When My Family is Described as a “Sh&tShow” by a Stranger. Mom-Shame and Restaurants.

It all began at a restaurant. As my sister pointed out, “It’s a FAMILY restaurant.” It’s actually the restaurant I bussed tables at when I was sixteen in my hometown. I have to be honest, I would never have imagined myself almost twenty years later in that restaurant for dinner with my three year old twin boys, my wife, my sister, her wife, my five year old niece, my cousin from New Jersey and two of her kids, and my Mom.

It was a weird feeling to look around at the tables I used to clean and remember waiting to get off my shift to go to my boyfriend’s house on a Friday night.

So I was feeling slightly nostalgic, but also annoyed because three year old’s in a restaurant is never a good thing. It was definitely time to go when we left. My wife was wrangling one of them, he was singing “Jingle Bell Rock” very loudly and running away from my wife.

The other one was attached to my leg and my niece was singing “Let it go, let it go” from Frozen, and my mom was trying to say good-bye to my Jersey cousin. My mom is hard of hearing so everyone was talking loudly anyway.

So yes. To the older woman trying to walk through our party as we were trying to exit…we are a walking shitshow. But did you really need to say that loudly in front of our children at a family restaurant?

“What a shitshow!” you said with a sneer of disgust as you tried to run me over with your cane.

The great part about this is that I don’t think she was homophobic. I think she was just grumpy and annoyed that we were blocking the little hallway to the dining room. We made room. She got by. But yeah. Total shitshow. It was kind of a win-lose. Not homophobic, just mean.

We don’t bring our kids out much. Because three year olds just don’t do well in restaurants. Once every few months we might bring them to a diner for pancakes or to this restaurant in my hometown because it is family-friendly and the owner is always lovely to us because he’s known us for years and at one time was my boss.

My point to this is that there are a lot of opinions about kids in restaurants. Here’s mine.

We bring them well before bedtime- usually between 5-6 p.m. My wife and I only bring them to a restaurant for dinner when it’s a family function. Meaning we also feel it’s torture and choose to never bring them unless we have extended family who want to meet us out for a meal.

Diners are different- food comes fast, it’s loud, it’s expected they will be loud, and there are always crayons. So we are more likely to go for breakfast or brunch.

However, if you are at a family restaurant between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM expect loud children to potentially be there.

If it says “Family restaurant” on the sign or menu…then it’s a family restaurant which generally means kids are welcome.

If you don’t like kids or the noise and chaos that ensue with them…go later at night or choose a non-family restaurant- one that caters more to adults. I know my wife and I do just that when we get one of our rare nights out alone.

We as parents do our best to keep our kids contained. If they are bothersome to you because they are in your space, then I agree we have a problem. If they are bothersome to you because you’re grumpy- that’s a you problem not a them problem.

Please don’t swear at anyone’s children. It’s extremely disrespectful and mean-spirited.

There is a lot of mom-shame that happens everywhere. Eating out is a big one. If you see a mom or dad struggling with their little one in a restaurant. Don’t make it worse with assumptions and judgement. Maybe offer to lend a hand or just a smile that says, “I’m with you.” Encouragement and kindness are what is needed for parents in those moments.

Trust me we are already judging the shit out of our own shit-show. We don’t need to have it pointed out to us.

Queer Christmas.

I did an intake recently on some one who told me their parents are very homophobic. I laughed, and said, “Well, we will work on that,” and then they noticed all the super gay pictures of my wife and kids and I all over my office. They started laughing hysterically. They thought it was freaking awesome that their homophobic parent made an appointment with the most Queer provider in the area. Divine intervention no?

That happens more than you would think.

I’m used to it now. I charm the parent over about six months and they have NO clue that I’m married to a woman. Then at some point when our relationship is solidified I drop it in that I have a wife or they can’t ignore the pictures any longer, and we talk about their pre-conceived notions of Queer individuals. I’ve only had one person drop out of treatment after this confrontation. Out of many. Many stay.

Many have their mind blown and re-evaluate their beliefs. Often because in the course of this conversation they realize their kid is some sort of Queer also.

I am a Queer magnet. It happens. I’m cool with it.

As an aside I have to point out, because my wife totally got me, we were talking about Mickey Mantle…weird because we both dislike baseball…and I said “Of course I know who he is, he’s a cis white dude,” and she said, “Well so is Santa.” Touche. Sometimes my wife gets me.

Anyway, I see both ends of the spectrum personally and professionally. I see kids just coming out to their parents, young adults who have come out, and parents who are struggling with their children’s sexuality or sexual orientation.

My absolute favorite phone call is a distraught parent who wants to come in to learn how to best support their child who just came out to them. That amazes me. I’m like, kudos and thank-you. You acknowledged that your kid is going through a lot, and you reached out to a professional who you probably heard is Queer who can help. Strong work.

