L.A. Reading Madhouse!!!

Book Soup, Mommy Man, Jerry MahoneyIf you’ve ever lived in, visited or heard about Los Angeles, surely you know about the traffic. It’s horrible. Unspeakable. Practically unwriteable, but I’ll try anyway. Los Angeles traffic is especially bad on weeknights around 7pm, when everyone finally gets out of work in order to crawl home in their fuel-efficient vehicles on the freeway. The only thing worse than the traffic in Los Angeles is the parking, which is just never good, ever. Oh, God, the parking. I cringe just typing about it.

You know what’s great about LA, though? The people. I know, they sometimes get a bad rap, but I’m here to tell you that they’re solid, through and through. Among the many reasons I love Angelenos is that they’re willing to brave the traffic and the parking to support a friend.

My reading last Monday night was, simply put, one of the best nights of my life.

It started when I saw this behind the store:

parkingAn assigned spot in Los Angeles? I’ve never felt like such a big shot.

And then there was this, from the store’s flyer for June:

John Waters, Garrison Keillor, Jerry Mahoney, Mommy Man, Book Soup

My friend Jessica complimented me on managing to look crazier than John Waters. Oh yes, I’m talking about the Jessica who you may have read about in “Mommy Man“. THE ONE WHO TALKS LIKE THIS! She was there, and so were some of the other very special people I wrote about in the book.

If you don’t know Book Soup, let me tell you a little about it. It’s an old school bookstore, full of books that rise up from the floor and stretch to the ceiling, everywhere you turn. It’s the kind of store where you might sometimes have trouble finding just what you’re looking for, but you’ll always enjoy the search, and along the way, you’ll find a dozen things you didn’t even know you wanted that look just as great. It’s a browser’s bookstore, and it’s in probably the best spot in West Hollywood, right on Sunset Boulevard, very close to where many of your favorite celebrities have been arrested.

They have fantastic taste in books, and even better taste in the events they choose to host, as you can see from at least 2/3 of the flyer above.

I first heard about Book Soup in the mid-90s when I arrived in LA as a starry-eyed kid. I was interning for Scott Rudin, and it seems like almost every day, someone would yell at me to go to Book Soup and pick up a book. I only dreamed that someday, some starry-eyed kid might get yelled at to go there and buy my book.

I just hope that kid didn’t show up last Tuesday, because then, BOOK SOUP WAS SOLD OUT OF “MOMMY MAN.”

There were about ten folding chairs set up when I arrived, and they filled up well before the 7pm starting time. People spilled out into every corner and crevice of a very crevice-y store. Close friends. People I hadn’t seen in years. People I’d never met before. So many people showed up, it was almost 7:20 before I finally began to read. Drew was so astonished, he made a list of everyone who showed, and he counted almost a hundred people.

They bought up every copy of my book and waited ridiculous amounts of time to get me to sign it. Those who couldn’t wait got the next best thing: autographs from my kids.

Jerry Mahoney, Mommy Man, Book Soup

I never know what to write when signing books, but Bennett made it look easy: “Bennett, Age 4″

Yes, after a lot of debate, Drew and I decided to bring the kids, mostly because they really, really wanted to come. They’ve been to Drew’s office many times. It was nice to get a chance to show them what this Daddy does, when he’s not shuttling them back and forth to gymnastics class, at least. And it was one heck of an introduction for them. As you can imagine, they were treated like quite the little celebrities.

They had a great time. They sat in the front row, smiling the whole time, and they were delightfully obsessed over by everyone in attendance. (Thankfully, the reading itself, which I slightly censored in their presence, went well over their heads.)

Jerry Mahoney, Mommy Man, Book Soup

To say the crowd was supportive would be an understatement. They laughed in all the right places and none of the wrong places. They asked great questions and made me feel like Garrison Keillor for a night. (I hesitate to add this, but — aw, screw humility — the store staff told me my turnout was actually even better than Keillor’s.)

Jerry Mahoney, Mommy Man, Book Soup

One of my big regrets of the evening is that I didn’t get a picture of Jessica, who seems to be many people’s favorite “character” in the book, but I offer you this instead. It’s Karyn, the amazing nurse I wrote about in the book. She gave us the tear-jerkingly sweet card on page 268, which I reprinted verbatim, so in a way you could say she was my co-writer. (Her real name, which I don’t think she’d mind me sharing, is Katye, and if you ever have a baby, you’d be very lucky to land Katye as your nurse.)

Katye freed up her busy work schedule and drove up to LA from Orange County (which at that time of day takes roughly 100 hours) with some of the other nurses from the hospital where the kids were born. It was truly special to get to see her again and have her reunited with my kids. I was so happy they got to meet her, because she was such a special part of our story and a big chunk of the reason I was in Book Soup in the first place.

Jerry Mahoney, Mommy Man, Book Soup

There were plenty of gay dads in attendance, including ones Drew and I knew before we became dads (like Jon and Harvey, who proved to us you can get away with having your kids call you both “Dad”) and ones who became dads after us, including Todd and Chris, who brought their gorgeous four-month-old daughter with them in a Baby Bjorn. One guest told me he and his husband were just starting their surrogacy journey, and he asked me to sign his book for their future surrogate.

Afterward, those who could stay came out to a bar across the street, which was the perfect way for me to hang onto this magical experience into the night.

