Gay Dads Have All The Answers…

selfportrait

Her first self-portrait

“Daddy, when I’m an adult, I’m going to grow a baby in my belly.”

“That’s great, Honey, and if that’s what you decide, then yes, you can.”

“But Daddy…?”

“Yes?”

“How does it get in there?”

“How does what get in there?”

“The baby… how does it get in my belly?”

“Um… well…”

“How does it get in there, Daddy?”

“Well… um… actually, for Daddy and me… we had a doctor put you in.”

“Oh. OK.”

Giant sigh of relief.

 

5 Ways My Kids Have It Better — and My New Twitter Account!

kidshaveitbetterMy new post at Lifetime Moms was inspired by the last time my kids got sick. It was awful, of course, because it’s always awful when kids are sick. But it wasn’t nearly as awful as it was supposed to be, because their medicine came in delicious candy flavors. (I guess someone at the drug companies finally took Mary Poppins to heart.)

It was a relief to me as a parent, because who wants to deal with giving their kids medicine? But as a former kid, I was kind of pissed off. Lucky little squirts don’t know how good they have it! So I came up with a few other ways my kids are living the sweet life, at the risk of being labeled a grumpy old man. Check the Lifetime Moms site to read the whole thing.

And as always, if you have any of your own to add, leave me a comment over there.

Also, I’ve started a second twitter account, @MommyManBlog. In theory, it’s going to be the place where I post anything specific to the blog, so it’ll be lighter on my personal “jokes” and observations. (I’ll still link my blog posts on both accounts, though. I’m no slacker when it comes to self-promotion.)

If you want to choose one to follow, stick with @WhyJerryWhy. That won’t be changing. The big difference is that I’m going to follow all the @MommyManBlog followers back. I’ve seen enough of these “I follow back!” people to wonder if I’m the douchebag who’s been twittering wrong all this time, because I’ve tried to keep my feed to a level I can actually keep up with.

So now I have one feed I’ll actually keep up with and one where I just follow whoever is nice enough to give me a follow. Hey, I get it. I like getting that “new follower” email notification, too.

I started writing a whole blog post about my impressions of Twitter etiquette, but I decided to scrap it, because trust me, that one really made me sound like a grumpy old man.

My Son is Special

bennettmonalisaI had originally planned to call this post, “Shameless Boasts of a Superdad: My Kids Are Freaking Geniuses,” because any parent knows that their #1 responsibility in raising their children is to brag about them, even when privately the kids are driving them close to a nervous breakdown. Not my kids, of course. Other people’s. So I’ve heard.

My kids really are geniuses, and I was going to lay out all the evidence in this post so you could decide for yourself if I had a couple of Stephen Hawkings on my hands or merely Einsteins. I was going to lead the whole thing off with this picture:

solarbennett

That’s Bennett completing a puzzle of the solar system, for the first time, by himself, without looking at the box. Um, yeah. And he was 3 years, 4 months old when this was taken. Did I mention he had no idea what the solar system even was? (He does now. He’s learned a lot in the last 4 months.)

As I started composing the post in my head, though, I had an “Uh-oh” moment. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “Some people might see this a little differently.”

See, a few months ago, I put up a post that showed Bennett doing one of his favorite activities, lining up whatever objects he has handy and imagining them as trains. I thought it showed a pretty creative mind, or at the very least, a snapshot of a little boy who really liked trains.

Most people did see it that way, but there was a minority that wrote with concern. It turns out a nagging attention to detail and repetitive behavior can be red flags in kids this age.

It wasn’t the first time I’d had those fears myself. Who doesn’t? We all know there’s an epidemic, and early intervention is key, so any half-aware parent is going to take note of their kid’s unusual behavior.

The problem is, everything about my kid is unusual.

eyerollWhen Bennett was a baby, he started doing this thing where he would roll his eyes back in his head. It could’ve been a neurological tic, but I swear it seemed more like a sarcastic eye-roll. His timing with deploying it was impeccable. It really seemed like he was mocking me, which I loved. But he was way too young for that… wasn’t he?