My least favorite are sessions leading up to the holidays. The pain and the struggle is so real.

It’s hard for my wife and I too. Do we send a Christmas card to her parents or not? We didn’t this year. She chose not to. Do we expect a card from them? Sometimes we get one, and it’s usually religiously based with a zinger in there that just twists the knife.

My wife’s struggle is unfortunately common in the Queer community. So many of my clients struggle leading up to the holidays. Do they reach out? Do they not? They find solace in friends, as we do. They find solace in significant other’s families who are supportive, as we do. They sit with the pain. As we do.

Queer Christmas’ are like Queer birthdays and every other holiday where we have to face the fact that we are alienated from our families due to our sexual orientation or gender identity.

But ever the optimist, I cite Belle’s Enchanted Christmas and point out the best gift any one can receive at the holidays is hope. Hope that one day families will heal the bonds caused by discrimination. Hope that even if we don’t heal the wounds between family members we can heal our community. The Queer community needs to focus on saving lives of all our individuals who feel isolated and alone. Our suicide rate climbs. And I hope that one day it will be zero.

I’m doing my part. One homophobic parent at a time. I’m not under any illusions though, it’s totally the pictures of my boys that win them. Who doesn’t like a woman who has the cutest twin boys in the world? Even if she’s lesbian?

To my Queer community: You are NOT alone. You are beautiful. You are loved. You will find your family.

To the Hetero’s: Make sure your Queer neighbors and friends are not alone this holiday season. Walk the walk. 

To my Wife: You have found your family. We love you. And yes Santa is cis-white-hetero. Touche.

 

The Day After Sandy Hook and Growing up Without a Santa Claus

In case any of my readers forgot December 14, 2018 marked the anniversary of Sandy Hook. The deaths of 28 individuals including twenty children under the age of eight. I remember that day clearly. Every one who lives in Connecticut does. Because it finally hit our home. The violence we heard about in Aurora and Columbine and Little Rock came to our home. To our babies. To our neighbors.

The saddest memory I have is talking to emergency department staff at local hospitals and them being alerted that there was a mass shooting, and they waited for victims. But there weren’t any. They all died on scene. I have since in varying capacities encountered individuals affected that day. While the rest of the country may have moved on, may have put that memory away, it’s still living and breathing here in Connecticut.

There are still siblings of those who died, parents, there are still teachers, first responders who have never recovered from the gruesome scene, and students who hid in closets, sheltered by teachers, hearing gunshots and the screams of their classmates dying. Yes that’s a thing. There was a classroom on either side of the one that was targeted. Full of children who heard their classmates die.

I couldn’t write this yesterday. I could barely acknowledge the day. Because my sons are three. And nothing has changed. Connecticut says we have passed “tough gun laws”. Well speaking from the mental health side of things, they are not tough gun laws because they keep guns out of the hands of people who sign in voluntarily for a psychiatric admission. NOT the people who are committed against their will. And if a child or young adult is admitted voluntarily and they don’t have guns registered to them (Ah hem Lanza’s were all registered to his Mom) and the patient and the family do not disclose there are guns, then guess what, the guns stay in the freaking home.

The laws that came out of Sandy Hook in Connecticut actually would not have prevented Sandy Hook at all. And that’s fact. All they did was create barriers to inpatient psychiatric treatment for law enforcement who will never sign in voluntarily as they will lose their gun and their livelihood.

I pointed this out to a state senator at a town hall when he made the statement, “The gun laws in Connecticut are very effective.”

I stood up, and said, “Effective for what? Because they won’t prevent a mass shooting if perpetrated in the way Sandy Hook was, and they create barriers to care for law enforcement officers who have higher rates of depression, suicide, substance abuse, and domestic violence.”

He looked at me dumbfounded. And I just shook my head and said sadly, “That’s what I thought.”

Until the very states that have been victims to mass shootings (Florida, Colorado, Virginia, Connecticut, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, California, Pennsylvania…yeah it’s a long list and this is not all of them) stand together and create actual legislation to decrease accessibility of guns and ammunition and until mental health laws make sense and create a preventative culture not a reactive culture, then sadly, there will be more mass shootings. More of our babies will die. Because we are too corrupt and too stubborn to stand for the dead.

My wife grew up in a right wing orthodox religious household where they did celebrate Christmas but not with Santa. Very religious focused. Not something I like, but one of their parenting decisions I don’t actually disagree with. Do Christmas any way you want. I respect others religious and lifestyle decisions unless it brings harm to some one else.