If you’re in New York, I have good news for you. We’re doing it all again — tonight! That’s right, Monday, June 16, 2014 at 7pm at the Barnes and Noble on the Upper West Side of Manhattan (2289 Broadway, at 82nd Street). You can expect even more special guests this time, including Susie herself and my friend Greg, who will be very grateful that I’m not reading the sections about him. Plus Drew, of course. Come for the reading, then hang out with us afterward at a nearby location that serves alcohol (TBD).

For those of you in Westchester County, NY, you’ll get your chance on Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 6:30pm at Anderson’s Book Shop in Larchmont, NY.

If you’re in New York, please come. If you know people in New York, please spread the word. (Don’t tell the bookstores I said this, but I hope you’ll show up even if you’re not planning to buy a copy of the book. Still, I’ll do my best to convince you.)

And if you’re reading this from one of those bookstores, prepare yourself for a big night, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned since moving to New York, it’s that the people here are pretty incredible, too.

Last Monday’s reading was one of those highly infrequent moments as a writer when it all feels worthwhile, where you can see your words in action and interact with the people who are taking them in. One of the many good friends who was there that night was my old buddy Nick. He was the last one left at the end of the night as the bar was closing down, and he also happens to be one of the best writers I know. If there’s ever something I’m trying to say with my writing, I can bet Nick has said it better somewhere himself. So I’m going to let him say this for me, too. This morning, he tweeted this picture with the caption, “Sometimes, rarely, writing feels like this.”

Photo courtesy of @LearnSomething

Photo courtesy of @LearnSomething

For me, last Monday was one of those nights.

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Can’t make it to my NY readings? Well, here’s the next best thing. Order a copy of my book, scribble “Bennett, Age 4″ in the front and create your own good time by reading it out loud at home. Don’t take my word for it. A complete stranger on GoodReads wrote, “I loved this book. It was really fabulous, incredibly funny in some places, incredibly heart-warming in other places… I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a good laugh and enjoys a great, quick read.” So take her word for it, and pick up your own copy in hardcover or e-version!

It’s OK If You Don’t Want Your Kids To Be Gay

bigglassesOne of the things I’m proudest of with this blog is the response I’ve received to my post How to Talk to Your Kids About Gay People, By a Gay Person. It’s received exactly the kind of praise (overwhelming) and condemnation (from a few random kooks) I would’ve hoped. I’ve also reached a number of people in the middle, which is where I would suspect most parents are these days, still trying to make sense of our increasingly gay-friendly world and where their kids fit into it.

I’d like to share one particularly intriguing comment I got on the post, which espouses a viewpoint I imagine is increasingly common among parents these days (edited version below; original can be found on the original post):

My husband and I are both tolerant, live and let live kind of people. I am a Christian, [but] I don’t think homosexuality is sinful. What is in the bible is taken way out of context.

 We have a two mom couple [in our neighborhood]. [My kids] never noticed, so we don’t bring it up. Then one day, my 5 year old said that a man can’t marry a man, that is just silly. My husband agreed with him. My husband and I talked later and I told him not to say that, because our son has girls with two moms in his class and he may tell them that it is silly or wrong. My husband said that, in truth, two men can’t legally get married and he doesn’t want the kids thinking it is OK. Well that is when I realized that we aren’t as cool with it as I thought.

I don’t think seeing gay couples will make our sons gay, but my husband seems to think that if we just say it is fine and OK and natural, then they will experiment with both genders. While I would love and accept my son no matter what and so would my husband, I don’t want him to be gay. So how do I tell them that it is OK for other people, but not OK for us. Is that ignorant of me. Am I way overthinking it. I don’t feel like these couples are going to make my children gay, but for some reason, I have this problem with telling them that it is perfectly OK and normal for them to like [other boys]. How should I explain it? I would be mortified if he told his five year old friends that their Moms were wrong or weird and made the little girls feel bad.

I’m going to start off by saying something you probably wouldn’t expect me to say:

It’s OK if you don’t want your kids to be gay.

I know, can you believe a gay man just said that? I’ll say it again:

It’s OK if you don’t want your kids to be gay.

You don’t have to feel guilty about it or be conflicted, and it shouldn’t be the cause of a fight with your spouse.

As parents, we have a lot of expectations and desires for our kids, and that’s only natural. Maybe you don’t want them to go into the military, because you’re afraid they’ll be in danger. You don’t want them to be poets, because you’re afraid they’ll always be broke. You don’t want them to be windmill technicians, because you don’t want them moving away to the Netherlands. All understandable.

On top of that, it’s natural to want your children to be people you can relate to. We want them to have the same political views as us. We want them to share our religion, our work ethic, our sense of humor.

So maybe there’s a part of you that wants your kid to share the same sexual orientation as you. It will certainly make your life easier. It’s hard enough teaching your kids about the birds and the bees, without also having to explain the bees and the bees or the birds and the birds. Fair enough.

It may even make your kid’s life easier if they’re straight, because he or she won’t have to deal with homophobia and the difficulty gay people face when trying to have a family. Maybe that’s why you don’t want your kid to be gay, and that’s OK, too.

It doesn’t make you a bad parent, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t even necessarily make you a homophobe.

