Gay Dad Life

My Family is Special: the Magic and the Heartache

My husband, Brian, teaches dance on Monday nights, so I usually default to fast food, or, even worse, what the boys call “Snacky Dinner.”

Snacky Dinner consists of letting Zane and Aidan wander down the aisles of the supermarket until they stumble on Nillas, ice cream and chocolate frosting. Lest you start dialing Child Protective Services, the other six nights of the week I torture them with pork chops, mashed potatoes and green vegetables. (Aidan vents: “You are the only father in the ENTIRE school who makes his children eat broccoli.”)

For a quarter of a century, I’ve gone to the Safeway in Diamond Heights, and if you blindfolded me I could still find the frozen pizza and boxed wine there. But Denman Middle School was only three blocks from the Safeway on Mission, so I parked the Kipcap and set them loose.

This was early evening and their medication had worn off, but Snacky Dinners make the boys upbeat and charming. In fact, when I called their names, they both appeared, and Zane handed me Hot Cheeto Puffs as well as a box of Ginger Snaps (so I wouldn’t get dizzy).

Zane and Aidan broke into the Snacky Dinner dance.

You’d think the woman behind me on line would be annoyed, but instead she said, “I just love your column.” And my day was made. This was my 15 seconds of fame.

Then shopper behind her said, “Yes, you’re the one with the boys who are special.” Ah, I was not the famous one. Zane and Aidan were.

She meant well, but we don’t always like being special. This month, the parents of Zane’s fellow eighth-graders are looking at high schools and frankly, I’m jealous. They take tours of Riordan and Sacred Heart and Lick-Wilmerding, and Lowell and the School of the Arts, asking questions about college matriculation and superior basketball teams. But special means going to whatever high school will take us.

Uncle Jon doesn’t like it much when I call it “Short Bus Syndrome” as he himself teaches challenged students. But special education has a stigma. It’s easy to feel damaged. And it often means our choices are limited, and it always means we have to fight for things like paras (teacher’s aides) and Individualized Education Plans.

There are days we ache to be normal.

Two schools ago, one of the in-crowd boys in Zane’s class said the f-word, and his mother blanched and asked who taught him that. The boy blamed Zane because Zane is the kind of boy who knows words like that, and so his yoga mother persuaded the other parents to sign a petition to get Zane expelled. Now her son may have been smart, but how had he gotten all the way to the sixth grade without ever once hearing the f-word? Zane has learned what that other boy will never know: We make our own choices for the words that we choose.

But we are the unorthodox family, so we celebrate the small victories. Aidan earned a detention this week (for spitballs), and I should’ve been angry, but instead I said to his fifth-grade teacher, “I’m grateful. We’ve reached November, and this is only his first detention. Last year, we had three of these by now. For us, it’s progress.”

When we were younger, Brian and I joked about “gaydar,” how we could pick out the other gay persons in the room. But nowadays, we have “Zanedar” — we can always pick out the little boy or girl struggling to fit in. We can pick out the mother who is embarrassed in the restaurant because she doesn’t know how to get her son to stop throwing spaghetti. Between the four of us Fisher-Paulsons, we’ve had every possible diagnosis, so sometimes we tell these parents about psychiatry and pharmacology. Sometimes we don’t.

One girl in Aidan’s class is an unrepentant tomboy and suffers that ridicule. On a class trip to the Exploratorium, the teacher put me in charge of her and Aidan. When another girl laughed at her refusal to wear pink, she started crying. So I said, “Don’t try so hard to conform. Average is overrated.”

The stuff that makes us special is also the magic that makes us extraordinary. Normal might get you pork chops and broccoli, but different gets you the Snacky Dinner dance.

Editor’s note: This post, originally published as “Snacky Dinner Dance Celebrates Differences” in the San Fransisco Chronicle, is republished with permission here.

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

Sending Nola love to each of ya!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Encouraged by His Son, Single Dad Richard Started Dating Again — and Just Got Married!

After his 14 year relationship ended, Richard got a gentle push into the dating pool from an unexpected source — his son!

