Tag Archives: Father Knows Best

My wife is pregnant. It’s not mine…

…. and it’s not hers, either.  She is acting as a surrogate for someone else.  

We initially signed up to do this without knowing who the intended parent would be.  We (mostly she, but I had to some of this) signed on with an agency, expecting this would be for someone we had never met before.  But, when she started telling some of her friends about this, one said she had been in the process of looking for a surrogate, and asked if my wife would do it for her.  So, in the end, the intended parent will be someone we know, and are friends with.  That’s been nice, to get to see her excitement and anticipation grow as we get closer.  The baby mamma’s parents are also super excited; the mom is an only child, so this will likely be their only grandchild.  It’s definitely a nice feeling, knowing that all we are putting into this is going to cause such happiness for someone else.  

She’s due on November 1, so about 6 weeks left.  That means that it’s really, really obvious she is pregnant, so of course we get lots of comments from random people all the time*.   Depending on the question and the situation, my wife will often respond that the baby is not ours, which leads to reactions in two main categories:

  1. Wow, that’s so amazing!  What a gift to give someone!  You are so awesome!
  2. Wow, I could never do that because...
    1. pregnancy was awful for me, I can’t imagine doing that again for someone else
    2. it would be too much like giving up my own baby.  Won’t it be hard to birth a baby and then give it up right away?

For 2.1, my wife had very easy pregnancies for both of our kids.  And so far, everything is going fine this time.  She’s getting more and more uncomfortable, but nothing more than the usual third trimester issues (back pain, swollen legs and ankles, exhausted, sore all over, etc.).

And for 2.2, it really hasn’t been a problem for us at all.  This has never been our child, so it’s not like we are giving away our own kid.  Some of that is having no genetic connection; this was IVF, with the intended mother’s egg and donor sperm.  But I think more of it is just the mindset that it isn’t our baby.  When we started this, I was a little worried how our kids would respond to this, but they seem to completely understand that this is not our baby.  They say momma is growing a baby for someone else.  It’s kind of like babysitting, just for a long time (and internally instead of externally, but sort of alike at least).

It’s a new situation for us, but not in a bad way.  It does feel a bit weird to be dealing with a pregnancy and preparing for a birth, while not at all preparing for a baby.  It’s not like we need to be getting a room ready, or setting up a crib, or getting baby clothes, or anything else.  The intended mom is doing all that, of course, but that’s not our job.  Once the baby comes, our part of this is done.

I don’t know for sure if we’ll do it again for someone else, but that’s definitely a strong possibility, depending on how this last month and a half goes.  I know agencies are always very interested in having women with previous surrogacy experience do it again.  That way, the biggest worry the intended parent could have (that you’d run off with their kid to a state with less favorable surrogacy laws [like Michigan; if you birth a baby there, it’s legally yours] before it’s born and keep it for yourself) gets allayed a bit.

Overall, so far so good.  We’ve been very happy with it, the new intended family is super excited, and all the pains and problems my wife has had (both during the pregnancy, and the many, many hormone shots at the beginning of all this) have been as expected.  I know doing this is not something for everyone, but based on how well this has gone, I think it really is something for us.

 

*I don’t really understand why seeing a woman that appears to be pregnant makes strangers feel that they have a right to ask invasive, personal questions.  I personally don’t mind all that much, and I don’t think my wife does, either, but I’m sure there are others in different circumstances that would.

You’d Look So Much Prettier If You’d Smile: On #MeToo

What have you done today to protect yourself from sexual harassment or assault? What has your wife done? Your mother? Your sister? Your daughter?

Someone you love was sexually abused as a young child. Someone you love wanted to say no and didn't know how. Someone you love believed she was dirty, damaged, worthless because of something that was done to her.

I have had this post on my mind since the Weinstein allegations came to light last fall, but I somehow kept putting off writing it. I don't need to tell you that sexism, harassment, and assault exist. We don't need to talk about any of that as a dynamic of this community (thank goodness), but I want to share a few things from my own life and share some thoughts about raising kids in a world where sexism, harassment, and assault exist.

The summer when I turned 18 was one of my favorite summers. But thank God I'm not 18 anymore. There is a particular vulnerability in being a young woman that brings out the worst in men. They somehow seem to know that you aren't prepared for it, don't know how to respond. That you'll let their comments get to you. My parents have always been loving and supportive, and on the whole, they did a wonderful job of raising me. But they never told me how to handle catcalls, how to brush off men drawn to my youth and naïveté.

