Six.

My Darling Son,

I honestly still cannot fathom that you are now six years old. In many ways it has gone way too fast and I still see in you the infant that I can protect and shelter from the harms of the world. But I also know you are destined for great things in this world and out in it you must venture. 

And venture you have as the past year has been a complete whirlwind of life. You’ve started and finished preschool, moved to an entirely new city and started the challenge of kindergarten, and experienced first-hand the birth of your baby sister. You’ve lived in hotels and Airbnbs for weeks at a time, felt the uncertainty of displacement as we navigated the fog of life’s gigantic changes this year, and all while being the brightest of shining starts imaginable. You have carried more water than any 5-year-old should ever have to, and you’ve done it all remarkably.

You are so kind, so gentle, so full of love, pure of heart, and absolutely incredibly brilliant. I truly am at a loss for words to describe how beautiful of a human you are. I knew this of you from the moment I first held you but somehow you just keep raising the bar higher at every turn. My heart somehow manages to grow three sizes every single day. You give me more faith in the innate goodness of humanity than anything or anyone else I’ve ever encountered.

So shine on. The world needs your light and your love, and I am beyond proud that you are so willing to share that light and love with us all.

I love you.

Fog, Smoke, Ash, and Light.

Hi. It’s been awhile. Mostly because my life has been a goddamned shit show for the last 9 months, so finding the motivation (let alone the time) to write has been impossible. Not that I need to justify it to anyone, but here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened:

-I changed jobs. Not because I wanted to, but because I got demoted and my pay was slashed for a very unjustified reason. I won’t get into it here, but needless to say I’m still extremely bitter towards the company I used to work for because this was the catalyst for the upheaval of our entire lives for literally no good reason. Has some good come of it? Absolutely. I now work in a job I love for a company that really cares for its employees. Truly. I feel great knowing my company’s values align with mine and they back it up with actions. But holy hell I got career-slapped to the point that the only good way through it was to push the eject button. On everything.

-The job change required us to move because the commute from where we were living was 2 hours minimum each way. Sometimes over 3. Not sustainable at all. So after working insanely hard over the last 4 years to establish roots we had to rip most of them up and start over again. Has some good come of it? Absolutely. We made a small fortune on the sale of our house and my new company paid for nearly every aspect of our move. So we used some of the profit to pay off all our consumer debt and start a real family savings, which has allowed us to breathe easier and stop living paycheck to paycheck. Kind of like real adulting. And we now live in a really rad city that’s still a day trip from our old friends, so it’s not like we’re starting from scratch again. And we’re establishing new friends, with 2 other families on our street with kids roughly the same age as T.

-The house had some major unforeseen issues. It was a complete flip and the flippers did a decent job. Mostly. They added a bathroom on their own upstairs and did such a shit job that we had water leaking in the walls from the sink, shower, and toilet drains for 10 straight days after we moved in. So we spent 36 days in hotels and Airbnbs while undertaking a $30,000 construction project. My insurance company paid for most of it but it was the last thing we needed at the worst possible time. And right in the middle of it:

-Our beautiful baby daughter was born. We’ll call her J on this blog. J was born 4 weeks early on her own accord with a birth story that’s as chaotic as it is magnificent. You’ll hear more on that later, but she’s 8 weeks old now and sleeping on me in the Boba Wrap as I type. My new company gave me 6 straight weeks of fully-paid paternity leave so I got to spend way more time than I ever thought I would with her in the first critical weeks of her life. She’s a goddamned jewel and a shining light through this very heavy fog.

All of these things happened in the span of 9 months. And right now my emotional and physical states are a fucking wreck. I’m typing this standing up with my laptop on my son’s dresser. He’s playing imaginary games with his favorite stuffies while J sleeps on my chest. T has been up sine 6:30am and we’re coming off a rough night with J to the point that a Starbucks Venti Cold Brew is barely propping me up. And yet I feel like I shouldn’t complain because my wife got even less sleep than I did. Plus, this is what newborns do and we definitely signed up for this with eyes wide open.

The house is a mess because we still haven’t finished unpacking, and we’re about to stay in a hotel for 2 days while some very sophisticated equipment tries to rid the house of cigarette smoke smell once and for all. This will make 38 days out of the last 60 that we’ve spent in a hotel or Airbnb for home fixes. We’ve cooked maybe 10 total meals in our new home and my blood pressure is through the roof because it’s really hard to eat fucking salad every day when you’re barely hanging on by a thread. I’m not proud of McDonald’s and Slurpees at midnight after a 19-hour day in the NICU, but goddamnit sometimes it’s the best you can do. 

