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I Waited for Two Hours. What was the Point?

Here’s a conversation I had with myself while waiting in sub-freezing temperatures for two hours to spend about five minutes in an art exhibit. I had some real epiphanies about parenting and art…

9:40, not bad. Surely that chalked sign on the sidewalk can’t be accurate: ’90 minute wait from this point.’ Yeah, right. It can’t seriously take that long to see this Japanese artist. Wait, what is this exhibit, again?

I dunno. I just saw it on Instagram and read about it in the Times, a few months ago. So…I’m here because the Times and some people on IG told you to come?

More or less.

So we are posers. Just wanting to see things cuz other people are doing it?

I guess. Isn’t everybody?

Especially in New York.

Seriously – except for the 1% of artistic elite (and who are those people, anyway?) aren’t we all just seeing stuff cuz other people tell us to?

Do you think we’ll get in and think it’s stupid?

I mean, duh. It’s some 90 year-old woman’s paintings of polkadots.

Seriously – like, our six year-old could almost do the exact same thing.


How much time has passed?

Three and a half minutes.

Jesus H. I’m freezing. Thank goodness for this coffee to warm my hands.

For now.


<20 seconds of silence passes in the freezing cold>

Two hours in the bitter cold just to say we did it? Is this worth it? This is when New York sucks. There’s just too much demand.

I know. The crowds screw it up for everyone.

But we still play the game. You just do these things to say “I was there”?


The Gates?


That play you had to see in three parts and some people saw it all in one day.

Right. I missed that. Coast of Utopia?

Something like that.


At the Public.

Right. Pre-Broadway.

That photographic exhibition on the old White Star Lines pier ten years ago?

Right. With the over-sized sepia photography of elephants and kids underwater.

Oh, yeah. That was…random. But it felt cool to have seen it.

And brag that you were there.


But now? We’re standing in line for 2 hours…

Please don’t let it be that long…

And we will be in this room for a couple minutes, at the most.

Wait, what?

Yeah, they don’t let you linger more than 30 seconds in the three rooms. There’s just too much demand.

Ohmigod, this is bullshit.

Thank god the kids aren’t here.

Seriously. And then in those 30 seconds, we’re just gonna have our phones out Insta-bragging about the experience. Shouldn’t we put phones away and just be in the moment?

Are you fucking kidding? Then there’s no proof we were there. If it doesn’t happen on Instagram….

I know. But this is art and it’s fleeting. Maybe we should go all 19th-century?

Hell, no.

I kinda think you shouldn’t photograph churches or sunsets. Photos never do it justice.

Um, 1986 called. It wants its photographic pretension back. Are you kidding me? This is why we’re here! Pretension! Shouldn’t we be too good for instagram?

I suppose. This kinda thing drives me crazy, though. Reminds me of my mom. She drug me around to museums and always took 6 hours to read every panel about harbor seal genus or random Dutch painters who weren’t even in the same epoch as Von Gogh. It was awful. I hated museums.

But you remember going, right?

I guess.

And were you the most worldly 4th grader having schlepped through the Air and Space Museum for six hours?

Um, maybe? Was it worth it? Wouldn’t I still have been smart’ish without suffering through four hours in an art museum that no 10-year-old could care about?

Who could say?

What if I had my kids, here? They’d just whine and say they wanna go and I’d just be herding cats and telling them, “don’t touch that. Don’t touch that. Stop running. Don’t touch anything. Calm the fuck down.”


So what would be the point?

They’d remember it like you remember suffering through the Air and Space Museum.

Is that why we do this? We bring on the sadist and the masochistic cultural suffering to brag we were there and hope our kids will have a faint memory of having done it…just so we all get social ladder points for saying, “I was there.”


Couldn’t we just see it in a book? Instead of waiting for 2 hours in 27 degree weather? How long’s it been? An hour?

Fourteen minutes.

I can’t feel my feet and my coffee’s gone.

Luckily it’s not snowing.


So then we will get inside and just video the entire thing and our pictures of ourselves will be in mirrors with our own reflections. How’s that an artistic experience?

I’m not sure.

Shouldn’t it be a pure experience? Something zen-like?

Like through the eyes of kids?

Right. Un-besmirched by technology.

Sure. But, I dunno. It’s 2017. You’ll have recorded it.

