Gay Dad Life

A Gay Dad Talks About His Four Kids With Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Jan was a gem, a dedicated child welfare case manager. With knowledge of maternal alcohol use during pregnancy, she drove four young foster children 85 miles to see the state’s leading geneticist. She suspected trauma in the womb. And she wanted confirmation of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Most importantly, she wanted accurate and up-to-date information for the family that would adopt them. Most children in the child welfare system aren’t so lucky.

One by one, each sibling received a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome diagnosis. The year was 1997.

One year later I adopted the bunch. I had done my research. Although the brain damage from exposure to alcohol in utero is permanent, I refused to accept that fact.

Wouldn’t lots of nurturing at home make a difference? Couldn’t best practices at school ease the impact?

Well, they did.

They made them feel safe. They minimized the repeated failure that is so common with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. They reduced the all-too-common secondary (or acquired) conditions of school suspensions, substance abuse and juvenile detention.

But the brain damage remained.

Irreversible.


The Long Journey

My sons Andrew and Michael took the biggest hits, because their birth mother self-medicated her depression with alcohol throughout both pregnancies. Blacking out was a weekly occurrence.

With IQs hovering in the 60 range (more than two standard deviations below the average of 100), learning became incredibly difficult for both by third grade. Their progress lagged behind their peers, in spite of high structure. In spite of repetitive instruction.

They did inch forward – just incredibly slow, unable to consistently build upon previous knowledge. Some days they could remember previous lessons. On other days they couldn’t retrieve the information – temporarily lost in their damaged brains.

And how they tried to behave. But so many rules and procedures to follow, coupled with sensory issues related to FASD. The two were easily overwhelmed by noise, crowded areas and all the stuff surrounding them in the classroom.

Don’t touch everything. Don’t talk so loud. Don’t rock your chair.

By high school Andrew’s reading fluency reached a reasonable mark, but his comprehension skills remained stuck at a second grade level. For Michael math was nearly impossible. His brain simply couldn’t process multiple-step problems.

Neither could ever grasp an analog clock. Fractions never made sense.

“They did inch forward – just incredibly slow.”

With less maternal alcohol use, my daughter Ashley and youngest son Brandon fared better. Most likely because their birth mother was detained for part of their pregnancies. First as a juvenile. Later as a adult.

Their IQs are in the 90s – slightly below average.

However, passing high school algebra and geometry took serious effort. Long sessions at the kitchen table every night to understand. Many meltdowns. Loads of patience on my part to re-teach. And without the accommodations in their Individual Education Program, they would have failed every test. A list of formulas and examples enabled them to apply their knowledge.

Because Ashley and Brandon acted like other kids most of the time, some teachers judged harshly when they struggled. After all, their disability appeared invisible. Yet the damage to their brains was very real.

Four of Craig's children

Perceptions

Lazy was a word often used to describe my children. The truth was their brains processed language and visual information at a slower rate than most. And not always correctly. Developmental trauma does that.

Disabled yet capable.

Able to learn – but differently.

Nevertheless, all four were creative. They enjoyed art and music immensely, especially when teachers allowed them flexibility to explore possibilities. Color outside the lines.

Each played the violin for six years – mastering the instrument by ear and finger placement, since reading notes quickly and accurately wasn’t possible. Thankfully their instructor threw his usual strategies out the window and started fresh.

Organization was, well, disorganized. Their brains didn’t see things the same as mine, due to a lack of working memory. Order was a relative term, not absolute. The fewer things the better. One less object to become lost – and found months later in a totally illogical place.

All struggled with friendships. Several more than the others because they misinterpreted social cues. By trusting too quickly, their peers frequently took advantage. Few returned the same kindness. Over time my children preferred the predictability of being alone – rather than the risk of being ostracized. Each refused to be a target for bullies.

At least they had each other. Home was a place of comfort, a place to release pent up emotions that they worked very hard to suppress at school.

 

Why all the challenges?

Consistent with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder diagnosis, my sons and daughter had significant deficits in cause and effect thinking. Huge! Regardless of meaningful consequences to teach necessary skills, they repeated the same behaviors over and over. And over again. In other words, they couldn’t learn from their mistakes.

Sad but true. All related to FASD.

Numerous discipline reports at school. Regular suspensions, in school and out. Even a couple of expulsion hearings that forced administrators to finally change their tone – and their approach.

Shaming them to behave created instant frustration. That led to debilitating anxiety.

At the end of the day, prevention was the key – along with constant, compassionate yet not overbearing supervision that provided an external brain. That intense, ongoing support reinforced my children’s ability to pause and think, rather than react impulsively. It still does today as young adults, whether at home or in the community.

Unfortunately, only one obtained a high school diploma. The others couldn’t pass high-stakes tests.

But none are in prison. And two have jobs that push them to the limit mentally – everyday. Thank goodness for the Americans with Disabilities Act and the accommodations it affords.

Moreover, access to affordable, regular medical and mental health care is imperative. Lifetime expenses for my most affected child have exceeded $1 million.

