Put it All Down and Choose Your Kid

I pulled out my laptop tonight when I finally sat down because I wanted to get some work done and then write. I thought the boys would be at the kitchen table eating. There was a movie playing. I relished this moment of sitting by myself opening my laptop to do what I wanted to do when I noticed a presence on the ottoman.

Jackson was leaning into my legs and trying to make space for himself. The last thing I wanted was to give my space and time up. But I folded my laptop shut and asked, “Do you want to sit with me baby?” And as soon as the laptop was off my lap a little blonde boy had taken its place.

He snuggled into my chest and sat/sprawled on me for the next forty-five minutes until it was time for bed.

He chatted with me the whole time. He laid his head on my chest and let me run my fingers over and over through his hair.

Had I ignored the little presence at my feet and stuck my head in my work I would have missed that.

I hear every day at my job from kids whose parents work all the time or who are on their screens all the time. Kids notice. They remember. I’ve had twenty year olds tell me they had no quality time with their parents and that’s the reason they don’t go home for Summer breaks now because what’s the point?

I had already spent the entire morning and afternoon with my sons. And the whole weekend. I was feeling spent. I had escaped for four hours of work today only and still had more to do for my practice.

But there will always be work to do. There will always be one more reason to check my phone, my e-mail, my messages. But there won’t always be a little boy nudging my legs to make room for him because he desperately wants to spend the next forty-five minutes on my lap.

We went to Pride this weekend in the small city near our town. There was a transgender teenager standing next to us for drag queen story time, she was standing with her mom. The drag queen read the book “Red” about a crayon that identified as red but was in a blue wrapper. The teenager standing next to us started crying and said, “I’m crying because of a stupid crayon,” and their mom hugged them and we all knew it wasn’t about the crayon.

I want to be that Mom. I want to be the one that can be there hugging my child during times of fear and adversity. I can’t do that if I’m choosing my phone or my laptop or my work over them. I can only do that if I put it all down and choose my son.

Choose your kid. You will never regret it.

Twelve Hours With Twins (while running a mental health practice)

My wife worked 7AM-7PM today. So I was on boy duty all day. They are three and a half.

Sometimes my wife says things like, “I wish I had Mondays off every week,” like it’s a freaking vacation. I work four days a week, five days (Saturday Mornings) every other week in order to have Monday’s “off”. I stay home with the boys, do administrative work for my practice, often call about ten to fifteen clients back per day, and bring the boys to whatever appointments they are due for.

Today was like every other Monday filled with drama and emergencies I could just not foresee.

Declan woke up cranky and wanting to cuddle. He then laid on the couch and fell asleep, which has actually never happened before ever. So I knew he was sick. Waited for the puke to come (but also texted with a nurse friend because I thought he might have some acute illness that only happens to kids I saw in the emergency department but haunt me as a Mom so she reassured me he didn’t have a weird random illness that would kill him. Just the stomach bug that hadn’t hit fully yet).

Meanwhile his brother Jackson was not sick and was not understanding that his brother was sick. They constantly talk to each. I mean constantly. I didn’t realize how constantly until Declan was asleep and not responding.

I was returning phone calls and cleaning up the kitchen and could hear him, “chatter chatter chatter…DECLAN…chatter chatter chatter DECLAN…..” and each time Jackson would pause then remember Declan was sleeping, then walk toward him to shake him and wake him up, at which point I would either yell or hand gesture wildly and silently while I was on the phone with a client or prospective client booking appointments.

Jackson is an evil genius. He knew when I was on the phone I would not yell at him to leave his brother alone. So he waited until I was on the phone to do his worst to try and get Declan to wake up, which would result in me vaulting myself across the couch blocking him from Declan making my most stern facial expression and waving my arms while talking calmly, “Sure, yes, I specialize in seeing transgender individuals…yes I know your therapist she’s wonderful, so glad she referred you to me…” etc.