Will I ever watch the video again? Sure as shit no one else wants to watch it.

What’s a “pure” artistic experience, anyway? Who can quantify that?

I suppose just being silent with the art.

Sure. Silence is golden. But we’re limited to 30 seconds. It’s not like you can commune with any of this polkadot nonsense.


How do you ever achieve zen –like appreciation of anything? A sunset, a church, a piece of art?

I dunno. Just…try to enjoy it.



Has it been an hour, yet?

Twenty three minutes.

Ohmigod. I’m really questioning this.

It’ll be great. Just…enjoy the moment.

That’s it?

I mean, shit. It’s just polkadots. Are you supposed to get greater meaning out of life from polkadots?

And tiny, repetitive eyeballs painted by an OCD 90 year-old woman.

Right, that. Is that really art?

Well, it’s silly. And whimsical. And that’s fun, isn’t it? In the age of…

Right. Trump.

See? Don’t we need more colorful eyeballs and polkadots to take us out of our every day?

I guess that could be enough.

Sometimes it just needs to be. Smile at the polkadots, even with your phone in your hand. Enjoy it.

Yeah, I suppose even Van Gogh would say that.

Eh, probably not. He’d have already become pretentious and over-analytical.

But for the rest of us…just…enjoy it.

I’ll try. Makes sense.


How long, now?

Thirty-one minutes.

Why am I sweating so badly in my pits? Always in the cold, if I just stand here, my pits are over-active. Are they confused?

I can’t answer that for you.


So this’ll be worth it?

Sure it will. You’ll remember the suffering, you’ll remember the polkadots, and you’ll remember how you smiled through it.

And I guess that pulls us out of our everyday muddling through Trumpian times.

That should be enough.

It has to be.

And we can brag “we were there.”


And that’s the point of art?

Sometimes. Why not? A memorable blip on our generally boring existence?

Fair point.


How much time, now?

Forty-one minutes.

*Shameless product placement. @E.C.Knox (insert winking emoji, here)


#MeToo and Douchebaggery

I’m late to the #MeToo conversation surrounding sexual harassment, but I’ve encountered fewer men weighing in than I’d expect. I know this is a time when men should often just shut up and listen. (Bad timing for some man-splaining?)

But I also think dads and sons and brothers should be part of the conversation.

This isn’t the time for anyone to ask, “but this all happened so long ago. Why bring it up, now?” (Because it still matters. Even you, Keillor.)

This isn’t the time for postulating, “Yeah, it was bad, but should it really ruin someone’s life?” (Well, Spacey, maybe you should’ve thought about that before thinking with your groin. You weren’t 13. You were in your 20’s. You knew better.)

Women: I’ll probably put my foot in my mouth wading into this delicate issue. So maybe I should just be speaking to the menfolk.

But I have to say: I’m loving this.

I love this zero-tolerance-for-douche-baggery moment we’re witnessing. And I hope it changes our culture for the good.

Several female friends of mine have voiced their cynicism that “nothing’s gonna change. We have so far to go.”

But that was before Lauer and Keillor and Simmons.

I’m so pissed at the people I admire – Franken and Keillor. Do I think their transgressions are as “serious” as Weinstein, Moore or Lauer? Not really. There’s a difference between stupidity and sickness.

But it’s all under the same umbrella of objectifying and exploiting women.

Being a member of the non-douchebag elite, (of which I think a majority of my fellow men are card-carrying members), I’m glad pigs are going down.

I’m happy that the shit that riseth to the top masquerading as cream is being scooped out and exposed.

And I hope there’s more of them, because that’ll cull positions that should go to more women and more men who aren’t entitled douchebags.

And it’ll teach our sons they can’t be creeps and our daughters that they don’t have to tolerate creepiness.

I’m happy that even Franken is on notice for thinking it’s “okay” for him to even joke about harassing a sleeping woman; because that was first-rate douchebaggery.

If a few people (beloved or not) have to take the fall to make society an egalitarian place where women do not feel objectified or exploited or belittled or unsafe, then that’s ok.


Because a systemic cultural sickness that has allowed sexual harassment to be excused for (thousands of) years is worth changing; no matter the sacrifices made or how many supposed role models are scandalized in the process.

For all the Louis C.K.’s and Roy Moore’s that go down (please may Moore go down, Alabama voters, please), someone more talented and less likely to have sexually harassed someone else will replace them.