Bennett also has a very mechanical mind. He loves toys that turn when you move a crank. He loves to check out all their moving parts. One day, Drew was running on the treadmill, and Bennett got down on the floor to inspect it. “It goes around!” he said, in a eureka moment. “You’re not moving!” At 3, he understands that a constantly rotating belt is what makes a treadmill work. Personally, if you’d asked me, my first guess would’ve been “magic”.

Bennett also likes to wear his sister’s dresses. He was planning to be Thomas the Train for Halloween, but at the last minute, he changed his mind and went as Sleeping Beauty. He’s told me that when he grows up, he plans to marry a boy. Other times, he says he’s going to marry his sister or one of his daddies. (And yes, it stings when he picks the other daddy over me. “Why, Bennett? Don’t you think I can provide for you?”) On a side note, it’s nice living at a time and in a state where my son can tell me he wants to marry a boy someday, and I can respond with a simple, “Okay!”

Again, some people want to put labels on these behaviors, but he’s 3 years old. Do I think he’s confused about his gender? Probably not. He’s always been very clear in labeling himself a boy. I just think in a family with two dads, you have to work extra hard to be subversive. Maybe he senses our family is different than most, and he wears it as a badge of honor. Plus, dresses are fun to twirl around in.

notcornholioBennett’s laugh is the single greatest sound in the world, a high-pitched titter that conveys nothing but pure joy. There’s a smile that goes with it that I won’t even try to describe. You just have to see it, and if you spend five seconds with him, you will. His favorite meal is a grilled cheese sandwich, followed closely by two peanut butter half-sandwiches. His third favorite meal is walking away from the table to play with his trains.

He has a couple of catch phrases. One is, “That can’t be right!” He says it whenever something unexpected happens. While watching Beauty & the Beast, he might say, “A talking candlestick? That can’t be right!” He also says it when he thinks you’re trying to fool him, even if you aren’t. “You mix yellow and blue to make green? That can’t be right!”

His other catch phrase is, “I gotta tell you something.” He says this every single time he begins a conversation, even if he’s not sure what he wants to talk about yet.

“Daddy?”

“Yeah, pal?”

“I gotta tell you something.”

“OK. What?”

(pause) “Hi.”

Speaking of trains, he knows every single friend Thomas the Tank Engine has. All their smushy faces look exactly the same to me, but one quick glance is all he needs to say, “That’s Gordon” or “That’s Skarloey”. He can play trains quietly by himself for half an hour. That may not sound like long, but at this age, it’s an ETERNITY. He can get 7 different engines going at once on the same track. He spaces them out perfectly so they won’t crash into each other. When we got him a kiddie mp3 player, he wanted us to load it up with nothing but Thomas the Tank Engine songs. (There are more than you’d imagine, and some of them aren’t half bad.)

He’s a better athlete than I ever was. A better dancer, too. He loves to invent games with names like “Run With a Balloon” or “Run Around the Trampoline,” or my favorite, which is simply called “Run!”

bennettclimbsHe’s off-the-charts skinny, literally below the first percentile in weight. He’s the only kid I’ve ever known who’ll stop eating dessert when he feels he’s had enough. Seriously, the kid can take two nibbles of an Oreo, shrug and say, “I’m done” and then just walk away. (That’s when his sister and I rush in and fight over the part he left behind.)

One of his favorite pastimes is to walk around with his eyes closed. At first we warned him he was going to get hurt, but then we realized stumbling into things was part of the fun for him. Maybe he just likes experimenting, seeing the world in a different way. He has gotten hurt, of course, but right after that, he’ll close his eyes and stumble into something else.

There are a million things about this kid that some people might see as odd, but whenever that voice in my head says, “Something’s wrong,” it gets shouted down by an even louder voice that tells me, “He’s perfect.” Not one of those million unique things about my kid is bad. So he’s good at math? Great. He has a silly sense of humor? Awesome. He likes machines? Swell.

