one life to live (or, as my world turns)

Tomorrow I turn 43 years old, which means I have had forty-three occasions to legitimately eat cake. My best birthday was my 21st birthday. I was living in England at the time, attending a college about two hours north of London. My friends had put together a scavenger hunt that took me all across campus with each clue leading to a destination leading to a drink. There were a lot of clues and subsequently a lot of drinks. We eventually ended up at the campus pub (for more drinks!) before heading to the campus disco for a night of dancing. After dancing the night away to Blur and Pulp, I ended up back in my room or someone else’s room or several someone else’s rooms and with names I’ve forgotten did a lot of X-rated things that my now-43 year old body could only dream of repeating.

Sigh. It was a good night.

Since that night (and I suppose before that night, too) I have had many great birthdays. There have been wild birthdays surrounded by friends and there have been quiet birthdays surrounded by family. As I have grown older the shots from my twenties have been traded in for the beer of my thirties which have now been upgraded to the milk of my childhood.

Birthdays have become a sober affair, for which my liver is eternally grateful.

Tomorrow morning I will wake up in the home I love next to the man I love. Downstairs above the door to the dining room he will have already hung the “Happy Birthday” banner we use for all the birthdays. There will be cake and homemade ice cream for later in the day. Eventually my kids will come down and Chris will hug me and A’Sean will smile that big smile and Elijah will tell me I’m fat and in that moment I will be the luckiest man alive.

On my 21st birthday twenty-two years ago, I never could have imagined the life I am living now…and not just because I was really drunk. It was inconceivable to 1996 Sean that there would ever be a day where he (er, I) could be married to another man. It was even more unimaginable that there could ever be a day where I would be a parent. And yet here I am.

It’s incredibly easy to take my many blessings for granted – husband, home, job, three perfectly imperfect kids – and yet I do it every day. The truth is I will never have an attitude for gratitude or any other meaningless platitude, but on those rare occasions when the wisdom of this age grants me perspective, I remember that I am the luckiest man alive and that every day is like my 21st birthday…well, minus the X-rated stuff.

all the things you have today

Facebook likes to remind you about your past. Every day lurking at the top of my newsfeed sits a memory. Most days the memory is a happy one: the day my husband and I first met our sons; the anniversary of our children’s adoptions; a memorable photo from an otherwise unmemorable day. But sometimes the memory is a ghost from the past, a moment best left buried and forgotten. Yet there it sits, not so much haunting as taunting you.

It invites you to stroll down memory lane. It dares you to dip your toes into yesterday. It calls and most days you answer. Your mind begins to drift away — six months, a year, two years, five years, twenty years. One minute you’re a gay 40 year old father of two trying to keep it all together and the next you’re a sexually confused 20 year old college sophomore making out with some girl because, why not?

Oh, the past.

We love the past. We romanticize it. We rewrite it. We have the benefit of being able to view the past from the present. Twenty years ago I was a college student studying in England and traveling through Europe. Fifteen years ago I was operating a small community theater. Ten years ago I was living in New York. Five years ago I had a wonderful circle of friends.

At least that’s how I look at the past now….but the truth is: Twenty years ago I was a college student studying in England and traveling through Europe under a mountain of crushing debt. Fifteen years ago I was operating a small community theater at the expense of my relationship with my husband. Ten years ago I was living in New York with a violent bi-polar lunatic. Five years ago I had a wonderful circle of friends because I operated a small community theater.  

The past has its purpose. It gives us perspective. It teaches us. It reminds us of all the things we were capable of achieving even in those moments when it seems we did nothing but fail.

But the past is yesterday. The present is today.

And I have a great today. Today I am a published author. Today I am a husband. Today I am a father. Today I am happy.

I understand that none of the things I have today would have been possible without the benefit of yesterday. Still, instead of feeling beholden to yesterday I prefer simply to say thank you and skip the daily strolls down memory lane.

I choose this moment, right now.

So this New Year’s Eve rather than making resolutions about the future or looking back on all the things you did/did not accomplish this past year, why not just take an inventory of all the things you have right now?