I’m over all of it and feel like crying as I desperately yearn for things to go back to “normal”, yet because so much has changed I have no idea what the new normal looks like. It’s absolutely true that the only way out is through and that we’re on the other side of all the shit. But it’s still really, really hard, even with the incredible support of family and friends.

OK I think I’ve vomited enough words for now. Just enough to make sure my blog didn’t get left behind in the ashes of my former life. I think there’s more coffee hiding around here somewhere…..

Five.

My Darling Boy,

What. A. Year. Honestly I can’t even being to describe in words what an awe-inspiring year it’s been watching you grow, but this humble letter will at least attempt to capture it as best I can. There have been so many new and wonderful developments that’s not possible to remember them all, but you’ve blossomed into this capable, confident, curious, courageous, and compassionate young human. You lead with an incredibly strong desire to learn, to understand, and most importantly, to feel. And not just feel for yourself, but feel for others. To be with others. If you ever read this, please, please don’t lose that. Or if you’ve lost it by the time you read this, please do whatever it takes to get it back. I will do everything I possibly can to nurture that empathy as it will be one of the most valuable guiding forces in your life. That force combined with your innate curiosity and love of learning will be nearly all you need to achieve great things. And make no mistake, you are destined for greatness, whatever that looks like to you.

So many wonderful moments this year. Too many to count. From your vivid imagination (stuffed animal characters) to your inventor’s drive (LEGO, recyclable materials, sock puppets, literally anything you can get your hands on) to your musical heartbeat (writing songs, your beautiful voice, the rhythm of your soul), to the persistent hard work of learning new skills like ballet, climbing trees, hiking mountains, and swimming; there hasn’t been a single thing you’ve wanted to do that you couldn’t do.

And the selflessness! Together you and I have put in so much work to make our community a better place. You’ve rung doorbells in the searing summer heat for some of the best political candidates I’ve ever met. You’ve marched in solidarity with our LBGTQIA+ friends. You’ve stood with me in the pouring rain to ensure that immigrant families stay together. You’ve literally faced down an anti-choice protester, proudly proclaiming with conviction that you “stand with Planned Parenthood”. And all of this at FOUR. YEARS. OLD. I cannot adequately capture the deep well of gratitude, humility, pride, and joy that I feel knowing that I could share these experiences with you and also see how they’ve added so much knowledge and depth to your character. You’re not only building your own world; you’re making it so much better for everyone else.

And through all of it you’ve never once lost sight of humility and gratitude. And you captured that perfectly in our last exchange just before bed on the eve of your birthday:

Me: “When you wake up you’re going to be five!”
You: “I can’t thank you enough.”

No, my son, I can’t thank you enough.

I love you.

Inheritance.

I’ve lost the inspiration to write. Hopefully it’s temporary, but everything that’s happening in this country is so stressful that I’m barely keeping my head above water being an adult, let alone a parent and a husband. It’s not supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to be spending my vacations truly enjoying time with my son, my weekends relaxing and doing fun things, and my evening shutting off my Work Brain and turning on my Family Brain. Instead, I’m calling my congressional representatives from the base of Hurricane Ridge, on vacation no less. Weekends are for showing up en masse to rallies for Planned Parenthood, Women’s Marches, Pride Parades, Immigrants’ Rights, and trying to move the Sisyphean needle on keeping asylum-seeking families together. Evenings are spent gathering intel and activist strategies through podcasts while accomplishing the bare minimum of chores before collapsing from exhaustion around 11pm.

My 4-1/2-year-old son is with me for all of it, at least when he’s awake. Because if he’s not then I don’t get to spend time with him. There’s too much to do and not enough time to do it. So I try to make the time as high-quality as possible. He knows why we rally for women’s health. He’s cold stood up to a protestor and unflinchingly said “I stand for Planned Parenthood,” without any input from me. He knows I’m referring to him (and a whole bunch of other people) when I wear my Black Lives Matter t-shirt. He knows why we march in the Pride Parades. He’s met many of my LGBTQIA friends and recognizes their humanity. He’s expressed profound, real sadness when I explained to him that children are being taken away from their parents at the border, his empathy shining through as I watch him consider how he would feel if he were separated from us. Again, all completely unprompted.

