label makers

The new math teacher called to introduce himself. Chris’s class had been without a permanent math teacher since the second week of school when Miss Perky, a first time teacher who cited Lassie as her favorite movie, failed to show up for work…much to the surprise of everyone at the school, most notably the administration.

But all of that was behind us now and after a revolving door of well-meaning substitutes the school had hired a new teacher, a veteran of the New York City schools who, according to the letter of introduction he had sent home, would “not tolerate any disrespect”.

I was at the library reading with Elijah when he called, but seeing the school’s phone number on my caller ID I decided to answer.

“Hi. This is Mr. Smith. I’m Chris’s new math teacher. Is Chris’s Mom or Dad there?”

“This is Chris’s Dad,” I said. I hesitated a moment and then continued, “Actually Chris has two dads. There is no mother.”

A brief pause followed and then, “Oh. Two Dads. Okay. That’s cool, I’m from New York.”

I’m from New York is code for I’ve seen it all.

“Actually Park Slope. It’s in Brooklyn, so…”

It was the most ridiculous response and I immediately liked him for saying it. We chatted for a few more minutes and then I went back to reading to Elijah.

Later when I would play back the conversation in my mind I became fixated on that moment of hesitation right before I had said, “Actually Chris has two dads.” Why had I hesitated? It was a matter of fact that my son had two fathers and in that moment when I corrected the teacher I was doing it, not to make a statement, but simply to inform.

Yet still I hesitated as if I had felt that I shouldn’t say it.

When I read clickbait headlines on Huffington Post like My Son’s School Discriminated Against Him Because He Has Two Dads or Everybody in the World Is Out to Get Me Because I’m a Black Christian Homosexual Transgendered Woman I immediately think, “Or maybe you’re just an asshole and it has nothing to do with your race, religion, sexuality or gender identity.”

We are so quick to assume that people are discriminating against us based on what we are rather than who we are and I suppose because of that I have become hyper vigilant. If someone is going to dislike me I want it to be based on the person I am and not the labels that have been attached to me.

And I realize that sounds hypocritical coming from a guy who calls his blog seansbiggayblog and then wrote a book called Which One of You is the Mother? The Absolutely Positively True Adoption Story of Two Gay Dadsbut then I am an enigma wrapped in cheese.

I hesitated because in that moment I wanted to present a fact to the teacher – my son has two dads – but at the same time I did not want to label myself or make our family dynamic an issue because it’s not an issue.

The point of this blog and my book is that we are no different than any other family.

Now I’m not some Pollyanna. I understand that in the real world gays with kids is an issue for a shrinking percentage of small-minded bigots and as I’ve unfortunately discovered a growing number of paranoid gay parents, but for me and my husband and our two kids it’s a non-starter.

We are who we are and if you don’t like us we hope it’s because we’re assholes and not because we’re gay or because our kids have two dads. Although honestly, whatever the reason we don’t much care.

All we ask is the next time you call our house, please don’t ask for the mother and not because it’s a big deal but because we told you our sons have two dads and now you know.

please don’t eat the daisies

When someone has a baby it is customary for their friends and family to throw them a baby shower. These baby showers are extravagant affairs complete with whimsical decorations, silly games, overpriced gifts and cake. Lots of cake. No one has ever thrown us a baby shower.

That’s not the point of this blog post. I’m just putting that out there because I have two kids and also I like cake.

The point of this blog post is that we have decided to adopt again. It turns out two is not enough. My guess is a year from now we will be saying that three is not enough. I should probably rephrase that because Chris and Elijah are absolutely enough. They are more than we could have hoped for or dreamed of; they are as perfect for us as we are for them and if we never had another child we would still be complete.

So when I say that two is not enough what I mean to say is why should we stop at two or three or even five for that matter, especially when there are tens of thousands of children in need of a forever home. And while not every one of those kids may be a suitable match to our family dynamic, I have no doubt at least one or two or twenty-seven of those tens of thousands are a match and they are out there right now waiting for us to find them.

Todd calls it a calling. You know, like when someone is called to serve God or called to work in the Peace Corps or called to eat obscene amounts of donuts twice a week. It is odd to compare serving God to adopting children, but as soon as he said it I understood exactly what he meant.