Here’s the catch, though: You have to be willing to accept your kids even if they’re not what you wanted them to be.

He wasn't what they expected, but these hippies loved their Republican son.

He wasn’t what they expected, but these hippies loved their Republican son.

You would still love your daughter if she joined the military or your son if he became a poet, and if either of them became a windmill technician, you’d be a little sad, but you’d buy a Dutch phrase book and move on with life. It’s the same if your kid ends up being gay, so prepare yourself for that now. Ideally, you may not want it to happen, but it could happen.

And I’m sorry, but there’s no way to convey the notion of “It’s OK for them but not for us” without it coming across as hypocritical or dishonest. Your kid is looking at how you treat your neighbors not just to see how he should treat his neighbors, but to see how you might treat him as well.

What I’m hearing in your comment sounds to me like, “I want to teach my son to be nice to people who are different from us, because I’m terrified those people might learn how we really feel.” You can’t have it both ways. If you’d accept a stranger for being who they are, you can’t discourage it in your own child.

Kids have a tendency of defying their parents’ expectations. Ultimately, as a parent, you should be striving to make your kids happy, and nothing will make them happier than if they’re allowed to be themselves and to know that they have the unconditional love of their parents to support them.

You might really, really prefer that your kid be straight, and maybe you’ll get your wish. But maybe not. And it’s how you handle the “maybe not” that demonstrates what kind of parent you are.

Here’s the other catch: you can’t wait until your kids grow up to tell them you’re OK with who they are. You have to plant the seeds of acceptance before they even figure themselves out.

If your son tells you he wants to be a professional wrestler when he grows up, you can say you’d be very worried that he’d get hurt, but the bigger point you should make is that you’d always root for him.

If your daughter tells you she wants to be a roller disco queen, you can gently suggest that she might need a backup career plan, but only after you tell her to get down with her bad self.

And if your kids say they want to marry someone of the same sex someday, you might be inclined to share what your religion says about homosexuality, but your focus should really be on how proud you’ll be to walk them down the aisle.

Five-year-olds don’t usually have much sense of where they’ll be in 20 years. If we could really trust the predictions preschoolers make, the world would have a lot more firemen and princesses in it. But if there’s one thing kids that age are very good at, it’s testing their parents. When they make assertions about their identity, it’s a safe bet that they’re studying your reaction very closely.

Young adults have been known to experiment with homosexuality if they feel it’ll piss off their parents. But no one has actually ever become gay just because their parents told them they’d be cool with it. I promise.

As for the fact that marriage still isn’t legal wherever you happen to live, it’s only a matter of years if not months before it will be. Marriage equality is almost a certainty by the time your five-year-old reaches adulthood, so don’t cling to the technicality while it lasts.

If you want to know how to discuss the lesbian parents in your neighborhood with your kids, you can show them your acceptance without turning it into a Bi g Discussion on homosexuality. Just say, “Those women are in love, the same way I love your daddy. Someday, you’ll marry the person you love, and I can’t wait to dance at your wedding.”

Then let them go back to playing soccer.

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Want more of me? Read my book! Publishers Weekly calls it “uproarious”. The Good Men Project says it’s “hilarious”. Decide who’s right. Buy it here! Or here! Or read more about it here!

5 Types of Parents It’s OK to Judge

If you’re one of those people with no kids of your own who’s constantly judging everyone’s parenting skills, then please stop.  Trust me, all the other parents and I had a meeting, we put it to a vote, and it was unanimous: we hate you.  You don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re rude and you should keep your stupid opinions to yourself.

On the other hand, if you are a parent, then judging other parents can be one of the most fun and satisfying ways to spend your time, so have at it!  It’s open season for you!

OK, that might still get you in some trouble with the people you’re judging, so I can understand if you want to be careful. But I can’t imagine any of the lamest moms and dads would do something so informative as to read a parenting blog, so just between us, I’m going to let them have it.

Here are 5 types of parents who, in my opinion, it’s perfectly OK for you to judge…

1. The “What’s Bedtime?” and “What’s a Sitter?” Parents.

saw 6_edited-1Look, I’m sure you really needed the six pack of Corona Light, but was it really worth dragging your toddler out to Stop & Shop at 10pm?  Some of us call that “bedtime”.  We look forward to it as a relaxing break at the end of our hectic day, and what’s more, the kids need it.  It’s win-win.

At least Stop & Shop is an age-appropriate activity for young children.  We’ve all seen those morons who were so psyched for “World War Z” that they dragged their 2-year-old out to the midnight showing at Mann’s Chinese rather than wait the two months it’d take for that movie to be on DVD.  How are they selling these people tickets instead of calling child protective services on them?

It’s insane that some places have laws against gay parents adopting or fostering kids when there are clowns like this raising children.  Look, not every gay couple is Ozzy and Harriet, but if you want to root out the truly unfit parents, I suggest starting at the multiplexes.

2. Parents Who Helicopter Other People’s Children. 

booboo_edited-1Say what you will about helicopter parents. At least the only kids they’re messing up are their own… that is, except for this subset of helicopter parents who are determined to overparent everyone’s kids.

When my kids fall down at the playground, I don’t usually make a big deal about it, and because of that, they don’t make a big deal about it either. They get up, limp for a second or two and then run around like maniacs again… unless some other grownup runs over and screams, “OH MY GOD! ARE YOU OKAY?”