Your mother, your wife, or your sister has almost certainly experienced at the very least some type of low-level harassment. Your daughter almost certainly will, if she hasn't already. And while the experience may have been nothing more than a comment from a passing stranger or a brief hand on her back, the shame and disgust she felt afterward likely lasted much longer than the incident itself.

So for those of us who are parents, how do we raise our children in a way that doesn't perpetuate sexist beliefs and behaviors? I don't really know, but somehow I don't think that simply saying to our kids, "everyone's equal, we're all the same, be nice to everyone" is going to do it. Before I had children, I had a lot of ideas about how to raise kickass girls. And then I had two boys.

We've talked before at the WGOM about ways of addressing consent with young kids. Tickling is okay only when the child says it's okay. A child (or an adult) can say they don't want a hug. It's not okay to touch another person in a way they don't want to be touched.

I also try to put into words when my kids touch me in a way I enjoy: "That was nice." "I like when you hug me like that, it makes me feel really loved." It is my hope that this will help them develop their own vocabulary for navigating all manner of physical encounters as they get older.

After the Weinstein stuff came out, I talked a little to the jalapeño (who is 7) about how women haven't always been treated fairly. That they have been paid less for doing the same job as a man, that there have been a lot of jobs they were told they couldn't do at all. His response. "Well, that's really dumb." Sing it, brother! It feels weird to point out inequality, but my gut tells me that he needs to know about this stuff if he's going to play a part in not perpetuating it.

Earlier this year, I had a rather unpleasant experience with a man while I was waiting in line to order a burrito bowl at a large grocery store near my job. There was a creepy comment and a hand on my waist. But lucky for me, I'm no longer that 18-year-old girl who doesn't know what to say. I turned and looked right at that guy and he asked in a slightly sarcastic way, "Is that not okay?" I said, "No. It's never okay to touch someone without permission." And he left. That night after dinner, I told the jalapeño about it (without many specifics). He didn't say anything, but he gave me the kind of hug that makes me feel really loved.

And yet, women talking won't by itself fix everything. That's where I'm hoping all of you come in. Men have to talk with other men about these things. They have to talk to kids about these things. And kids have to see the men in their lives making their way through the world in a way that is respectful toward women. Because nothing is going to get better for anyone unless we're all in this together.

Thanks for reading, guys.

I’ll Probably Forget the Card

My dad isn't one to say, "I love you." I'm sure he's said those words to me at some point in my life, but he's from southwestern Minnesota and he's just not the type of person you'd ever describe as "effusive." There was a time when I thought love was supposed to be expressed verbally, but with Father's Day fast approaching, it occurs to me that what I appreciate most about my father is how he expresses his love in the ways that are true to who he is.

Very few of you have met my dad, but he's a character. An introverted physicist, he doesn't have hobbies in the usual sense of the word--unless you count having a perfect memory for the birthdays of everyone he's ever known. He doesn't golf, he typically read books, he doesn't follow any sports. So what does he do in his retirement? He follows the stock market, plans trips for himself and my mom (and anyone else in the family who is looking for a good deal on a flight), and he takes care of those around him.

I joined a softball team the summer after third grade, and the day I got my own glove, my dad and I went to the backyard to play catch. On his first throw, he beaned me in the face, giving me a bloody nose. So much for playing catch! But my non-sports-fan dad came to every game I played and he turned out to be a great scorekeeper.

I didn't always have the coolest toys or the trendiest clothes when I was growing up and we rarely went out to eat, but thanks to good investments in the stock market, when the time came for me to go to college, there was money saved to pay for it. College was also the first time I did my own laundry . . . because my dad had always done it. He would sometimes rigidly insist on doing things "his way" rather than teaching my sister and I how to learn a skill, but hey, at least we always had clean clothes!

Fast forward to Wednesday of this week, which might best be summed up as a series of unfortunate events. Everything is all right now, but as I was driving the jalapeño to the ER shortly before 6:00 in the morning, it was clear that the day would be rocky. Mr. NaCl had a commitment in the evening, and once I got the good news that the jalapeño was going to be fine, it occurred to me that I might have trouble handling the boys on my own that evening. So I called my parents. Both of them were more than willing drop everything to come over and occupy the peperoncino so that I could focus on getting the exhausted jalapeño to bed early enough to avoid a total meltdown. What could have been a disaster of an evening went off without a hitch.

I'm terrible at getting gifts--or even remembering to pick up a card--for Mother's Day, Father's Day, and the like. But maybe that's okay. My dad doesn't need to tell me he loves me for me to know it, and with or without a card on Sunday, I bet he knows I love him too. (Actually, if I do remember a card, he'd prefer if I get the cheapest one in the store. He can't stand the thought of anyone spending $3 or even more on a card.)