What matters more to me than anything is that Bennett is the happiest kid I’ve ever known. One of the things he says the most is, “This is the best ____ ever!” You can insert virtually any word into that blank. “day,” “episode of ‘Dora’,” “peanut butter sandwich.” I’ve heard them all.

Quirkiness is a gift. So many people struggle to develop it in their teens and 20s, and my kid was lucky enough to born with it, in spades. Maybe it was growing up gay that made me realize not every idiosyncrasy is a problem to be solved. As a teenager, I always felt the need to hide from who I was. It took me half a lifetime to accept that there was nothing wrong with me. When it comes to my kids, I want to teach them that from the very start.

Sometimes, things Bennett does stand out to me, or to other people. But I’m not concerned. If there’s a technical term for whatever’s made him the way it is, it still won’t bother me, because what he is, is perfect.

My son is special, and I wouldn’t change a thing about him.

10 Quotes From My Son About the New Legoland Discovery Center Near Us

legostatue

“I did not like the spooky hallway.”
“I was so brave.”
“That girl did not share, and I told her, ‘YOU’RE NOT PLAYING NICE!'”

legolandentrance

“I did not want my picture taken.”
“The movie was not good.”
“It’s so far away!” (It’s 20 minutes away.)
“Legoland was not fun.”

legolandmovie

“Daddy’s going to write an angry letter because there are no low sinks in the bathroom.”
“When can we go back to Legoland?”

“I forgive Legoland.”

legopit

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The 5 Most Amazing Things In The Whole World!!! (to a 3 1/2-year-old)

1. Eating under the table dinnerundertable

2. Dressing like Daddy dresslikedaddy

3. Automatic hand dryers*handdryer

4. Traffic cones

trafficcone

5. Putting an Angry Birds Easter basket on your head

angrybirdeasterbasket

or just improvising with whatever you’ve gotcornholio

* two weeks ago, these were TERRIFYING

Kid Peeves: 5 Perfectly Innocent Things My Toddlers Do That Drive Me F*%#in’ Nuts

Play-Doh, Play-Doh cans

Like anybody’s kids, mine do things that drive me nuts, but most of the time, that’s exactly what they’re trying to do. They’re hoping that the 5,000th time they ask me for ice cream will be the one where I finally give in because I’m going to have a nervous breakdown if I have to keep saying no. The same goes for when they’re rubbing mashed potatoes in their hair at dinner or belting out “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” when they’re supposed to be napping. Even at 3 1/2, they are virtuosos at pushing Daddy’s buttons.

Sometimes, though, they can fill me with unbridled rage without even trying. Kids can drive you nuts just by being kids, doing things that are perfectly developmentally appropriate, even beneficial for them.

What really frustrates me about these things is that I can’t punish the kids for them. All I can do is quietly seethe, ride the behavior out and then write blog posts in the hope that other parents out there might relate. Please, please tell me you do.

These are 5 of my Kid Peeves:

1. Mixing Play-Doh colors.

Cinderella, Play-Doh, Spin & Style Cinderella

(l-r) our Cinderella, the Cinderella on the box

See all those cool things the kids on the box of the Play-Doh Fun Factory are making? The bright yellow bananas and pretty pink ribbons? Well, we can make those in my house for about two minutes. After that, my kids have mushed all the colors together into one messy swirl, which never looks like it’s supposed to when pressed into the molds or wrapped around the ball gown of the Spin and Style Cinderella.

I know, it’s their toy, and I shouldn’t tell them how to play with it. It’s probably good for them to experiment and make a mess with it. But eventually, they get frustrated that all their Play-Doh is the color of puke. “Daddy, where’s orange?” they’ll whimper.

“Where’s orange? Where’s orange?! It’s mushed in with green and purple and that glittery blue so it’s all just one turd-brown mess. Good luck making something out of that!”

Then I sigh and open another can of orange… which stays orange for about 5 seconds before being pressed into the turd with all the other colors.

No wonder our Play-Doh budget is killing us.

