Category Archives: Current Events

It Was More Than Just “Side Effects”

Day 3 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

By guest blogger Laurie Mersberg (Round Rock, Texas)

When I was asked to share my story, I was first honored, then scared. Where to start? I guess the beginning…

Laurie and her husband Kenneth.
Laurie and her husband Kenneth.

I was born with the angiofibromas on my face in 1971. They had no idea; they just told my mom it was a heat rash. No big deal. Nothing to worry about. I was also born with a club finger and a double cleft palate, but no one connected the dots. I mention this because my club finger is my left middle finger and it matches my personality, strange and unique. It would come in handy growing up as I was picked on. I didn’t talk much due to my cleft palate. When I was 12, I had surgery and was on a liquid diet for a year. My jaw was wired shut for complete healing. When healing was done, I had plenty to say. I found my voice, not just physically, but metaphorically, too. Who knew I had such a sarcastic quick wit. I learned my voice and word was my weapon and club finger was like my sword, but not in any physical way. I found it usually stopped people in their tracks.

Jump ahead a few years to when I was 16. My mom came to me and said I had an appointment with a dermatologist. I was so happy these bumps were going be gone. I had such hope I was going be rid of this nightmare and be like all the other girls. This was not ever going to happen. They took a biopsy of the bumps on my face, then called us back a week later. I was ready for whatever they wanted to do. The doctor came in with a book sat down and said those words I will never forget. “You have tuberous sclerosis, but not to worry, you just have the side effects.” This doctor had no idea how wrong he was going to be. He showed me a book and said, “See, it could be worse.” It was pictures of children with Down syndrome, rashes all over, clubbed feet and cleft lips. He said, “You’re lucky, but I don’t recommend you have children because they can have a worse case.”  I looked over to my mom. She had some tears. I thought it was because of the no babies most likely coming from me. She said, “I need air.” She called my dad while I waited in the car. When she got in, she said, “Well, at  least you got your personality.  You’re  just never going be a pretty girl and you’re smart.”

I was shocked. She’d been vain, but I didn’t know it went that far. When I was little I used to ask, “Mama, am I pretty like Dee?” (my older sister).  She would say, “Yes honey, you’re pretty…pretty ugly.” I didn’t know what she meant until I got older, but I did have my wit and sharp mind. I didn’t live at home. I was on my own shortly after I graduated. I had my apartment. What to do? I was tired of being an adult so I joined the United States Army. I thought, “Let them take care of me.” Remember, I was told I had only side effects, so that was good enough to get in.

I’ll skip over my military career and go to my next big hardship. I got married…well, got knocked up by my son’s dad-then we married. The army wasn’t happy. They get mad when their personnel gets a girl preggers. I was scared when I found out I was pregnant. I told my son’s dad about what the doctor said and the pictures he showed me. My son’s father was very Catholic. He believed the baby would be okay since I had just the side effect sand medicine had come so far since 1971. So I jumped in with both feet: wife and soon-to-be mother. A few days later we got a letter to go to Hawaii. We were not happy since we heard it was hard to live there on Army pay. The rumors were right. When I gave birth to my son, I had preeclampsia  and toxemia. He was born one month early, but because of his size, they put full term. He was so beautiful and no sign of TSC. I was so relieved, and so was his dad. We spent three days at the hospital and then they sent us home. I had no idea everything would change in five days. My world would turn into a nightmare…

