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Giving Thanks: My Mom Made Me a Dad

Last night, as I opened a beer seconds after putting my boys down, I felt gratitude that they most likely won’t wake for 10½ hours. I am so lucky to have sleepers.

As I sipped, I thought about gratitude. It was a Hallmark Channel moment. And I was reminded: the strongest thanks I can give this (and every) year is to my mom…for making me a dad.

I write about her in the past tense. Six years ago, she died unexpectedly from a cardial arrhythmia. Doctors said it’s the way we all want to go: one second you’re here, then you’re not.

I was suddenly an orphan (my father passed when I was 8 years old). There are worse tragedies in the world, but in our culture, 32 is young to be parentless.

Thanks to our close relationship where nothing was left unsaid, I wasn’t bereft. I was sad, but I’d be ok. That’s a tribute to her.

And to my surprise, her passing freed me.

Prior to her death, I suffered from indecision endemic in my generation. I hemmed and hawed about my direction, my choices and my purpose (and…no small matter…my sexual orientation.)

But after Mom’s passing, “life’s too short” hit home. I couldn’t feel beholden to social convention or my mom’s expectations (imagined or not) for my life. So I chose to be happy. And my boyfriend made me happy.

Then we got a dog! I mean…monumental commitment for me.

And I always knew I’d have kids. I might have wrestled with identity, but I knew kids figured into my future.

With my new independence and happiness, fatherhood seemed possible. And then, Because of Mom’s planning, I inherited an unexpected chunk of money. It didn’t catapult me into the 1%, but it allowed my partner and I to afford the expensive process of surrogate pregnancy.

I know the world is full of children in need of adoption. But my extended family is so small, I can count all aunts, uncles and cousins on eight fingers. It was important to me to pass on my genes, along with my name.

Even though Mom felt dubious about my life with another man, she inspired me to eschew insecurities and choose happiness.

And thanks to…well…her prudent financial investments, she gave me kids.

And I’m so grateful to laugh (and complain) about them, here.

Thanks to my mom’s example, I know how to be a good dad, a good partner and a good man. I know her joy for my family would be unconditional and irrepressible. I sure as hell wish she could read “I Stink” with them, take over playing Thomas, criticize me when force-feeding my stubborn 18-month-old, or console me during toddler tantrums.

But she’s with me every single day. The proof is in the whining, giggles, diapers and spontaneous, “Daddy, I love yous.”

My kids don’t understand the concept of giving thanks, yet. But I look forward to making eyes roll as I lecture them that “Thanksgiving isn’t about school breaks, football, or irrepressible little boy farts caused by gorging on turkey and Brussels sprouts.”

Nope. It’s the non-denominational, non-political, non-nationalistic day to feel gratitude.

And damn it: they WILL eat those Brussels sprouts.

Thanks: Mom.

Don’t forget to lecture and annoy your kids about giving thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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17 Comments

  1. Betsey says

    what a wonderful tribute to your Mom, your Dad, and your boys. I am so glad that you chose to be happy. I know your folks are too and oh so proud of the man you are. Gratitude. Feels good.

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  2. Shellee says

    Hear, hear! Gavin I know for a fact that your Mom was very proud of you….you were always her ray of light! Have a wonderful holiday! Love you!

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  3. Carolyn says

    Gavin, thanks for sharing. We loved your mom, and miss her. I am so glad to hear you are happy and continuing to thrive! Please, give my love to your family.

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  4. both of your folks were excellent examples of how to live with purpose. The love that was unconditionally given to you is passed on by you through your partner, kids, work and just being you. Gavin you are a jewel, just be yourself and be happy!
    Happy Thanksgiving, Barb ❤

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    • Thanks, barb. That’s quite a compliment coming from someone who knew both my parents. Doing my best! Happy thanksgiving to you and the family. Certainly love the memories of thanksgiving ’93 at your place! Xo

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  5. Gavin — this is a beautiful tribute to your mom. The boys are so lucky to have you two as their dads, You live life with abundance, humor, and grace — and YOU are one of the blessings in my life. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  6. “console me during toddler tantrums”

    Best line about toddler tantrums that I’ve ever read. It’s the truth! All attention seems to focus on the child when there’s been a toddler tantrum. But, sometimes, it’s the parent who needs to be comforted afterwards – for having lived through one!

    Liked by 1 person

    • So true, Kenny. My tantrums are (sometimes worse, though hopefully repressed. (Until I vent to friends, scream outside, or blog about it). Thank goodness we live in an era where we don’t have to pretend everything’s perfect all the time and that our children are perfect. We are all human. Thanks for replying. You a dad, too?

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      • Yes, I’m a dad. My husband and I have twins who turned 8 earlier this year and my husband had two children from a previous marriage when we met. His kids were 10 and 11 and lived with us during the school year (spent the summers with their mom) until they went off to college. I can’t believe they’re now 24 and 25. I still remember chaperoning the younger one’s 5th grade field trip and spent so many afternoons in the hot sun cheering for the older one as he played high school baseball. Now, they’re both college graduates. All four of my kids have taught me that time moves much too quickly.

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      • Wow, you’ve seen a lot. Many congrats on getting this far. And twins? Whoa. We were hoping for twins at the outset. You think you have so much control, and then you don’t.
        Thanks for reaching out. Have a happy holiday season and keep fingers crossed that I’ll land another Bway show to write about (soon!)

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    • Yep, they’re 19 months apart. Little angel-devils! 🙂 Thanks for reaching out. I’ll have more stories coming your way! Have a wonderful holiday season.

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