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Friday, April 30, 2010

A Busy Week

So I have a real, in-person job interview next Tuesday for a decent job that would pay a fair amount more than I was making with my last job. That's good news, and with the boys entering their "terrible twos", it might be a good thing to have them in daycare and let someone else deal with the tantrums for a while! Case in point, Dylan had a major meltdown in the middle of Albertsons today. A full-on, four-alarm tantrum with snot and tears all over his face. I have no clue what the tantrum was for, and I felt like an idiot trying to use the self checkout as fast as I could while people stared at us. Of course I had a bunch of produce to look up, and I left the two bottles of juice under the cart in the parking lot because I was so frazzled. Oh well, I had forgot to scan them, so I didn't pay for them.

If I get a job offer, we'll have to scramble to find daycare. That's problem number one. Problem number two is that I'll have to go through the misery of leaving them at daycare all day and feeling sad/guilty. I've heard from other parents about how they cried the first few times they left their toddlers at daycare. I'm just so used to them being with me all the time, but then they'll probably learn more at daycare than being with me. I've heard from other parents that their kids are usually exhausted after a day in daycare and sleep better too. I'm trying not to worry about all the change and emotion that will come with going back to work, but it's inevitable. And if that's not enough guilt, I'll feel guilty for leaving the dog home alone all day. She's getting old, and we'll either need a dog walker or one of us will have to come home to let her out at lunch. When I was working, I rarely took a relaxing lunch. I either came home to walk the dog, or went to the gym. Going back to work makes life so much more hectic. Finding the right daycare is important too. It needs to be convenient (easy for drop off and pick up), someplace we feel comfortable leaving the boys, and then the price has to be right. The closest daycare down the street wants $2800 a month for both of them! We're on the list at another daycare that's non-profit and would be $1600 a month, but it's out of the way, and although we're at the top of the waiting list, they don't have two openings for us right now.

This week has been stressful with so much work and preparation for the boys birthday party Sunday. My brother is flying in tomorrow, and then I have last minute errands. The weather definitely isn't cooperating as we're on day two of cold, overcast, rainy weather. It's not supposed to be sunny and warm until next Tuesday. Why can't winter just give up and move on? Spring weather at this altitude is crazy. Actually, the weather in Denver is crazy from about October to May with violent temperature swings. It was in the 80s last Wednesday, then only about 50 today. I suppose Summer makes up for it though, as it's extremely pleasant for about four months with low humidity and not many bugs. I'm just ready to put away the coats for good!

If I get this job, I suppose it's meant to be, and life will change again as we enter a new chapter. I've been getting better at living in the moment and taking things one day at a time, so moving back to the work world will be quite a challenge. Things always work out for us, so my worries are just pointless.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How Important Is Community for LGBT Parents?

I feel very fortunate to live where we live, in Denver, Colorado. We live in the actual city, not the suburbs, and have found our neighborhood, community, and city to be very accepting of LGBT parents and their children. According to American Community Survey, Denver ranks number 17 in the nation for percentage of gay residents at 8.8%. Not exactly San Francisco, but not bad either. It’s a liberal-leaning city with an active gay community. Although there is a “gay ghetto” in Denver, we don’t live in it. But our neighborhood, I would estimate, is well over 10% gay-owned homes. It’s also a great place to raise kids, and the majority of our neighbors have young children. We’re fortunate enough to be within 15 minutes of everything the city has to offer (restaurants, shopping, museums, parks, all sports venues, etc.) and have great public schools. Most of our neighbors with children are heterosexual couples, but they’re very accepting of us. I don’t remember the specific conversation I had with a neighbor’s six-year-old boy last year, but I do remember his response. “Uh… I know Dylan and Reid have two dads!”, as if he were insulted that I thought he didn’t understand our situation. Sometimes I can forget I’m gay living here since I’m in the same parenting boat as most of our neighbors, and they’re so accepting. For all these reasons, I love where we live. And since we have no family nearby, I’ve found it to be important to have such great neighbors, many of whom feel like family. In the absence of family or grandparent support, it can be very important for LGBT-headed families to build their own support groups. Trust me, the time will come when you need it!

I read “Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is” by Abigail Garner a couple years ago, a book I highly recommend to any gay or lesbian couples considering becoming parents. In her book, Garner showed how important community can be for gay couples raising children. Children who grew up in gay accepting communities had few, if any problems related to having gay parents, whereas children who grew up in more rural, conservative, non-accepting areas had the most issues with other children and other children’s parents. But as I recall, some of the kids she interviewed grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so I’m curious if this is still much of an issue in 2010, as society has grown more accepting of the LGBT community in general.