A week after I gave birth to my son, I got up to go to the restroom. I remember walking in and my left side went numb. Next thing I woke on the floor cover in urine. I cleaned myself up, woke up my son’s father, and told him what happened. He said, ”You’re over tired. Just get some rest.” Now here’s the part I totally don’t remember. My son’s father came home  and he said he was banging on the door for 30 minutes. In Hawaii, there’s no A/C, so everyone keeps their windows open. All the windows were closed and locked. He could see in them and I was looking off, walking around in a circle  holding my baby, but looking confused. He finally broke in. I had no idea who he was, or why I had a baby. He grabbed our son and me and we left for the hospital on post.  He walked us in and told the doctor on duty, “Something is wrong with my wife. She doesn’t remember anything.” The doctor told him to take a seat. He said that I looked like I was on drugs. He told the doctor I wasn’t on drugs. The doctor told him to sit down, shut up, and he’d get to us when he could. Four hours later, a paramedic, an older man with white hair and a beard, walked by and asked my ex, “How long has she been like this?” My ex said, “Well, when I got home she was like this.” The old man asked, “How long was this?” My ex answered, “Four hours ago.” The old man got the doctor and asked if I been seen. He said, “No, she’s just another junkie army wife.” The old man said,  “No, she is seizing and you’re helping to kill her! She’s in a static-epileptic state.” The doctor said, “She is not having seizures.” The paramedic told the doctor, “Since she is a civilian, I’m taking her to N.A.M.C.”  It’s the big pink hospital on Oahu.

When I got there I had fever of 105, so of course they admitted me. They told my ex to go home. When he got home the phone rang and they told him to come back. When he got there they told him I was in a coma, medically induced, and to call family in case thing got worse. He was scared, confused, and not being told anything. So he made those calls not knowing what to say. I woke up four days later tied down to a bed. I was confused. The last thing I remember was peeing on myself. Why was I tied down? My ex walked in the room, looked at me, and ran out to get the nurse. A nurse and doctor came in to ask if I knew who I was and where I was. The regular neuro questions. They asked and I answered the best I could.  I realized my speech was slurred. Finally I asked, “Why am I tied down?” The doctor said, “Well, when we took you out of the coma, you got combative and started swinging.” I said, “Woke from where?” They said it happened after a seizure. I said, “ I don’t have seizures.” He told me, “You do now.” Then I was off  to the neurologist where he said, “You know you have tuberous sclerosis?” I said, “No, I have side effects not the actual disease.” He said, “No, there no such thing as  just the side effects. You have it, and how dare you lie to the Army about your medical.” I was stunned, and he said, “Congrats, now you’re epileptic.” I said, “No I’m not.” We went back and forth, and he said, “I find it hard to believe you have never had a seizure before now.” I said, “I never have.” He called me a liar and walked out. They untied me, and I asked if I hurt anyone. Then a nurse came in with a black eye. I didn’t have to ask. I knew I did that. They explained I had a fever but they didn’t know why. After a month and a half they were still trying to find why my brain was being baked, when they realized I was having some brain damage. They were working hard to find what was going on and what woke my tuberous sclerosis. I wanted to know, too.  All I could think of was that book from years ago.

One day while taking a shower, I noticed this bump in my stomach. I asked my ex to feel it. He was puzzled so he called in a nurse. She felt it and said that after giving birth, some women will have swollen lymph nodes. But she let the doctor know. Doctor after doctor all said the same thing. Finally one of the doctors I saw when I was pregnant came in to say hi. She felt bad because she felt her team missed something. We showed her the bump and her eyes grew big. She got on the phone and ordered all these tests. We asked what was going on and she said, ”I think you have an enlarged liver. If I’m wrong, we’re in trouble.” The next thing I knew, doctors and nurses were everywhere, sending me there, then saying to go here. I saw every part of N.A.M.C,  more than any other patient they ever had. After all, it was a research and teaching hospital.  After four days of being poked and prodded, they came in and told me what we all had been waiting for. Being there due to the seizures and high fever saved my life.  They found a mass on my right kidney as big as a grape fruit. It had to come out it because it was being fed by blood vessels. They didn’t know if it was cancer. We were in shock and then they said, “There’s more. Both kidneys are full of tumors, and in five years you’ll  die or be on dialysis.”