Odds are, my kid was fine until the crazy lady ran up and started screaming hysterically in his face. Now he’s not crying because he’s hurt. It’s because you freaked him the eff out. If not for you, he’d be back swinging upside-down from the jungle gym by now.

Oh, and while you’re at it, spare me your evil eye. When my kid really does get hurt, I will swoop in faster than you could imagine and do all the things that need to be done. I just want him to know that there are some ouchies he’s perfectly capable of handling on his own.

By the way, this is a park. I’m not sure what that green spongy material under our feet is, but I suspect it’s at least 70% marshmallow. No one’s going to get beheaded here. Relax.

3. The Only-Engage-With-The-Kids Parents.

gamelastnight_edited-1These ones are just weird. I take my kids to the same places over and over, and we see a lot of the same people.  Some of them are friendly, some of them are not, and a lot of them fall in this weird middle ground where they’re very friendly… but only to the kids.  They talk to them, hand them toys, introduce them to their kids, but even when I’m standing right there, they won’t address me directly or look me in the eye.

Instead, they’ll direct all their questions to my children.  “Does your Daddy mind if you play with that?”  “What a pretty shirt your Daddy dressed you in!”  I imagine they’re just socially intimidated by other adults, but it’s hard not to feel like Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense.  Her Daddy is standing right here! Talk to him, please! He’s starved for adult conversation!

Seriously, if there are other people out there who can’t see me, please let me know, because I’m starting to worry that I’ve crossed over to another plane of existence or something.

4. The Insufficiently Apologetic.

hairpull_edited-1One day at the kiddie gym, a little boy smacked my daughter in the face because she was on the trampoline he wanted to use.  His mother was appropriately horrified, but she didn’t say a word to me or Sutton.  No “Sorry”, no “Please don’t sue”, no “Bobby, give that girl a hug.”  She just grabbed the kid and ran away to lecture him.

I’d lump into this category any parent who offers their own apology for the kid’s behavior but doesn’t make their kid apologize himself — and worse, doesn’t do anything to reprimand him. One day at a playground, a perfectly polite nanny assured me that her kid didn’t normally pin kids to the ground and pull their hair until they screamed, the way he had just done to Sutton.  She even gave him an ultimatum: apologize or they were going home.  He didn’t apologize, but half an hour later, they were still there, and he was pulling some other kid’s hair.

I thought we were all in the same boat, trying to teach our kids to own up to their actions and say they’re sorry when they screw up. But now the next time my kid misbehaves, she’s going to whine, “But that kid at the park didn’t apologize!” And suddenly my teachable moment turns into me teaching her that some people are just assholes.

5. The Overly Apologetic.

misbehave_edited-1Look, everyone’s kid throws a fit in public sometimes.  It sucks.  But you don’t need to run around telling everyone how sorry you are and swearing, “He never does this!”  Try to forget about all the annoyed jerks glaring at you and focus on your kid instead.  Calm him down, get him out, do whatever your parenting instinct tells you the situation demands.  Trust me, no one’s going to hand you a report card on the way out, with an “F” in tantrums. Well, I’m not, at least. I’ll be one of the parents passing you glares of sympathy and encouragement. In almost any case of tantrummy kid vs. beleaguered parent, I take the parent’s side, because I’ve been there myself many times.

Sometimes the best way to handle an outburst is to ignore the behavior, and that can be tough.  I know I look like a horrible parent because my kid’s screaming their head off in a shopping cart and I’m trying to decide which brownie mix to buy.  But you know what?  I’m not going to give into him just to calm him down, and it’s not that I think this is acceptable behavior.  I’m just halfway through my shopping, and I’m really in the mood for brownies, so we’re riding this one out together, everybody.  You don’t like it?  Kindly move to Aisle 6.  Thanks.

Besides, don’t be so self-centered.  You think everyone’s judging you?  Pfft, who would do that?

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Do you like reading things like this post? Good news! I’ve written a whole book about my journey to parenthood, called “Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad” and it’s NOW AVAILABLE! Publisher’s Weekly called it “uproarious” and “touching”, and other people like it, too! You can buy the hardcover or the eBook now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, iBooks or any of these other choices. Check out what people are saying on GoodReads, too.

Still not convinced? Just leave me a comment below. Tell me a little about yourself, and I’ll give you a personalized reason why you’d love my book! That’s right, it’ll be personalized just for you, Vanessa! (For the rest of you, too. I just really wanted to freak out anyone named Vanessa.)

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How to Talk to Your Kids About Gay People, By a Gay Person

English: Train Board at Grand Central Terminal

Image via Wikipedia

[Note: I originally published this piece here as How to Talk to Your Children About Gay Parents, By a Gay Parent. The post took on a life of its own and was read and shared by lots of people whose kids might be exposed to homosexuality any number of places, and not just through kids with gay parents. So I figured it was time to freshen the piece up a bit and broaden the scope.]

It could happen anywhere, at any time. A train station. A Disney Channel show. The NFL draft.

Your kids are just hanging out, being kids and daydreaming about candy, when suddenly they see…

TWO DUDES KISSING!

michaelsamkiss

Or maybe they spot a little girl in the dropoff line at school. She kisses her mom goodbye, and then… she kisses her other mom goodbye!