And that makes the world a better place.

It may be lots and lots of women filling those shoes.

And that’s a good thing.

All you have to do is not be a douchebag. It’s simple.

Dresses. They’re all good.

I feel like I owe everyone an update on school and dresses and my own state of self-inflicted insanity.

My oldest has worn dresses/skirts/tutus every single day to first grade, and big surprise – it’s a complete non-issue. Getting over that first day was a hurdle, y’all. But just for my partner and me. My kid wasn’t nervous or self-conscious at all. He’s thrived, clothing has been a non-issue, he doesn’t seem to have been twirling down hallways or distracted by his flowing clothing (which was a concern for us) and he hardly talks about it.

He pushes my buttons, that’s for sure. Occasionally he’s put together unbearable combinations of long skirt with a tutu over it and sparkly sweater vest over a tie-dyed t-shirt. Talk about looking like a drunk, homeless Dolly Parton rustling through a box of discarded Goodwill hand-me-downs. The couple of times this has happened and he asks me “can I wear this?” and I have the wherewithal to stop my eye roll and say, “Sure,” he changes and tones it all down. Even he knows it’s too much.

The first day of school there was no issue he wanted to share with us. The next morning I walked with him, hand-in-hand, and said, “Did anyone say you had a nice tutu?”

“One boy said in the bathroom, ‘Don’t call him a girl! Don’t call him a girl! He’s a boy who likes to wear dresses.’”

I bristled. I couldn’t glean the context and I immediately got defensive that this was a bad situation. But I asked, “How’d that make you feel?”

“Good. He was my friend.”

(Oh. Gavin: check your defenses. I need to tell myself that one hundred times/day.)

Apparently some kid might’ve said “boys can’t wear dresses,” at another time on day one, because my kid went on to say, “And another girl said, ‘don’t say that. Anyone can wear whatever they want.’”

“Wow,” I said. “I like that girl.”

“Me, too. She’s my new friend.”


Previous to the start of school, our son asked at bedtime, “Which bathroom do I use?”

I was not prepared for that, though I should’ve been. In first grade, my son will be on the school’s 3rd floor with gender-segregated bathrooms. I completely dodged that question because I had no real answer. But by day two of school, he’d solved his own problem.

One breakfast, he mischieviously (and elatedly) told me, “My teacher let me take the girls’ bathroom pass, today.”

“Oh. How did that happen?”

“I asked to go potty and she said, ‘do you want the boys’ pass or the girls’ pass?’ So I got the girls’ pass.”

We’re entering a whole new world.

On week two, our teacher requested a conference, “Not that anything is wrong. All’s been fine. I just to make sure we’re on the same page.”

During our teacher conference, the teacher basically asked, “Do you want me to correct your son when the class confuses pronouns? Because they basically think he’s a girl, right now.”

My partner and I looked at each other. This would’ve elicited an immediate negative response a year ago – probably from both of us. But this time, we shrugged.


We talked about the bathroom issue and the teacher told me, “Your son has asserted what makes him feel comfortable and he asked to go to the kindergarten floor where the bathrooms aren’t segregated. In that bathroom, there’s one stall not marked for girls or boys. He uses that one.”

I started to cry.

This process is often frustrating. I’m sick of my son’s entire focus being sparkles, glitter, pink, Barbie, princess, twirly, tiaras. (But I’d be annoyed with that if I had a daughter, too. It’s just so all-consuming.)

But I’m relieved, grateful, proud and thrilled that my kiddo knows how to take care of himself and assert his desires and is grown up enough to say, “I’m just gonna be my awesome self and sold my own problems.”

That’s definitely what he’s doing – being his awesome self.


See? I told you there was never anything to worry about.

(Eye roll.)

Taking the Plunge

Well, here’s a lovely dilemma filed under “I never imagined having these conversations”:

My partner and I have decided we need to be the grown-ups and not be so fearful for our son. Gathering wisdom from innumerable sources, we think it’s best to let our little gender-nonconformist break the ice and wear some skirts to school.

My rationale comes from three arguments:

  1. What’s most important is he love himself and not feel his self-expression is anything shameful to be hidden.
  2. That he knows we always, always, always have his back and love him, unconditionally.
  3. There will be haters everywhere in life, no matter if he dresses in skirts or roots for the Yankees or has a funny walk. The sooner he knows issues 1&2 will help us all deal with the consequences of #3 and we can choose, together, how to address it all.