2. Questioning my knowledge.

One Direction, The WantedI thought my kids would be teenagers before they decided I was full of crap. But at three years old, they already doubt 90% of what comes out of my mouth, which is really frustrating because their other dad and I are their sources for roughly 100% of the information they seek. It burns the most when it’s something I’m clearly an expert on, like the alphabet (“I swear, kangaroo starts with ‘K’, not ‘C’!”) or One Direction songs.

“Daddy, who sings this song?”

“One Direction.”

“No, it’s the Wanted.”

“No, it’s One Direction!”

“It’s the Wanted!”

“It’s One Direction! It says it right here on my iPod. ‘Last First Kiss’ by One Direction. You can’t read it but I can, and that’s what it says. Hear that? Those are Niall’s harmonies! It’s One Direction! Admit it! Admit it!”

3. Reading the same books over and over.

Little Engine That Could, Watty PiperA few years ago, I read the book “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon, and it was so good that I read it a second time. Then, I moved on with my life. My kids do not understand this concept. We’ll get to the end of one of their favorite books, and they’ll instantly want to read it again. And again.

And again.

I know repetition is good for kids, and so are familiarity and routine. Plus, when you like something a lot, you don’t want it to end. But Daddy’s not getting quite as much enjoyment out of our 1,000th reading of “The Little Engine That Could.” We know he’s getting up the hill, dammit. Do we really need to read ten pages of “I think I can!”?

Sure, for the first few dozen times, I’m sharpening my dramatic reading of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” I’m rehearsing the best way to hit all the punchlines in “Don’t Let Pigeon Drive The Bus” and just where to pause for laughs. (Attention children’s theater companies: if you need someone to play the bus driver, I’ve got the part down cold.)

We don’t even bother to hold the book of “Goodnight Moon” anymore, because we all know it by heart. The pictures are permanently ingrained in our minds, like haunting memories of misspent youth or that chilling napalm photo from the Vietnam War.

4. “Forgetting” how to do things.

Everyone’s heard the old saying, “It’s like riding a bicycle. You never forget.” Well, my kids could forget how to ride a bicycle. They forget everything. They forget how to put their coats on, how to get GoGurt out of the tube, how many daddies they have. They forget the dance moves we choreographed to that Ke$ha song, which we’ve practiced like A HUNDRED TIMES. When they’re counting to 20, they sometimes forget the number 17. Or 12. It varies.

They forget how knock-knock jokes are supposed to go. I can’t stand that the most childish form of humor has such a rigid structure that actual children can’t possibly get it right. “Say ‘Boo who?’!” I find myself shouting half the time. “C’mon, the joke only works if you say ‘Boo who?’! Say it!”

And speaking of humor…

5. Not laughing at my hilarious jokes.

"Is this thing on?"

“Is this thing on?”

Like a struggling stand-up, I’m all too used to my punchlines being met with blank stares and the sound of crickets. I bomb daily in front of my kids. Try as I might, I just can’t get them to appreciate my subtle comedy stylings.  Talk about a tough room. What sucks the most is that 90% of the time, they’re the only room I have.

Forget sarcasm, deadpan, word play, insults, Borscht Belt, dirty limericks or references to supporting actors from obscure 80s sitcoms. It all goes right over their head.

Just about the only humor my kids appreciate right now are toot (i.e., “fart”) jokes and physical comedy. Sure, they love when daddy falls down. Only daddy wasn’t trying to be funny. He really fell, and he’s hurt. Stop laughing and get him an ice pack, you monsters!

*****

Have your own kid peeves? I’d love to hear them in the comments section. And if you like mine, please share this post on Facebook, Twitter or whatever. (“whatever” btw is the name of a new social network. All the cool kids are on it.) It also makes me very happy when people like me on Facebook, so if you haven’t already, hey, won’t you please, because my kids would totally never do that for me.

Things That Go Jump in the Night

Spirit Halloween, jumping spiderI’ve written before about how my kids are obsessed with Halloween. Their favorite thing at the Halloween store last year was a spider that jumped out at you when you stepped on a floor pad. It also made this hideous shrieking sound, and its eyes glowed a chilling, sinister red.