You feel a tug on your leg, you look down, and there’s your kid. He just saw the same thing you saw, and now he looks up at you with his innocent face and says, “Yo, what’s the deal with that?”

As a gay man, I know I’ve spurred conversations like this myself, by doing just what Michael Sam and his boyfriend did on live TV. I want to be clear first of all that I don’t kiss my husband in public because I want to confuse your child or piss off right-wingers, although I’m aware that both of those things might happen as a result. I’m kissing him because I love him and I’m probably saying hello or goodbye at the time. (I assure you. It will never be because I’ve just been drafted by a professional sports team.) When I kiss my husband, I’m not going to look around first to make sure your kid and/or Pat Robertson isn’t watching. I’m just going to kiss him and then go on with the rest of my day.

I understand you might be unprepared for what follows. So here and now, I’m going to do what I feel is only fair for someone in my position to do. I’m going to prepare you.

Naturally, these tips are intended for the sympathetic straight parent. Unsympathetic straight parents are free to ignore my suggestions, in which case, I’ll enjoy watching them squirm.

Obviously, what you say will depend on how old your kids are and how much exposure they’ve had to gay people previously, but in a broader sense, these suggestions should apply to anyone.

I’m not a child psychologist, just a gay dad who’s thought a lot about the issue and who has a big stake in it.  After all, I don’t want your kids coming up to my kids one day and telling them they’re weird for not having a mommy.

If you don’t want that either, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Use the word “gay”.

Everyone’s concentrating on taking the negative connotation away from the word “gay”, but at the same time, let’s not forget to encourage the positive.  We don’t want “gay” to be a curse, so go ahead and teach it to your kids.  That’s how we’ll really take the sting out of the word.

“Oh, Uncle Doug and Uncle Max?  They’re gay.”  “Aunt Vera and Aunt Debbie aren’t sisters, honey.  They’re lesbians.”  “Well, statistics suggest at least 3 of the Smurfs must be gay.”  Don’t make a big deal about it.  Just say it.  If your kids hear some jerk at school sneering, “That’s so gay!”, their response will be, “Yeah?  So what?  So are Uncle Max, Aunt Vera and, most likely, Brainy.”

2. You don’t have to pretend half the world is gay. 

Don’t play down the fact that your kids may have witnessed something unfamiliar.  “Geez, Madison.  They have two daddies, what’s the biggie?”  It’s natural for poor little Madison to be confused, so give her a damn break.

Kids are probably going to assume all families have one mommy and one daddy, because that’s all most of them see.  You can be honest. Use words like “most” and “some”.  “Most families have a mommy and a daddy… but some have two mommies or two daddies.”  “Most women marry men, but some women marry other women.” As long as you don’t attach a value judgment to those statements, it really is no biggie. (The same goes when explaining single parent families, divorced families or anything else your child might be witnessing for the first time.)

Some kids might say something like, “That’s weird”, or they’ll think you’re playing a joke on them.  That should just be a reminder of why you’re having this conversation.  Get to your kid before ignorance does.  If you’re honest with them, they’ll get it.

3. Get your mind out of the gutter.

It seems silly that I even have to say this, but when some people think about homosexuality and kids, they imagine that you’re suggesting they graphically describe intercourse to kindergarteners.  Um, no.  All you should be doing is answering the questions they’re asking, and save the rest for junior high health class.  If they wonder why they saw two football players kissing, it’s because “Those two men are in love”… or because “Some men love other men.”  Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids to understand what love is, so no further explanation should be required.

And do use the word “love”.  That’s what we’re talking about here.  You don’t need to say “attracted to” or “some boys like boys”.  “Like” is how they feel about each other.  A kid might think, “Well, I like boys.  I guess I’m gay.”  Compare it to your own relationship (assuming you have a good relationship).  “You know the way Mommy and I love each other?  That’s how those two men or those two women feel about each other.”  And if your kid says, “Yuck!” it’s probably because they feel the same way about when you and your spouse get all schmoopy-doopy with each other.  That’s progress.

4. Don’t make it about your kid — yet.

Understanding homosexuality is a big enough topic of discussion, and your kid probably won’t be prompted to wonder about their own sexuality at this point.  You don’t need to say, “You might marry a man someday yourself, Junior!”  While it’s great to plant the seeds of acceptance early, you’ll probably just end up confusing them more.  Your kids have plenty of time to figure their own feelings out, and when the time comes, make sure you let them know that you love them no matter what.  But no, they can’t marry Brainy Smurf.

5. If your kid does ask you to speculate, you can tell them they’ll “probably” be straight.

Again, only if your kid expresses some curiosity should you even broach the subject.  But if they’re wondering, “Who will I marry someday?”, feel free to tell them, “You’ll probably marry someone of the opposite sex, but I’ll accept you either way.”  Of course, if you’re like the mom from the amazing blog Raising My Rainbow, your “probably” might lean the other way.  Just take your cues from your kid.

6. Remember the magic phrase, “Love is what makes a family.” 

Even kids who don’t know exactly where babies come from understand that women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth.  When that’s all you know, then the idea of two men being in love and even forming a family together just might not add up.