Then the guys came to open the pool. I was shocked. First; because they were on time, second; because the owner was with them and he actually knew what the hell he was doing. We needed some repairs done and the last two pool companies I dealt with were  awful in many ways.

So Jackson is now diverted by the pool opening and yelling at the guys opening the pool to look at his watch through the screen door. Declan is still sleeping. Jackson continues to yell to him to come see the pool.

I go outside with pool guy in order to assess the filter with him and as he explains the damages Jackson walks outside. Then a sleepy eyed half dressed Declan follows. Leaving the screen door wide open at which point one of my cats runs outside. I’m yelling at the boys to go inside, which they don’t, I’m scooping up my cat who is addicted to grass so she’s furiously eating blades of grass before I grab her, I toss her inside, shut the screen door, come back down to pool guy where the boys are. Declan starts heaving.

Finally. The puke came. I grabbed him, carried him three feet away from the pool filter and the fence so no one would walk through the ensuing puke. Then he puked. The pool guy was not phased, and said he has a two year old at home, and then proceeded to explain the filter issues with me while I’m holding Declan who was still puking and Jackson stood watching.

I walked Declan back inside carrying him deadweight in my arms. He’s forty pounds.

We walk inside and the power goes out.

Pool guy had been flipping some switches so we checked the breaker and such and it was out. I checked online and there was an outage in our area. Estimated time to fix it two hours.

No storm. No wind. Just an outage directly after my toddler puked specifically because we have a well pump, a dirty pool, and no way to wash the puke off his shirt.

So I stripped him. He screamed. He wanted the damn bear shirt he was wearing.

I set up the kindle which had 18% battery and left him watching The Fox and the Hound while I went outside to finish the filter discussion.

At some point the damn cat got out again.

It was 80 degrees here today.

I was hot. I was sweaty. I couldn’t access my freezer or ice or water for two hours. I still took calls from clients and scheduled two more intakes. Thank God for Hot Spots. On phones. Not actual literal hot spots. Because I was miserably hot.

Remember I have an employee now? In the midst of Declan puking, the pool guy, the power going out, she was texting me with technical and clinical questions about her clients today including but not limited to issues with wifi, our credit card processing machine, and clients.

As I was looking at the dwindling batteries on the kindle, my work phone, my iPhone, and my laptop the power magically came back on.

Declan was now drinking water and the next few hours went okay. Well except the screaming match when I laid him down for naps because he still wanted the damn bear shirt. He just can’t let things go. It always escalates with him because there’s no steering him away from it and he doesn’t let it go until I lose my shit.

He also insisted on sleeping in my bed because he was “sick”. Which I agree he was.

So they napped. I spent an hour on the phone with therapists collaborating about patients.

After naps we played outside in this awesome sprinkler pad. It was an hour of fun.

Then it started. They wanted to swim in the pool. They didn’t understand it was still green, still clearing, not ready. They both freaked out when we had to come inside and that led to another twenty minute show down between us all. Which culminated with Jackson taking one of these stakes we have for a game of giant croquet, and staring me in the face as he slowly pushed the pointy end through the screen door and made a hole. In our screen door. Kind of a big hole.

Perfect. I may have lost my mind a little.

After timeout for Jackson for making a hole in the door we made muffins with them in their underwear. Because epic showdown three of the day was Declan wanting his unicorn pajamas and they were not dry yet. The two hour power outage slowed down my laundry progress.

Crisis call from a client in the midst of the unicorn pajama showdown.

“Yes I can definitely meet with you this week,”

Mute the phone. “For the fifth time YOUR PONIES ARE IN THE DRYER! THEY ARE NOT READY YET!”

“Yes and bring your family, yes totally fine if we do a family session,”

Mute the phone “I WANT MY PONIES MAMA! I WANT MY PINK PONIES MAMA!”

…and so on and so forth. At some point I waxed a spot on my upper thighs that was bothering me. And yes I’m not supposed to open the wax anymore. But I did. And I didn’t grab a strip. So I was running through the house for the strip with the hot wax already on a large area of my upper thigh and the boys saw me run by and said, “Mama what happened?!” Then they witnessed me waxing the large area on my upper thigh because the strips were in the kitchen and I said, “Mothefudgenuggetfudgersfucking fuck I swore,” as I tried not to swear in front of them.

