my 2 dads
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 a guest post on the City Dads blog, sharing some ways to be an ally to LGBTQ parents and families. That list could have been endless, but I know folks (especially other parents) don’t have time to read all day!
However, I couldn’t stop at that first dozen, so here are twelve more ways you can support, protect and advocate for queer families and parents. And while this list focuses on families, many of these actions can benefit anyone in the LGBTQ community.
As a gay dad, it should come as no surprise that I read LGBTQ children’s books to my son. But what about all of you awesome straight parents out there? How many kid’s books with LGBTQ characters or stories have you read to your children?
I asked this question in a Facebook group of 1,200+ parents, and was disappointed that the most common answer was none. Even more surprising was that many hadn’t even considered it. Further, the majority polled didn’t know what LGTBQ children’s books were available… or if they even existed at all.
Luckily, Designer Daddy is here to help!
The list below contains books that are about same-sex parents or LGBTQ people; others address gender expression or identity. Some simply include queer characters as part of the story, without directly focusing on them. All are valuable stories to help normalize LGBTQ people and to teach children (and parents!) empathy and acceptance. It also sends the message that should your child ever identify as LGBTQ, you will be there to celebrate and support them.
There are certainly more exhaustive lists to be found, but this one is unique in that it’s DESIGNER DADDY APPROVED™ — meaning the stories are great, but the pictures are also pretty fabulous. Happy reading!
This past year marked a couple of personal milestones: becoming a father and the birth of this blog. To commemorate ten years 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 decade.
Sharing my passions with my son is one of the best parts of being a dad. And before I was able to introduce him to my favorite comic books, TV shows or movies, there was music. Whether I was lulling a newborn to sleep, distracting a fussy baby on a long car ride, or teaching a toddler the basics of superhero themes, music has been an integral part of my parenting experience.
I grew up in a musical home, my parents and siblings displaying mastery of the piano, guitar, opera and more. My skill set veered more towards music appreciation (though I do sing), but I pride myself on having the largest music collection in the family. So, it was a no brainer that my kiddo was going to be raised on radio (or iTunes, YouTube and Spotify, rather).
Limiting this list to ten was near impossible. There’s quite a bit of overlap from my TV and movies lists — my parenting journey has definitely had a soundtrack. In any event, here are the top 10 (or so) songs from my first ten years of fatherhood. Release dates are listed next to each title, but the songs appear in the order I introduced them to my son.
As a gay dad, teaching my son to celebrate the LGBTQ community has been a top priority from the beginning. Doing so not only ensures he feels proud of his own family, but it also reinforces the compassion I want him to show to others, including those that are bullied or excluded because of who they are or who they love.
Once again, pop culture has proven to be a fun and creative tool to introduce my son to all manner of colorful, queer characters. Not surprisingly, they made their way onto quite a few of the notes I put in my kid’s lunchbox, which I’ve pulled together in this list of LGBTQ superheroes.
Some of these may come as a surprise, as they are depicted as LGBTQ in certain media but not in others. Unfortunately, few are clearly and consistently portrayed as queer, so I’ve provided context and resources when warranted.
I sat on the floor of my son’s room amidst a sea of books, surveying those he’d carefully selected yanked off the shelf for inclusion in a yard sale. Memories from the last eight years of nightly bedtime stories flooded my thoughts (and my eyes a little, too).
Few moments in parenting are as special as those spent reading with your kids. Yet it can be a challenge finding quality children’s books that include a positive — or any — portrayal of fathers.
Some progress has been made, but society still often works overtime against dads making emotional, creative or educational connections with their kids. Books that feature fathers can play an important part in bridging that divide. They help lay an early foundation for equally involved parents, regardless of gender. And for two dad families like mine, representation is crucial to helping our kids feel nurtured, included, and seen.
As I proceeded to cull, it came as no surprise that the “dad” books were making the “keep” pile rather tall. So as we near Father’s Day, I thought I’d share my favorite “keepers” — my favorite children’s books about dads. Each of these father-centric books carries the official Designer Daddy (and son) seal of approval, and is guaranteed to keep dad(s) showing up for story time.
Before I got deep into the mechanics of actual parenting, what gave me the most agita was this whole open adoption thing. The stress was there from the beginning — like the weirdest arranged marriage you could imagine, with a baby thrown in for good measure. It evolved into a whole different kind of anxiety when we were actually paired with birthparents, growing incrementally as the due date crept closer.