In 2014, Richard Rothman's relationship of 15 years ended, leaving him understandably reluctant to jump back into the world of dating as a single gay dad. But after spending one too many Friday nights at home, he got a gentle nudge from somebody unexpected —his teenaged son, Jonathan.

"Dad," Jonathan said. "Would you just get out of the house and go on a date already?" (You may remember wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan from this post that went viral of a tattoo he got commemorating his adoption day.)

On his son's encouragement, Richard started dipping a tentative toe back into the dating pool. In 2015, he met Kevin thanks to mutual friends that introduced them via social media. It took four months before Richard introduced Kevin to his son, who was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

On New Year's Eve in 2017, Kevin proposed while the couple was vacationing in Palm Springs. The city has an outdoor festival every year, he explained, which the couple attended. The band Plain White T's happened to be performing their hit "Hey There Delilah" as Kevin got down on one knee and proposed. "Now whenever I hear that song it brings back memories of that night," Richard said.

Richard and Kevin married on March 30, 2019 back at the scene of the crime — in Palm Springs, at the Frederick Loewe Estate. Jonathan was Richard's best man, and also walked him down the aisle (awwww.....). Kevin's brother Bobby served as his best man.

"As so many wonderful moments continue to happen for us in Palm Springs, we now own a home there in addition to our primary residence in Bentonville, Arkansas," said Richard.

Check out video from the couple's special day below!

And Jonathan is now an E4 Master-at-Arms in the US Navy.

Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Pics of the Moment Before and After Gay Men Become Dads

Dig through your phones — what was the last pic taken of you BEFORE you became a dad?

We all have THAT photo: the one taken moments after we become fathers for the first time. For some of us, we're doing "skin to skin" in a delivery room. For others, we're standing proudly alongside our newly adopted child and judge in a courtroom. However or wherever it happens, though, we make sure to snap a picture of it.

But what about that last photo BEFORE you first became a dad? What does that image look like, we wondered? Well, we asked our Instagram community to dig through through phones and find out. Some of us are enjoying a last carefree meal or glass of wine, others of us are captured nervously contemplating our futures. Whatever it is, we've decided these BEFORE pictures are just as meaningful.

Enjoy some of our favorites! Want to play along? Dig through your phones and send us your pics to!

Keep reading... Show less

Gay Dad in Sundance's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' is Relatable AF

Sundance hit "Brittany Runs a Marathon" stars a gay dad trying to get in shape.

Who would make for the best marathon training partner for an overweight, overly boozed 27-year-old woman? A gay dad, of course!

The pairing, for any gay man who has been subjected to impossible beauty standards (not unlike... literally all women?) makes a bit too much sense after watching the new Sundance film, "Brittany Runs a Marathon," starring SNL writer Jillian Bell (as the 27-year-old) and Micah Stock as the (somewhat *ahem* older) gay dad.

Based on a true story, the film follows Brittany, an overweight and over-boozed 20-something, trying to clean up her act by training for the New York City marathon — while doing so, she meets Seth (the gay dad), and the two begin to train together, along with Brittany's neighbor Catherine. Each has their own motivation for running: getting one's live together, recovering from a messy divorce, or an attempt to impress one's athletic son. (Which is the gay dad? Guess you'll have to watch to find out!)

We won't give too much more away, apart from saying that the trio — based off of actual people and events — really works. It's the feel good film you're waiting to see.

Expert Advice

Your 15 Most Common Questions About Adoption, Answered by an Expert

We asked our Instagram community for their biggest questions about adoption. Then asked Molly Rampe Thomas of Choice Network to answer them.

As part of our new "Ask an Expert" series on Instagram, our community of dads and dads-to-be sent us their questions on adoption in the United States. Molly Rampe Thomas, founder of Choice Network, answered them.

Keep reading... Show less

'Life Is Amazing': Congrats to Gay Dads Whose Families Recently Grew!

Help us congratulate gay dads on their recent births and adoptions last month!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded in the last month or so a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse