The author with his son. (Photo: Courtesy of Gerald Olson)
The author with his son. (Photo: Courtesy of Gerald Olson)

The author is with his son. The photo is courtesy of Gerald Olson.

We don't want to ruin the surprise, so teachers will be working on Mother's Day activities this week and next.

A few weeks ago, an email from my son's preschool popped up in my feed. It is innocent enough. The surprise may be a handmade card, a paper birdhouse, or a popsicle picture frame with a message written on it.

It caught me off guard and raised a few questions, how are they talking about mothers in the classroom? What about the kids with mom stories? If my son asks why he doesn't have a mother, what will they say?

I am a solo dad of a 3 1/2-year-old, and as usual, I make cute gifts for Mom, in today's world, and in our little world, but it requires a little more thoughtfulness.

I don't want any surprises when it comes to someone else defining our family.

Boys Town in West Hollywood has a catholic preschool for my son. It is an open minded community, even though it is part of a bad Church. The school director is young and tatted up.

My son is obsessed with the Mother of God and I don't mind a little Jesus talk. I called the director after the email came in. I wanted her to know that I am queer and my son doesn't have a mom.

She told me that the school had no idea how to navigate these waters.

I didn't know what my lead was going to be.

I started researching the kitchen-sink. We have a social circle that includes a throuple with an adopted daughter, a mom raising three kids without a dad, and two gay dads with a toddler they welcomed through a surrogate.

A friend of mine told me that their school hosted a party for mothers only. The book "Stella Brings the Family" is about a little girl with two dads. The fatherdies crash the Mother's Day party at her school.

It's a cute story, but it didn't answer my question.

My friend and his two male partners talk about their 7-year-old daughter in a way that makes me happy. Mother's Day and Father's Day are celebrated on the same day. It is imperfect because it has genders, but it is the way it is.

I got the best advice: follow his lead. I would let him ask questions because he is still young.

I was reminded that society will never see me as his mother, even if I have done a lot of mothering.

A mother.

A female parent.

To give birth.

To give rise to something.

I am not and will never be his mother according to the dictionary. He does not have a female parent in his life.

I try to focus on what we have rather than what we don't. It is a spiritual principle and not just a parenting choice. I feel lost when I live in lack, but I feel abundant when I live in gratitude.

We are abundant.

The author and his son. (Photo: Courtesy of Gerald Olson)

The author is with his son. The photo is courtesy of Gerald Olson.

One of his favorite photos is from his adoption day. I am holding him and we are surrounded by a group of beautiful women who are watching us.

I asked him about Mother's Day at night. I asked if he was learning at school. He nodded. His face lit up when I asked how he felt about it. He grinned as if he had the world's best secret. He waved his hands in the air. He told me it was a surprise.

I asked who you were making it for.

He looked at me as if he had just asked a stupid question.

You, Papa. You!

I asked him if he was his mother.

He burst out laughing. This was the funniest thing he had ever heard.

Naaah! You're not my mom, you're my dad.

He started with a list of his favorite people.

I have a Poppa, a Nana, a Papi, a Dee, a Mason, and a Rio with me.

His lead was this one. This is where he is talking to his mother. I told him that he could ask me anything.

He whispered in my ear that it was a butterfly after putting my face in his hands. I'm making you a butterfly. It's Shhhh.

He opened his eyes and said, "Rock me, Papa."

This is a request I never refuse. He told me to make him sleep by rocking him to sleep. I thought about how the world tries to define us as he slept. In rare, holy moments like this, there is no label.

I think about the woman who gave birth to him. Mother's Day is a time that connects us.

He was just 30 hours old when I brought him home. He had a small band wrapped around his ankle, the same band she had on her wrist when she delivered him.

I held a space for her when I held him, fed him, and got to know him. I still do. She gave each of us a gift.

He has taught me that being a parent is different from being labeled. It's not a role we step into, it's a relationship we create. At the end of the day, the definition of a mother is: to give rise to.

When the director said she would take my lead on it, she wanted to know who gets the cards and gifts that he makes. I want to be clear when it comes to handmade crafts.

No matter what you call me, I get the butterfly.

The writer is based in Los Angeles. He is writing a book about his journey as a solo parent. He can be reached, and he is the founder of POPPA SOLO. His personal website is

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