Friday, October 30, 2009

This is Not The Life I Expected

This morning, as I sat in the auditorium / lunchroom / gym at Ensign Elementary waiting for the Halloween parade to begin, I turned to Kelly and said, "This is not the life I expected".

I mean let's just take a look at my week:

Gus and Niko and I played football in the backyard. Gus is a natural quarterback - he has a great throwing arm but can't catch to save his life. After dinner we moved the game up to the park, where it morphed into one of the boys "hiking" the ball, Kelly or I handing it back off to them, and then chasing after them as they half screamed, half laughed themselves out of breath.

Then there was the snowball fight following the first real snow of the season (yes, to all the readers outside of the Mountain West - October is the start of snow season...). Gus relished being pelted by me as Niko sneaked up behind me to toss fist-fulls of snow at my butt.

And there was last night, when I carved our pumpkins - taking artistic direction from the boys - just as my dad had carved my pumpkins when I was a kid. Gus was uncontrollably excited about the mounds of candy he expects to receive, while Niko determined pumpkins go, "ooooooooooooh!" as he waved his arms around.

Tomorrow night I'll be dressed up at the request of the boys, so that all three of us can be vampires. I'll watch them go door-to-door asking for treats, watching how they handle the adults' not-all-that-funny question, "Where's my trick?", and I'll remind them to say thank you.

Yeah, thinking about it, this is definitely NOT the life I had expected. This one is definitely better.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Birthday Gifts

Today is Niko's 3rd birthday.

On my sons' birthdays, I always think about their mom - the woman who unknowingly gave me the greatest gift I've ever received: fatherhood. I wonder if she thinks about them, longs for them, speculates about their lives.

This morning at church I prayed for her. I prayed that she would know that her boys are in a loving home where they are part of a strong family - one that isn't quite Norman Rockwell but in which they are adored nonetheless. I prayed that she understood that their lives are filled with happiness and they are surrounded by people of all ages, who cherish them.

I prayed that if she thought of Niko today she smiled.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Of Mice and Men

The other night, I was watching a movie when out of the corner of my eye I saw a small, dark furry thing scurry by along the wall. We had a mouse. Another mouse actually. Earlier, Gracie the good dog had managed to catch and kill one in the back yard. But this little bugger was in our living room.

Kelly set a trap and we waited.

The next night I was sleeping when I heard the excited voices of the boys and Kelly. I figured it was morning and they were getting ready for school. But man was it dark. I wondered if maybe it was raining outside. But I couldn't hear any rain. Then I looked at the clock. It wasn't even 5:00 a.m. yet.

In my half-stupor I bellowed, "What the hell is going on?" And the boys ran into our room announcing that we had caught a mouse. Gus had actually discovered it when he was wandering out of his room for some unknown reason.

Here's the thing: since we're vegetarians for ethical reasons, we can't really be in favor of using traps that crush the little rodents' spinal cords now can we? We use humane traps, which means we literally had caught a mouse - freaking out in the little trap.

The problem with these humane traps is that you have to release the mouse. Kelly decided he'd walk it up to Lindsey Gardens Park, but when he went to transfer the mouse from the trap into a box, there was a bit of commotion, Kelly screamed like a girl, and the mouse tore off down the road. Or as Niko says, "Little baby rat took off like rocket!"

Over the next week we captured and released another 7 mice! It may have been 8, but the second captive may have been Rocket returned. Since there was no "evidence" of them anywhere in the house, we figure they must be coming from our creepy cellar. So during the day, the trap went down there.

We're trying to use this whole experience as an opportunity to teach the boys about respect for all life, about the ability to be kind to all animals - not just the cute ones you can pet. But I can't help but believe that one day as adults, when the conversation in a dorm room turns to the insanity of parents, these stories will take off out of their mouths like, well, like a rocket!

I can hear it now: "OK, I can beat that! My dads are all 'be kind to animals' and once we had a sh-t load of mice, but we couldn't kill em. We'd catch them and release them in the park up the street!"

Hey boys, you're being raised by a Greek guy, it's OK to embellish a little. Tell your future buddies that we put little radio transmitters around their necks before relocating them back to the game reserve just like on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Letter to My Son Gus


Tonight I wasn't a very good dad. No, wait, I'm a good dad, but today I didn't parent very well. I became frustrated while we were practicing for your weekly spelling test and I yelled. I'm sorry for that.

I should have known that you would focus on the number of times I thought we should run through the list. Especially with ice cream waiting. Practice makes perfect was my mantra growing up, it doesn't have to be yours. I should have recognized that a compromise was necessary when I noticed you had already written the first three words before I'd read even one (written them correctly, I might add).

But I didn't. Instead I made it a power struggle. I ended up yelling, you ended up crying - seeking refuge at Papa's side as Daddy looked increasingly unreasonable.

Doing well on tests was my thing. Proving I was "smart" was my issue. They don't need to be yours. Yes, I want you to do well on tests. Yes, I want people to understand you are smart. But I promise I'll try better to keep from unfairly burdening you with my own childhood insecurities.

I apologized to you tonight but you said you were still mad at me. I told you I didn't care. Of course I care. You're stubborn and strong-willed, just like I was as a kid. Yia yia tells me that's my payback for what I put her and Papou through growing up. Maybe she's right.

But here's the great thing about mistakes: we learn from them. Tonight I learned I'd rather not be someone who yells at his kids...especially over a spelling list. So I resolve to try better.

Don't get me wrong, you still need to do your very best. But maybe I'll step aside and let Papa practice these spelling lists with you.

And since I want you to look back on your childhood and remember far more good things than bad ones, tell ya what, Saturday morning we'll go for a run, just you and me. Deal?

Oh, and I'll tell you again in the morning, but Gus, I am really sorry that I yelled.



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Who's Your Daddy

This marks the maiden voyage of Who's Your Daddy. Over the coming posts, I plan on relating the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of being a dad. A gay dad at that.

The name comes from my monthly column for QSaltLake. (I need to check with the editor if it's OK to post the column on here). I hope it will serve as a expanded version of the column because being a dad in general is the most difficult and most rewarding "job" any man can take on. But when you consider our society's biases against gay men - especially when it comes to children - you've got whole knew series of challenges!

Having said that, I hope this blog will serve to (A) chronicle my experiences beyond the record the column provides; and (B) is seen as a resource for all men - gay and straight - as they navigate the crazy world of fatherhood.

I'm not perfect. I'm NOT the greatest father ever known. I make mistakes. But I'm qualified. Hell, today alone I also changed a DefCon Level 5 diaper, took a 3-year old on errands with me (and NOT to see his friend Erin as he believed), and helped a 6-year old struggling to sound-out reading words. Oh, and I made chili and chocolate chip cookies!

So, sit back and enjoy the armchair vantage point of my successes, my failures, my headaches and my joy of being a dad!