We moved to Denver four years ago from a very conservative area of Southern California. We only knew two gay couples in our neighborhood, and although our neighbors were generally nice to us, no one ever asked us if we were a couple, or seemed comfortable discussing the fact that we were gay. A couple neighbors even made little comments that made me quite aware that they were anti-gay. When a few students at our local high school tried to create a “Gay/Straight Alliance”, it was met by outrage, protests, and negative media coverage. For this reason, among others, I didn’t want to raise children there. I’m sure there were gay parents raising children somewhere nearby, but it certainly wasn’t common. In our current neighborhood, we know many lesbian couples with children as well as a few gay couples with children. We had a gay couple nearby who went through the surrogacy process help us when we started the process, and now we’re doing the same for another couple. We even have an online gay parents group for our neighborhood.

Obviously many gay couples live in conservative areas, but it’s just not as big of a deal when it’s just the two of you. As a couple, you can pretty much keep to yourselves, and I think even in conservative areas, people tend to have a “live and let live” attitude. But once you have children, you can’t live in isolation. Your kids will eventually interact with neighbor kids, and you have to deal with the attitudes of your local schools and other parents.

So here’s my question to other gay and lesbian parents who are reading this.
-What type of community do you live in? Have you found the type of community you live in to be important for your family?
-Have you had issues with the schools and/or neighbors?
-And if you’ve had issues, how have you dealt with them?

I’m wondering if it’s just my perception that it would be bad for my children if we lived in conservative suburbs, or that we have it better living in a more accepting area. After all, it’s 2010 and times are changing. Obviously not all gay and lesbian parents are liberal, or want to live in a more urban environment. I’ve corresponded with a gay parent who was raising children in a very rural environment because that’s where he was comfortable living. And then it seems that most liberal, urban, gay-accepting communities tend to be expensive to live in, another drawback for families. If I had the time to research this subject, I think I’d find that gay couples are happily raising children in all types of communities across the U.S.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Twins are Turning Two!

The countdown has begun! We're planning Reid and Dylan's second birthday party coming up May 2nd, although their birthday is the 3rd, a Monday. Since they seem to love trains, we're going with a Thomas the Tank Engine theme, and rather than inviting 100 people, we've narrowed it down to only 70 this time. Only 70! We'll barbeque and have cake, and hopefully the boys will have a great time. They were thrilled the other day when we had to wait for a train to pass near our house, which always annoys me. But I suppose it was more fun seeing their smiles and listening to "choo, choo" for five minutes. Why is it that little boys are fascinated by trains and trucks?

May is going to be a busy month with the boys' birthday, Nick's 40th birthday, Mother's day, a baby shower... luckily I've budgeted for this several months ago. I have a secret birthday present for Nick that I won't reveal just yet. I had to get a little creative with my budget, but hopefully he'll like it since it involves a lot of work for me.

Back to television, I read an article the other day where Kirsty Alley said she really wants to be on Modern Family and play Cameron's mother. She'd be hysterical in that role! And I had totally forgotten about one of my other favorite shows, Brothers and Sisters. I was so happy that Scotty and Kevin's surrogate is pregnant! So far their experience has been very parallel to what we went through, except that we didn't use a friend for a surrogate. I really hope they have twins, because it would be funny to see what we went through on television. Another big first for television - a gay couple becoming parents through surrogacy. I know so many people who watch Brothers and Sisters, and some of them are conservative men, so maybe more groundbreaking television will change hearts and opinions.

Reid is here in the office with me, begging for the sidewalk chalk up on the shelf, so I guess I better get Dylan up from his nap and take them outside. Sidewalk chalk in the house, as we've discovered, isn't a good thing!

OK, I'll explain the photo above. This is what happens when certain little boys shove their Handy Manny tools into the slot in the fireplace where the heat comes out. It took us a while to figure out where that horrible smell was coming from !

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Role Models and Gay Parenting

Television has always provided role models for parents and families. The Cleavers from Leave It To Beaver were the near perfect parents in the spotless home. They rarely disagreed with each other or raised their voices. I read somewhere that although people in the ‘50s knew the Cleavers weren’t reality, it gave them something to strive for. In the ‘80s, The Cosby Show was touted as the new role model for black families in America. The Huxtables really weren’t reality either. Clair and Heathcliff were professionals, a lawyer and a doctor, yet they seemed to always be home, have time for the kids, and their beautiful home was always clean, despite five children living in it, and no one was ever shown scrubbing toilets or mopping floors. Even so, it gave families and parents, especially black families, a role model and something to strive for. I remember as a kid, wishing that I had a perfect family like the Huxtables. They were classy, and Clair was a strong, yet fun mother. And who wouldn’t want to spend time with a dad like Heathcliff?