Again, don’t go into any more detail than you need to.  Remind your kid that while it’s a woman who gives birth to a baby, your Mommy(-ies) and/or Daddy(-ies) are the one(s) who raise you. It’s no different than how you’d explain adoption by a straight couple.  “The Strattons flew to Beijing and brought little Daisy home.  Now they’re her Mommy and Daddy.”

What kids want to know is that the little boy or girl they see whose family looks different is still being well taken care of. Assure your children that the kids are in good hands, because love is what makes a family, and those parents love their kids as much as you love yours.

7. Most importantly, just talk to your kids.

Your kids are bound to see a gay couple sooner or later, even if it’s just Mitchell & Cameron on Modern Family.  So if they come to you with questions, it’s really important that you don’t get weird about it.  Don’t change the subject, don’t tell them they’re too young to understand and definitely don’t lie and say that those two ladies were only kissing to be silly or because they were rehearsing a play.  Otherwise the message you’re sending is that there’s a reason to be uncomfortable around gay people.  The same goes for all kinds of people, really – just explain that some people look or feel a bit different from most people we meet, and isn’t it nice that everyone’s a little different.

… which leads me to a big secret.

You see, there is a gay agenda.  It’s true.

What most people don’t realize is that the gay agenda isn’t “everybody should be gay”.  It’s “everybody should be themselves.”

Be a nerd, be a Yanni fan, be a real housewife of your particular geographic region.  Whatever.  It’s all part of the same cause, and it’s a great message to teach your kids.

I shouldn’t have to say this in the 21st Century, but for anyone who’s still wondering, NO, I don’t want to make your kids gay.  I just want to live my life with a sense of mutual respect for everyone else on this planet.  If you want the same thing, then let your kids learn by your example.  Show them that gay people and nontraditional families are nothing to be afraid of.

Teaching your kids to be accepting of gay people and gay families is a great way to teach them acceptance in a broader sense – and to teach them the ultimate lesson: to be accepting of themselves.

I know some people think differently, but that’s what I call family values.

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If you know anyone who you think would appreciate this post, please share it using the buttons below. I’ve come back and revised this post a couple of times now, so if you have any non-homophobic notes or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment. If you have homophobic notes or suggestions, on the other hand, you might want to read my comment policy first.

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Looking for a fun read? My book “Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad” is NOW AVAILABLE in hardcover and digital formats at all your favorite online and real world retailers. Get more details here.

Mommy Man Day!

releasedayIt was January, 2013 when my agent emailed to tell me we had an offer on my manuscript. It was two and a half years earlier that I first started writing it, and I guess you could say 41 1/2 years before that when I first started living it.

And tomorrow, my book officially comes out.

I know this might not mean quite as much to anyone who’s not me (i.e., you), but I’m pretty excited… and nervous… and incredibly grateful.

For the last few years, I’ve been blogging here and asking you to subscribe, like me, follow me, reblog me, share my posts and comment, and I’ve been overwhelmed by how many of you have done just that. You helped me get jobs at Lifetime Moms and even a big-shot on-air job at HLN. You brought me to the attention of Mom superbloggers like Scary Mommy and Baby Sideburns, who reposted me and brought me even more followers and who were then kind enough to blurb my book. You helped me get featured on “The Today Show” and on “Huffington Post Live”. You helped me get named one of Babble’s Top 10 Humor Blogs for 2013. I’ve made friends through this site, both on Facebook and in real life.

Most importantly, you helped me sell my book.

Honestly, it wouldn’t have happened without all of your support. And I’m not just saying that. Publishers want someone with an online platform and lots of followers who will help them spread the word about their book, and that’s you. Confession time: That’s mostly why I started this blog, to impress publishers, but (cue sappy music) it’s become much more to me along the way than just a promotional tool.

I’ve appreciated all your thoughtful and hilarious responses to things I’ve written. I’ve loved hearing from other non-traditional families, from young LGBTQ people who found some hope here that they might have their own family someday, from fellow dads and moms who’ve related to something I’ve been through with my kids and from people who just got a good laugh out of something I wrote. You encouraged me as a writer and as a dad, and you helped me find my voice.

There’s a reason I start my book off talking about what it was like being in the closet as a teenager — because that kid I was then would’ve been blown away by reading all the later chapters in the book, by getting a glimpse of all the joy I was yet to experience in life not in spite of the fact that I was different, but because of it.

You know what else would’ve made that kid happy? Seeing photos of complete strangers holding up copies of my book and telling me how excited they were to read it.

“It gets better” doesn’t begin to cover it.

Now, I’m asking for your support one more time. Tomorrow is my book’s official publication day, and I want to make a big splash. The last time we did this, the book went to #1 in its category, and #260 overall! It made Amazon’s Movers and Shakers chart and gained tons of attention. Since then, I’ve gained thousands of new followers, and I know I can do even better.

Here’s what I ask: I’ve been over all the reasons you should buy Mommy Man.” If you have any intention of doing so, don’t put it off indefinitely. PLEASE buy your copy tomorrow, Thursday, May 8 at 12pm EST (or as close to that time as you can). The more people who do so, the bigger the impact the book will make, and the bigger the impact, the more potential the book will have from there.