The only harm not having Santa Claus around for my wife was that I have to teach her how to do the Santa thing with our sons. We don’t fill up the stockings until after bedtime…yes I had to say that. We don’t buy Santa’s wrapping paper with the boys there, because now they have seen it and chatted about it, and can put together that it came from our house not Santa’s workshop. Little things.

I feel strongly about creating the magic of Santa for our kids. Because December 14, 2012 20 children were killed. I’ve looked into buying backpacks that are bulletproof. My sons will not believe in magic for very long. The cold realities of our world enter our children’s lives younger and younger. So to watch them believe in magic and to foster that for even a short time. It feels important to me.

Every one says things happen for a reason. Children dying never happens for a reason. It never creates anything positive, it leaves deep scars. And their lives have created no change in terms of legislation at this point which I personally find disgusting as I made clear to my state representative.

There is so much ugliness, that helping them believe in a jolly man who fosters kindness and love and miracles. I’m down with that. Because I want them to know only kindness and love and miracles, but I face the cold reality of our time and know they will know so much more.

Every generation says things changed too much and makes excuses for why they didn’t do better. The baby boomers say technology evolved so quickly, when in reality it did, and guns evolved quickly and the members of all of our legislative bodies are complicit in watching them evolve and doing nothing to halt their accessibility. And we as people are complicit for accepting this as our norm.

The day I stood up in that town hall with a Republican state senator, and about forty democrat constituents. When he made his statement that our gun legislation was top notch, they all just nodded their heads. No one actually knew how inadequate it is. Because unless you work in mental health you don’t know unless you make it your business to know.

Every citizen of America is responsible for all the gun deaths that occur every day. I hold you and myself accountable. And I hope that our children will too. That the survivors of Sandy Hook and Parkland and Virginia Tech will shape laws to protect our children. Because our current generation of lawmakers are not doing it.

Fuck your thoughts and prayers. The blood of our children requires more.

 

 

 

The Moment Your 3 Year Old Figures Out Mommy’s Family is Missing.

That moment happened. The one we’ve been dreading since I got pregnant. My sons and my wife were watching The Good Dinosaur. A horrible trippy Disney movie that for some reason made it past Disney editors. My sons are obsessed with it.

There’s a part when Arlo, the dinosaur, is explaining to a human critter what and who his family is. My sons learned awhile ago that their family is Mommy, Mama, Declan, and Jackson (and Rajah and Maddy the cats but they fight over who can have Maddy because she’s more friendly to them).

They are watching that scene, and they are holding pictures of my Aunt and Uncle and cousins, and my parents- Poppy and Ba (Gramma), because they tend to walk around with those pictures and chatter about their family.

Declan looks at his pictures, then he looks at my wife and says, “My famwe Mama, Mommy, Chackson, and Decky, Rara, and Maddy.” My wife says, “Yes, good job.” He wasn’t done though. He looked perplexed and held up his pictures and said, “Who your famwe?” That little three year old brain had put it together. All of these extended relatives were Mamas famwe. So where the heck are Mommy’s people?

My wife responded perfectly and said, “You’re my family. You and Jackson, and Mama.” Declan is too smart for his age. He looked at her, and at the pictures, like he knew that couldn’t be right. So he asked again. And again. And again. Because he’s three and he’s my son. I’ve been told I’m like a dog going after a bone. I won’t stop until I get my answer. Apple doesn’t fall far apparently.

So eventually my wife said, “Well I don’t really talk to my family baby.” He responded, “No talk to your famwe?” and she nodded. Then he became engrossed in the movie and seemed to accept this as an answer.

My wife told me as soon as I got home that night. We were both a little surprised and caught off guard. He’s too young for us to explain this. He’s too…innocent. We don’t want him to know that her family cut her off, left her homeless, has never met them because she’s a lesbian. But he’s also too damn smart and nosey. He’s going to know sooner than we would have liked.

His brother likes to live in happy oblivion. HIs brother accepts reality as it is and doesn’t question it. But he will know too, because if Declan’s talking about it Jackson’s going to be listening.

So here we are. Three years and two weeks into their little lives. That’s how long they lasted without knowing or asking.

It feels weird. Kind of a relief. Kind of terrifying. Sad. The way they will be introduced to discrimination is through the grandparents they will never meet. Not how we would have liked it or planned it. But that’s our reality.

It all feels so stupid. Such an easy fix. Yet so impossible at the same time.

There’s no guidebook for this whole parenting thing. There’s also no guidebook for the whole lesbian mom disowned by her parents thing. It’s a lot of stumbling through. Waiting for the questions to be asked and wishing we had different answers when they are.

Cutting Down the Christmas Tree and Twinning. 2018.

We survived without feeling like anyone hated us for being lesbians. So that’s a step up from last year.  We contemplated going outside our town, even though there are five tree farms in our small little town. But I convinced my wife we could just try another tree farm. The guys working there were incredibly friendly and no one cared we were gay. Thank freaking God. Because we had enough to deal with.

