“What are we going to do for Mother’s Day?” For many years, that question could be answered in only two ways: We visit or we don’t.
Visiting my mom just for the day is out of the question, as she lives in the Netherlands. We would, however, visit Brian’s mom (and dad) in Massachusetts for the day, give her a big bouquet of flowers and a card, and have dinner with Brian’s entire family. More often we would just send our moms that big bouquet of flowers and that card, and replace the family dinner with a phone call. But that was then.
Our family of two has gotten larger. About six years ago, we adopted Levi; Ella and Sadie, born a year and a half later with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate, expanded our family even more. And that’s our new normal: two dads with three kids.
Surprisingly, we do have to think about Mother’s Day. Somehow, in our diverse neighborhood, we are the only same-sex parent couple in school. The teachers and our kids’ classmates really seem to be fine with us. Still, our kids are the only ones without moms, and in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, moms are on everyone’s mind.
A few weeks before Mother’s Day last year, Levi’s thoughtful teacher asked us if there were any women in Levi’s life for whom he’d like to make a Mother’s Day present. Absolutely, thanks for thinking about this! We clearly hadn’t. Levi does have many important women in his life. And so Levi made cards for Nana, Oma and Aunt Boo Boo.
This year, Levi got us thinking about the day early. In the beginning of April he asked, “Papa, can you talk to my teacher about Mother’s Day?”
“Sure I can, but why?” I responded.
“Just do it please.”
He didn’t want to tell me more; all my attempts to get more clarity were futile.
* * *
But there have been some awkward moments in the schoolyard. A few weeks ago, Brian and I were both playing with our kids in the schoolyard after school.
One of our son’s classmates walked up to me and said, “I thought you were Levi’s dad.”
“I am,” I said.
“Then who’s that?” he replied, pointing to Brian who was standing a few feet away. A valid question.
“Oh, yes, he’s Levi’s dad too. Levi has two dads.”
That seemed to satisfy the boy’s curiosity. Levi was standing next to me, taking it all in.
It could have been worse. Two months ago, an inquisitive 10-year-old girl, the daughter of a family acquaintance, grilled us in front of our children. The girl’s mother, though nearby, didn’t seem to pay attention to her daughter.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“I’m Levi’s papa, his dad,” I responded.
“And who’s that?” With her chin she pointed to Brian.
“He’s Levi’s dad too.”
She looked at me intently. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Brian added, not very helpfully, “We’re married.”
“Well, that’s just weird.” And with that, she turned around and walked away.
* * *
And so this year, at Levi’s repeated urging, I initiated the Mother’s Day conversation with his teacher. I talked to our other kids’ teachers. I wanted our kids to feel part of the preparations in their classrooms.
And because I had really made an effort last year to help with the school’s Father’s Day preparations, I felt I had to show everyone that, even for the gay guys, moms matter. And so every mother in our kids’ classes will get a jar of homemade preserves.
While our kids and their classmates made festive ribbons, wrapped jars, and wrote touching tributes to their mothers, I did the heavy lifting.
For the past few days I’ve been cleaning and peeling fruits, chopping onions and chocolates, and emptying large pots of boiling jams and such into freshly sterilized mason jars. Kiwi and Lime Jam; Dulce de Leche; Raspberry White Chocolate Jam; Pear, Vanilla and Chocolate Jam; and Balsamic Onion Marmalade: a grand total of 75 jars.
In a few years, I’ll probably look back on this and think, Oh, I kinda overdid it that time.
But for now, I don’t think it was a bad idea, taking the initiative. We’re showing everyone: Our kids don’t have moms, but, boy, do they celebrate Mother’s Day.
This article was first published in Boston Parents Paper on May 8, 2015.