They basically ignored me and went back to watching the dinosaur show I had on for them.

Fast forward to bed time. The whining and the meltdowns were escalating after the muffins and I put them into bed early. Epic meltdowns. Why? Declan wanted his pink goggles. God knows where he put them. I looked. I truly looked. I could not find them anywhere. Jackson didn’t want to go to bed just in general and kept counting to 3 to mock me. “1…2….3!”

I found the stupid goggles thirty minutes later and brought them into Declan. They were in the bottom of a full laundry basket of clean laundry?!

Every night before bed I say a yoga thing with them, and for roughly ten seconds they pulled it together for that, “Sky above, earth below, peace within. Namaste.” Then I bow my head with my thumb knuckles at my third eye (Center of forehead).

Then Declan whined and said, “No want MamasDay Mama!”

At the end of these days I don’t know how to feel. I feel raw, edgy, irritable, then angry that I feel that way. I try to remember the positives about today. The sprinkler was fun. The pool opening happened and went really well, I mean minus Declan vomiting during the opening…the power went out, but it came back on. Thank God. And I got to spend the day with my boys. For better or worse.

Moral of the story. Definitely not a vacation or a “day off”. More like a day at home in hell with occasional moments of happiness and peace interspersed with hours of hell. But for some reason our human brain remembers more of the happiness and less of the hell. Survival tactic I think.

p.s. the saga continued with Declan pooping after bedtime, my wife helping him, he peed on the unicorn pj’s and had another meltdown because she made him change into new bottoms. “But Mama said yes!” I could hear screamed down the hallway as I hid cowering in my bedroom.

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Declan asleep about forty minutes before puking

 

How I Talked to my Three Year Olds About Death

My dad died last Saturday. He was ill for the last couple years, with a steady decline in the last six months. It was horrible for me to watch and even more horrible for me to contemplate explaining this to my sons.

Saturday came and he was on in-home hospice care. We brought the boys over and spent the day there. I do not regret this because the boys got to spend the day with our family and we all surrounded my dad with love the day he died. He even opened his eyes and smiled when Declan came in and said Hi Poppy when we arrived in the morning.

My boys are very intuitive and they knew Poppy was sick because he was laying in my parents bed, and not talking to them. They were timid at first being in the room, and then as the day progressed and they were outside running around with their cousin and we were all acting as normal as we could…they started running in and out of the room to check on Poppy.

Jackson left a purple flower on his bed.

Later in the evening they left and Jackson said “Good-bye Poppy” loudly.

About an hour later my dad died. I think he waited for them to leave.

Then we had to figure out how to tell our sons. Poppy was a constant fixture for them for three years, and toddlers have a concrete vision of our world.

Sidetrack: My cousin sent me what I refer to as “Death books” about three weeks before my dad passed. They are children’s books specific to speaking about death. I hadn’t looked at them yet because I wasn’t ready to and my wife and I joked about the “Death books” as they came prior to us coming to terms with the fact that he was dying. I pulled them out of the box and held one up and said, “Look babe, they got their first death books!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I finally visited the death books and talked to my sister and sister-in-law about how they talked to my niece. They used the heaven version and that she has guardian angels. The books did give me some good language to use and I agreed with the tactic of being concrete, not saying “he went to sleep and won’t wake up” because that seems like a set-up for a phobia of sleep.

We are not religious. But the heaven/sky/angel version of death is a positive one. I’m down with that. My wife came into my room the morning after Poppy died and told me she tried telling Declan about Poppy when he asked to go see him.

Declan came trotting in after her and said, “Poppy in the sky Mama?” So for lack of  a better explanation I said “Yes”. He’s in heaven which is I suppose in the sky. He accepted that and we moved on for the day.