If you’ve already bought “Mommy Man,” thank you. Hopefully, you laughed your ass off and cried your eyes out in all the right spots, and if so, I’d love your help, too. Write a review on Amazon, Barnes & NobleGoodReads or [insert your favorite site here]. Tell your friends about it on Facebook, Twitter and [insert your favorite social network here]. Share this post, or share one of my old posts that you really liked. Upload a selfie of you holding the book to my Facebook page. Do something else so hip and new that I don’t even know about it yet. Help me make this a super big deal.

I promise I won’t keep pestering you to do this. Tomorrow’s the big day. If you want to help me give my book a launch that will rattle the publishing industry and get it lots of atention, now’s the time.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for putting up with all this self-promotion. As I said, this is what publishers are looking for. They want to see that you can mobilize your readers when the time comes. And the time has come.

I promise I’ll be back with a regular post next week.

Until then, help me celebrate Mommy Man Day.

Thanks.

A Big Day For Me and Bennett

 

booksbooksbooksYesterday was a rough day. Bennett had to have surgery, which means we had our hands full… with Sutton. (Parenting note: the healthy kid is always more trouble than the sick kid. Always.) I understand that, at 4 years old, it’s hard to see your twin getting so much attention, almost as hard as it is being a parent and having to hold back from screaming, “Your brother is about to get cut open! Let him have this moment!”

In a lapse of parenting judgment, I ended up promising her a toy if she could chill out. On the plus side, she chilled out. Mostly. Eh, I’ll buy her a crappy toy. I didn’t promise anything nice.

I’ve been saying for a while now that potty training is the hardest thing I’ve had to do as a parent. Well, after yesterday, I’m going to give the #2 slot to watching my little boy get knocked out by gas in an operating room, assuring him that everything would be fine and that Other Daddy and I would both be there when he woke up.

He handled it like a champ, drifting off to sleep calmly as he stared trustingly into our eyes, with very little idea of what was actually about to happen. It’s always the really hard moments as a parent that also remind me why I love having kids so much. Bennett couldn’t quite understand what was happening, but because his dads were with him, he felt safe.

The surgery went great. He was up and wolfing down ice pops in no time, and by the end of the day, we were out of the hospital, celebrating at McDonald’s, where Bennett ate more food than I’ve ever seen him eat in one sitting in his life.

When we got home, there were balloons and flowers at the door, and a giant cardboard box.

A box full of books.

“Do you guys know what this is?” I asked the kids.

“It’s your book!” Bennett cheered.

It was, in fact, a lot of my books.

It was just like you always dream it will be as a writer. You cut open a box and all you see are copies of your own book staring back at you. I’m not sure exactly how many copies were in there. However many I was contractually obligated to receive, I guess, but  I haven’t counted. It feels like a million. Like a bottomless box of books. And all I can think is, “What am I going to do with all these books?” Am I supposed to read them all? Pass them out to strangers? Are they just going to sit in my basement like this, a big box of books, always kept in pristine condition, their bindings never cracked?

Then, I had another thought: I should order more.

At the same time, I started getting emails from friends. Amazon had notified people who preordered that the books arrived early and would be shipped out in the next few days. Soon, lots of people will have my book.

The timing couldn’t have been better. After a long, draining day, we had something else to celebrate.

And of course, as the spotlight shifted to me, Sutton was ridiculously jealous once again.

Bwahahahaha!

* * * * *

Yes! Books are coming soon! Don’t forget to order yours! Or better yet, join in my Amazing Chart Twerk 2, which is still set for the official release day of May 8.

My Little Imagineers (For the Record, I Prefer Bennett’s Ride)

TowerOfTerrorBennett: “Daddy, when I grow up, I’m going to build a ride for Disney World.”

Me: “That’s great. What kind of ride?”

Bennett: “It’ll be for babies.”

Me: “Good idea. They don’t have a lot of rides for babies. And what will it be?”

Bennett: “A Tower of Terror.”

Me: “Hmm… OK. Well, what are you going to call it?”

Bennett: “The Baby Tower of Terror.”

Me: “How is it going to be different from the regular Tower of Terror?”

Bennett: “It’s not.”

Me: “It’ll be just as tall?”

Bennett: “Yup!”

Me: “And just as dark?”

Bennett: “Yup!”

Me: “Don’t you think babies will be scared?”

Bennett: “Nope, because it’s for babies.”

minniemouseSutton: “I’m going to make a ride called Minnie’s Fashion Bow Ride.”

Me: “What happens in your ride?”

Sutton: “You ride in a bow and you see all of Minnie’s bows and beautiful dresses.”

Me: “How long does this ride last?”

Sutton: “15 or 20 hours.”

Our Disney Visit, in Pictures

FamilySelfieThe response to my Disney post has really blown me away. I’ve heard from so many cast members, many of whom have shared my post and all of whom have been astonishingly nice and complimentary. There have even been a few who remember my family from our trip! It’s never fun to come back from vacation, but all of you helped keep the magic going for a few more days, so thanks.

To everyone who read the post, I want to say a couple of things. One, many people wanted to make sure I know that Disney treats everyone as well as they treated my family. It’s their goal to make us all feel special. That couldn’t make me happier. I’d love to think that everyone who goes to Disney World has as wonderful a vacation as we did.

Two, the Fairy Godmother I wrote about is apparently well-known for being extra awesome. That makes me happy, too, because she definitely deserves the recognition. If you go to Orlando, make sure you pay her a visit.