 A week later I was in surgery getting this mammoth of a tumor out. They kept me in the hospital for six more weeks and used my body as a teaching tool until I had enough. They asked if I would go to the morning report. I thought there would be like five interns, but this was the last time my body was going to be used as a medical teaching tool. I walking in to this lecture hall full of interns. There were over 100 young, eager doctors, and they had my son in a bassinette. They talked about TSC (then it was just TS). They started disrobing me as each came up and gawked at the medical freak. I started crying, but as soon as I saw them by my son, that was enough. I screamed “I’m Laurie, not tuberous sclerosis!” as I put my robe on. I ran to my baby and ran down the hall. I was sent home. I guess the medical test dummy was no longer needed. As for the surgery, it was the most painful horrid thing I ever went through, worse than child birth, but I’ve always been a fast healer. Shortly after getting out of the hospital, my marriage broke apart. Whoever my ex married was no longer there. I was so different, I didn’t know myself. The army sent me and my son home, and they kicked my ex out honorably. He, of course, went back to his home in Louisiana. I came home to Texas.

I won’t tell you the long story of single momhood. The next few years I wish I could say were all roses, but they were not.  Y’all might relate. I tried to be the best mom ever, and I loved being mom more than anything, but inside I felt numb and empty. There were days when I didn’t sleep and Tylenol PM was my buddy. I thought I was broken. I thought when I moved back my friends and family would be happy, and they were at first, but soon they saw seizures.  Funny how out of the blue, plans to meet up changed, and they got really busy and family avoided me. I had what the doctors called uncontrollable seizures, and I was prescribed so many meds. One day my sister said, “If I was you, I would just kill myself. Really, like what kind of life are you ever going to have or your son?” It echoed so many times, so I did it. I took all my seizure meds and a bottle of wine, went to my room, and locked the door. Apparently, while taking pills with wine, I get chatty and like to call people. Next thing I knew  police were in my room with EMT and all I said to them was, “I don’t remember it being share day.” I was sent to the ER and my stomach was pumped. Then I was sent to a psych ward. My stay there is a book in itself. I’m not proud of what I did; it photo-11was selfish. Then people asked, “What about your son?” I really thought he would be better off. The doctor filled me with so many meds, mostly lithium, not taking my TSC into consideration. I did three years of therapy. All of a sudden, I was always tired. If I did the dishes, I had to take a nap. It was like someone flipped a switch and all I could do was sleep.  I saw my neuro and told him I was always sleepy. He ordered a test, and next thing, I was at an oncologist. I saw him a few weeks, then I was off to the nephrologist where I  was told I needed dialysis. Do nothing and I’d be dead in a year, or do dialysis and get on a list.  It wasn’t five years like the doctors in Hawaii said. It was six.

So now it’s been 12 years, and my TSC has taken every part of my body. Of my kidneys, half my right and all my left are removed completely. My liver is covered, my lungs (in women they call it LAM), my brain, and they’re in my bones. I have had over a hundred surgeries since 1995. My story sounds bad, but in 2005 I had a VNS  and no more uncontrollable seizures. They also use the VNS with people with bipolar and severe depression. It works. I still have seizures, but not as hard. I have about 20 petite absences  a day, and about six grand mals a month. As for the empty feeling, staying up days on end, and feeling like I was alone, well, there was a good therapist and friends who were always there. I had blinders on and I didn’t see them. I focused on the bad and was blinded to the good. It was about 2001 when I turned a big corner. I was Laurie and I wasn’t tuberous sclerosis. I was Laurie:  the mom, friend, and daughter. I stopped feeling bad for being sick and decided I was no longer going to be a victim to this disease, but a survivor. I was coming back. Funny, sarcastic, quick wit, ME!  With what VNS brought, and with the love of my son, people saw me, not the tubers or the deformed figure, just me. My son is now 18 and has seizures. Some doctors say he has TSC. Some say no. I tell him, “You’re not seizures. You’re  Sean, who has seizures.” For years we have said, “I have an illness. It doesn’t have me.”   Love and hugs to you all and many prayers…..

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The Strength of Family Through Three Diagnoses

Day 2 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

By guest blogger Paula Krischel (Dwight, Illinois)                              

Paula with her husband and three sons, Mason, Joshua and Adin.
Paula with her husband and three sons, Mason, Joshua and Adin.