The kids were simultaneously fascinated and terrified by it. When we went to the mall, they couldn’t wait to see it, but as soon as we got to the store, they would hide from it and make me promise not to step on the pad.

Of course, even though they couldn’t bear to be near this evil toy, they kept begging us to buy one for our home. Good thing it cost $80, because Daddy knows better than to spend that kind of cash on a cheap piece of plastic that horrifies his children.

If I could get it for $30, though…

So I went online a few days after Halloween looking for a clearance sale. I found a smaller, less scary model at a more attractive price point and decided to make it a Christmas present. That way, if it freaked anyone out, Santa could take the heat.

Bad move, Superdad.

This time there was no fascination, only terror. The kids refused to play with the tabletop jumping spider or even turn it on. It got tossed behind a mountain of other toys, where I assumed they just forgot about it.

… until a couple of weeks ago, when Bennett woke up in the middle of the night screaming. “It’s the jumping spider! He’s coming to get me!”

We told Bennett we were going to throw the spider away, but that only upset him more. I think he didn’t like the feeling that it would be… out there somewhere. He needed closure. I started thinking up a plan. Maybe we could wait for the garbage truck one day, then personally hand it over to the workers and watch them crush it in the back of the truck. Sure, and then my kid would be terrified of the garbage truck.

Drew suggested we lock the spider in our garage. At least then, Bennett would know where it was. Bennett liked that plan, but the nightmares continued.

Finally, I came up with a new idea. We could give the jumping spider away to a friend of ours, an older kid who wouldn’t be afraid of it. He would make sure the spider stayed away from Bennett, and if Bennett ever changed his mind and wanted to visit the spider, we could go to his house.

Jumping spider, Halloween, spider, Halloween toyWe set up the drop-off. Bennett and Sutton were both so excited to give the spider away. They fought over who got to carry it, then finally decided they would carry it together. I was afraid they might change their minds about handing it over, but when the time came, they gave it up and never looked back.

As we drove home, I was looking forward to a peaceful sleep with no nightmares. Then, Bennett called out from the back seat.

“Daddy?” he said.

“Yeah, pal?”

“For Halloween this year, can we get a jumping zombie?”

Spookytown, jumping zombie, Halloween

My Little Mean Girl

sutton1

“If a baby came to my house, I would hit it so that it would leave my house.”

That’s a direct quote from my 3-year-old daughter, Sutton, whom I’ve previously declared to be the sweetest little girl in the world. I don’t say that as much anymore, and when I do say it, she’s quick to correct me.

“No,” she’ll insist. “I’m a mean girl!”

snow white, evil witch, apple

(l., what most little girls want to be; r., my daughter)

She’ll say it with the wicked delight of a Disney villainess. Speaking of those, she’s endlessly fascinated by them. “Just take onnnnnnne biiiiiiiiite,” she cackles constantly, in a creepily uncanny impersonation of the evil queen tempting Snow White with her poison apple. She went as Ariel from the Little Mermaid last Halloween, but only after we struggled in vain to find her an Ursula costume. One of her favorite YouTube clips of late is an edit someone did of Sleeping Beauty with only Maleficent’s dialogue included. Why waste time with anything else, right?

I think she’s doing research.

How did this happen to my delightful little angel? Well, the baby thing can be explained with some backstory. She said it right after a baby took a toy away from her, and everyone defended the baby. “She doesn’t know any better!” grown-ups (like me) assured her. Sutton just glared at this tiny, adorable little creature everybody loved who did something selfish and got away with it. That’s the origin story of an evil queen if I’ve ever heard one.

