Parenting

Parenting, Family, Airstream

Our Lives as LGBTQ+ Parents

When I was medically retired from the military in 2017, we made the decision to move back to our home State of Vermont. Living in a state that supports our family without objection made that an easy decision. Our lives as parents, however, has been much more difficult. It wasn't our intention to have more than one child, let alone two newborns a mere five-weeks apart in age. When we received the second call asking if we were willing to adopt our youngest daughter Charlotte, how could we have said no? In fact, it was one of the best decisions we've ever made.

It's true. When both of our girls came home for the first time, our lives changed overnight. Waking up at 3am to feed two newborns when you need to be at work by 6am is no joke. Simply put, it was rough. Not everyone might agree with us, but we say it was for the better. We now see the world through a different lens. One in which the future our daughters will grow up to view is now our priority. Their future families are now our priority. Everything we do is now based on that future.

In fact, we recently purchased an Airstream and are living out both of our dreams of traveling as a family. We are currently traveling full-time around North America showing our girls all that our country (and the world) has to offer. What better way to learn about something than seeing it in person? When it's time to learn more about the Hoover Dam, we'll drive to it. When it's time to learn about forests and the trees that live within them, we'll spend a month in Yosemite National Park. We hope to give them a different perspective of the world they live in. One in which anything and everything is possible.

We also plan to take our motto of "Acceptance Through Visibility" with us on this journey, having conversations with strangers, showing everyone that love is what makes a family. Our travels will take us to many of the U.S. military bases, National Parks, and baseball stadiums across the United States. Visibility and personal connections are how we change things, so hopefully, we're doing our part, especially as parents!

— Papa West

Parenting, Family

Her Lucky Coin, A Watch Battery

Not once had we ever imagined that a watch-sized battery could be so dangerous. One morning Charlotte told us she had just finished eating her snack. The comment was odd because we hadn't given her anything to eat since we had just recently finished breakfast, so we prodded further only to hear her say, "I swallowed my lucky coin." She then showed us a small toy calculator the girls had both been given to use as a "supercomputer" (@pbskids #superwhy). Not even a minute went by before we were speaking with someone at Poison Control. They explained that it was hazardous and could burn a hole through her esophagus (think feeding and breathing tubes) in as little as two hours and we should rush her to the nearest Emergency Department.

To make a long story short, we found out how fast and agile a Tesla Model 3 can be on our drive to the nearest hospital with someone able to help. We were in Southern Vermont at the time, so that meant driving to Albany, NY. Typically a 90 min drive, but "safely" done in 45 minutes that day. The 1st set of X-rays showed the battery in the worst possible place (lodged in her esophagus requiring surgery to remove), but fortunately, the 2nd set of X-rays confirmed that it had passed down into her intestines (now we hope that it passes in less than a week).

In a single moment, our life as a family almost changed for the worse.

In a single moment, our life as a family almost changed for the worse. I'm sure some statistics show how unlikely it is for the worst to happen in a situation like this, but as we rushed her to the hospital, that's all we could think of. This photo was not staged btw. It happened in Clarkston, GA, a small Southern town incredibly welcoming to refugees from around the world at a local coffee shop (@refuggeecoffee). The night before we had watched the season 2 finale of @queereye and were compelled to see the town for ourselves since it was only about a 30-minute drive from Atlanta. I just happened to have my phone out taking pictures when she leaned over and asked daddy for a kiss. I (papa) stay home with them during the day, so they tend to show me more affection. We were both a little surprised in the moment, but the combination of that photo, in that town and our day spent at the hospital left us wanting to be better parents. If you've made it this far down (thanks), please take a minute and get rid of or secure batteries your children have access to because it might just save their lives.

— Papa West


Parenting

Stop Saying: "Be Careful"

Dear Parents:

Our children need our support and guidance in so many ways.

They need to know they’re loved, they need to know they have our support, and they need to know we’ll always be there to guide them when times are tough.

They DON’T need to hear us tell them to “be careful” all the time.

It still takes significant effort on my part to think of better ways to remind my girls they aren’t invincible or to sit back and let them navigate potentially unsafe situations, but it’s a mantra we try to practice as a family every day.

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Every single time we take our girls to the park we hear moms and dads (mostly moms) tell their little ones to “be careful.” Not only that, but they tend to hover underneath or next to them in case they fall off of something. I’m not suggesting you let your toddler fall and hurt themselves merely to teach them a lesson, so hear me out.

Yes, I’m that gay dad at the park judging you for hovering over your kids.

How will our children ever learn to navigate situations on their own if we’re always reminding them to “be careful?” Our daughters seem to be more prone to hearing this than their male counterparts, and it needs to stop. Do your part and erase the phrase “be careful” from your life. We need our daughters and sons to explore, learn, and experience the ups and downs of life on their own without our constant presence.

We need more fearless women in this world, not less.

Oh, and while we’re at it, children know how to use slides and swings. They don’t need us telling them the “right” way to use them.

Sincerely,

One of the few dads at the park with his kids.

— Papa West