Also? We aren’t making history, here. Boys from Arkansas to Arizona are already going to school in dresses. We need to calm the F down.

But as we’ve done a bit of back-to-school shopping (yes, we don’t go back until Sept 7th, so we aren’t back in school, yet), I’ve found myself still trying to control the situation. And here’s the rub of this blog entry.

My son is preternaturally drawn to all things pink/sparkles/Barbie.

Now, it’s one thing for a boy to take a stand and rock a kilt with combat boots and an ironic “Brony” t-shirt*. But there’s nothing ironic about my son’s love for all things pink/sparkles/Barbie. He would wear a polyester pink princess dress to school, replete with chincy plastic princess kitten heels, if we let him.

But that’s where I gotta put my foot down.

“Buddy, I know a little something about style, even though you think all I wear is jeans and t-shirts. And, well, that’s true. But trust me – I know what’s cool, and I can help you look awesome rocking a dark skirt and ‘Brony’ t-shirt.”

He actually trusts me (for better or worse) in this approach.

I don’t know if he’s just humoring me and thrilled that we’ve relented (somewhat) with our blessing to wear skirts twice a week to school.

But it’s begun a discussion of what’s “cool” and “funky” in our household.

And, like the ever-wavering cliché Libra that I am, I immediately question my own judgment.

I don’t want my child to become a slave of what’s “cool” or “funky”.

But seriously – won’t life be easier if I guide him down the path of cultural taste, rather than leave him to dress himself like a bird adorning his nest with tinsel and sparkly trash? Or the crab in Moana?

Is it wrong to influence his fashion sense with strong suggestions (as in: I buy it, so I decide) of what he can and can’t wear?

The psychology of fashion is very interesting to me – not the slaves of trends and capitalistic consumerism, but really the psychology of dressing yourself to feel empowered and attractive with wardrobe that commands respect and admiration.

And who am I to say pink/sparkle/Barbie isn’t respectful or strong or admirable?


Anyway, I’ve created a monster – in myself. But for the moment, despite my seemingly debilitating insecurity in my own parenting decisions, herein, I feel fine guiding my son toward “rocking” a skirt, rather than “donning” a dress.

Because let’s face it ; life’s easier for the cool.

I hate myself for writing that.

Oh, and as for taking the plunge with skirts at school? Yeah. Here we go. Wish us luck. Any suggestions? Fashionista, emotional or otherwise? Indubitably, I’ll be reporting back.

* “Bros” who dig “My Little Pony”. Yes. It’s a thing.

Well…It Finally Happened

It finally happened. My son was publicly shamed for wearing a dress. And my fatherly instincts screamed with leonine ferocity inside my head, but the diplomacy of a damn Israeli-Palestinian negotiator without.

I took my kids to France, again, for a few weeks, this summer. I figured the cost of the trip was less than paying for 2 kids’ camp in New York City; plus, I used the last of my AmEx miles to pay for the flights.


My gender non-conforming son wore a dress every single day, except when he squeezed himself into his 4yo cousin’s pink bathing-suit-with-attached-tutu. And it was all fine. His new short haircut (see here) drew some double-takes, but, overall, it was fine.

Until one night toward the end of our trip.

I went to a restaurant with another dad and his son, and my kiddo was decked out in his Trolls “t-shirt-attached-to-flouncy-dress”. We were along the banks of a EuroDisney movie set replete with medieval castle backdrop and window boxes exploding with flowers.

My kid saw the quai (is there an English equivalent of “quai?”…or just the stone walkway along the river?) as a stage, so he began his fake tap-dancing.

My other son even played along as the conductor. It was cute.

Until two girls around 9 and 12 years old arrived.

They stared.

Then they started conferring with each other.

Then they started laughing overtly.

My son stopped dancing, and I could see his confidence wane as he insecurely tried to talk with them.

From my vantage point, 20 feet away, I think they asked his name and he tried to respond.

And the laughing continued.

My soul withered. But I found the opportunity to approach the group to chide my younger son for throwing too many rocks into the river. (Poor kid. I literally used him for criticism to find a way to protect his older brother.)

We spoke in English, then I asked my older son in French, “You OK?” and the girls right away turned to me asking in French:

“What are their names?”