Later in the evening though he and Jackson brought up Poppy, and Declan again asked about the sky. I told them that “Poppy’s body stopped working. He was very sick and sometimes when some one is older and sick their body stops working. So we would not be able to actually see Poppy or talk with him, but that he is watching over us all from Heaven.” I did use the term “died” at one point, I think later in the week.

They seemed to accept this. And since Saturday they’ve asked about it, and we’ve sat and talked, and I’ve cried and my wife has cried in front of them both, and we say, “We miss Poppy, and it makes us sad, and it’s okay if you are sad too.” And they generally give us hugs and move on.

Then today in the car Declan said, “Poppy’s body was hurting?” I said “Yes baby, he was hurting,” and then Jackson said, “We go see Poppy and Ba? I mean, we go see Ba? (Ba is Gramma)”. And I burst into tears. Because he gets it. He gets that he won’t see Poppy again. Then Declan asked me if my body was hurting, and I said “No baby, and Mommy’s isn’t either.”

Gramma came over last night, and they told her Poppy was in the sky, and she agreed. Her being here alone I think cemented it for them that we wouldn’t see Poppy again.

Grief is heavy. So heavy it feels like a weighted blanket on top of me all the time. But to grieve and have small children is awful. They rip off the band-aid every time it starts to stick a little. They don’t mean to, but they randomly bring up Poppy and they catch me off guard and it’s like a knife to the heart every time.

I’m glad that they understand and I feel like we have a parenting win with this whole explaining death thing to two toddlers. But as a daughter who lost her Dad, it’s incredibly painful. Because when they ask about Poppy I’m supposed to be a strong Mama, when really I just want to be a daughter crippled with grief. But I can’t be.

This is the stuff no one tells you about parenting. My heart goes out to any parent who has lost a loved one who has small children because to keep showing up as a parent in these dark days is the one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

 

“Why Do the Boys have Two Moms?”

The question was asked innocently by one of their three year old friends. Actually the specific friend whom they shared an office with while I was pregnant and her mom was pregnant. We worked together and delivered three weeks apart.

She asked once before. About a year ago, “Where’s the boy’s daddy?” and her mom fielded that one, said, “Some people have two mommy’s and some people have two daddy’s and some people have a mommy and a daddy,” she looked at all of us, and said, “Okay,” then kept playing with the boys.

It caught me off guard being asked again. I thought we covered this a year ago. And this time it was a different question, “Why do Declan and Jackson have two moms?”. It was directed to me this time, not her mom, so I repeated the question loudly for her mom to hear while I also gave myself time to compose an answer. “Um, yeah, they are just… special?” I sorta shrugged and looked at her mom like ‘please God help me,’ and so she said what she said a year ago, “Because some people have two mommy’s.” Then she named a kid at daycare with two daddy’s and then their little friend nodded and walked away.

I had no answer ready for that question. Why do they have two mommy’s? Declan’s answer would be “Why not Mama?” or something equally philosophical.

Jackson would probably laugh and shrug and run away. Avoiding all confrontation.

I mean our answer is because we fell in love. Cliche yes but true. Do kids of single mom’s get asked why they don’t have a dad? I’m sure they do. But perhaps being abandoned by a parent is more acceptable in certain circles than having two loving parents of the same gender.

I was highly aware of the fact that this was not my kid asking. So I didn’t feel right saying “because we fell in love,” or something else that established my wife and I as in a relationship. Because who am I to teach some one else’s kid about sexual orientation?

It gave me a lot to think about as I’m sure she won’t be the last kid to ask us this question. And in that moment what the hell do I say? I think her mom’s answer was good. “Some people have two mommy’s and some people have two daddy’s and some people have a mommy and a daddy.” I think that works. I just now have to remember it and not get all flustered in the moment.

I also think it’s fantastic that my straight friend had the best answer and was the most calm about the question and came up with the best most coherent answer. She’s woke. Obviously.