By the ‘90s, sitcoms began to reflect reality a bit more. The home I grew up in much more resembled that of the Conners on Roseanne. A small, working class home with a blue-collar father who came home exhausted from back-breaking work and a mother who wasn’t all that fond of housework. Maybe the Conners didn’t so much give parents something to strive for as it just gave the vast lower-middle class of America validation that they were normal, and people liked watching them struggle through the same situations that the average family struggled with.

But for gay parents, we’ve had no role models. Maybe we’re finally getting our role models on ABC’s Modern Family with Mitchell and Cameron raising their adopted infant daughter. This show really cracks me up, so we’ll see where it goes. I can’t think of any other sitcom that’s depicted a gay male couple raising an infant, so this show truly is groundbreaking.

Sometimes I wonder if our family is “normal”, or even what should be considered normal for a gay couple raising twins. I’ve often found myself thinking, WWCHD? (What would Claire Huxtable Do?) when the boys do something like dump a pound of flour all over the kitchen. She had all the answers and was a perfect mom in my mind. But I’m not a woman, so it seems odd that I’m looking to an ‘80s sitcom mom for a role model. I guess we’re in uncharted territory here, pretty much left to figure out what the typical gay parent family does and what’s considered normal family interaction for us. I’ve found myself comparing my relationship with Nick to other married couples, which I never did before having children. I’ve thought that he’s done something no wife would have ever put up with at times, but gay men interact differently than a husband and wife, and what may be considered normal within a gay relationship would be considered odd for a husband and wife.

Gay male couples are often more independent, and the feminine/masculine roles aren’t always clearly defined. Just look at Cameron in Modern Family. On the surface, he’s the big queeny mother role who stays at home with the baby. If you met Cameron in real life, you might assume he’s the mother figure in all aspects. But he’s the partner with brute strength who stands up to anyone just as a strong father figure would do. He’s the one who used tough love with their daughter by letting her cry herself to sleep when Mitchell, the bread winner, acted like an emotional mother, wanting to run to the baby and coddle her every time she cried. Again, the masculine/feminine aspects of their relationship and parenting styles don’t fit the typical mother/father roles, but we see that between the two of them, they both mother (verb) and father (verb) their daughter. Cameron and Mitchell very well may be TV sitcom role models for gay parents as they seem to be reflecting the reality gay male parents live. In the meantime, I’ve decided to stop comparing our relationship and our family to married couples with kids. I’ll just love my kids and be myself, sometimes more feminine, sometimes more masculine. I think they’ll grow up to be truly unique young men, having been raised by two men who love them so much.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter Weekend

Saturday we had an Easter egg hunt in the park across the street from our house. All the parents prepared a dozen eggs per kid and spread them out all over the park. The majority of kids in our neighborhood are under five years old, so there were about 50 toddlers involved!

Dylan and Reid are still too young to understand holidays, but they knew they needed to get at all those eggs in the park. We each held a boy while waiting for the hunt to begin, and since they have zero patience, both melted down, tears and snot running all over their faces. They became so involved in their tantrums that once the hunt began, they didn’t go. We had to drag them, crying, out to find eggs. But once they realized what was in the eggs, they suddenly became well-behaved.

Sunday we dressed the boys up in their new Easter sweater vests and went to church. Our church has daycare that they enjoy, but it was packed, as was the church. Otherwise, the day was fairly relaxing and we had a couple friends over for dinner. I had dyed a few eggs, but didn’t bother hiding them since we were in a rush to get to an earlier church service and didn’t have time for the drama that would have been involved. They loved their Easter baskets and ate more candy than they’ve ever been allowed. Sidewalk chalk from the Easter Bunny was a hit, but of course they can’t limit their artwork to the sidewalk, so there was a lot of chasing going on with that activity. And Dylan realized how fun it was to break the chalk apart. Boys, always destroying things!

I’m a big fan of Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters (aren’t most gay men?) but they weren’t on last night, so I ended up watching a Kirsty Alley Big Life marathon. When things get boring in your own life, I suppose it’s fun to watch someone else’s life. Poor Kirsty. I’ve never been fat, so I can’t relate to her weight loss battle, but she’s pretty funny. It’s kind of amazing to see how really rich people spend their money, like on housing a bunch of lemurs, in Kirsty’s case. I need my own reality show and a staff of helpers! I wonder who’d want to watch a gay man chase twins around the house all day? I don’t watch all that much TV, especially these days, but usually wind down at the end of the day with a couple HGTV shows (I’ve watched enough HGTV to be a certified interior designer, or so I think) but tonight is Hoarders. I don’t know why I watch Hoarders since I’m such a neat freak. After an episode, it makes me want to go clean out a drawer or the storage room. If they ever have a show about compulsive cleaners and organizers, I could star in the pilot!