I told them.

“And is that one a boy or a girl?”

I took a breath and said the first thing that came to mind: “Well, sometimes he feels like a boy, sometimes he feels like a girl.”

The younger girl pounced.

“Boys can’t wear dresses.”

“Why not?” I calmly countered. “Sometimes it just makes him feel good. Like you feel good in the dress you’re wearing.”

The older sister then chimed in, “Yeah, like girls get to wear boy clothes.”

The younger sister wasn’t having it. “But boys aren’t supposed to wear dresses.”

“Well, this one likes to, sometimes,” I responded.

Both girls contemplated this.

I looked back at my son. Despite my relief at having diffused the situation and starting a dialogue with these girls, my heart broke, again. I could see my son, normally exuberant and often annoyingly vivacious, sitting on the curb, his light extinguished. He’d crossed his legs and was doubled-up on himself and sat staring at the ground. He couldn’t exactly understand, and yet, he understood completely.

We’ve discussed his choices and potential reactions, and I’ve coached him in responding a hundred times. He knows his choices are “unconventional” and he knows to say, at the very least, “I’m a boy, I like dresses, what’s the big deal?”

But he doesn’t know how to say that in French, and til that moment (to my knowledge) he’d never faced overt mocking, before. Ever.

“You OK, buddy?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he responded.

Was he really? Was he, at the innocent age of five, already protecting his father from heartbreak? – so that I wouldn’t’ be able to use this as a teaching moment? Did he already want to avoid me having to say, “this is just what’s going to happen?” Was he already protecting my heart form his own heartbreak?

Or was he actually fine?

Listen, half-dozen readers, I assure you: he wasn’t fine. His body language was ten times more foreign than the language with which I was trying to imbue him during two weeks in France.

But I also know: it’s ok. It was a teachable moment, even if I didn’t get all lecture-y afterward. We let it go. He let it go. I let it go.

The younger sister did not let it go, though. She ran right into the restaurant and announced to her family “the little boy out there is wearing a dress!”

The family was already on their way out of the restaurant, and they avoided looking at me and (I think) avoided looking directly at my sons.

And even though I wanted to scream at the little girls (and their family), “MY SON MIGHT BE IN A DRESS BUT Y’ALL BRING SHAME TO THE FRENCH CULTURE BY…”

Aaaand that’s where I need to censor my judgment of this family that…well…didn’t embody the clichés of French sophistication.

I’d like to avoid total cyber disembowelment.

Suffice to say, that family had some superficial attributes worthy of public embarrassment beyond the merely tacky dresses those girls were pret-a-porting.

But nope.

I kept my mouth shut and tried not to over-think it.

Which is my other takeaway from all these situations and my “advice” to everyone around me – try not to over think it. He’s a little boy who likes to wear dresses. What’s the big deal?


I try to say that to myself every single day.

Inside the Mind of a Gender Creative Boy

May all of our kids be this self-aware and expressive when they are 10 years old.

Raising My Rainbow

I hear from a lot of adults raising gender expansive four and five year olds. The adults are typically stressed, confused, lonely and scared. I get it. I’ve been there. Ages four and five were the toughest for us in terms of parenting a gender expansive child. I tell families that it gets better once the child can communicate his/her thoughts and feelings. Like, now, with C.J. being 10 years old and getting ready to start fifth grade, if I have a question about him, I can ask him and he can answer. I asked C.J. what he remembers thinking and feeling when he was four and five years old and I wrote it all down. I’m hoping that sharing C.J.’s memories below might help families currently wondering and/or struggling. xoxo, Lori

(By: C.J., age 10, August 2017)

When I was two years old I kind of liked cars and…

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Hair Today, Mullet Tomorrow

The Before:

The After:

When I became a father, one of the battles I swore to myself I’d never wage was over hair.

A friend of mine's son made hideous teenage hair choices, but his mother once said to me, “My mother made such a big deal of my hair I swore I’d never do the same to my kids.”

I adopted that philosophy. My mom and I went round and round about my hair so very many times. She wanted me to remain the all-American Tom Sawyer with the neatest side part and feathery 1980’s ‘do. But when I hit junior high and discovered blow-dryers and MTV, I follicly rebelled. I wanted Johnny-Depp-21-Jumpstreet hair. That meant much fuller and longer than Mom’s Eisenhower-June-Cleaver standards tolerated. So we fought for years about my hair.