After our son was born, the distance increased and contact lessened. Yet the relationship with birthmom and dad was still there, looming off in the horizon like some celestial monkey wrench, a constant (perceived) threat to our familial peace and harmony.
Our son has been told his story from the get-go, as we continually remind ourselves this transparency is for the best. But there’s always the fear of the unknown, be it far off or soon. Fear that our son will be teased for being adopted; that he’ll learn something disappointing about his biological parents; that he’ll throw the “You’re not my real dad!” grenade in the midst of an argument.
This morning started like any other Monday. Rushing and scurrying and reminding and reminding and reminding. Breakfasts and showers and dressing and packing up, all culminating in a mad dance between kitchen and front door. Stashing a note in a lunchbox, a library book in a backpack; shooing the dog away lest she get stampeded.
But from across the room, our 7-year-old — in great anticipation of becoming 8 very soon — asked if today’s date was the 30th.
Putting down a paring knife and checking the calendar on the fridge door, I corrected him, “No, it’s the 23rd” I said loudly over the din of the TV, followed quickly by, “Are your shoes on yet?”
I glanced over at Papa, who had taken my knife to cut up some fruit for his on-the-road breakfast. I gave him a questioning look. “Is it today? Or the 26th?”
He questioned back, “I thought it was the 21st.”
I checked my phone’s calendar and confirmed it was today. I started to explain to my inquisitive kid what was special about today, but then it was time for he and Papa to scurry out the door, and me on with my day.
Like any other day, but 20 years to the day that Nick and I went on our first date. It was also the day we started our family. For a long, long time, that was the only anniversary we had — so it wasn’t something we had to jog our over-40-parent-aged memories to recall.
And as a gay couple 20 years ago, this was the only anniversary we thought we’d ever have. Several years later, we had a commitment ceremony. It was close to our original anniversary date, so we didn’t add a new one. And we never imagined we’d end up adding yet another anniversary to mark our legal marriage to one another. But we did, many more years later, but in April. So now we had a couple three anniversary dates. After our son was born (the first week of November) and we had managed to barely survive a two week period that included our anniversary, Halloween, and his birthday, we decided to instead celebrate on our legal wedding day (in April) giving late October/early November some room to breathe.
So on this ordinary Monday in the midst of our extraordinary life that includes two decades of love, a son about to turn eight, and a life I never imagined, I say to my husband, Happy Anniversary.
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Epilogue: I wrote this is in October around our original (dating) anniversary. I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it then, but it’s a safe bet it was because of the aforementioned stress around that time of year. First date, commitment ceremony, wedding. October 23, November 3, April 26 — they’re all just days. But they’re also places to pause and remember, cherish, and recommit along the 7,300+ day journey we’ve travelled together so far. Here’s to many, many more. Smu, B
These recaps centered around my son’s lunch notes have been evolving, hence the new title, “Life & Lunch Notes.” Lately I tend to freeze up or get busy or easily distracted, and end up not writing about a lot of the things happening in life or bouncing around in my head. Yet they often find their way here, attached to a note.
So I hope someone is finding these posts. And not only enjoying the silly pictures, but the small snapshots of life between lunches.
Welcome, 2018! January SuperLunchNotes, unpacked…
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A couple of months ago, Andy Alexander reached out to me about helping promote his line of custom Halloween wreaths. I get a lot of requests like this, but they rarely meet my two requirements of A) being related to kids/family/pop culture, and B) looking cool as hell. Not only did Andy’s work fit the bill, but he’s also a fellow gay dad! So instead of just sharing a blurb on Facebook, I wanted to dust off the old DDQ&A questionnaire so you can all get to know Andy, his family, and his work.
BONUS: Scroll down after the interview and enter to win one of Andy’s Grim Wreather creations just in time for Halloween!
Q&A with designer dad Andy Alexander
Walk me through the highlights of your design career.
I got my MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena; I studied fine art at UCLA as well. I took my first design classes at Art Center knowing that I’d eventually need a “real” job. After college I worked for Belkin doing interface design for gaming hardware, then for Geoff McFetridge (who I consider a mentor), and then at Napster from 2004-2010. There I started as a designer, working my way up to Creative Director, managing the internal design group. I was laid off during the 2010 recession and decided to carve my own path in both the art and design world. And here I am!