There are so many kinds of fathers--and mothers--in the world, and none are without flaws. But here's to finding ways to appreciate the fathers in our lives for the things they're best at . . . whatever those things may be.

2017 Guest DJs and FKB Contributors

Sorry, late start on this. If anyone has any objections or requests (date switches, etc), just let me know. Again, hopefully I'll get some sort of automated reminders set up, but failing that, these schedules will be noted in the Features page.

FATHER KNOWS BEST
Didn't get the full year here, but we can re-up again later. As per usual, lineup courtesy of random.org:

JAN [whenever]: nibbish
FEB 17: Beau
MAR 16: Philosopher
APR 20: CarterHayes
MAY18: The Dread Pirate
JUN 15: Pepper
JUL 20: Mags
AUG 17: Algonad
SEP 21: freealonzo

GUEST DJs
Not a huge turnout this year, so pretty much everyone got in. Only 12 volunteers for 11 months (no December). 6 volunteers didn't go last year, so they're all in, then random.org figured out the rest.

JAN 30-(FEB) 3: Algonad (sorry for the short notice)
FEB 20-26: Beau
MAR 20-26: davidwatts
APR 17-23: freealonzo
MAY 22-28: Jeff A
JUN 12-19: Mags
JUL 17-23: meat
AUG 14-20: nibbish
SEP 18-24: Pepper
OCT 16-22: Philosopher
NOV 13-19: Zack
DECEMBER: Best of 2017

And for anyone curious, here's the Guest DJ history:

Duder2011201220132014201520162017
Algonad-X----X
AMRXX-X-X-
BeauX--X--X
bjhess----X--
brianS-X-----
Can of CornX-X--X-
CarterHayes-X---X-
cheaptoyX-X-X--
Daneeka's GhostX--XX--
davidwatts--X--XX
DKXX-X-X-
E-6-X--X--
freealonzoX-X--XX
FT'hm'LT--X----
GreekHouse---X---
Jeff A--X---X
MagUidhirX-X-X-X
meat -----X
New Britain Bo-X-X-X-
nibbish-X-X-XX
Pepper----XXX
Philosofer--X-X-X
punmanbowler---X---
Rhubarb_RunnerXX-X-X-
Rowsdower--X----
Sheenie--X----
spookymilk-X-X-X-
The Dread Pirate-X-X---
TwaynX-X-X--
Yickit----X--
ZackX-X-X-X

Well, I think that about wraps it up. Thanks to the volunteers!

Of Tech and Togetherness

“Among our closest friends and family members, we operate furtively without even trying to, for no reason other than that we are using a nearly omnipresent, highly convenient tool, the specific use of which is almost never apparent.”

—Susan Dominus, “Motherhood, Screened Off”

 
I am pretty sure I didn’t always love family gatherings, but I started loving them around the time I went off to college. There’s something wonderful about being in a crowded kitchen, everyone preparing a different side dish as we chatter about the minutia that make up our everyday lives.
 
I am not at all good about keeping in touch with family members other than my own parents, so holidays are one of those rare times when I have a chance to connect with extended family. Growing up, I was close to my sister (we’re just two years apart), but after she got married and started that all-consuming thing known as medical school, we mostly followed our separate paths.
 
On a vacation to a cabin up north this past summer—which involved my parents, my sister, her husband, and their three-year-old son, plus Mr. NaCl and our two kids—as well as during a Thanksgiving spent with Mr. NaCl’s family in Iowa, it seemed to me that the nature of our interactions was different than it had been in years past. At the end of a long day that involved some combination of cooking, dish washing, and keeping the exuberant children well occupied, the adults were tired. Both families include a good number of introverts, so after the kids were all in bed, evenings offered a chance to recharge. 
 
I come from a family of readers, so it used to be that we would all gather in a common space and each curl up with a book (or perhaps some knitting, for my mom and me). Conversation would happen in fits and starts; someone would start laughing at something they read and then share it with the rest of us. But now, the evenings are spent with each person absorbed in his or her own electronic device. I couldn’t really put my finger on why that bothered me until I read the essay from which I quoted at the beginning of this piece. That’s it! Our devices obscure what we’re doing from each other even when we’re all in the same room.
 
Despite all this, there’s something to be said for the brief moment of respite provided by escaping into a screen. Someone might have emailed me in the last ten minutes! Or perhaps someone at this very website said something witty that I really need to see right now! But it’s so easy to slip into something more than a quick check of a website. The minutes pass by and suddenly a child is calling my name and I’m responding, “just one more minute.”