My story started when I noticed my infant son, who was 11 months old, puking and seizing.  We went to our local hospital, and his pediatrician knew it was more than he could help with, so he sent us to Chicago. That was the first time we met Dr. Huttenlocher and started our long journey with TSC. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that I had this disorder for 26 years, and was completely unaware.

My world was falling apart. I became depressed, and my son was having uncontrollable status epileptic seizures. I not only had to learn all I could  about this disease, and the fact we had to live day by day to see how it would affect our boy, I had to learn to accept that I do have this disease and cope with the guilt I felt about giving him this terrible thing! Mason, who is now 17, ended up having global delays; he is severely affected by this disorder, severely autistic, and will never have the ability to live an independent life. We started with therapy at a young age, but did not see much progress for many years.

We were feeling compelled to have another child, feeling Mason needed a sibling to help him learn. We prayed a lot and had Joshua. Joshua is now 14, board scholar, and wants to one day be a geneticist and work in gene therapy. As of now, he shows no signs of having tuberous sclerosis, and he wants to one day find the cure for it.  We have advised him to get genetic testing done when he decides to have a family.

When my Joshua was 10 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. Eight months later I had Adin. I was not as comfortable about this pregnancy because we were planning on stopping at two. We found out through ultrasound, at seven months along in the pregnancy, that he too would have that terrible disease called tuberous sclerosis.  We did a lot of praying, and even though he is autistic and has global delays, he is a ray of sunshine who can brighten anyone’s day.  He is considered mild/moderately affected by this disease.  He is able to communicate with us, but his older brother is very limited in his speech. Even though he started out with infantile spasms at three months, we have been able to keep his seizures under control fairly well for 13 years. He did have a breakthrough grand mal once, when going through a growth spurt. He has been under control again since 2009.

We have spent countless minutes with doctors, tests, speech therapy, occupational therapy, music therapy, physical therapy, behavioral planning, making safety plans for at school and home, and the list goes on.

Now our latest scare is me.  Recently I found out my tuberous sclerosis is wreaking havoc in both of my kidneys. I get to start the new medicine Afinitor to see if we can save my cyst-filled kidneys from getting any worse.  Both of my boys are on it as well for SEGA brain tumors. This is the first time I have been seriously concerned about my own health.  I am the main caregiver of my boys because my husband is a very hard-working plumber, who works diligently so we can pay for all the expenses this disorder accrues. There never seems to be a very long break of good health in our family, but because of this disorder, we are stronger, more loving, and cherish all milestones that we conquer! For that I am thankful to TSC. Even though our  life is crazy, and the stress seems to pile up constantly, I would not change my life for one second…and continue to look forward to the future!!!

Check out her son’s post here.

The Story of Stacia and the Realization of a Dream

Stacia at the age of three.
Stacia at the age of three.
By guest blogger Susan McBrine
Originally from California but retiring to Oregon
Day 1 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

My first child of four was born in 1971 . She lived until 2003, 32 short years. She was a joy, a beautiful baby , and I was a young 23-year-old  teacher.When she was about eight months, she started crying for no reason. Then she seemed to stop smiling and rolling over, and later she started jerking her head down in a series of movements. Frantic trips to  doctors’ offices  found nothing wrong. I was an “overly concerned mom,” and ” it was nothing” I was told. The few funny white spots I noticed at three weeks, were also “nothing,” and  the fact that she didn’t lift her chest or head up from lying on  her stomach was “weak shoulder muscles.” Every doctor I saw dismissed my concerns. I wanted to believe it was nothing, but in my gut I knew something was wrong! Moms always do!

Finally, one day, she had eight separate instances of jerking her head and body  in a series. I was alone with her and decided I was not going to take no  for an answer any more. I drove to the emergency room and, probably hysterically, told the  doctor there that I wasn’t leaving until someone told me what was wrong with my baby! Weirdly enough, the emergency room doctor  was moonlighting from local AFB and had a patient, 12 years old, with TSC. He recognized the white spots and my description of the infantile spasms she was having.

He bluntly told me she had TSC and would be handicapped… Would  not walk or talk and not live  if her seizures weren’t controlled. I cried all the way home.