I apparently am not. Because I literally could not come up with a legitimate explanation why my son’s have two moms. Let me tell you, when I blabbered out “because they are…special?!” all I could think of was that scene in Elf when they say, “You’re not a cottonheadedninnymungins, you’re just…special.” Will Ferrell’s face falls because he knows it’s not good to be “special”.

So that’s a no-go in the future.

But let me tell you. This is the shit straight people don’t think about. They don’t wonder about being asked by other kids, “But why does little Jimmy have a Mommy and a Daddy?” They don’t worry about being the ones to expose other children to other sexual orientations other than heterosexual. And this is an example of internalized homophobia.

Internalized homophobia is carrying the hatred and discrimination of society within the individual. I clearly carry some internalized homophobia because I’m worried about “exposing” other people’s children to my family. That’s messed up. That shouldn’t be. I should not feel shame or fear of offending others just by existing with my wife and kids. But I do. Because we live in a society where hate is real and homophobia is literally down the street from us.

I have internalized homophobia from existing in a society that looks down on homosexuals. From hearing in the media and being told to my face that my family is less than other families because my son’s have two moms.

There will be so many more moments that come up raising kids and explaining our family. I do not know how I will handle them. But I know that surrounding myself with friends who accept my family make-up and defend it…that is a strength. Surrounding my children with accepting and loving people is a first step in combating the hate we have yet to face.

 

Picture- from 2016 at age one. It was freezing and they were day one post vaccines. Cranky and cold…good times!

 

Houston the Poop Has Landed…Watching my Twins Grow.

As any one who has potty trained knows pooping in the potty is the ultimate goal. The peeing seems to come easy. The pooping is a chore. Well today one of my sons pooped in the potty three times and it was amazing.

He was incredibly proud and though we will still be wiping his butt for many months to come, if we can move toward underwear and away from diapers that will be the start of a new era.

Twins are hard. At least mine are. These monumental occasions are exactly that. Monumental.

I was walking up our stairs recently and I realized we never put the baby gates back up after a furniture delivery a couple weeks earlier. Monumental. No more baby gates in our household. Soon no diapers.

I never truly understood the word bittersweet until I had kids. Every monumental step forward also means we are leaving behind a time and a place with them. They want to put on their own socks now and they are leaving behind toddlerhood looking more and more like little boys.

We are not having more kids for a variety of reasons including but not limited to my ob-gyn telling me I’d be risking my life if I got pregnant again. Not worth it. So while I am relieved to see them growing and learning and becoming I mourn that I did not have those precious baby moments with just one at a time. That while Declan was smiling happy and we could have had a day out together when he was just ten weeks, Jackson was screaming with colic all day.

I feel cheated at times. Logically I know that I am actually blessed but resentful that we were exhausted and didn’t get to enjoy our newborn days like a singleton can. I remember standing in line going on three days no sleep and my c–section scar was still sore, and there I was at BabiesRUs I don’t even remember why. I was surrounded in line by young moms with one baby strapped to their chests. It was literally three or four of them.

I remember wanting to cry because my boys were home, as I could not get them out of the house due to colic and there being two of them. I couldn’t lift the car seats alone still. I wanted to scream. I have twins. F*&$ you all with your one kid at a time life.

I love seeing them grow but I hate feeling like I’m just surviving for much of their infancy and toddler years instead of enjoying every precious moment.

But I don’t like feeling regretful and I don’t regret them. I just at times yearn for a singleton experience while knowing I’ll never know that.

Today I will relish in the small victory of poop in the potty. And the victory of making it to Quincy Market in downtown Boston with my cousins. We don’t dare go to a city unless we are 4:2 adult to children. We all survived and we all got to eat and walk around Quincy Market.

There will be more victories to come and with each step forward we say good-bye to their dependence on us. Parenting and therapy. It’s the only two jobs where we want our clients to leave us. How incredibly painful to let them go.