Yesterday, my 5yo had a bout with a pair of scissors and gave himself a haircut.

I’m still apoplectic about it.

Yes, I know self-inflicted hair disasters are a rite of passage for all children. As my partner said, “the only thing missing in this scenario is that tomorrow isn’t school picture day.”

But two things have sent me into a spiral of irrationality:

  1. My kid had gorgeous hair. He hadn’t gotten it cut since December and it had grown symmetrically and beautifully.
  2. I’m afraid it looks exactly the way he wants, but because it looks objectively hideous, I don’t know whether to traumatize him with a full “boy” cut, or let him continue his summer with the ugliest “girl-cut-with-bangs” imaginable. I mean – none of our summertime pictures will be useful for Christmas letters, this year. NONE.

Some background:

I know this situation is all about me. And as I frequently disclaim – this blog entry is my confessional so I can look back on my words, see what an asshole I’m being, and let it go. Hopefully my son isn’t reading these words and hating me, but rather just laughing at my own assholishness. Buddy: I love you, no matter any choice you make (short of killing someone or becoming a Republican). You’re perfect.


No haircut since December. Why? Because of his penchant for all things princess, I once asked him, “Are you a girl, do you want to be a girl, or are you a boy who just likes to wear dresses?”

I admit I approached the question in a fit of frustration with his dress choice du jour, but when I got the words out, I just wanted to communicate honestly. And whatever answer was gonna be fine.

After some thought, he responded, “I want to be a girl.”

“Okay. That’s fine. Can I ask why?”

“Because they get to have long hair.”

“Oh. Well, boys can have long hair, too. Do you want to grow your hair long?”


So we didn’t cut his hair for seven months.

Until yesterday.

Over the past few months, he’d mentioned he wanted bangs. I was like – ah, hell no. No kid of mine is gonna have some pageboy weirdo framing that beautiful face. Nope. We goin’ for the full California swoop.

There I go – making hair decisions for my son.

Except, PEOPLE! – let’s be honest. He was on his way to exceptional hair. He didn’t need some medieval pageboy helmet surrounding his entire face…with bangs.

And then, yesterday, during what I should have realized was a particularly long amount of quiet time, he approaches me, nonchalantly, to ask for some goldfish.

I responded, “Uh, buddy, I think we’re gonna have dinnersoondearlordwhathaveyoudonewhathaveyoudonewhathaveyoudone?”

“He did it, too,” my son said, pointing to his little brother (who’s hair looked unscathed).

And there we have it.

My son now looks like a crop-banged skid row urchin crawling home from a CBGB party that went all kinds of wrong at around 3:47 AM.

And I don’t know whether or not to change it, because I think it’s exactly what he wanted – long hair in the back, bangs in the front.

The most childish thought I have, right now? – his long hair was helping him look less…um…questionable when I let him wear dresses in public. Now, if I have the barber chop it all off to start back at ground zero, I’m with my son who’s obviously a boy with short hair, but in a dress.

I know, I know, I know. I’m a monster. I’m saying it out loud, now, not so you’ll troll me, but so that I know I need to get over myself. Fear not. But these are my thoughts.

I’m making peace with the wonderful, colorful, eye-opening, beautiful journey my son traverses every day. I love him for all his femininity. And sometimes it’s hard. But it’s really just hard for me.

He’s fine with who he is and what he loves.

So I’m letting the hair go.

Except I can’t. Seriously, he looks like he got in a fight with a drunk chipmunk Edward Scissorhands.

I’ll let you know, later, where we settle. For now – I’m starting to laugh about this situation sooner than I thought possible.

Would love to hear your personal stories of when you cut your hair, yourself, cuz I know: it’s a rite of passage.

I cut mine when I was in 7th grade. Yep. Not when I was 5, but when I was 13. I wore a hat for weeks. But Mom wouldn’t let me get a “bowl cut” circa 1989. So….I did exactly as my 5yo son.


Proud to be “Worst Daddy in the World”

“You’re the worst daddy in the world,” was stated, yesterday. Not the first time I’ve heard it. Thankfully, I haven’t heard it much (yet).

But as a friend reminded me, it probably means I’m doing my job.

Why’d I receive such 5yo vitriol?