 My world stopped! Life as I knew it changed forever. He turned out to be right  about one thing. It was TSC! And after finally seeing a pediatric neurologist at Loma Linda Hospital who confirmed it, (MRI was not yet developed until two years later), and hospitalizing her for invasive brain tests, we had to accept her diagnosis and the gloomy prognosis they gave us.

I was told so many things  that proved to be wrong. How rare it was, life expectancy, IQ expectancy, etc. And that there was no definitive genetic or diagnostic test available. And that really there was not one damn answer to any question. Now I know to question, to not believe predictions, to do my research, to develop a tough skin, and to be assertive. Doctors aren’t God. But she taught me all that in time. I took her home, loved her  and wondered  how I would ever survive her predicted, imminent death, as we struggled to control her seizures, first with meds, and then with ATCH shots. Welcome to the world of medication, seizures, hospitalizations, fears, tears, more tears and  special education. That was my new reality. I started to research tuberous sclerosis in many libraries, poured over medical journals, medical books, books on retardation, and epilepsy only to discover what was written about  TS was minimal (no internet). The  disease was considered very rare, and no real research or awareness had occurred  in over 100 years since it was named Bourneville’s disease. No wonder doctors didn’t know much about it. Not much was known period!

I was starting to get angry now, and when I read in the American Association of Mental Deficiency book that the life expectancy was 25 years, I knew then that no one really knew diddly squat! My pediatric neurologist was advocating institutionalization and no one had real information. I became empowered with my anger about no answers and no knowledge. I was a teacher, a reader, and yet I couldn’t find answers. Maddening! I refused to believe there was no hope! By now, she was almost two and I was expecting my second child, Tanya, after a geneticist told us Stacia was a random mutation. My older sister told me about preschool programs for special needs kids and about a magazine called Exceptional Parent. I wrote to it, asking for other parents with TS children to contact me. I thought if there were others out there, we could unite and make our voices heard. We could demand research, a genetic test, and treatments. Support could happen! I dreamed it all!

In two weeks I got 15 letters from all over the USA. Three from California. And one from  a mom of a 29 -year-old with TS ,who thought she was the only case in the world. Clearly no one had ever tried to find out how many cases there were (again, no internet yet). To make a long story shorter, I found Adrianne Cohen, Verna and Bill Morris, and Debbie Castruita in California.

And ….

We started to meet and plan, write letters, call moms, have meetings and contact doctors. We created a newsletter (run off on a school mimeo machine) and a medical research survey. Adrianne helped us get our first grant, a lawyer friend helped us incorporate as a non-profit and NTSA was born.We knew if we were determined enough we could make a difference. We talked to regional centers, hospitals, child neurologist associations, and put articles in magazines and newspapers. We also hoped for a celebrity to endorse us. We lived and worked on NTSA for years. Then slowly let go and let others take it over when it became a  successful reality. Now the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance!

It spread and now it is international. I no longer have to write letters of hope to other moms from my kitchen.
We have a staff, TSC clinics, a medical advisory board, genetics test, research, a magazine, a bonafide celebrity (Julianne Moore), fundraising,  and chapters all over the world. Tuberous sclerosis is no longer an unheard of disease and there is hope for no mother to go through what I did. It is miraculous really. But we still have the disease  TSC…. and we still have heartache and families looking for help and hope. Now we have Facebook, the internet, this blog, and a phone call or email to the TS Alliance for immediate help and hope. My dream has come true.

Along the way I had four children, got a divorce, remarried, became a special education teacher and struggled every day to raise my TSC child, Stacia Diaz, and battle her ever growing list of symptoms. She turned out to be severely involved, mentally about three years old, brain tumors, kidney tumors, sleep , appetite problems, autism, and aggressive behaviors. She was verbal at eight and was able to say I love you (and cuss:). She was funny, happy, and taught me and my other children so much. But she also suffered, and we suffered…

And  when I look back on the day she was diagnosed and remember the stages of grief I went through to come to acceptance (to learn to love her for who she was,  not who I hoped

Stacia on her last birthday.
Stacia on her last birthday.

she’d be), I remember how it was a long and difficult journey. The grief never really ends. Yet today parents have support!