The love of a good man. The joy of two incredible children. The beauty of family.

Happy New Year, indeed!

Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

the question that inspired the post that started the blog that inspired the book

This was my first post on this blog. It appeared in October 2014.

Sixteen months ago we adopted our son Chris.  We are trendsetters (not really) so this was way before gay adoption become fashionable.  Kind of like how we got gay-married two and a half years years before it became legal.  Or how we started watching Orange Is the New Black before everyone on Facebook was taking those quizzes to determine if they were an Alex or a Piper.

At that point in our relationship Todd and I had been together for almost 17 years so it was either get another dog, adopt a kid or grow old in a suffocating air of quiet resentment.  As appealing as quiet resentment is to both of us, I think we chose best because Chris is the absolute best thing ever in the whole wide world and I (we) cannot remember what our lives were like before he agreed to let us be his dads.  I know we had a life before Chris, but in retrospect, I think we were just killing time until we could adopt him …because as I said he is the best thing ever in the whole wide world (even when he isn’t and, boy, does that little shit have his moments).

So sixteen months ago we adopted our son Chris and became (hot) gay Dads.  The best part of this (aside from Chris) was that no one noticed.  I mean people were happy for us and incredibly supportive, but in the context of us being two guys adopting a kid, it was not a big deal.  The day after the adoption the headline in the local paper did not read: “Local Gays Adopt 7 Year Old!  Younger of the Two Dads Even Hotter Now!”  It was a non-event and I liked that because it meant we were living in a time and place where something as superficial as our gender was irrelevant.

And for the most part that has remained true.  But every now and again I am met with this question: “Which one of you is the mother?”  The first time someone asked me that question, I laughed, thinking it was a joke.  But when they repeated the question, and I realized they were serious, I was just confused.  I mean, seriously, how in the hell do you answer that question?

“Which one of you is the mother?”  Well if we’re relying strictly on gender stereotypes, then I suppose, as the more emotional of the two, that I fit the maternal role.  But then in terms of household duties it’s a 50/50 split: I clean, but Todd does the laundry and we both do the cooking.  Todd is better at dressing cuts and bruises; while I just look better in a dress.  And although Todd gives better hugs, I am Oscar-worthy in my role as a manipulative, overbearing drunk.

Ultimately, the problem with the question is that it is not the question.  They ask, “Which one of you is the mother,” but what they really mean to say is, “Which one of you is the WOMAN?”  It’s that age-old heterosexual preoccupation people have with two guys and sex: what goes where.  I hate that question and I hate that anyone even considers it when they see me with my family.  But oh well, there you have it.  I should probably just be happy they gave me a kid.

Which One of You is the Mother? is available for pre-order on Amazon: Buy Which One of You is the Mother? here. No seriously, buy it now. It’s only $4.99 for the Kindle version and $9.99 for the paperback edition. A venti Starbucks Frappuccino costs more and unlike that Frappuccino this book won’t make you fat(ter).

Which One of You is the Mother? – Available on Amazon NOW!

So I wrote a book. It’s called Which One of You is the Mother? It is based partly on this blog…but mostly it’s based on every day of my life since I became a big gay dad to my two adopted sons. I have been publishing excerpts of the book on social media for the past week in anticipation of the book’s Kindle release on August 24, 2015.


Todd and I share a lifetime of photos. We could fill countless scrapbooks; volumes devoted to our respective births, our terrible twos, the first day of school. But of Chris we have no picture memories before the age of five. We have clues. Fragments of stories shared with us; stories like the time he accidentally spilled spaghetti sauce on the floor and his grandfather beat him with his belt. Or the one about that time when he was three and his sisters lost him in the airport. We have distant narratives written by overworked caseworkers and reports dictated by psychologists who I doubt ever bothered to even look up from their notepads to see the scared little boy in front of them. I look at our photos and it’s easy to remember that we had a life before our son. I read through his files and it’s strange to think he had one before us.


