LESSONS LEARNED

Things I’ve learned as a parent, or want others to learn.

8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

August 10, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

It’s T-Minus three weeks until my son starts kindergarten, but I’m not stressed at all. I know there are a lot of other parents out there just like me, who will be sending their baby out into the big, bad world of crafts-making and rule-following and bells ringing…and them being away from you all day, and you not knowing what the hell is going on and why can’t I give him a cell phone so he can text me if he needs me but his spelling is still pretty terrible…oh no he’s already behind and it’s my fault plus he’d only use a phone to play Minecraft and won’t learn anything and flunk out of school on his first day thus ruining his chance of any happiness in life!!!

Nope, not stressed one bit.

Preparing your kid (and by “your kid,” I mean you) for their first day of REAL SCHOOL is easier than you think. Just follow these few simple suggestions and everything will be absolutely, positively, one hundred percent perfect.
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1. GET THE LAY OF THE LAND

Obtain schematics for the school, including drop off/pick up spots, location of the nurse’s office, routes to bathrooms, and all fire exits. Make a recording describing these layouts in detail, then play them while your child sleeps so they’re subliminally committed to his or her memory. Conducting middle-of-the-night fire/disaster/poop drills are also beneficial. Air horns recommended.
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2. KEEP YOUR FRIENDS CLOSE…

Do background checks on all the kids in your child’s classroom, as well as their parents. Find out which have a record of pulling hair, spitting or biting (applies to kids or parents), and make flash cards so your child can familiarize him or herself with this “Bad Seed” list.

Additionally, hack the school’s computer and maneuver your child so he’s seated next to that super genius musical prodigy with the millionaire parents.

8 Ways to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten

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The M Word: A Gay Dad’s Journey to Appreciating His Son’s Birthmother

July 20, 2015 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Listen to Your Mother - The M Word - birthmother

I had the honor of participating in Listen To Your Mother – a curated show of readings about moms and motherhood. I was the only male in our cast, and I shared a bit of my journey regarding Jon’s birthmother.

I’ve not written much about this topic, for the sake of my son’s privacy as well as that of his birthmom. However, the events encapsulated in my 6-minute reading took several years in real time, and included a slew of emotions ranging from fear and resentment, to disappointment and anger.

Many adoptive parents struggle silently with guilt and confusion over how they think they should feel about their child’s biological parents, versus how they actually feel. I’m sharing this for those parents — so they won’t feel alone like I did so much of the time. So they’ll know there are no right or wrong ways to think and feel about these complicated relationships.

I may write about this more in time — particularly as it relates to being a gay dad. But for now, thank you for watching (or reading). And if you have one to share, I’d love to listen to your story, too.

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Celebrating ‘Supergirl’ and Girl Power With SuperLunchNotes!

May 18, 2015 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, POP CULTURE

girl power superlunchnotes

Ever since I started putting notes in my son’s lunches, I’ve tried to ensure a good representation of female characters. The same goes for educating him about superheroes outside the context of lunch, and about life in general. Yet any parent that has attempted to teach gender equality to their kids knows it’s an uphill battle. As much as you try to debunk stereotypes, model acceptance, and expose them to what’s fair, you’re regularly thwarted by a toy company, or the aisles of a retail store, or that boy at preschool who convinced your kid that “Frozen is boring…because it’s for girls.”

Then last week, the trailer for the upcoming Supergirl TV show debuted, and I saw a glimmer of hope on the horizon…

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I Went to a Conference for Women, and All I Got Was a Big Rash

July 30, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, MAKING MEMORIES

JOCK ITCH. The “big rash” was actually jock itch; I just didn’t have the nerve to stick it up there in the title.

It was only midway through the first full day of BlogHer — a ginormous conference about blogging and social media, started by and primarily for women — when I realized I was miserable. I’d had more than my normal level of big-guy-thigh-chafe discomfort (AKA “Chub Rub”) from all the walking around, and I couldn’t stop scratching myself. I was, in fact, on fire.

I skipped whatever session I was planning on attending, and approached the concierge at my hotel to inquire about the closest drugstore. “There’s a Walgreen’s not too far away,” he said cheerily. He gave me quick directions and added, “It’s about a 15 minute walk.” Uh, no.

Getting desperate, I made a beeline for the taxis out front. And for whatever reason, said to the cabbie, “I hurt my foot and need to go to Walgreen’s to pick up my medicine. Can you wait for me there and bring me back?”

I’m sure I could have just asked him for a round-trip to Walgreen’s without adding my ruse. Perhaps I didn’t want to appear lazy. Or I wanted to make sure he understood I was crippled so he wouldn’t drop me off at the drugstore and abandon me. In any event, I was committed to it now, and I’m nothing if not committed.

As the cab stopped in front of the store, I told the driver I’d be about 5 minutes, then exited the car and proceeded to pull a reverse Keyser Söze, adding a slight limp to my few strides up to the drugstore’s door.

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“He doesn’t have a mom… because she’s dead.”