Declan put on his socks and shoes and zipped up his sweatshirt. I almost cried. I asked Jackson to put on his socks, and he staunchly shook his head and said, “Mama do.” Now, he can do it. Probably faster than Declan. But that little man is 1- resistant to change of any kind 2- incredibly empathic. I think he knew I was having trouble watching them grow up in that moment so he ordered me to still put his socks on.

I mean. It helped. I stopped tearing up and as he swung his feet around avoiding the socks I started muttering under my breath about when will he learn to put his own damn socks on. Parenting is a conundrum. All these feelings all the time. When I see parents who are struggling emotionally I always say, How could you expect to not lose your mind at some point in this journey?

I relish in the moment of bedtime when Jackson rubs my cheeks with his hands and sniffs my arms and gives me butterfly kisses and tells me all his secrets. Declan asks me to snuggle him and I always do. I hang onto these moments; knowing that soon we will leave these days behind…as we should.

Twin Mom Problems.

They are three now. I have two three year old boys. Generally when I say that I get two reactions.

Reaction one is from parents- they say either, “Holy shit” or “God bless” or something where they convey that they get it. They get the twin thing must be freaking crazy. And it is. Reaction two is from people/kids/young adults who don’t have kids- “Aww I want twins!” and those are the people I want to smack. I don’t though.

So tonight we were baking Valentine’s day cookies for their friends. The boys were actually really sweet and into it, and we then had to do Valentine’s for friends (daycare friends). So I start signing them jointly…and then stop and realize the boys might want to do their own and that the other kids are going to get them individual ones and I should probably do them from each boy individually.

Five valentine’s from Jackson and five from Declan. Declan wanted to decorate his and write on his, and Jackson showed zero interest in his and only applied glittery heart stickers because I handed them to him/shoved them into his hands…and made him apply them to the valentine’s.

These are twin mom probs.

We are potty training, and in the mornings they know that that we won’t turn on the television for any cartoons until they both pee pee in the potty. Now riddle me this…one pee pees and the other one has a hissy fit and refuses. The kid that pees is expecting and is deserving of his Pete the Cat cartoon. The kid that did not pee needs to have the limit set. So what to do?! Twin Mom Probs. For real.

My solution to the pee problem….the boys are old enough now that they can understand and talk to each other. So whoever the pee-er is usually asks me to turn on the cartoon and I say, “Well your brother hasn’t peed.” It plants the seed. Then the pee-er goes to his brother and says, “Go pee!! I wanna watch!!” far more effectively than I ever could say it.

They then follow each other around discussing the pee and tv watching situation and eventually the non-pee-er goes and pees.

There are no rulebooks for these moments, no twin guide, and do I ever feel guilty about putting one boy on task to get his brother to pee?! Maybe a little. But seriously. Offer me a better solution!

We got them two balloons this past weekend. There were many adventures with the balloons. First they both got stuck up high in our cathedral ceiling foyer and I could only reach one with a long pole. They apparently knew that it was Jackson’s that I reached and Declan could see I couldn’t reach his, and looked at me, eyes welled up, and started crying. It was very sad.

We eventually got the second one. Day two- one popped. As predicted. Now Jackson takes the one that’s left and runs around the house laughing maniacally as Declan chases him screaming, “My ba-lloon” (he says the ba part like the word bad).

There are so many twin moments where I’m like what the F is this reality right now? And it is. It always is. My reality.

I come across a lot of twins in my work and in my personal life. It’s like once we found out we were having twins there is a beacon and all twin families eventually find me somehow. Twins tend to have this quiet confidence about them when they are together, and it always seems that you don’t really know one twin fully until you see them with their twin sibling because they become some one else when they are together.

For my son’s at age three we rarely have them separated and when they are separated they constantly ask about the other one which makes it not so enjoyable for us to have them apart. It’s funny to think about what would Jackson be like without Declan and vice versa. It’s weird. Because it’s like they complete each other.

And even when I’m cursing their twin-ness and my complete lack of ability to know how to parent them at times…I know I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because they wouldn’t be who they are without the other one and that’s kinda cool.

Most Memorable Moment in the Emergency Department Part 4/5…

The blood and the guts don’t actually matter in this story. There were four moments that mattered that night.