I’m not on Facebook, but every month or so I’ll use Mr. NaCl’s account to check what my sister has posted. What I love about her is that she does not document her life’s highlights. Instead she notes every sickness (her son is a puker), every flat tire, every vet appointment for her aging dog.

Our screens keep us apart, our screens bring us together. I’m not sure I have any answers here, but I feel certain that years from now, what I remember most about the time spent with my extended family will not be those times when we all sat around looking at our devices.

The next time I’m with extended family, there isn’t any reason that I couldn’t propose that the adults all play a game together one evening—the kind of game played on a board or with a deck of cards. The fact that the kids are young right now restricts what our options are, both in terms of their limited attention spans and in terms of their relatively early bedtimes. So I realize we won’t always be in circumstances that require us to be engaging in quiet activities at home starting at 8:00 in the evening.

I don’t think technology is the enemy—some of my closest friends are people I know “from the Internet.” And I don’t think that family interactions must be entirely devoid of tech devices. But I am trying to figure out how we can overcome the lure of our individual screens and really connect with one another on those occasions when we are all together. I’m more than a little curious to hear from others here about how technology has affected your family gatherings and what you make of this brave new world of screens.

Отцы и дети, or A Dad Named Sue

I had two dads and four grandfathers when I was growing up. Sometimes keeping everyone straight was an adventure. I share the same first name with my dad and his dad, which lead to sometimes-comical attempts by one family member to get the right one of us to respond. While I was never put out by this, it did impress on me the importance of names. When I was about twelve I chose a different nickname than the one my dad and his dad use, which caught on with some – but not all – of the family. I even have relatives who still call me a diminutive form of my nickname that I stopped using in elementary school. Now that I’m old enough, I find being called that name endearing.

For many years, I called both of the men who raised me “Dad.” When we finally became close in adulthood, my stepdad became “Pa.” That development came around the same time that I began mending my relationship with my dad (who, contrary to my WGOM shorthand, I never called “Pops”). I don’t think it’s a coincidence this distinction between them emerged during the time when I was establishing a healthy, adult relationship with each of my dads.

With four grandfathers the naming convention challenge multiplied. My grandfathers though remarriage were both “Grandpa” – one “Grandpa Lastinitial” and the other “Grandpa SurLastFamilyname.” My maternal grandfather was “Papa,” as his parents were still “Oma” and “Opa” to my generation of the family. My paternal grandfather, the only one of my grandfathers still living, is “Gramps.” (In fact, he’s the Gramps-iest Gramps to ever Gramps: a baseball-loving, Buick-driving, Cold War Navy vet who taught high school business & sold shoes. He likes burnt toast, black coffee, and Winstons. He doesn’t drink much anymore, but when I was a kid, he drank Schmidt. Before that, it was North Star.)

Mrs. Hayes & I are both third-generation Americans, our families heavily Americanized but still aware of our ethnic heritage. Papa’s third language was English, which he learned when he went to elementary school; he spoke German & Hungarian at home. My mom & her sisters get by in German to varying degrees. I speak just a little German, but understand a little bit more. To my dismay, we’ve lost the Hungarian. The other side of my family lost its Polish & German even quicker. Mrs. Hayes’ family has held on to their Greek heritage a bit better, mostly thanks to the ethnic dynamics of Orthodox Christianity. While nobody speaks much Greek in her immediate family, the culture’s customs are observed to varying degrees and greetings & blessings are still given in Greek.

Our child’s language acquisition is a priority for both of us. Mrs. Hayes & I both agree on what we would choose for a super power: the ability to speak other languages fluently. Our hope is to have her learn bits of a few languages: Greek and Russian (to communicate with my best friend’s family) for certain, and then whatever we can manage or build beyond that. I would love to send her to an immersion school if we have the opportunity, though that’s many years down the road.

But in the next two month I have a very personal decision to make. Who am I going to be to this little person? Figuring out my new name has consumed my thinking recently. What name do I choose? We agreed on a name for this child for nearly a decade ago. What I never considered is that I'd need to settle on a new name for myself, too.

Because I lost both my dads when they were fairly young, I don’t feel comfortable assuming either of their names in a couple months. At the same time, because we've functionality lost our mother tongues, I wonder if I have the right to claim a non-English name aligned with my child’s ethnic heritage. Do I become Apu, Vati, Tata, or Μπαμπάς? Do I choose Папа, given that’s drawn from the foreign language I speak best and hope to pass on? I honestly don’t know what’s right. But I know whatever I choose has to last two lifetimes.