Maybe it’s because I just turned forty and the closer I get to death the more philosophical I become, but I believe all roads have led me to Chris and Elijah. Everything that came before now, even the really shitty stuff, had to happen so I could be their Dad. They were my calling.

I am exactly where I am meant to be.

We were talking with our caseworker last week and I said how lucky we were to have been matched with two well-adjusted and happy boys. She said that while it’s true we did have two fairly smooth adoptions we should not underestimate our contribution and that a big reason why the boys were so happy and well-adjusted was because of what we brought to the table.

I’m normally embarrassed by such praise, immediately defaulting to false modesty, but not this time because I knew what she was saying to be true. We are really good at this.

I know we cannot adopt every kid out there, nor should we, but if we have room in our hearts and the ability to change even one more life, then we should do it. We have to do it.

After all, it’s our calling.

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.

making a list, checking it twice!

I apologize. I hate social media top ten lists. I realize I’m in the minority here because the truth is these lists are incredibly popular. They generate insane numbers of shares and views. I suppose they’re popular because they don’t require much thinking. Certainly not for the lazy writer who counts the top ten list among his top ten best friends. Shame on every last one of you lazy writers for phoning it in and shame on you for reading these lists…and for clicking on those You Won’t Believe What Happens Next videos. (You know what happens next? Exactly what you would expect to happen next.)

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest please enjoy today’s blog post 10 Ways My Life Has Changed Since I Adopted My Sons

  1. People think I’m selfless. This is a common misconception. When you tell someone that you adopted your children they assume you are good person because only a good person would do something so selfless. Whatever. Adopting my kids was the most selfish thing I ever did. Basically I wanted something and I got it and then I ate donuts. End of story.
  2.  I got Christmas back. When I was a kid I loved Christmas. I would stay up all night waiting for Santa Claus. The weeks leading up to his arrival were pure magic and there was nothing better than Christmas Eve, the one night of the year when I believed that anything was possible. But then I grew up and slowly Christmas started to lose its magic. I would still go through the motions, but it was hollow. Then I had kids and poof! Christmas was back. Suddenly I’m a five year old again, staying up all night, and embracing the incredible magic of one perfect night. Is there a Santa Claus? Absolutely.
  3. I have two children. This one is a bit obvious, but every good top ten list has padding. Still, nothing will change your life more than being responsible for tiny people.
  4. I have a stronger relationship with my husband. Todd and I have had our ups and downs over the years, and it’s no secret that in the years leading up to adopting we were in a downswing. Fortunately we got our act together and just when we realized we didn’t have to be together it made us want to be together. I’ve known Todd for almost twenty years and I thought there was nothing left to know about him, but then I saw him as a father and I fell in love with him all over again. Having the boys has made me see and appreciate my husband in a new way. He is, simply put, the best person I know. I admire and love him.
  5. I watch cartoons again. Before the age of ten I watched cartoons nonstop, then I found soap operas and it was goodbye Garfield & Friends and hello General Hospital. Maybe I just got tired of the recycled plots or maybe it was the day ABC cancelled One Life to Live, but I turned away from soaps around the time we adopted Chris. Now I spend my evenings catching up Teen Titans and I leave the goings-on in Port Charles to a new generation of ten year olds.
  6. I played baseball with my son. I hated playing baseball as a kid. My Dad made me play because he thought I should and he thought I should because he knew I was different and I think having me play baseball was his way of trying to make sure I fit in, and for that I thank him. But still, it is a painfully boring game. And even though my kids show no interest in sports (yet) one of the best first days of being a Dad was the day I took Chris to the park and we played catch. It was a rite of passage that made me feel more like his father than a thousand re-issued birth certificates.
  7. I learned patience. I have a temper. I blame it on ten years spent directing plays in the theater and working with needy adult children. I screamed a lot as a director but I only screamed because I knew if I hit people I would probably go to jail. Anyway, parenting children is a breeze after you’ve worked with a gaggle of passive aggressive narcissists (there were exceptions, you know who you are!)
  8. I became a better version of my parents. My parents were very good parents, but they did have stumbles. I have the benefit of their experience and being able to learn from their wrong turns just as I hope my children will learn from my mistakes.
  9. I gained 25 30 35 pounds. The reason you gain weight when you have kids is not because you don’t have time to exercise. The reason you gain weight when you have kids is because you eat all the leftover food on their plate every night. And then eat a half gallon of ice cream while you catch up on Call the Midwife.
  10. I downsized. My weight notwithstanding, I have really cut back in every aspect of my life. My circle of friends is now a short line. I don’t waste money and hours at the mall. I don’t need stuff to make me happy because my family makes me happy. They bring out the best in me that isn’t always there. My husband and children are all I need. Ten years ago such simplicity would have made me run screaming into the night, but now I find comfort in just how easy it is to be happy.

