Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Raising Grounded Kids in Crazy Manhattan

When it comes to raising kids in Manhattan, Dr. Evan Goldstein lives by this lesson — less is more.

There are several lessons that we all learn as we continue to age on this wacky place called earth. But I learned one of life's most important nuggets my first year of medical school, and it has never left me. I remember this one night in particular—it was late, and I had been studying when I realized I forgot an important book in the stacks of the library. Thankfully, a janitor opened the locked door and allowed me to retrieve my belongings. I remember it took him a while to open the locked section that I needed to enter, as he had so many dangling keys on his keychain. He responded to me gazing at the lock by saying, "Son, I may only be a janitor without any education beyond high school, but I have seen medical student after student enter this school for the past 25 years. Can I give you some advice?" "Of course," I said. "Do you see all these keys on this keychain?" he said. "Every single one holds a new responsibility. Less keys, less responsibility. Less is more! Remember that my friend." And with that, he was gone.


Did I listen? Fuck no, I didn't. I studied my ass off and started making an income as soon as I could. I bought stuff left and right, and you know what? They all came with a set of keys. Some with even more keys than I imagined or wanted! At some point, Mr. Janitor popped into my mind, shaking his head in disappointment. "Nobody ever listens to a janitor..." he would say in my dreams.

Now you ask: how does this have anything to do with raising grounded kids? Well, it wasn't until I had my own two little boys that I realized that the only thing that matters is them. All the other shit—the toys, the non-sense—means nothing. And what did I do? I sold it all. I wanted a redux. A fresh start. OK, not all my possessions. I did keep a beautiful 1965 Porsche 356 (it's a little piece of heaven to drive and a great investment). That 356 is just a simple Volkswagen engine. Simple, now, seems just a whole lot, well, simpler, doesn't it?

But the understanding of "less is more" translates to an appreciation for just... being. I am convinced that first, even before you try teaching your children to be well-grounded, parents need to be well-grounded themselves. Don't get me wrong—I get that money is an important commodity and, yes, both Andy and I feel blessed to be in a stable position, but there is so much more to life.

We love running around Central Park in NYC. And it always strikes me that there will always be someone in front of you, no matter how hard you try. Faster people. Slower people. People with more money and people with less. Humans who are happy with life and others who are miserable. And when you finally realize this "rat-race" is just that, then you can just walk. Because the walking then allows you to see the beauty around you rather than constantly trying to catch up to someone else.

These little things are not so little. It doesn't take money to embrace them.

So how do I keep Phoenix and Sebastian grounded? I do my best to pass these subtle, yet profound, life lessons onto my two little beautiful boys.

Are they going to listen? Hell no. I'm sure they'll want to upgrade from my Porsche to my friends' Ferraris. But if that's the case, I can only hope that, one day, they will be looking out over the world realizing that it doesn't mean anything – it's all bullshit.

What I'm really hoping is that they'll find their own janitor. Maybe it'll be in the form of their camp counselor, a teacher from their private school, the doorman at our building, the homeless guy on the corner of 87th street, or anyone else that they may interact with – Just someone who can provide them with a unique perspective on what "being grounded" really means.

Andy and I are firm believers that, regardless of us being their parents, we view everyone as playing a part in the education of our boys. We are humbled by this fact and know that the more different perspectives of life they witness, the more grounded they will be. And through that, we are blessed each and every day.

Live simply!

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

Just Like Dad: Ways My Kids and I Are Alike

Joseph Sadusky recounts the ways he and his adopted sons are cut from the same cloth.

Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read previous installments here!

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Today I took one of those Buzzfeed-like quizzes to determine whether or not I am having a midlife crisis. I know what you're thinking. How can 29 be considered mid-life? God bless you, but I'm actually 35. Fine, 41. The Buzzfeed results — granted, we're not talking a true clinical assessment here — implied that I am, in fact, showing symptoms of a midlife crisis. But instead of shopping for a new sports car, I'm looking around for something else.