July 16, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED

Mommy's Dead
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HOW IT HAPPENED

So here I was, my not-small frame perched on the teeniest of tiny wooden chairs, clad in a retina-searing-orange t-shirt emblazoned with my son’s preschool logo, waiting for the class to be corralled before we headed to the petting zoo for a field trip. All of these kids knew me as “Jon’s Daddy,” the one who picks up — as opposed to “Jon’s Papa,” the one who drops off. There are other quite noticeable differences, but I can imagine that from a 4-year old’s perspective, we’re both just gigantic, bespectacled, goateed man-parents.

Yet it still came as bit of a surprise when I overheard my son’s classmate say, “Jon, your Papa’s here!” As expected, my son quickly corrected his chum, and things seem to be right with the world.

There was a lot going on, kids hopping up and down, excited about the field trip, distracted by the several parents scattered and squatting around the room. But amidst the melee, I hear mention of “mommy” something. I turned back toward my son and his posse, and the same friend exclaimed to all who would listen, “Jon doesn’t have a mommy… because she’s dead.”

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Reader Response: I Want to Be a Father

July 6, 2014 | By Brent Almond | DAD STUFF, LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

I apologize if this smacks of bragging, but I wanted to share a particularly sweet note I got from a reader a bit ago. Okay, so maybe I’m bragging a little. Yet I’m also putting it up here to remind me, on days that I’m discouraged, that my words do get heard; that I’m not alone in my feelings of aloneness; and as a motivation to keep on keeping-on — as a writer and as a dad. Plus, his comment about Stepford gays was perfection.

So if you send me a particularly sweet (or sassy) note, you may very well make my day…and I might publish it. You’ve been warned.

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stepford-gays3

You don’t know me, and that isn’t the point of this message. And I promise there is a point to this message, so please just stay with me as I can get a bit long-winded.

Just recently — this past week in fact — I’ve decided that I want to be a father. This has been something I have gone back and forth on for years as a gay man. I have been filled with so much worry about this or that: Do I adopt or do I find a surrogate? Am I capable as a person to raise a child? What will I do about explaining to him about where he comes from having no personal points of reference in my own life? Did my parents screw me up too much to raise a child? All of the standard questions I would imagine plague most would-be parents. However in recent days I have focused less on the impact to me and my life and more on the positive of having a child. But still I worry [if I] will I be a good dad. Will my child know how much I love them and that no matter what happens that love will never end?

As a result of these feelings I started writing letters to my future child, as writing has always been an outlet for me. So as the afterglow of wanting to be a father started to fade, I wondered again how I would deal when my little angel is reaping my mother’s revenge upon me for one reason or another (lack of nap, saying no to a toy or candy, whatever) — and how am I going to keep my sanity? And just as these questions started to boil to the surface, I found your post “Hide-and-Seek with Mr. Moon” and I am not gonna lie: I cried just a little bit.

I found myself crying — not just for the heartbreak of a small child, but because of the line about you expending so much energy to keep from “throttling” your child.

I have read some parenting blogs, and specifically followed two over the past couple of years (more for the hilarious insights on life than the parently portion), but all of them were from the points of view of heterosexual parents. And let’s be real — as sad as it is, gay men are still not properly portrayed in media. Yes, we have moved past a good portion of the stereotypes, but there are still some there that bug me. I think we as a culture are entering the Stepford portion of our media portrayal.

So with all of this said: thank you. Thank you for granting me insight to a seemingly random moment in time that has shown me that not only is it possible to be a good parent while still making mistakes, but that life really can be normal as a gay father.

With gratitude and sincerity,
BigMac

P.S. I am totally going to steal and use the Hide-and-Seek with Mr. Moon game when I do have a kid. 🙂

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See? Toldya it was sweet. For more sweet and sassy and stylish conversation and long walks on the beach (except that last part), check out Designer Daddy on Facebook and follow along on Twitter.

Boys Kissing Boys

July 2, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, MAKING MEMORIES

Boys Kissing Boys

We were winding down from a particularly drama-filled play date. There had been sharing-related skirmishes; LEGO lay strewn about the playroom like carcasses on a battlefield; there had been tears. And after much cajoling and promises of future bounty, there had been an “I’m sowwy” from my little force of nature to his playmate and host. Jon can sometimes be like a giddy locomotive off its tracks. Full steam ahead, tooting its merry horn, nary a thought for the fact that it’s derailed and tearing through the countryside, mowing over everything and everyone in its path.

Yet while he may be full of drive and boundless energy, he’s always been very affectionate. Which, for me — his somewhat introverted and decidedly less adventurous Dad — makes it all manageable.

After we’d made our apologies and gathered our things to go, Jon approached his friend — 6 years old to Jon’s 4 and-a-half — to tell him thank you. He followed with one of his epic hugs — both arms flung out fully extended, not closing them until he’d fully enveloped the huggee. His friend seemed a little overwhelmed, but hugged back; then my son tilted his head, stretched up on his toes, and moved in to give his pal a smooch on the cheek.

The friend jerked his head away, reacting with an annoyed “WHAT THE…?!?” Jon just kind of shrugged and let go. But my heart broke a little.

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Fridge Wisdom: Same-Sex Marriage Legal in Pennsylvania

May 20, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

Same-sex marriage legal in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania:
Same-sex marriage legalized May 20, 2014. Marriages to commence posthaste!

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And then there were 19. Only a day after Oregon joined Team Gay (see infographic below), a Pennsylvania judge struck down the Keystone State’s marriage ban. If this were a game of Risk, the gays would have just overtaken Asia.

In addition to being the 18th state (plus DC) to legalize same-sex marriage, Pennsylvania is also the 10th state where a federal judge has struck down a marriage ban since SCOTUS overturned Prop8 and DOMA.

I’d been meaning to create a graphic mapping the progress of same-sex marriage in the US, but was busy getting married myself. As the states continue to join the cool kids’ table, I’ll update the map along with posting another magnet.
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SAME-SEX MARRIAGE IN THE UNITED STATES

as of 5.20.14

same-sex marriage in the united states

Click to biggefy. Source: Wikipedia

Although I have plenty I could write about Arkansas, Texas, Virginia and Colorado (all places I’ve lived), I’m holding off celebrating until marriage equality is a 100% done deal in those states. If you want to know the specific statuses and legislative nuances of all the yellow states, click the Wikipedia link above. It’s convoluted, complicated political crap — but hey, it’s progress!

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Every time a country or US state legalizes same-sex marriage, I post a photo of a magnet from either my fridge or that of a reader. Take a look at some of the previous magnet posts!
For more fun and conversation, stop by the Designer Daddy Facebook page, or follow along on Twitter!

 


 

Same-sex marriage legal in Oregon.

Fridge Wisdom: Same-Sex Marriage Legal in Oregon!

May 19, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

same-sex marriage legal in Oregon

Oregon: Same-sex marriage legalized May 19, 2014. Weddings commenced immediately!

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In addition to keeping George W. Bush in office, the 2004 U.S. election brought about an avalanche of same-sex marriage bans, in the form of amendments to 13 state constitutions. While overall depressing, most of these were not shocking, as they were in predominantly conservative Southern and Midwestern states.

However, one marriage ban took most by surprise — Oregon. Long considered on par with neighboring Washington’s live-and-let-live liberalism, this defeat sat atop a mountain of disappointment as the rottenest cherry on the worst dessert ever.

Fast-forward 10 years (on the tenth anniversary of the first same-sex weddings performed in the U.S., to be exact) and a federal judge has struck down Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban! With apparently no pending appeals or stays on the horizon, marriage licenses began being issued immediately following the announcement.

I grew up a nomadic military brat, never really having a solid answer to the question “Where are you from?” And while I may not remember being born or living in Illinois for the first year and-a-half of my life, I was deeply moved and even proud when my “home state” legalized same-sex marriage in 2013.

My son may have even fewer ties to the state of his birth, as he only “lived” in Oregon for 2 weeks before we brought him home. Yet I am glad to be able to tell him that daddies and papas (and mommies and mamas) can now get married in “Portyand,” just like his Daddy and Papa just did in Maryland! Same-sex marriage legal in Oregon

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Every time a country or US state legalizes same-sex marriage, I post a photo of a magnet from either my fridge or that of a reader. Take a look at some of the previous magnet posts!

Same-sex marriage legal in Oregon.

Barilla Wants to Share the Table, Even with Same-Sex Parents

April 14, 2014 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED, LGBT STUFF

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Barilla, but opinions are my own.

In September of last year, the chairman of Barilla made the following statements in a radio interview:

“I would never do (a commercial) with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect
but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays
a fundamental role. … If [gays] don’t like it, they can go eat another brand.” 1

“I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who
is not able to choose.” 2

Like many others, I found Guido Barilla’s comments ignorant, insulting and infuriating. Our family is made up of two gay dads (one of whom is Italian) and an adopted son, all of us consumers of large amounts of pasta. I’m not sure there were any ways left to offend us. So like many others, our family made a conscious decision not to buy their products again.

While I’d heard of efforts on the part of Barilla to make amends, I paid them little mind. I was skeptical they could do anything to salvage a relationship with the LGBT community and our allies.

But then I was asked to take part in Barilla’s Share the Table campaign. And I was approached specifically because I’m a gay father. I learned they’d also enlisted other LGBT bloggers, including fellow parents Polly Pagenhart and Vikki Reich.

According to the materials I was given and my own research, Barilla has been making changes ever since the interview and subsequent boycott. They met with and received counsel from GLAAD; established a Diversity & Inclusion Board and appointed a Chief Diversity Officer; participated in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index; and as evidenced by this post, they want to partner with influencers in the LGBT community as part of Share the Table, to ensure families of all kinds are included.

We’ve all heard plenty of corporate apologies, yet this invitation resonated because it was made directly to me. And as I read more about Barilla’s inclusiveness in regards to the importance of family meal time, I was immediately reminded of our trip to Italy two years ago.

Barilla #ShareTheTable Italy family dinner

One of many long and wonderful meals around Nonna’s table

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