Since people seemed to connect so well with that post, I figured I’d share a few more photos and anecdotes from our trip. Some of them have already appeared on my Facebook page, but I think they’re worth reposting here. Continue reading

FairyGodmother2-good

Just a Couple of Gay Dads at Disney World

snowwhite2Last week, I did something I never thought I’d do. I went to Disney World as a dad.

The last time I’d been there, I was pretty much still a kid myself — 20 years old and just coming to terms with being gay. Everywhere I looked in Orlando, I saw dads. They were buckling their kids into the Dumbo ride and hoisting them onto their shoulders to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade. They all had big smiles on their faces, and they all had wives.

With that visit, Disney World became Exhibit A of what I was sacrificing by coming out of the closet.

Or so I thought.

I’ve written a whole book about how I got from that point to fatherhood, and I’m happy to say that twenty years in the future, life looks a lot better than I ever expected it would. As soon as Drew and I felt the kids were old enough to appreciate a Disney vacation, we booked our trip.

I had just a tinge of nerves as the four of us headed for the airport. We’re never more visible as a family than when we travel. Nothing says “We file taxes jointly” as clearly as sharing a Lion King suite in a Disney hotel. And I doubt any place in America draws such a cross-section of Americans as Orlando. I was sure we’d bump into some people who wouldn’t find our family… let’s say, family-friendly.

We’d barely stepped through the front door of our hotel when an eager employee — er, I mean cast member — strolled up to us and asked if we needed to check in.

“Well, I was told I’d get a text when our room was ready, and it hasn’t come yet,” I told him.

“Hmmm, let me see,” he said. He took down my name and disappeared behind the check-in desk.

A minute later, he was back. “You haven’t been assigned a room yet, but I’m going to talk to my manager and get that taken care of right away! Just sit tight!”

We watched him approach his manager, and Drew whispered to me. “I think we’re getting the family treatment, if you know what I mean.”

Of course I knew what he meant. The cast member who was helping us was gay (“family”) himself, so he was being extra nice to us. Moments later, we were upstairs in a fantastic room on the top floor.

Though I’d planned all our meal reservations months in advance (which you have to do if you want to eat at the good spots), I needed to make a change to one. I was not optimistic I’d be able to get what I wanted, but I picked up our hotel phone and dialed the reservation line.

“So this is for you and… Andrew?” the man on the other end asked, reading my information off his computer.

“Yes.”

“And are you celebrating anything today?”

“Well, it’s our anniversary, actually.” (We hadn’t specifically planned to be at Disney World for the occasion, but a lot of big life events seem to end up happening on the same day Drew and I met 11 years ago.)

“Aw!” he said. I realized that once again, we were getting the family treatment. He fixed my reservation and waived the change fee.

It’s then that I realized something that would become even clearer to me throughout our vacation: a LOT of gay people work at Disney World. And as I’ve already learned, gay people love to see gay parents. Thanks to them and all the other wonderful people who work at the Magic Kingdom, I felt completely safe at Disney and never had any second thoughts about whether my family belonged there.

mulansuccessWe spent our vacation like pretty much everyone else. We dined with everyone from Donald Duck to Tigger to Stitch to Sleeping Beauty. We stalked Mulan through Epcot’s China pavilion so the kids could get her autograph, camping out on a tip that she was going to make a surprise appearance. (Success!) We spent roughly half our kids’ college funds on Disney merchandise.

It was awesome.

Instead of feeling self-conscious about our family, we felt… well, special.

As we stood on Main Street waiting for a lunch reservation one day, a cast member approached us in character and said, “You have a beautiful family! The four of you, I love this.” She pointed at each of us, just so we knew for sure that she understood exactly what kind of family we had.

fairygodmotherOur kids felt like celebrities, because everyone from the White Rabbit to Princess Tiana treated them rock stars. They got picked to take part in shows, Mike Wazowski read Bennett’s joke during the Monsters, Inc. show, and the characters at Disney restaurants didn’t want to leave our table. No one was more awesome than Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. We stood in line one day to get her autograph, and the next day, she spotted us during the park’s opening ceremony. “I remember you guys!” she called out to us. “Come see me later!”

Of course, we did, and she greeted us like old friends. This was a woman who probably spoke to hundreds of families a day, but precisely because we were a little bit different, she remembered us. It made me realize once again that it’s better to stand out than to blend in.

Any fears I had about people reacting negatively to our family were unfounded. As I’ve noted in other posts, the nice people we come into contact with tend to be extra-nice to us, and the homophobes are at least polite enough to stay out of our way.

There’s no way to say this without sounding cheesy or like some Disney shill (which I’m not — no one has paid me for this post!), but the best word I can think of to describe our trip was “magical.”

Becoming a dad was a major life victory for me, but it was hardly the last one. It’s been followed by innumerable others, the most recent of which came last week, when I took my family to Disney World, just like anyone else.

And it was even better than I’d imagined.

* * * * *

If you’re a regular reader, you may already know to skip the part after the asterisks, because you’ve probably already subscribed to my blog and followed me everywhere else, too — and geez, when’s he going to stop asking? Those of you who are still reading — what are you waiting for? Subscribe, like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter — and hey, as long as I’m shamelessly groveling, why not mark my book as “to read” on GoodReads? That’d be swell.