The end, for her, was the hardest. We watched her die in a hospice, after her second remaining and only kidney was so full of tumors that nothing could be done. She could not tolerate dialysis and a transplant. The heartache never really goes away, and I miss her every day,  but I’m glad she’s not suffering anymore. I know today the newer kidney drugs might have saved her. But knowing the TS Alliance is making  strides in treating TSC kids gives her life…and her death, meaning. Maybe I was her mom for a reason? No parent should bury a child, but even her death made me a better person. She and TSC taught me many life lessons.

I now have  Cll leukemia and am doing very well with my own medical battle. But I know Stacia’s courage, her smile through all of her battles with TSC, and seeing her still smiling when she died gives me courage and allows for no self pity. I just want each mom and dad and individual with TSC to know that, though it isn’t fair to have this disease,  you CAN, as one person, make a difference in the  fight to cure this disease!!!! We moms who started this organization believed that!

It is a battle we are winning. Things are better. There is hope. There is help. You aren’t alone! And every case of TSC is unique.

I’m so grateful for the work alliance members and staff do daily. I feel so fortunate to see a dream become reality. I hope my story helps someone today who reads it. And I hope Stacia is smiling down on all of us!

Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

When Connor was first diagnosed with TSC, it felt like my life very quickly split into two parts: BTSC and ATSC. Before TSC and After TSC. Although the extreme emotions surrounding that feeling have faded, I still find that when I think about stuff I did in the past, I calculate how long until he would be born when I did it. Moving into the dorm with Gio-13.5 years until Connor will be born. Teaching English in Korea-less than nine years. Taking language classes in Spain-eight years. Starting to teach elementary school-less than seven. Closing down our favorite bar every weekend with Lili-less than five. Meeting Chris-three and a half. Traveling to Italy-11 months. It feels so foreign to think I was just walking around at one time, thinking something like this could never happen to me or someone I knew.

Now I wonder who the people are walking around, like I did, never even hearing of this disease, not knowing that it will enter their lives someday. There are other versions of me that are getting ready to take final exams at college, lying on a beach, starting a new job, looking for their first apartment, at the mall, house hunting, planning a big summer backyard bash, training for a 5k, and just going about their lives, with no idea that one day a doctor will say the words tuberous sclerosis complex to them.

I have a number of guest bloggers that will be sharing their personal TSC stories over the next month. Some have family members with TSC. Some have TSC themselves. Some have both situations. I hope sharing their  unique stories will help spread awareness and help us find a cure someday.

Photo courtesy Catrina Simmons Jones https://www.facebook.com/LouisianaTuberousSclerosisPage?fref=ts
Photo courtesy Catrina Simmons Jones

I’m nobody, but I’ll still tell you what I think about marriage equality.

I’m so baffled by  the people who oppose marriage equality because they say it will destroy the institution of marriage. Where is this traditional marriage-created utopia these people think they live in? Can we stop pretending that marriage has some great history? Tell me again…what is the current divorce rate? Doesn’t marriage actually have a pretty rocky background?

Marriage is like living at Disney World…

Marriage has been used historically to serve business and financial purposes (Hello, Downton Abbey) and so that men could be assured of paternity. Marriage has not typically been something that benefitted women. At various times and in various cultures women have been forced to marry much older men at very young ages, have been treated and traded like property, have been subject to rules that didn’t apply equally to men (death penalty for adultery), and have been denied the right to inherit their husband’s property and money. Women were expected to be virgins when wed, but society allowed men to do whatever they wanted.

We should ban Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian from getting married again if we want to protect marriage. Tiger Woods shouldn’t even be allowed to leave his house. David Petraeus, John Edwards, Bill Clinton…boy, did they respect the institution.