My wife said we have two threenagers. I disagree. We have two three year old boys with my gene pool. It was bound to happen. They both are as stubborn as I am, Declan is as empathic as I am, and Jackson is as manipulative. Because yes, I know how to read people and I don’t use my powers for bad in terms of being manipulative, but at age three, who knows, I probably did. They are impatient as every three year old is, but it’s also worse because patience may not be part of my personality at all. Ever.

My Jackson knows how to melt me. Declan knows he just doesn’t milk it quite like his brother.

So there we are at the tree farm. Now I’m picturing finding the perfect tree, having the boys stand and watch in awe as we cut it down. Then enjoying hot cider in the barn afterward. Yeah I don’t know how I thought that vision would be reality. Sometimes I feel incredibly naive as a Mama of twins.

After a long and cold walk my wife and I found the tree. I called the boys over who were crawling on the ground, chasing each other around, and showing off for two little girls who were there with their parents. They come stumbling over, laughing, and I tell them proudly, “Here’s our tree!” They look at it. Declan proceeds to dive into it like he’s diving into home base, then he cracks himself up and stands up and starts trying to climb it. I’m yelling at Declan to stop climbing the tree as the branches start to bend under his weight and Jackson has completely lost interest and has his back turned and is staring at the girls.

We cut it down (by we I mean my wife) and I had to literally drag Jackson back with us as he decided to throw a tantrum. It was cold. We were all hungry. We had a big tree and a big saw that we had to carry back and herd two hangry boys.

What I’m constantly reminding myself with strong willed twin boys is nothing will be how I picture it and/or how I want it and I need to be okay with that.

At Thanksgiving they barely sat for five minutes at the table and the one group picture I’m literally holding Declan down to the chair. Getting the tree we are not going to have a family moment where we sing Oh Christmas Tree as we cut it down. It’s going to be a mess. It’s going to be running after them, herding them like cats, some one crying, some one hitting, some one climbing, and then just when I think I’m ready to toss them across the freaking tree farm Jackson will come up to me, pull me down to eye level, hold my face in both his hands and say, “Mama, I wanna donut.” Then kiss me and wait for me to say “Of course baby.”

So many people I talk to daily have ideas of how life and moments “should be” and what I’m finding is if I focus on the should’s, it makes me upset at the here and now, and I’m missing it. I’m missing the crazy. Because that’s what it is having twin boys. A whole lot of crazy intermingled with those moment of hands cradling my face asking for donuts.

It’s exhausting. I feel tired all the time since I’ve had them. And I’m sick of people saying innocent things like, “Oh you are getting your tree this weekend? That will be fun with the boys!” or “Christmas will be so fun this year!” or “The boys must have loved Thanksgiving.” I just smile and nod. But in my head I hear this evil maniacal laugh and I’m thinking ‘You want fun? You think it will be fun? Fuck you.’ Because it’s fun but it’s also work. It’s an incredible amount of energy. All the time. And sometimes all that work and energy only gets us a temper tantrum. Which literally makes me want to cry.

There are moments as a Mom when I want to just fall to my knees and say, “You win,” to them. I want to crawl under my covers and go to sleep for a week.

But we trudge onward. Because that’s apparently what parents do.

We get the tree. We put it up. (Well first we hose it down and my wife and I were snippy with each other after the exhausting tree farm experience, so I’m spraying it and it starts to slide down the house and I’m saying ‘grab it, grab it,’ and she’s yelling at me, ‘stop spraying the water!’ which I don’t. So it falls. Then we are yelling at each other as she’s picking it up, and I’m still trying to spray it, the boys are running around with their doughnuts, and then we are cracking up because we realize we are ridiculous)

We appreciate the absolute shit-show it is hanging up the ornaments. I laugh as I pick an ornament off the bottom of the tree, the branch bent to the floor, by not one but a chain of three ornaments one of them made and hung. I made little pizzas thinking they would love them. They of course did not touch them and wanted a year old candy cane they found in the ornament bin.

As I lamented the individual pizzas I came across an ornament that listed all of our names, and I called them over and I said “Look babies, look, it says Declan, Jackson, Mama, and Mommy, it’s all of us.” And they did actually look, and Jackson snatched it out of my hand, and walked around carrying it for the next hour and he and Declan would intermittently hold it up and say, “My famwee” “My famwee” (family). And it was that moment. That moment where I stopped caring that they didn’t stand nicely in front of our tree at the farm, that I had to drag them across the freaking farm screaming while holding a saw, and that they didn’t eat the pizza and I was just content. Content to have my famwee with all its imperfections.