1: We were in radiology with the patient in the CT scan machine. Massive head trauma. Adolescent. I was in the CT room as the heart rate was unstable. I already pushed epinephrine once. We were waiting to pounce on the patient to start CPR. The Mom stood just outside in the hallway with the patient’s teenage siblings. Dad hadn’t made it yet. He would. I knew the neurosurgeon was on the phone with the emergency department fellow. I was watching her. Everyone who knew what was going on was watching her. It was one of those moments. Those Grey’s Anatomy moments where there should have been a camera. She was standing up tall on the wall phone. Perfect posture and fit. She turned to face the wall. Away from the nurse’s and the respiratory therapists’ knowing eyes. We couldn’t hear a thing. But we saw her lean her forehead against the wall, lift up her left arm bunch it in a fist and pound the wall.

We collectively exhaled and some of us had tears welling in our eyes. None of us needed to be told. She came into the CT room from the reading area and had quickly regained her composure. “Let’s get him to the PICU.”

2: We dropped him in the PICU thankful he was still alive. Thankful we didn’t have to be the ones to call it. But the nurse who was there for the end. She was one of ours. Some one who floated between units. She came down to see us all later. She told us that as she was trying to mop up the fluids coming out of his nose and both and ears so that the Mom and Dad could see him as their child and not a trauma…she felt a hand on her shoulder. The mom’s voice cut through the room, “You don’t have to do that,” she said quietly, “I’ll never forget how beautiful my baby was.” 

3: Two siblings who worked in the emergency department sobbing in the medication room. It was the only space where you could sort of have maybe some privacy. They had watched our patient’s sibling watch our patient dying. It was heavy. Makes shit real when the family gets there. Every time. Until the family gets there it’s just an anonymous person. The family gives them a name, an identity, a history, and what should have been a future.

4: The friends. There were about five friends who showed up just after he died. They didn’t know yet. They were so young, so hopeful. After several checks with the PICU staff and family we walked them up to the room where the family was. I still remember the looks on each of their faces as they realized they were going into a conference room and not a patient room. I had to leave because I just couldn’t take in any more pain that night.

This was a particularly horrible trauma. For a lot of reasons. The family was so composed and so gracious and they made me want to do better for their child. But I couldn’t. None of us could. The injury was too massive.

Yesterday we lost power due to an ice storm. I had a fire going in the fireplace and the boys napped on the floor in front of it in their sleeping bags while I dozed on the couch above them. They both fell asleep and with the crackling fire and the even sounds of their breathing I felt content. I felt like this was a moment I wish I could freeze.

Working in a pediatric ED changes people. Because we don’t live in a bubble. We live having faced a harsh and stark reality. It can either make us go a little crazy or it can make us focused on the present with an uncanny ability to filter out what the future may bring. Or perhaps both.

It changed me for sure. It made me realize I could never work there after having my own children. It made me appreciate every moment I have with my sons. It made my eyes well up with the sheer joy of hearing their breaths in and out in front of a crackling fire while the world ground to a halt outside in the ice and snow.

Conversations With A Three Year Old. About Fathers. When He Has Two Moms.

I’ve been watching “Tidying Up” on Netflix. I like her style. I took her method to my son’s closet and dresser. I took all the clothes out. Packed up two massive garbage bags for goodwill and one plastic container for Summer stuff that will still fit them. Then refolded all their shirts, Tidy style, and I was feeling very proud of myself putting all the shirts neatly folded into their dresser. Declan was in the room with me, chatting with me and playing intermittently.

He took a toy and pretended it was a phone, he was whispering, “Hi, is Mama there?” he wasn’t looking at me. I was chuckling to myself still putting clothes away, “Okay, bye,”. The one sided dialogue was cute, and I turned to look at him when it was over, “Who were you calling baby?” I asked. Thinking I already knew the answer. Me. Mama.

His answer floored me.

“My Father,” (But it sounded like My Fawder because he’s three and talks funny).