But the Bible says…

Marriages take place for a lot of reasons besides religious beliefs. The church doesn’t even have to be involved in a wedding. That’s optional. Two people can go to a justice of the peace and have a wedding that does not have one ounce of religion in it. Atheists can marry. People beyond the age of child-bearing, or simply medically unable to do so can marry, so there goes the procreation argument. Heck, for a while, in ancient times, the church preferred people not marry as it took their focus off God. Celibacy was ideal as it prevented distraction from God by family. But when the church realized that was a losing battle, they jumped on board the wedding train.

And let’s get real here. The Bible says a lot of things that don’t fly in 2013. Isn’t there something about stoning people? Oh and these? Or these! XI is my favorite!

Who wrote the Bible? God, many will say. Well, okay, but through people, yes? People never have agendas do they?

If marriage is sacred and holy to you, great. But let’s not pretend that’s the only reason why it exists.

But what happens next?

Perverted old members of NAMBLA will demand the right to marry little boys because they were born that way! Ummm…actually, no. That is not a marriage of two consenting adults. That’s child sexual abuse and nowhere near the same thing. People will want to marry goats! Well, if the goat learns how to sign legal documents and can communicate that it is a consenting adult, to the open bar I will go.

Homosexuality is not a traditional, acceptable lifestyle, some say.

Then let’s bar them from being in “traditional” committed monogamous relationships. That’s the solution.

But kids have a right to a mother and father!

Another of my favorite arguments. Because ALL kids have a mother and father now. I forgot that our utopian little world doesn’t have any single parents. I forgot that a parent would NEVER walk away from their responsibility. I forgot that a parent could never die. I forgot that a straight person would never, ever raise a child in anything other than the traditional family unit. Better only one parent, than two of the same sex, though.

What about the children?

Of course, there is the obvious point that if gay couples marry and have children, these children will be all messed up from growing up in such an amoral household. That’s a hard one to argue. Oh, wait, actually it’s not because I spent seven years in a public school classroom. You think sexual orientation has bearing on the ability to parent?  These are just a few of the sad things I’ve seen:

~a student told not to read by a parent because it was a waste of time

~homework blatantly completed by parents

~a parent demand I send home pencils for homework because they didn’t think they should have to buy any

~a student told by a parent that the reason he gets in trouble is because the entire staff is racist (but not because he’s disruptive, throws things, hits, or runs)

~countless parents that never show up to anything, whether it be conferences or events

~a student that wouldn’t attend a musical unless given a solo (via a note written by a parent)

~a female student not permitted to play any sport because she’s a girl

I could go on.

These all occurred in straight households of varying race and socioeconomic status. And they are not indicative of the “typical” families I worked with. But maybe being straight isn’t enough on the list of criteria.

For further examples, please see: Teen Mom, Dance Moms, and Toddlers and Tiaras. (Thanks Jon Stewart)

I’ve had a number of students over the years from same-sex households. Some of those parents volunteered in the room. And all were very involved with their kids. I’m not saying I always saw eye-to-eye with every one of those parents, but I can assure you, that if there was an issue, it was nothing that didn’t occur with a traditional straight family. Damaged children? I assure you not. I’ve taught damaged children. Trust me. One of my top students in my last year had two dads. She made straight As, read like a fiend, and made power points about pet care and animal adoption for fun. Quick! Somebody call DFCS!

The government wanted to get involved in marriage so now they can deal with that decision. There is no reason that two people who want to commit to each other shouldn’t have access to a loved one in the hospital with a medical condition, file a joint tax return, have a family medical plan, and all that other legal mumbo jumbo. Let’s stop putting marriage, as it has been, on a pedestal. Let’s stop reinventing a history where marriage has always equalled a world of Care Bears and Skittle rainbows. Some marriages are great. Some are awful. God forbid we give another group of people the opportunity to give it a shot.

To clarify, I’m not anti-marriage. My parents have been married forty years. I’m happily married. But in my opinion, while surely there have been great marriages throughout history, as an “institution” it has only become a good thing for women in the last few decades. In the past, sometimes the only thing worse for women than being married, was not being married. It was like voting in one of our presidential elections. Choose the lesser of two evils. Marriage has not always defined our culture in a positive way. So let’s try something new.

nph