Parenting is hard. I anticipated some (but not all) of the growing pains of being a first-time parent. You know, the standard stuff. Everything from the chronic lack of sleep with infants to the frustrating, maddening boundary-pushing sociopathy of toddlers. I knew I would have to figure out how to help him navigate his complex racial identity in a bleakly racist world. But I never anticipated all this. I never anticipated that my generation and the generations before me would be gleefully setting fire to the world. That the scorched, salted earth my son will inherit may be appreciably worse than what I have. That I’ll have to explain to him how to stay safe when angry white men spray bullets all over his school. That the one parenting constant – that all generations strive to ensure better lives for the generations that follow – is a myth steeped in white supremacy.

I don’t know where we go from here, and I know I can’t protect him from all of it. My one hope is that he finds the strength to bring his generation together and fix this; to succeed where we have clearly failed. But for now, one step at a time I guess. There are signs to make, snacks to pack, and people to meet at the next rally. 

Onward.

Ten Memorable Parenting Moments of 2017

Let’s face it – 2017 has been a shit year. So much so that it’s been incredibly difficult to find the inspiration to write much here. But, as with most New Year’s Eves, it’s good to reflect back on some better moments before we give this year the middle finger and turn the page. So in the spirit of the season here are ten of my top parenting moments of the year, in no particular order:

1) Freedom From Diapers (Mostly). Do you hear that? It’s the angels of the heavens singing the Hallelujah Chorus!! This has been the year of real potty independence. And while we’re still not 100% there (I’m convinced he won’t poop in the toilet until he’s 37), he’s a rock star with peeing and keeping his overnight diapers dry. Sidenote: I’m fairly positive I never thought I would think this sentence, let alone write it for public viewing. Ah, parenting. Oh, and yet another shoutout to our cloth diapers for being rock solid for over 4 straight years now. Honorable mention to our washer and dryer for surviving semi-industrial usage for that same time. Y’all are the real deal.

2) Travelin’ Man. As you may or may not know, we were fortunate enough to live in The Netherlands for half of this year. And we traveled. A lot. Our son was a friggin’ road warrior, surviving 9-hour flights, drives of 10, 14, and 18-1/2 hours, and being thrown into a brand new society and culture. All at the tender age of 3 where he was just learning to speak his native language, let alone deal with a completely new one. While he may not remember everything (or anything) from our time there, I can already tell that the experience changed him forever.

3) Roger the Rabbit’s European Adventures. Along the same lines, T’s favorite stuffed animal, Roger the Rabbit, went everywhere with us – from riding the bus in Rome to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to relaxing in a beach house in Sweden. If you’re on Instagram (@comma.splice) I have a decent amount of photos of T and Roger on their adventures together. This rabbit has seen more of the world than most children!

4) The Colliding Hugs. Every day I come home from work he does this awesome thing where he’ll say my name (“Daddy”) and start running toward me. The faster he gets the faster and louder he says my name until WHAM! he collides with my midsection and wraps his arms around me for a giant hug. This will never, EVER get old. Can I just be greeted like this everywhere I go?

5) School Days. One of the hardest things for me has been realizing that I can’t teach him everything he’ll need to know to survive in the world; I just don’t have the capacity. So watching him develop further and really like going to preschool has been immensely satisfying. Until he comes home with a cold picked up from some other snotty-nosed, drool-faced kid and gives it to ALL. OF. US. Thanks, drooly-face.

6) Building Blocks and Lego Sets. We’re doing LEGO now!! And not just the Duplo stuff, but real, serious, “Age 5-12” sets! I’m not sure who gets more excited by them, me or him, but they’ve really captured his imagination and attention span, all while advancing his fine motor skills and spatial abilities. And the best part? This is only going to get more awesome over time!

7) Music Man. If Lego make me giddy, then music makes me absolutely ecstatic. He’s strumming the guitar, making up songs, singing on pitch, exploring his new keyboard, my trumpet and drums, and memorizing hooks from songs by bands such as Junius, Nirvana, and Hole. We’re also playing a lot of “Song Like/Do Not Like”, which is how I know he likes certain songs by some complex bands like Lamb of God, Opeth, Static X, and Gojira. Oh, and he’s really into Skrillex and Glitch Mob, so we have an EDM thing going too. I’m fairly certain he’s in rarified 4-year-old air in terms of musical palette. Quick, someone get me some Frank Zappa!