Me (trying to act very casual and not freak out): “Who?”

Declan: “My Fawder,” he smiled.

Me: “Oh, uh, who’s your Father baby?”

Declan (takes a moment to ponder this question): “Uhhh, Mommy!”

Mommy is my wife. Who was not home at the moment. Declan was all smiles, glad he figured out who his Father is and resumed playing.

I sorta sat there for a minute with my perfectly folded shirts and wondered how or if I should pursue this line of thinking. Then I thought. Fuck it. At least he knows I’m not his Father. I mean sheesh. I’m Mama. My wife has short hair and no boobs hence I’m sure the confusion. Three year old’s don’t get gender and he probably just thinks she’s the male-ish figure.

I know other lesbian couples where the kids call one partner (generally a more butch-y partner) Daddy and they just let it ride. So that’s what I do.

I told my wife when she got home. She thought it was hilarious. She asked Dec who his Father was, and he smiled shyly and said, “Mommy,” and she smiled and gave him a hug.

Declan is wicked smart. I’m not just saying that because I’m his Mom. I’m brutally honest. Trust me I would say if my kid wasn’t smart. His brother, Jackson, also wicked smart, but lazy. He can do as much and say as much as Declan he just chooses not to unless or until it benefits him. Potty training. Didn’t do it for M&M’s or chocolate chips. Wasn’t the right motivator.

He did it when we started not allowing him to watch any movies until he went on the potty.

Jackson is a cuddle bug. That boy will cuddle with me at any time of day or night that I sit down. He’s attached to me. Declan will snuggle occasionally. And it’s not because he doesn’t like to snuggle. It’s because he’s so damn busy. He’s always taking toys apart and putting them back together. The other day I went into the other room and he had half of a jumbo 24 piece puzzle together. It was hard. It was the jungle. It all looks the same. The kid did it by himself. I’ve never even shown him how to do a puzzle and he wasn’t looking at the picture on the box to guide him.

But I digress.

My point is that he figured out kids have Moms and Dads. Mothers and Fathers. Then he tried to fit his family into that social construct. Mama is a girl obviously. I have long hair and I breastfed him for a year. I wear necklaces and he’s always touching my hair telling me he loves it.

But Mommy, that’s debatable in his eyes. Short hair. Dresses like she works at a paint store (because she does) and wears work boots and no jewelry.

So there you go. She fit the Father mold a little better than Mama (which is fine but for real I’m the one that uses the power tools). Then he assimilated that into a fact in his head and bingo bango a Father is born.

My wife doesn’t care. In fact we’ve talked about utilizing Father’s Day as her day and Mother’s Day as my day so we have separate days to celebrate one another. My kids sure don’t care. But there’s something niggling at me (yes that’s a word).

Why are society’s constructs so rigid that a three year old gets them better than he does his own family composition?

Sometimes people get mad when I reference heterosexual privilege. But I’m going to do it. Because hetero’s have privilege. EVERY movie in existence that is mainstream and three year old appropriate has hetero families and love interests. The boys love Disney movies. Guess what. All male/female. Everywhere. And when, God forbid Disney had Lafou dance with a man, there was moral outrage from every homophobic twat in existence. It was a dance. Not even a long dance. I wouldn’t even have recognized it as a gay moment if I hadn’t been looking for it.

Our society makes a two mom family seem less than, unequal by not giving my sons the same opportunities to see two mom families as hetero families in everything from the media to books to magazines to movies to filling out forms for freaking vaccinations. It’s always Mother/Father. What about Parent/Parent?

My three year old shouldn’t think he’s supposed to have a Father. But he does.

He’s just also smart enough to realize he has two parents who love him, and one of them obviously would fill the Father role better than the other one. Touche Dec-man.

(The picture is Dec reading to all of his doggies. I heard chairs scraping and came into the foyer to find the dogs lined up and him reading. He is defying gender stereotypes by reading from the Disney Princess Encyclopedia)

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.

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.