Now please share the hell out of this top ten list as you are required to do by the gods of social media.

children will listen

I learned the hard way that children hear everything…or rather, children hear everything you don’t want them to hear.  Look a child directly in the eyes and give them a specific set of directions and they will act like you’re an alien having just dropped in from another planet speaking a distant language of clicks and beeps, but have a private conversation with your significant other behind closed doors two states away and they not only hear every word, they commit it to memory.

Recently Todd and I were discussing a reading program that had been instituted at Chris’s school, some trademarked No Child Left Behind ridiculousness leftover from George W. Bush’s reign of terror.   It involves children reading from a specific book list for one hour every day, including weekends, under the supervision of parents with no distractions, meaning all televisions, phones, and computers in the house are to be turned off during the 60 minute reading period.   It’s a noble idea, truly, but to any parent who has other children in the home or is trying to juggle extra-curricular activities in addition to the every day school schedule, it’s a bit unreasonable.  And for parents like myself who have children who don’t arrive home from school until after 5 pm and then routinely have 60-90 minutes of homework a night, it’s downright laughable.

But that’s not the point.

The point is we made our negative feelings about this program known within earshot of Chris. The next day at school he told his teacher everything we had said, and while some of our points were valid, others were nothing more than the observations of a couple of bitchy sarcastic homosexual know-it-alls.  We admonished Chris (and ourselves) and then arranged a phone call with the teacher where we apologized and she graciously addressed our legitimate concerns.  Lesson learned.

As annoyed as we were by the incident, it was unfair to be mad at Chris.  He was, after all, just parroting us.  And isn’t that what most children do?  Aren’t we all just the products of our environment? Doesn’t it stand to reason that if you grow up in a house that traditionally votes Democrat, you will grow up to vote Democrat?  If you are raised Catholic, does it not usually follow that you will raise your children Catholic?  We may want our children to form their own opinions fostered by their unique experiences,  but if we were being honest, don’t we also want our children to parrot us?

As much as I may want my sons to be their own persons, to have their own ideas, to speak in a voice that is not mine — I hope the person I am helps to form the person they will become.  In a perfect world my children will follow the path of their parents and embrace the social evolution of progressive liberalism and not the status quo paradigms of regressive conservatism.  They will want families like their own and people of all races to be viewed as equal.  Would I love them any less if they grew up to be socially conservative Republicans?  Of course not, but I would reserve the right to occasionally cry in private.

Recently Chris has been asking a lot of questions about God and religion in general.  Where is heaven?  What happens if you go to hell?  Does God see everything?  I, in turn, have responded with, “In the clouds.  You sweat a lot.  Don’t masturbate.”  I’m kidding.

Right now Chris is curious and I’m not going to pretend to have the answers.  I believe in God. Todd does not.  Who is to say which of us is right?  So when Chris asks these questions we are sure to present many answers, a buffet of options.  We’ve stressed that not all people believe in the same God.  We’ve pointed out that some people, like Todd, do not believe in any God.  We’ve encouraged him to keep reading, to keep experiencing, to keep learning.  And even in this example, where we are telling him to make up his own mind, we are hoping he will parrot us — follow our example and be like one of us.

The truth is children will listen.  They need to listen.   They want to listen.  They are looking to us for guidance and we have no choice but to provide that guidance.  After all, it’s what we signed up for when we agreed to be parents.