There are days I envy Mitt Romney's good ol' great-great-grandpappy and his dozen wives. I can't tell you how many times an extra wife or two would have come in handy while trying to figure out baseball practice, parent teacher conferences and play date dropping off and retrieving.
Take this schedule:
*May 10th - Early Release
*May 16th - 2nd Grade trip to the Multicultural Fair
*May 31st - Art Show for parents 6:30-8:30
*June 7th - Our class play at 8:45 in our room
*June 7th - Early Release
*June 11th - Castle Island (rain date June 14th)
*June 12th - Progress folio Sharing 8:30-9:30
*June 13th - Color Day (rain date June 15th)
*June 18th - Franklin Park Zoo (changed from the 6th because of the Butterfly Exhibit)
*June 20th - Last day for kids (1/2 day)
Multiply it by three kids, add two baseball schedules, divide sleepovers between two houses and carve out quality family time. If we didn't have an online calendar posted for all to view? We'd never get it all done.
I can't tell you how many times I've sat at a baseball game or school play and been told how lucky I was to have a wife AND two dads to work out scheduling nightmares. If our kids end up in therapy it won't be because there wasn't always a parent - or three- at every special event.
Before anyone goes down the Romney repulsion road, there is no polygamy going on -- the wife and I are married, Walter and Allan - the dads -- are married, and no one is divorced. We've had 16 years of wedded bliss; they've had 19 years.
Okay, "bliss" is pushing it but I can say no divorce. At least not yet. Why, we could almost be poster children for the religious right, minus the same-sex part of it. Although one has to wonder what all those Mormon wives did while waiting for their 'turn' with the husband.
The kids are at times horribly embarrassed by having four parents, at times completely relaxed with it, and once or twice, I've even heard them brag about it.
I always knew, even before I gave birth, that I wanted to have men in my kids' lives. It felt important. Whether I had sons or daughters, men were important. I like men -- don't want to have sex with them but I like them anyway. Men are different. They have a different perspective on the world, in general.
Straight men are fine but they usually end up staring at my chest the entire time I'm talking to them. Last I checked, my breasts, while interesting conversation pieces, are not actually conversationalists. They don't talk, guys. That's why I've always tended towards gay men.
Walter came into our lives when my oldest, Ben, was not quite two and Zachary was in utero pushing my lungs to the opposite side of my chest after bouncing on my bladder. A friend had recommended him as a great person to help us with a completely overgrown yard of a house we had purchased. There was no way we could remove all the weeds, bushes and bramble that covered the quarter acre.
Hey, we're in the suburbs here. A quarter acre of weeds is pure hell. Especially when you're seven months pregnant.
The first time Walter came to meet with us I remember loving his stories. He told stories about trees, flowers, plants and how they could cover the land. He had energy, charm and before long, I looked forward to every time his truck pulled up.
Okay, I was one of those lonely, stay-at-home moms who had put the blocks into the can and taken them out 1,500 times by 10a.m. and craved adult contact. We talked and talked. And Ben would always be around, as was Zachary. A few years later, Walter said to Jeanine, I think I'm going to sign up to be a big brother. She told me and I grabbed him the next time he came over.
Be Ben's big brother. And Zachary's.
It's how it started but not how it is today. Walter is not a big brother or a glorified babysitter. Nor is his husband, Allan. Over a nine-year period of time, we've gone from friends to family. We added another child, Jake, who has only known a family with two moms and two dads. Walter and Allan put in time and gave their commitment to the boys and to us. Week after week, year and after year. I know biological fathers who have less to do with their kids who are living under the same roof.
When marriage became legal in this state a friend suggested we have a double wedding. We did everything together anyway, why stop now? We agreed because the biggest thing we had to celebrate was our family. We decided to have a ceremony to acknowledge the kids' mothers and fathers as separate units and the family as a whole.
Sounds beautiful? Walter and I wanted to go to the Justice of the Peace and have a lovely dinner at Arrows in Ogunquit with ten of our most favorite friends. Allan and Jeanine? Big church wedding. 200 people. Fights ensued. Caterers tried out. More arguments. Guest lists made, remade, people added, subtracted, added, added. At one point my wife, to steer the opinion of the others, played an ocarina version of Simple Gifts -- my choice of music. I still can't listen to that song without hearing the gales of laughter from the three of them.
In some ways, it's not easy to have four parents- it can take months for decisions to be made. Ben wants a cell phone and he knows it has to go to committee before he has a chance at getting one. Some kids have two parents to play against each other? Ours have four. The other day, Ben went down the line of parents - all in separate places- to get the answer he wanted.
Unfortunately for him, we have cell phones and are always checking things out.
We don't agree all the time -- it's one thing to argue about wedding flowers and it's another when the issue is how to approach one of the kid's educational needs. It's hard work and takes a lot of compromise. No biological card can be played -- none of us are biologically related to all of the children.
It's an unusual family structure. Not nearly as efficient as I imagine the Mormons were back in the old days. I know I'll get put back on the End Times rapture index for saying that but the truth is, parenting today with all the obligations plus outrageous work demands is almost impossible. A few more wives, my suburban counterparts often dream, would make life so much easier.
For me? Two moms, two dads and an online calendar are the answer.