basement and have collected my favorite parenting keepsakes.
WHAT’S WORTH SAVING?
I’ve never understood the tradition of parents keeping their kid’s baby teeth (though I’m sure we have a few rattling around in a box somewhere). The same goes for locks of hair, newborn footprints, plaster hand molds. Those things don’t evoke memories for me; they’re just biological snapshots…and a little bit creepy.
The items I’ve chosen here tell a story, elicit a multitude of emotions, and remind me of how much I’ve loved being a dad. I should do this more often!
I recently wrote my first piece for Parents, about the Parental Rights in Education Bill (aka the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). This measure seeks to ban sexuality and gender discussion in Florida schools.
As both an LGBTQ parent and the parent of a child that identifies as bi, it wasn’t difficult for me to imagine all the ways this could harm families like mine.
The legislation would essentially erase LGBTQ students and their families, as well as queer history and culture. It’s sad, enraging, and absurd all at once. Sad as I think of all of the young people it could suppress and ignore. Enraging as both a protective papa bear and as a child who grew up closeted and afraid. Absurd as I witness the equivalent of attempting to remove unwanted letters from the alphabet.
While I was only hired as a writer, the illustrator in me had more to express about this hate-fueled bill. Click on the image above for a closer look.
Be sure to check out the full article, where I explain more about the bill, as well as ways to combat similar legislation in your own town, county, or school district.
HAPPY 2022! Can you believe we’re still* talking about (and dealing with) this $@#% pandemic?!?
As we transition from a year full of ups and down into one full of unknowns, many folks are experiencing high levels of anxiety (raises hand). And this is by no means limited to adults. Kids and teens are right there with us.
The hardest part for me has been getting my hopes up, making plans, looking forward to the future…only to be sucked back into a new wave of quarantines and testing, and the accompanying stress and fear. For parents, the challenge has been and continues to be — how do I manage my own anxiety while also helping my kids cope with theirs? Sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind.
Christmas Eve has always been a rather nostalgic time for me. Okay, maybe always is an exaggeration. Or perhaps even a lie. In actuality, most years I’m stressing out over last minute card-addressing or gift-wrapping or stocking-stuffing or house-cleaning or any other number of -ing things.
Yet this December 24th — due to a combination of good medication and intentional choices — I have time to soak up some of that nostalgia. One of the choices I made this year was to not design our family’s holiday card. While that might not seem like a big deal to most folks, it’s a bit of a milestone for me.
The end is in sight! We’ve nearly made it out the other side of the pandemic. Yet I sometimes miss those early months of quarantine where the focus was pure survival. Spirits were low, but so were expectations. Teachers and parents were more lenient as we all navigated unknown, unpredictable waters. Now that things are slowly getting back to normal, the pressure to be a Parent MVP is creeping back in. The urge to compare gets stronger every day, as does my old pal, anxiety.
As is often the case in parenting, my son taught me a lesson about comparison, expectations, and what kind of dad I should strive to be: Most Improved.