How did you decide who you were going to be to your child(ren)? Has that name become as much a part of your identity as your given name?

If you speak (or wish you spoke) another language, how did you go about integrating that language into your child(ren)’s life?

Finally, this one goes out to my dads:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dmt7wo0Tnr8

Father Knows Best – overwhelmed

Sometimes I wonder if we made the right decision

Two weeks ago, we accepted a foster placement of an almost 2-year old girl I'll call Dakota.  We thought it would be a good fit.  She was just a year older than our youngest.  Our other kids have demonstrated friendliness and acceptance to a couple of other foster children we've accepted in our home.  I would say that we've had good experiences with previous foster children in our home (granted, they were for very short amounts of time)

Just before Dakota came to live with us, we worried about whether or not this placement would actually happen.  A part of us was worried that something would prevent us from having an opportunity to care for this girl.  We were very excited at the possibility though.

A lot has changed in just a month.

Dakota is a very high energy child.  This means that she's constantly on the go, and eats and poops A LOT.  Her curiosity gets her many places that she shouldn't be, and I feel like we're constantly correcting and redirecting her.  All the while trying to remember her past and why she came to be placed into care in the first place, realizing that you need to have a different approach to children from foster care than you do your own children.

It has been incredibly difficult, and it's taking a toll on my wife and I.  My wife has been bearing the brunt of the work, spending most of the day with her, trying to homeschool our other children in the meantime.  Luckily the older children are somewhat independent and able to do much of their work on their own.  By the time evening comes along, I try to be intentional about helping out by taking more direct responsibility for Dakota and let my wife have some time to herself.

Dakota does not like bedtime, and would much rather play and run around in her room.  Once she finally does go down, we try to get as much sleep as we can, taking the same approach that many take to caring for newborns - sleep while she sleeps.

I believe it has less to do with her being a foster child, and more to do with the fact that she's nearly 2.  I'm hopeful that we can move past this and come to a new normal with her in our home.  However, our sanity seems to be taking a hit.

We're going to a family camp this weekend that we scheduled months ago.  I'm not sure how it's going to go, as both my wife and I are very concerned how Dakota's presence is going to affect the family dynamic.  If you pray, please pray for our family and for Dakota.  If you don't, well, keep us in your thoughts anyway.

How have you been feeling overwhelmed lately?

 

Father Knows Best: Mr. Moming It

I’ve been playing the role of Mr. Mom for the past six months. Without a job, we can’t justify paying to send the kids to daycare, so when Philosofette goes to work, I stay home. Holy. Buckets. It is a lot of work.

I think the hardest part isn’t the work itself, it’s the self-sacrifice that goes with it. I cannot both be an attentive parent and try to accomplish my own agenda. This makes applying for jobs very difficult. It makes cleaning difficult. It makes preparing dinner challenging. The kids require attention. Part of this has to do with the demographics. We’re at 5 (he’s easy!), 3 (she’s potty training!), and 9 months (he’s eating everything on the floor and getting into places he shouldn’t be and pulling things off of shelves and crying and pooping and etc.!). Without the baby, the other two are pretty simple. Without the other two, the baby is easy too. But throw all three of them together… wow.

So these past six months for me have really hammered in the respect I have for stay-at-home parents. They do a lot of work. But even more essentially, they give up themselves. And that’s impressive.
--------------------------------
A couple of other quick hits, parenting-related ideas that have been bouncing around my head recently…

My daughter was born with a tethered spinal cord. She had surgery at 3 months, and basically we’ll have to watch her for the rest of her life to make sure it doesn’t re-tether. We recently thought we were picking up some signs that it maybe had, including potty-training problems. We were feeling terribly guilty for not scheduling her to see a specialist a long time ago, since these signs were there for a while. When we took her into the specialist though, he couldn’t have been more reassuring. It’s a strange thing though, having to keep a constant vigil against a specific condition. If we miss it, if we delay, we could fail to prevent some pretty awful effects. It really ramps up the possible parenting guilt.

I recently taught my 5-year-old how to play war. He pretty much plays it constantly now. But even he’s gotten bored, because he’s started to introduce “powers” where cards freeze other cards or blow them up, etc. The thing is, all of the powers are similar to things he sees in games I play on the iPad… which clearly means I need to play less when the kids are awake (I gave up iPad games for Lent).

Alright, I’ve rambled for a while. Time for others to chime in.