The day we brought Chris home from Oregon I had one thought and one thought only: I need to delete the browser history on the computer. Before you have children the internet is a limitless utopia, an adult playground where anything and everything is possible. But after you have kids the internet is basically an unexploded grenade in the shape of big chocolate candy bar with a sign on it that says Don’t Eat Me. Every time Chris asks if he can go on the internet I experience what I imagine a stroke must feel like. My right arm goes numb, a sharp pain shoots through my brain, I forget how to breathe, everything goes dark and then twenty minutes later I wake up in a puddle of urine wearing my mother-in-law’s wedding dress. Chris once asked me if we could Google pictures of bears. Five seconds later the screen was flooded with images of hairy middle-aged men. A few months later when he asked if he could see a photo of a baby inside the womb I thought it would be educational. But here’s the thing: if you Google baby in the womb you still get the beaver shot.


I grew up feeling like an outsider, a stranger in a strange land. I never quite fit in and while my parents loved and supported me I’m not sure they knew exactly what to do with me. For the most part I was free to be myself. Left to my own devices and without much-needed guidance I struggled with being different. I stumbled awkwardly in adolescence, navigating an often unsuccessful path through my weirdness. I would eventually learn to embrace and celebrate that same weirdness I now see in Chris. But unlike me at his age, Chris does not stumble or struggle. He happily marches to the beat of a different drummer. In fact, he is that drummer and it doesn’t matter if he’s the only one who can hear the music. Everyone else is just missing out. Some days I think I need to intervene and point him in the direction of the herd. Life will be easier for him, I tell myself. But of course that’s not true.


At first, Elijah would not look at us. He just sat on the floor playing with his toy cars. He said a few words, part of a brief narrative directed at and for the benefit of his toys. Barely five years old and already he had mastered the art of freezing people out. The minutes ticked by slowly, passing into hours. We didn’t exist. I freaked out. Chris asked more questions. Todd, no longer standing, now sat stoically. And then something clicked and the four of us came together. Suddenly Chris and Elijah were running around the office engaged in an endless game of hide-n-seek. Suddenly I was hiding under the desk with Elijah, having been roped into the game. Suddenly Elijah was holding Todd’s hand as we walked to the car. Then we were at the zoo and Elijah was following Chris everywhere, shouting “Chris! Chris!” as he chased after the big brother who seemed to have been there his whole life. For me it was in that moment when Elijah asked me to carry him, because now I could be trusted. It was after Elijah fell and Todd scooped him up into his arms and cradled him, both looking as if they were finally home.

The book has received notable critical praise:

“After reading this brilliant, touching book, all I could think about was having Sean and Todd tuck me in at night. Please adopt me!!!!”  — Simon Doonan, Barneys Creative Ambassador and author of The Asylum

Which One of You is the Mother? is a “thoughtful, charming (and funny) essay about gay parenting that proves, not just engaging, but enlightening to gay and straight families alike.”  — Terry Galloway, author of Mean Little deaf Queer

I don’t like to think of us as boring, just profoundly unremarkable…, writes O’Donnell in the first chapter, but I beg to differ. Their story of starting their relationship to adopting their children is remarkable, considering all they had to go through as a gay male couple. Their story is one for anyone, a story of true love, commitment and what it means to be a family in the US in 2015. O’Donnell is a natural story teller who puts the reader front and center in their daily lives. It’s a story of hope, a story of compassion, and a story for anyone who has ever wondered what those Club Kids from the nineties are up to these days.” — Thomas McMillen-Oakley, author of Jesus Has Two Daddies

Ultimately I just want people to read our story because it is a story that no one else is telling. I think once people read it they will understand that although we are a different kind of family, we are also just like every other family. Only funnier. And gayer.

Which One of You is the Mother? is available for pre-order on Amazon: Buy Which One of You is the Mother? here. No seriously, buy it now. It’s only $4.99 for the Kindle version and $9.99 for the paperback edition. A venti Starbucks Frappuccino costs more and unlike that Frappuccino this book won’t make you fat(ter).