It wasn’t her resentment of the baby that bothered me. It was the ferocity with which she clung to it. “I don’t like babies!” she swore. “Babies should all go away!” Replace “baby” with any racial epithet and it might’ve been a Strom Thurmond speech from the 1950s. One baby wronged her, one time, and she became a raging baby racist.

sutton2By all appearances, Sutton is more of a Cinderella than a Wicked Stepsister. She’s a beautiful little girl with a sense of style far beyond anything she inherited from her dads. She knows how to pick out just the right shoes to complement each of her favorite dresses. She’s self-assured and funny, even if her favorite joke at this age is just to reply “Poopy!” to everything. She’s also ridiculously smart. A few weeks ago, we read in a book that a character’s feelings were “fragile”. She asked what that meant, and I said, “Fragile means something breaks easily.” The next day, her brother was playing with a snow globe, and I warned him to be careful with it. “It’s fragile!” Sutton shouted.

Her teacher described her as the Mayor of her preschool class, because she’s a born leader who bounces from one group to another to see how everyone’s doing. She’s incredibly chatty, and when she wants to start a conversation, she’ll just sit across from me, cock her head thoughtfully to one side and ask, “So… what’s your interesting?” (It’s become her catch phrase.) She has every quality you could ask for in a daughter. She’s smart, charming, self-confident and totally fearless.

I’ve seen “Mean Girls”. This is a recipe for disaster.

Already, she’s built up an unheard-of immunity to discipline. I might tell her to pick up her toys or she’ll lose dessert. Rather than pick up her toys, she’ll scream her head off and accuse me of being unfair. I’ll tell her if she doesn’t stop screaming, then I’ll take away one of her YouTube videos at bedtime (part of our nightly routine). She’ll scream louder, and I’ll say, “OK, you lost one video. You want to lose another one?” Scream. “OK, that’s two videos you’ve lost. Want to go for all three?”

john-benderIt’s like John Bender racking up Saturday detentions in the Breakfast Club. I can’t win. The only punishment that has any impact is the first one, but then I’m burdened with enforcing an endless string of post-punishment punishments because she was too stubborn to back down. I admit it. I can’t compete on her level. And now she’s made me identify with Mr. Vernon. Curses!

I’ve been telling the kids a lot about Harry Potter lately, and guess who’s piqued Sutton’s interest? That’s right. He Who Shall Not Be Named, Whose Name My Daughter Won’t Stop Saying. She pleaded with me to show her a picture of him, even though I warned her he was very scary looking. Bennett covered his eyes while I did the Google Image search, but Sutton was riveted.I told her about the four houses at Hogwarts that the Sorting Hat can send you to, and guess where she begged to go?

“Slytherin! The one with the mean guys!”

LordvoldemortLook, I love my daughter no matter what. Just because I’m worried she might end up as Cruella de Vil, it doesn’t mean I won’t teach her how to count to 101. I’ll probably even tip her off where she can score some Dalmatians. (Psst, firehouses!) I just want for my kids what every parent wants, for them to be cooler than I was at their age. (Granted, this sets the bar pretty low.) In Sutton’s case, I have no worries whatsoever. Who’s cooler than the villain?

Sutton’s preschool teacher also called her “The nicest thief in the world” because she likes to take toys from other kids, and then when the kid complains, she’ll drip false sincerity and reply, “Oh, I’m so sorry! Here you go!”

That’s another thing she does really well — apologies. (It helps when you’ve had as much practice as she’s had.) On some level, my daughter is still the sweetest girl in the world. She loves to dance, play and laugh, she loves to give hugs and kisses, and she tells me all the time, totally unprompted, how much she loves me. I’ve never actually seen her hit a baby — or anyone, in fact. She’s a darling little girl, honestly, a total angel.

I’m keeping an eye on her, though. Consider yourself warned.

2012Yearbook-148

“So… what’s your interesting?”

What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life?

futureoccupations

Just about the most horrible thing you can ask a kid, other than “Do you want to watch Barney?”, is “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

My kids are 3 years old. You really expect them to have their lives mapped out already? If you ask my kids what they want to do later that afternoon, they’ll say, “Eat cookies.” That’s how much thought they’ve given to the future. But you want them to imagine a day when they’re paying into social security? Geez, let them be kids for five seconds. If you’re going to start pressuring them about their future, why not give them a sample SAT test while you’re at it?