8) Friendship. He’s got genuine friends! Partners in crime, even! On the surface, it’s not surprising since he’s got all of the extrovert genes of me and my wife combined then multiplied by 5. But I was a socially awkward kid and sometimes a barely functioning adult in social situations, so it’s been wonderful to see him reach out and connect with others. Oh, and not be a dick to them, too. That’s important.

9) Family Connection. One of our best memories of Europe was driving to Sweden to visit my sister-in-law and her beautiful family. Not only did T get to see his Swedish cousins for the first time (one of which may as well be his doppelgänger), but this was the first time my father-in-law was with all four of his grandchildren at the same time. A moment that would make Hallmark jealous.

10) Reading Rainbows He’s always loved books, but Now. He. Can. READ. THEM!!!! He’s actively spelling words, sounding them out, and putting it all together. This was the official first book, and he read it all the way through!!! Watching his mind work and actually hearing the connection turn into words is one of the most amazing experiences for me. It’s literally indescribable.

And with that, we look ahead to 2018, which will no doubt be big year in a lot of ways.

Adios, 2017!!

Four.

My Baby Boy,

What a year. I know every year is different, but this year has been an indescribable ride. You’ve grown and changed so much it’s nearly impossible to put to words, but I’ll try and at least cover the highlights. You’ve rolled with me on some very big life changes – living half the year in the Netherlands, starting pre-school TWICE (once in Dutch even!!), seeing some of your Swedish cousins for the very first time, riding your bike everywhere, creating and singing your very first song, earning your “stripes” in the bathroom (including stops on the side of the highway in Switzerland, Italy, and the Netherlands!), and my personal favorite – communication. You are so articulate in telling me what you want and what you don’t want. And sometimes that leads to battles.

Oh, the battles, my son. Things haven’t been all roses, and there’s been a lot of tears shed this past year by both you and me. We’re learning in this together, and I know I still have a lot of work to do, so thank you for growing with me, being patient with me, and forgiving me for my mistakes. There are few things better than a post-battle hug through a light fog of tears. Promise me that no matter what happens we will always come back together like this. Your spirit is so strong, bright, and resilent that in a few ways I’m envious. I absolutely want you to carry that spirit with you for your entire life, and from what I can see the fire in your heart grows bigger every day.

You really are going to do great things one day, Trenton. It’s impossible to know right now what those things are, but with the pure joy and passion you have for life your possibilities are endless.

Happy Birthday, and I love you.

Black Lives Matter / The End of My White Fatherhood

As I am challenged to keep improving and become a better parent to my mixed-race son, I’ve had to face the death of a very, very large part of my parenting: the White Parent. Let me explain:

All parents have worries and concerns about sending their children out into the world. White Parents don’t have to worry about their child being bullied, hurt, or killed because of their skin color.

All parents want their children to succeed in school. White Parents don’t have to worry about their child being passed over for opportunities or being labeled a “troublemaker” because of implicit racial bias.

All parents want their child to get a great job. White Parents don’t have to worry about their child being passed over for a great job opportunity or being paid substantially lower because of implicit racial bias.

All parents want their children to be safe. White Parents don’t have to worry about their child being killed by police at an alarming rate.

These are not things I worried about growing up and going through school. And as far as I know my parents didn’t worry about them either. The advice given to me was standard for white suburban America: “Work hard and you can achieve anything”; “Stay out of trouble and you’ll be fine”. And while my experiences (and those of my family) have proven that advice sound, I know enough now to worry that the same advice will not hold true for my son.

I must admit I was warned. Family members of mine expressed concern and urged me not to marry interracially because they didn’t want to see me go through hardships or have a child of mine (and theirs) endure them as well. But the heart wants what it wants, and to reject love out of fear of hardship is poor advice at best. So here I am, a white father but no longer a White Parent. Worrying and just shaking my head are not the examples I wish to set for my son.

What’s important is that my child knows not only that his life matters to me, but that the lives of children and adults like him matter to me as well. That I am not content to turn a blind eye to injustice and “hope” that he is spared because sometimes he can “pass as white”. That I, in the group of the oppressor, will use my advantages to systematically dismantle the barriers of inequality for him and for everyone like him. That I will defend him and reaffirm his and his mother’s worth even when my family members do not. That I will not accept “that’s just the way he/she is” as an excuse for people not doing the work to change. That Black Lives Matter to me, to his mother, and to anyone else we choose to accept as family and friends.

The path forward for my son will be neither straight nor easy. But at least he will know I am there with him in much different ways than I had previously imagined. Onward and upward.