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Steps to Gay Fatherhood: The Panic Will Pass

Steps to Gay Fatherhood: The Panic Will Pass


Being a dad to twins could incite a panic, but not for the reasons you'd expect.


One quirk of my husband, Nathan, and quite probably yours, is that he's ... frugal. Ever since buying season passes to Disneyland, he's been wracked by guilt. Getting every penny's worth means a lot of day trips to the happiest place on earth. If we're Facebook friends, then you already know this.

You've seen the pictures -- of Tigger, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Captain Hook, Chip and Dale, Princess Sophia, Minnie again, Peter Pan, and just one more with Minnie.

Nathan actually took the girls to Disney by himself last week, which is so insane it could mean he needs to attend a frugal people anonymous group. I gave Papa a single piece of advice: "Don't lose one."

Then I made him text me a photo of the three of them safely back home.

Apparently Audrey had fallen during a twin mishap outside the Little Mermaid ride. Papa had unstrapped them from the double stroller, then said excitedly, "OK, let's go!" And both girls ran toward the same hand. Smash.

In the photo, Audrey had what we parents call a "goose egg" on her forehead.

Bumps and bruises don't bother me, though. One of the things we learned quickly as dads is your kids will get injured. For example, their little heads of black hair once passed safely underneath the edge of the kitchen counter. One day, Audrey grew an inch and ran into it. Had I told her a million times to watch her head? Yes. Could I see this day coming? Obviously.

For you newbies, this is a useful metaphor on life raising children. You'll want to protect them from dangers you see coming. Trust me, I've told Annabel maybe 2 million times to hold on to the big-girl swing. But still she jumped before she was truly big enough and bumped her head.

The real problem for me, though, has been protecting them from the dangers I can't see coming. And it shouldn't have taken a therapist to see my worries might have something to do with the effects of the foster-adoption process. After all, you're constantly facing the threat of losing your kids. I essentially subsisted on deep, calming breaths for the two years before we legally adopted.

Still, I had a panic attack on our first weekend away from the girls. It was our five-year wedding anniversary, which I felt demanded a romantic trip together.

That moment on the first night, right on the cusp of sleep, when I realized I couldn't get up and walk down the hall and check on the girls, I got a little queasy. Nathan ended up rubbing my shoulders, then stopped when I informed him he couldn't touch me or I'd throw up.

I admit this sort of thing has happened before. Like an idiot, while on a trip to New York for work, I decided to kill some time by watching an in-flight movie: The Fault in Our Stars. Mostly, I made it. The kids got cancer and fell in love and all of that, and when the credits rolled I held my breath long enough that I wasn't crying.

Maybe I got overconfident. So I answered a twinge of sentimentality that crept in and took out my phone to gaze at the selfie we'd taken as a family just a few hours earlier. Before they'd dropped me at the airport, we stopped in the elevator of our apartment building and said "cheese." I glimpsed their little dimples maybe a second or two, maybe a second and a half, and I was teary-eyed, then teary-cheeked. On an airplane. In public.

The nice thing about crying on an airplane is you immediately become ostracized, even while sitting centimeters from other people. No one dares to risk acknowledging your presence. Maybe everyone's scared you just discovered the plane is going down, I don't know.

Part of this whimpering and puking phenomenon is just being lovesick over those little pickleheads. But about a year of therapy has also revealed I have anxiety about keeping them safe.

If you have this particular anxiety, do not watch the movie Prisoners. I say that as someone who only finished the first five minutes. Hugh Jackman loses his little girl somehow, I forget, I've probably blocked it out. And moments in, the director is already hinting that something's wrong with that creepy van outside.

We turned it off immediately and put on Modern Family.

My husband has dealt with fear of losing our children better than me. Somehow I'm the overprotective one. We both went through the same months and months of uncertainty about whether the state would opt for "reunification" with their birth mother, and we both imagined surprise relatives coming out of the shadows, even at the last moment.

What I should really do is take my own advice on how to deal with scary shadows. Because in your role as Dad, this is a skill you really must develop. For example, when it's too spooky in a dark room, my advice is think happy thoughts. Annabel suggests, "Chocolate pudding cake!"

Distractions are sometimes helpful, it's true. And I'm sure chocolate pudding cake is fine in moderation. When you're 3, though, there are lots of unknowns to worry about.

During bath time, I once made the mistake of saying "ick" when the girls dropped some random piece of lint into the water. It triggered a panic. Must!Exit! Water! Now!

It seemed silly at first, honestly. But if you saw their faces, it was sincere terror.

So I held on to them inside big towels and wiped their tears and told them everything's OK; it's just a piece of dirt. We peered over the edge of the tub to check it out for sure.

If I look back on how many checks I wrote for therapy, I sometimes relate to Nathan's guilty-spender feeling. But the comfort of knowing what's really happened does make everything OK.

Dadsbehavingdadly_s260x420_0LUCAS GRINDLEY is editorial director for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate. He lives in Los Angeles with his husband and twin daughters. Contact him @lucasgrindley.

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Lucas Grindley

Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.
Lucas Grindley is VP and Editorial Director for Here Media, which is parent company to The Advocate. His Twitter account is filled with politics, Philip Glass appreciation, and adorable photos of his twin toddler daughters.