The Missing Piece

(or Simple Questions, Complicated Answers)

People can ask the darnedest questions.  I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve been asked “Are you going to have a third?” or “Do you want to try for a daughter?”  Usually this comes in the form of idle small-talk and meaningless banter.  I have to hope that the questioners are just naive, and that they haven’t given much thought to the myriad of ways one could answer these seemingly innocent questions.

No matter how often it happens, it always takes my breath away, even for just a minute.  My heart wrenches, a sadness overwhelms me.  I might pause for a minute to think about how to respond – or how I would like to respond.  I usually defer to simple answers: “oh, I think we’re done” or maybe even “you never know.”

Truth is we already have a third child, a daughter.  She was our first and had to leave this human realm before we even had a chance to hold her.  She wouldn’t have survived here on earth, but I have to think she is somewhere, without pain, in the great beyond.

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Home Base

(or The Art of Saying Thank You)

Being a parent is hard.  It is so much harder than I realized before becoming a mom.  And I’m not just talking about the disrupted sleep and poopy diapers and projectile vomit and being on-call 24/7.

The first three months are particularly brutal because you don’t get anything back.  You have this beautiful, precious creature who is completely dependent on your for everything, every day.  And then suddenly, one day, after months of feeding, changing, bathing, comforting, loving, you get a smile – a sign that the baby sees you.  Maybe he doesn’t appreciate you (do they ever?) but he sees you and gives you a smile or a coo or even a laugh.  And usually that’s enough to keep you going.  With that little acknowledgement, your energy reserves are topped up and you can keep going.

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In the Pursuit of Perfection

(or So What Did You Eat Today?)

We just got home from a weekend conference where we had hoped that our older son would realize that he is really not so alone in this world.  I’m not sure that this objective was met – it’s hard to get much in-depth emotional processing out of a 6-year-old.  I, however, came away with a whole host of revelations of my own.

But to get to those, I need to start at the beginning.  You see, my son was born with a very rare, very serious metabolic disorder that, if left untreated, causes irreversible damage to the central nervous system.  Or to be exact: brain damage.

It is hard to fathom that the very foods that so many of us eat, and take for granted, are toxic to the hundreds of thousands of people with inherited metabolic disorders.

To protect both his and my anonymity, I’m not going to name the specific metabolic disorder that he has.  His specific diagnosis isn’t all that pertinent, and I hope my own thoughts on this topic apply to anyone raising a special-needs child, far beyond the reaches of our very small metabolic community.

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There’s No Place Like Home

(or Do Turtles Ever Get Homesick?)

I’ve just spent two weeks away from home.   Some would call this a “vacation.”  I don’t mean to sound flippant or ungrateful.  Yes, we’ve been in England these last two weeks… but mostly visiting my in-laws and in the non-stop company of two young, jet-lagged children who don’t really understand where they are or why their bodies are so out of sync.  It’s hardly been restful or restorative, as the word “vacation” usually implies.

What I’ve noticed most about this trip is my longing for home, a home-sickness of sorts, that I’ve never experienced before when we’ve traveled.

Perhaps it’s because it’s been more than two years since we’ve made the journey over the pond.  Or maybe it has to do with being here, during the Brexit vote and subsequent fallout.  I long for the perception and illusion of stability and safety back home, as opposed to the stark reality of instability and unknown that can’t be avoided on this island.  England, or more generally the EU, was always our backup plan.  If things get too politically unstable in the U.S., we always can head to Europe, or so we thought.  Now I’m not so sure.  I want my children to thrive in a global world, not be restricted to small-minded island thinking.

Maybe it comes from so many years of living in a country where I felt so many of the states were “off-limits.”  Sure there are gay people living in all 50 states (shock! horror!), and many did so under repressive local governments, but that’s never what I wanted for myself or my family.  I refused to live in such places and was lucky that I didn’t have to.

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unFather’s Day

(or Why I Hate the Hallmark Holidays)

You may be wondering why the divergence into motherhood.

I wondered that too, as I looked at the stories and themes that I wanted to commit to writing, instead of just let swirl around in my head.

For me, motherhood and my coming out process are intractably linked.  Becoming a mother made me face, head-on, all that I had buried and repressed after I came out.

It was one thing for my parents to treat me badly.  It was less tolerable for them to treat me and my wife badly.  And it was completely unacceptable for them to treat my children badly, or to fail to acknowledge us as a legitimate family, or to see my marriage as “real,” or to belittle or demean me in front of my kids.  It was a whole new ballgame.

Some of my parents’ behaviors are conscious.  Many are unconscious and just the product of societal and religious prejudices.  Either way, it’s toxic.

And so I find days like today, those Hallmark holidays in our calendar, particularly hard to endure.

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Through The Eyes of a Child

(or The Things My Kids Say)

One of the things I have most enjoyed about motherhood is the chance to experience life through the eyes of a child.

To them, the world is a mystery, one great big never-ending science experiment.  Every day brings something new and exciting.  Discoveries lurk at every corner.

(Although, I think we’ve proven more times that necessary that, yes, dog food does in fact float.)

I’ve loved watching the development of language, as gurgles and coos give way to words.  It’s enlightening to witness them navigate the English language, especially as they encounter and react to all of the “exceptions to the rule” in our language.  You can hear them apply the rule, and then watch their little face scrunch up as they realize it doesn’t sound right, and then try to figure out what went wrong with their logic.  I reluctantly correct them because their mistakes are often so adorable:

T(wo): What did we do on my 2th birthday?  What about on my 3th birthday?

It is particularly interesting to watch them find their own voices in this Digital Age.  For them, there has always been the internet, iPhones, iPads, Amazon Prime, On Demand TV, Google, YouTube, Facebook (I’ve stopped trying to get baby books made – it’s all documented on Facebook anyways!).

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Dear New Mother

(or What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Had Kids)

You are embarking on the most amazing journey, one that will irrevocably change who you are and your relationships to most things, hopefully for the better.  Children provide such windows and mirrors to our true selves, and I don’t think you can help but being changed by that.

A friend recently surmised parenthood with the expression “Don’t Blink.”

A random stranger in London once said to me “the days are long but the years are short.”  I don’t know what he saw on my face to know that I needed to hear those reassuring words, probably a combination of sheer exhaustion, jet-lag and being at my wits-end!

I know everyone says that it goes fast, but it really does.  Each stage comes with its own set of adventures, discoveries and challenges.  Each stage is different, some more difficult or enjoyable than others.

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