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Personal Essays by Gay Dads

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Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of excerpts from Joseph Sadusky's new book, Magic Lessons: Celebratory and Cautionary Tales about Life as a (Single, Gay, Transracially Adoptive) Dad. The book contains many stories about my life as a dad, as well as lessons learned, and we're excited to share several excerpts from the the book over the course of the next few months. Read the first installment here!

As you may recall, the binder where I found my kids was the one for my local county. This was great news, because it meant less of a physical transition for them. Or so I thought.

What I found out, after my worker (Heather) connected with theirs (Amy), was that they actually lived in a little town about four hours away from my town. Even though the boys were wards of my county, Amy had, a couple of years earlier, found the best placement with Ms. Reed, a grandmotherly type who was doing foster care in a tiny—like, one-main-street tiny—town way down in the valley. So much for best-laid plans.

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Angel and Dan's wanted twins, without the complications of a twin pregnancy — so they worked with two separate surrogates at once.

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Gestational Surrogacy Legalized in New York State

The Child-Parent Security Act, which legalizes commercial surrogacy in New York State, was included in the 2020 New York State Budget signed by Governor Cuomo

Yesterday, a years-long battle about the state of compensated gestational surrogacy came to an end in New York when the Governor signed into a law the Child-Parent Security Act in the 2020 as part of the state budget.

The effort stalled last year after opponents, including several Democrats, successfully argued that the bill didn't go far enough to protect women who serve as surrogates — even though it included a surrogate "bill of rights," the first of its kind in the country, aimed at ensuring protections.

"Millions of New Yorkers need assistance building their families — people struggling with infertility, cancer survivors impacted by treatment, and members of the LGBTQ+ community," the Family Equality Council said in a statement about the victory. "For many, surrogacy is a critically important option. For others, it is the only option. Passage of the Child-Parent Security Act is a massive step forward in providing paths to parenthood for New Yorkers who use reproductive technology, and creates a 'surrogate's bill of rights' that will set a new standard for protecting surrogates nationwide."

Opponents, led by Senator Liz Krueger, had once again attempted to torpedo legalization efforts this year by introducing a second bill that would legalize surrogacy in New York, but also make it the most restrictive state in the country to do so. "A bill that complicates the legal proceedings for the parents and potentially allows them to lose their genetic child is truly unfortunate," said Sam Hyde, President of Circle Surrogacy, referencing to the bill's 8-day waiting period. He also took issue with the bills underlying assumptions about why women decide to serve as a surrogate. The added restrictions imply that "they're entering into these arrangements without full forethought and consideration of the intended parents that they're partnering with," he said.

The bill was sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, an out gay man who became a father via surrogacy, and Assemblymember Amy Paulin, who has been public with her experiences with infertility.

"My husband and I had our two daughters through surrogacy," Holyman told Gay City News. "But we had to travel 3,000 miles away to California in order to do it. As a gay dad, I'm thrilled parents like us and people struggling with infertility will finally have the chance to create their own families through surrogacy here in New York."

"This law will [give intended parents] the opportunity to have a family in New York and not travel around the country, incurring exorbitant costs simply because they want to be parents," Paulin said for her part. It will "bring New York law in line with the needs of modern families."


Expert Advice

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There's nothing quite like father-daughter relationships, and when it comes to single dads, your little girl likely holds a very special place in your heart. From the moment she's born, it's as if you can see every moment of her life in front of you, from her first steps to walking her down the aisle at her wedding. You'll be the first man she'll know and talk to, and you'll be her biggest example of what a loving man looks like. She'll come to you for advice on how to navigate challenges, be independent, treat others and grow into herself.

Your relationship with your daughter may be shaped by your personal history, whether you've been through a difficult divorce or breakup, you've transitioned out of a straight relationship, or you made the courageous decision to pursue surrogacy on your own. Whatever your situation is, studies have shown that children with involved fathers excel more in school and have fewer behavioral issues in adolescence.

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