Craig with his sons

It is what it is

Even with the FASD diagnoses, some medical doctors weren’t aware. Some totally ignorant. Three of my children were later diagnosed with bipolar disorder, without showing typical symptoms. Other professionals assumed two to be on the autism spectrum. They’re not. Psychotropic medication reduced but didn’t eliminate the ADHD-like symptoms associated with FASD.

Sorry folks, their condition has a name. It’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Trauma before birth. In the womb. Yet entirely preventable when a pregnant woman abstains from alcohol.

Yes, 20 years have indeed passed since my children’s diagnoses. While their coping mechanisms did increase – along with emotional maturity, their brain damage didn’t decrease.

Rather than focusing on what they couldn’t do, I urged my children to focus on what they could do. Their strengths. Their passions. Fashion for Ashley. Running for Andrew. Singing for Michael. Film production for Brandon.

Positive self-esteem is great therapy for anyone, especially for individuals who don’t readily fit the mold.

Meanwhile, millions of pregnant women aren’t heeding the message about not drinking alcohol. In fact, the problem continues to grow. A true public health crisis in the United States and abroad. And it affects all races and socioeconomic groups – with Ireland and South Africa being two of the worst.

That’s not anyone’s definition of progress – especially for the child or young adult who lives with FASD every day.

Let’s bear the responsibility to spread the word. Let’s confront irresponsible behavior during pregnancy.

No doubt, the outcome for my children could have been different.

And countless more just like them.

 

Originally published on Craig's own blog "Adopting Faith: A Father's Unconditional Love."

 

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Gay Dad Life

How Canada's 'Gay Dollar' Helped This Gay Man Reflect on His Biggest Regret—Not Having Kids

Canada unveiled a 'gay dollar' coin earlier this year, helping Gregory Walters reflect on the progress the LGBTQ community has made—and his decision to forgo having children children

Earlier this year, Canada unveiled a rainbow-stripped coin dollar to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the country's decision to decriminalize homosexuality. With the coins now firmly in circulation, Gregory Walters, who lives in Vancouver, wrote a moving essay for the Globe and Mail, expressing joy for how far Canada has come on the issue of gay rights, but how the coin is also a symbolic representation of the "greatest regret" of his life—his decision not to adopt children.

Gregory writes that he had hoped to adopt a child ever since his early career working with persons with developmental disabilities. "Several children I worked with were wards of the State of Texas," he wrote. "Their parents having relinquished all rights either owing to egregious acts of abuse or a lack of desire to raise someone with so many needs. There were days when I felt, 'If I could just take you home and raise you.' I knew there was a need for adopting persons with special needs but my own internalized homophobia got in the way yet again. Despite what is probably my own gift in working with children, I never felt worthy enough to be a parent. I always felt that if I were a gay dad it would create more of a liability for the child."

Gregory decision to forgo having children, he says, is his "greatest regret." While he takes responsibility for some of this decision, he also adds: "society's view of homosexuals and its opinions regarding gay adoptions also played a major part."

To critics of Canada's coin, some of who have said its a cheap political pander to the LGBTQ community, Gregory concludes with this thought:

"I don't care if the indulged majority who never had to question marriage or raising children or being secure in a job may feel the coin is frivolous. The coin isn't for them in the first place. It's an acknowledgment for those of us who repressed our true selves and felt oppressed. It is for gays who never lived to see rights and protections enshrined in law. It is for younger LGBTQ people to learn more about how far we've come and to gain a deeper sense of gay pride. For these reasons, the coin has value so much greater than any monetary designation. The coin represents both empowerment and normalization."

Read Gregory's full essay here.

Gay Dad Life

8 Pics of Ricky Martin Being an Adorable Dad Because Why Not?

Here's some pics of Ricky Martin being an adorable dad because we've ALL had a long week and deserve this don't we??

Earlier this year, in January 2019, superstar Ricky Martin and his husband Jwan Yosef shared a post via Instagram announcing that they'd welcomed a baby girl named Lucia into their family. With twin 9-year-old sons in the house as well, Ricky and Jwan now have a very full casa. Fortunately, the dads are giving us a little glimpse into their chaotic but fun-filled home lives via Instagram. We rounded up 8 of our fav recent parenting pics by the popstar because we've all had long weeks and we deserve this don't we??

Enjoy!

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Gay Dad Life

17 T.V. Shows Featuring Gay Dad Characters

Gay dads are all the rage on the small screen these days... here are 17 shows that prominently feature gay dad characters!

The 2019-2020 TV season will soon be upon us! In recent years, gay dad characters have been all the rage... will we see more representation this fall? We sure hope so! But in the meantime, we'll be content reviewing this list of 17 shows that have (somewhat) prominently featured gay dad characters!

Also we KNOW we're missing some, so drop us a line in the comments to tell us what we should add!

1. Grace & Frankie

In this Netflix original series, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston play gay dads who come out to their wives and children well past their primes. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda play the ex-wives, rounding out the star-studded cast. Now in its fourth season, the show has been well received and sheds an interesting light on the complications involved with fathers who come out later in life.

Politics

America's First Gay Dad Governor Heads Into the Lion's Den

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently became the first elected Democrat to speak at the annual Western Conservative Summit in Denver

Last Friday, American's first gay dad Governor, Jared Polis, became the first elected Democrat to speak at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, where he urged the Republican crowd to help him build a "Colorado for all."

"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Entertainment

Hate Group Boycotts 'Toy Story' for Featuring Lesbian Moms—Hilarity Ensues on Twitter

"One Million Moms" announced a boycott of the latest Toy Story movie for *very briefly* featuring lesbian moms. Twitter's response was swift and hilarious.

One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, recently called for a boycott of Toy Story 4 for (very, very briefly) featuring (interracial!) lesbian moms in the animated film. The angry, hateful moms affiliated with this group must have watched the film VERY closely because you could easily blink and miss the moment that apparently "blindsided" viewers.

The Internet reacted with a collective facepalm to the ridiculous boycott. Here are some of our favorite hilarious Twitter reactions to the hateful group:

Apparently the group One Million Moms is actually 26 women named Karen who can’t count very well...https://twitter.com/metroweekly/status/1148828983825448960 …

One Million Moms are such hypocrites! They won't allow two moms being next to each other, yet there is 1 million of them! DOUBLE STANDARDS!

Here's what every member of the One Million Moms looks like in real lifepic.twitter.com/SL1HYv4uvP

Can we submit One Million Moms?pic.twitter.com/V2GiFWmxEQ

going with the name “one million moms” was a shrewd marketing move to conceal the fact that the entire organization is just four elderly weirdos named maude or bethilda or somethinghttps://twitter.com/metroweekly/status/1148828983825448960 …

One Million Moms - The Facebook Group With 94,208 Memberspic.twitter.com/In6Z4hrU9I

One Million Moms are all named Susan and Karen and they would like to speak to the manager.

Just for the record: I have more Twitter followers than “one million moms” ... and I’m just one lesbian mom. #ConsiderTheSourcepic.twitter.com/oL2UyKmSCO





"[T]he scene was included and intentionally not announced prior to the movie release in hopes it would be kept quiet to expose as many children as possible," the organization says in a claim that has echoes of hateful tropes associating homosexuality and pedophilia.

Travel

The Golden Age of Vacationing With Kids

WARNING: BUCKLE UP, YOU'RE ABOUT TO READ WAY TOO MANY GOLDEN GIRLS REFERENCES.

Ever feel like you need a vacation from your family vacation? For years, we did too. But I'm happy to report that we don't anymore. So what caused the big shift? I'll get to that. First, a little background.

For years, taking our son Max on road trips had its fair share of, shall I say, challenges. From New York City to London to San Francisco to Vegas… we traveled down the road and back again. And while we made wonderful memories along the way… these trips weren't entirely wonderful. Whether it was Max's inflexible sleep schedule, his limited food palate, potty training, his disinterest in walking or his inability to fully express himself, it never quite felt like a real vacation because we never got to actually relax. But now that Max is almost nine years old, we decided to give it another go… and so we booked a much-needed respite in Florida with one goal in mind — cheesecake — okay, two goals: we wanted to catch our breath!

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Change the World

This Gay Dad's Life Changed "Unexpectedly" Thanks to His Son's Love of Sports

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund writes how trading "Broadway for baseball" helped him form straight male friendships in an essay for Shondaland

Bradley Jacobs Sigesmund, a gay dad of a 7-year-old son with his husband Jack, recently contributed a thoughtful essay for Shondaland that explores the unintended, but positive, consequence of his son's love of sports: straight male friends.

He writes, "One night in late May, seven dads stood in a bar singing "Happy Birthday" to me. Each of them were straight. How did this happen?"

As gay dads, many of us who have spent a lifetime avoiding anything that even remotely looked like an athletic league thanks to our experiences with homophobia in the world of team sports growing up. As dads, though, we're often forced back into these spaces to be supportive of our kids. (We've brought you similar essays in the past, most notably John Hart's funny piece about his sudden turn into a hockey dad).

But while many of us find the world of children's sports much more tolerable today, given the (reasonably) secure adult men that we've grown into, Bradley seems to have done the unthinkable: make friends with other (straight) dads involved in his son's athletic leagues.

"With Lucas regularly playing soccer, basketball, and baseball, sports now make up a large part of my weekly routine," Bradley writes. "And as it's turned out, a host of heterosexual dad comrades have been with me every goal, basket, and home run of the way." One dad educates Bradley on the existence of something called "turf shoes." Another on whether his son was better suited to be a midfielder or defender.

"If I ever worried I'd be alienated in the world of sideline-dads," Bradley concludes, "those feelings have long lapsed."

Read the great essay in full here.




Fatherhood, the gay way

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