I live in an area of Brooklyn where every Persephone, Fletcher and Cyrus has a parent ready with a humblebrag. And for the 5-and-under set, I’ve noticed the main boasting point is the variety of the child’s appetite. I call it “competitive eating.” The most popular boast involves sushi. A parent just casually mentions, “He goes through a whole dragon roll.” Or tosses off, “She has to have her unagi or she has a fit!”
Bless these people and their adventurous eaters. And then there are my kids: Keith, 5, and Jason, 2.
I have two boys who eat like truckers and no amount of gentle guidance or modeling how delicious sushi is will change that. They want simple food served fast, and keep it coming. Sure, when they were little, I could blend anything into a puree and they would eat all kinds of fish and vegetables. Things that would be thrown at me now.
They want basic food and I’m okay with it. Call it resignation, or do me a solid and allow me to celebrate the ease of a 1970s-style childhood. Without the overalls my mother put me in.
And ah yes, fashion. I was just at a birthday party talking to some moms who were already excited to shop for back-to-school clothes. It hadn’t occurred to me. When I can get my boys to put on shirts in the summer, they are stained within 2.2 minutes. I will literally go from their rooms to the front door, and scream, “How did that happen?” I used to pay exorbitant amounts for their clothes, purely out of my vanity. “I dreamed a dream in time gone by,” goes the song, and raising kids has killed that Gap Kids dream.
But my biggest sin as a parent in my neighborhood has been getting my boys buzz cuts for the summer heat. People looked at me like I was a Republican. We go to a fancy kids’ salon — which is basically a clever front for an overpriced toy store. The hairdresser asked me twice if I was sure. They boys were in, and so was I. As she moved the razor over my youngest, I overheard a mother saying she just wanted a light, light trim for her son’s shoulder-length hair. “I’m not ready,” she said.
Maybe people are surprised because, as gay dads, there’s so much pressure on us to bring it. People think our girls should be in Lily Pulitzer; our boys in Lacoste. They want signature mocktails at birthday parties. They expect Facebook photos of dads clinking champagne glasses over a beatific child at brunch.
Instead, there’s me literally taking a hose to clean mud off my kids in the front yard, like I am handling hogs.
Don’t get me wrong. I can go from zero to Prissy Queen in a hot minute. Before I had kids, I thought I was Martha freakin’ Stewart. But I have two rough and tumble boys who have the power to make even me say, “Your shirt is not a napkin…Okay, fine.”
Instead, I’ve focused on manners and kindness. If I have a humblebrag, it’s that my children are good kids who are absolutely devoted to each other. For example, this is how they sneeze:
Seriously. And they bring this kindness out to the world. They help other kids when they fall, and they each confront bullies with a “That’s not nice.” I’m working to raise allies for their trans friends, their friends of color, and for their female friends.
So if we put any pressure on our kids, I think it should be to be kind. God knows the world needs more of that.