How many jobs do you think my kids can even name? Around now, I’d guess 3: stay-home dad, TV executive and exploradora.

So I was a little disappointed when I found out their teacher asked them just that question. C’mon, I had a hard enough time picking a major in college. Can’t they just spend pre-pre-Kindergarten making snowflakes with construction paper and safety scissors?

OK, fine, the damage was already done, so I asked what they said.

“I want to be a train conductor!” Bennett announced.

“And I want to be a princess!” Sutton cheered.

It was worse than I’d feared. My kids were cliché.

I was going to discuss it further, but I wasn’t sure what to say. I mean “a princess”? Am I supposed to take that seriously? Should I have scolded her? “Would you really think about this? This is your life we’re talking about!” Better yet, am I allowed to hold this against them someday? “Hey, you said you wanted to be a train conductor. I’m not paying for law school!”

We were in the middle of getting some renovations done on our bathroom, and when we got home, there was a contractor in our front yard mixing cement.

“Hey, can you show the kids what you’re doing?” I asked. “It looks cool!” Princess, my ass, I thought. I’m going to show you kids what a job is.

I already knew the contractor loved the kids, so I figured he’d be on board. “Grab a shovel!” he told them. “You can help!”

cementSo my kids learned to mix cement, and from the way they talked about it afterward, it was probably the most thrilling thing they’d ever done. (Good thing the contractor didn’t make them stick around and watch it dry.)

I admit, I felt good about myself. Instead of asking my kids to narrow down their options for the future, I was expanding their concept of what was possible, introducing them to something new.

It’s how I feel about most things my kids do. If my son wants to wear a dress, great. Let him know how it feels to wear one. He has plenty of time to figure out his identity, so I’m not going to try to pin him down. I’ll just consider it a non-issue and appreciate his desire to explore. I make sure he knows that I’ll love him no matter what. It’s his job to figure out the “what”.

We told Drew all of this as soon as he got home that night. How they picked out their future professions in school and how, afterward, they learned a new trade. While Drew was wrangling them for bathtime, my cell phone rang. Private number. I wouldn’t usually pick up, but for whatever reason, I did.

“Hello Gerald? It’s Doctor ____. We just got the results of your blood test, and I have some bad news.”

Yeah, it was one of those calls.

“OK.”

“You have an extremely elevated potassium level. Because it is life-threatening, you need to get retested right away to see if we got an accurate reading.”

“Um…”

“Our urgent care facility closes at 9pm, so if you can’t make it there by then, you’ll have to go to the emergency room. I’d really recommend you go to urgent care.”

“I’ll go to urgent care.”

I don’t know how much of the call Drew overheard amid all the kids’ shouting and running around, but apparently, the word “life-threatening” had gotten through. I could tell that much from his petrified expression.

“Do you want us all to come with you?” he asked. His face had completely drained of color.

“No. It’s almost the kids’ bedtime.”

“But…”

It was only when I saw how Drew was looking at me that the term “life-threatening” really sunk in. It was as if he thought he might never see me again.

I hugged the kids and told them I loved them. What more could I do? Whisper “Goodbye forever!” just in case?

“Will you be back when we go to bed?” Bennett asked.

“Probably not,” I replied. “But I’ll be here when you wake up tomorrow.” (I hope.)

bananasI don’t know how I made it through the 15-minute drive to the doctor’s office. I kept thinking if the potassium didn’t give me a heart attack, my anxiety about the potassium surely would. How did I get so much potassium in my blood anyway? Fucking bananas!

The urgent care center was closing down as I walked in. The gift shop was dark and gated up already. Janitors mopped the entranceway, and there were no more patients in the waiting room. I walked up to one of the two receptionists, and she gave me a form to fill out.

Under “Reason for visit”, I wrote, “Blood test”. When I handed it over, she shook her head. “Oh, sorry, honey. The lab is closed.”