Because on a rainy Saturday afternoon, after offering my sons to veg out in front of the TV, I made the stipulation they had to clean their room, first.

Now, listen: I’m no neat-freak. I don’t like dirtiness, but I don’t mind messiness. However, I won’t abide a bedroom that’s trashed with dress-up clothes, princess castles, Legos and monster trucks. I’m asking for the very lest, kiddo: shove your shit into the big toy baskets and clear the floor.

I’m not asking for hospital-tucked sheets, folded underwear drawers or toothbrush-scrubbed window tracks. Nope. Just clear the floor 80% and you earned your special TV time (no more than ½ an hour. Let’s not get crazy, people.)

So, on this Father’s Day 2017, I pledge to my son to earn top-billing as “worst-daddy-in-the-world” if it’s because of this:

  1. You will clean the messes you make. Don’t worry: I’ll help you. And I don’t expect you to render the house neater than when you found it, but you will do your part in replacing sofa cushions after asking to make a fort, throwing every article in your dress-up box to opposite ends of your room, leaving markers all over the main hallway, or abandoning you-name-it in the family room.
  2. You will eat your vegetables and you will take three bites of new foods before refusing to finish it – one to taste, one to experience, one to decide. Mealtime games are not for me. But also, I won’t fight a battle. No trying? No dessert. No veggies? No dessert. No drama. You choose your choice. You don’t have to eat. But there’s nothing else to eat, if you go on a hunger strike. And no matter how much your neighbor friend eats a diet of chicken nuggets, potato chips and macaroni for every dinner, I promise – your plate will never, ever look like that.
  3. You will read your assigned “beginning reader” books to me before I read your favorite stories to you…because you have to earn stories, now, big boy. And because it’s your job – to learn to read. So you do your work, and I’ll reward you.
  4. You will be dressed, fed, teeth-brushed and ready to walk out the door to school before you start playing with toys. You can even have a small hit of screen time if you’re good to go. But hell NO can you play or whine for screen time before you’re ready to walk out the door.

It’s all about earning your privileges…dessert, screen time, playtime, etc.

Unluckily for you, I’ve proven I’m even more stubborn than you for the past 5 years, and that’s not gonna change.

My job is not to be your friend. My job is to raise you to be a kind, strong, wise human being who makes the world a better place.

If that makes me the “worst daddy in the world”, I’ll wear the honor proudly.

Happy “Worst-Daddy-in-the-World” Day to me.

I love you, too, son.

Happy Father’s Day, Mom.

On Father’s Day, I’m reminded I’m the mom.

Not in the ignorant person asking, “Yeah, but which one of you is the mom?” way. That has a connotation of “which one of you is the girl?” I resent that. We aren’t that superficially categorized. But I guess the semantics need simplification. I’m confusing myself.

Lemme explain.

My partner is the one who knows how to “just be” with our kids. He’s the one unperturbed with sitting on the bedroom floor, letting them toddle about, babble, sing, and play. He’s agenda-less. He lets the kids come to him and welcomes them with open arms, hugs, tickles and tolerates their make-believe.

I’m the agenda-follower, vegetable-force-feeder, schedule-keeper, nighttime routine follower, iPad shunner, project-manipulator, muddy puddle-avoider, quiz-annoyer, list-checker, freaker-outer, frustration-succumber, unnecessary battle-seeker-outer, tear-causer.

But not him.

One of our favorite bedtime stories (Little Boycheck it out. It’s perfection), ends with the statement, “Little Boy, you remind me how so much depends on days made of now.”

And my partner lives that. He’s able to be in the “now”, let our boys come to him, tickle for hours (well…twenty minutes), and let them derail my perfectly-laid plans.

I’m on a schedule: bath, books, bed. (In my defense, I’ve had the kids all day and I’m done screwing around.)

But he screws all that up with his giggle fests interrupting my reading time.

And it is good.

As a gay dad (who’s unexpectedly the stay-at-home parent), I resent the societal assumption that dads are the ones who deserve slack because we’re all thumbs in changing diapers or managing a household or being excellent primary care-givers. It angers me if someone smirks at me with my toddler tornado in a coffee shop and says, “Mommy’s day off?”

(Although I’ve been known to smile when anyone on the street ooh’s and ahh’s at “that cute dad who’s giving Mommy a break” when I’m managing two toddlers perilously zooming down the sidewalk on scooters. Call me a hypocrite.)