She passed the form back to me. “Hold on,” the other receptionist said. “You Mahoney? Oh, yeah. Dr. ____ called about you!” She grabbed the form and nodded. “Have a seat.”

This was not comforting. If there’s anywhere you don’t want to feel like a VIP, it’s at an urgent care facility.

The receptionist picked up her phone. “He’s here!” she barked.

A few seconds later, a nurse rushed out. “Mr. Mahoney?” I couldn’t tell if the nurse was rushing because she was worried about my potassium or if she was just anxious to go home for the night. She brought me back to an exam room. Along the way, everyone we passed looked up at me, as if wondering, “Is that him?” I almost expected one of them to call out, “Dead man walking!”

Within about half a second, the nurse had taken a new vial of blood and strapped me in for an EKG. “Are you a little nervous?” she asked.

“No. I’m a lot nervous.”

“There are a lot of false positives on this test. That’s why we retake it.” She finished the EKG, ran a printout to the doctor and then pointed me back toward the waiting room. “We’ll have the results in about 15 minutes.”

15 minutes is not a long time, unless of course you’re waiting for blood test results or, worse, sitting through 15 minutes of a Terrence Malick film. Much like it did during The Thin Red Line, my mind began to wander.

Death… my dad died when he was 61… I would be 41… I was 28 when my dad died… my kids would be 3 when I died… I have a lot of wonderful memories of my dad… My kids would probably forget what I looked like… Am I really going to die tonight? Here? Should I tweet something?

I used to think about death a lot when I was a teenager. It was just kind of a rite of passage as a gay kid, I guess. Depression, alienation, death. Too much Smiths music. But there was one thing that always brought me back, that gave me hope, and that was thinking about the following summer movie season. Stop thinking about death, Jerry. It’s a great time to be alive. There’s a new Back to the Future coming out!

I didn’t understand how people could commit suicide, and it had nothing to do with all the hurt loved ones they’d leave behind. Weren’t they curious as to what Spielberg was cooking up for next Memorial Day weekend?

Sitting in that deserted urgent care waiting room, there wasn’t a single movie I wanted to see or place I wanted to visit or experience I wanted to have in my life. My bucket list was complete, except for one thing. It was the only thing I could think about.

I just wanted to watch my kids grow up.

They’re such amazing people at 3 1/2, but who will they be at 18? Or 30? A train conductor and a princess? Right now, that was the best information I had. Something told me it might not stick.

I realized in that moment that all I’ve seen of my kids so far is a coming attraction — a teaser, really — and the old kind. The kind that doesn’t give away all the good stuff. I need to see how their story turns out. I don’t want to die. I can’t die.

I want to watch my kids grow up.

“Mr. Mahoney,” the nurse said. “Come on back.” She was smiling. So either the test results were good, or she was just happy that after this, she could punch out of her shift.

“We have about 2 or 3 of these false positives a year,” the doctor explained. “The blood starts to clot before they get the reading and hemoglobin antigens capillary stat…”. I’m not going to try to recap the medical explanation for why they scared the crap out of me for no reason. All I heard was that I wasn’t going to die.

toeI know the sitcom version of my brush with death would end with me learning some big life-affirming lesson, like not to take the important things for granted. But honestly, I feel like I already know that. You know Debra Winger’s “I know you love me!” speech from Terms of Endearment? Well, I subject my kids to that every time they get mad at me, just in case I slip on a sock puppet and break my neck against the train table before we get a chance to make up. It could happen.

This wasn’t a wakeup call about my health either. The urgent care center didn’t send me home with a stern warning to eat better or exercise more. Just, “Bye!” It was a lab error. I could’ve stopped for a taco grande and a skillet cookie on my way home, and don’t think I didn’t think about it.

But I realized that, if I went right home, I could actually make it there before the kids went to bed. I could tuck them in, tell them I loved them for — who’s counting? — maybe the 1,012th time that day and, best of all, ask them what they wanted to do tomorrow.

They’d probably say something like, “Eat cookies.” But for now, that’s all the answer I needed.