But I know we all rise to the occasion of effective parenting, regardless our gender or societal/familial roles. It’s ridiculous to say men can’t change diapers or make baby food or be the rule enforcer…no more than someone could tell my mom she couldn’t take me camping or play baseball with me. (She did all that…probably because after my father died when I was eight, she did her utmost to take on qualities of both “mom” and “dad”.)

What if parental labels were genderless and more task-based? The default primary care-giver is mom, the one who gets to “swoop-in-and-tickle-and-be-fun-and-ruin-all-the-rhythm” is dad?

My context is doing everything. So I’m the afore-listed task-master whose label would “normally” be mom. I’m a dad who’s really good at being a mom.

And my partner is really good at being dad. (Sometimes he jokes he’s the gay uncle who gets to have even more fun and less responsibility. I find this not even remotely funny.)

But he is particularly good at being in the Little Boy moments made of now.

And that is so very important.

Because I’m intense.

Not long ago, my partner had a very uncharacteristic free day. I took one of our sons to a doctor appointment and, after the appointment, I texted an update. He responded, “Great. Take your time coming home.”

Wait, what? I could take the afternoon to have a cookie with only one child? Meander down New York sidewalks with only one child?

Have a coffee and a cake pop with only one child?

We didn’t hurry. I didn’t pull the one kid, praying there’d be no melt-downs or peed-pants or tardiness to the next wherever-we-needed-to-be.

We were in the “now”, for once.

Thanks, partner. I needed that.

Happy Father’s Day to us.

I’m not Racist, but…

A few months ago, after my four thousandth reading of Pinkalicious, I closed the book, and thought, “Man. If I were an African-American father I would be disgusted by our book selection.”

Pinkalicious. Vanilla Icing Icing Baby.

Fancy Nancy. Frilly whitey.

Biscuit Goes to the Farm (or does whatever). Yellow lab, white identity.

Curious George. A monkey living in a white world. Ergo: white monkey.

Hungry Little Caterpillar – a little white boy with an eating disorder.

Clifford. Big red dog, little white girl.

Where the Wild Things Are. White monsters.

Dr. Seuss One fish, two fish, white kid, white kid.

Goodnight Moon. Little white bunny and his old white granny whispering “hush”

Harry Potter Even the “dark arts” wizards are white. (Thank goodness. Because awkward.)

Lego’s are all white people, My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake couldn’t possibly be whiter. Sofia the First has a white character…once every 8 episodes when they’re running out of story lines for princess entitlement. And let’s not even touch the main Disney princesses (pre-Tiana, I suppose).

(Alright, alright – you get Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. Congratulations. One color-blind book with a protagonist of color.)

Etc. etc. etc. whitecetera.

Not one week after my racial realization, I learned of a conversation going on at my son’s school’s PTA regarding diversity. A super-academic committee discussed diversity with NYU sociology professors and posed the question: when did you last read a book with a protagonist of color when that protagonist wasn’t 1) overcoming racial adversity, 2) a slave story.

When did you read a book about a kid who’s going about everyday activities and just happens to be non-WASP?

(Not that I need to pat myself on the back, but…I had this realization before hearing of the PTA discussion. Just saying. I’m color blind. Was. Wait. That wasn’t a good thing.)

So, now our PTA is tasking the school with constructive steps toward literary diversity…expanding our library with books where diversity is a non-issue.

When certain (white) Americans dispute that “the system” is set up against children of color, I invite anyone to look through the vast majority of children’s books, including mine.
Imagine being a little black boy or black girl in America and be surrounded by the super popular books (see above) and never seeing themselves reflected. Ever.

You think that wouldn’t set you up for inferiority complexes or a sense of never being able to relate to popular culture?

I’m not sure what the solution is. Could publishing companies publish alternative illustrated books? White not an African American-centric Cat in the Hat? An Asian Pinkalicious? A gender non-conforming Fancy Nancy(Nathan?)

I’m sure this doesn’t make financial sense for the literary corporations just selling books.

But perhaps it would make financial sense?

OMG, are they already doing this and I live so deep in my white bubble that I’m not even aware?

Welp. There’s my confession du jour. Let the twitter trolling commence. (I won’t even see it. I barely know how to tweet.)