Queer Issue 2012
It's 8:30 on a Sunday morning. Inside their large home on the top of Capitol Hill, Jamie Pedersen (aka "Papa") and Eric Cochran (aka "Daddy") are awake, smiling, wearing polo shirts and pants, and preparing their four young children for a walk to church. "Get your thumb out of your mouth!" Eric scolds one of them. The child complies.
There's some time before they all need to be at the Sunday service, so we sit in the couple's living room, which is sparsely decorated—just a couch, two chairs, and an oil painting of lily pads—and unbelievably free of clutter, considering the size of their brood. Running all over the place, climbing in and out of their fathers' laps, and all talking loudly in an attempt to get themselves heard above the commotion are Trygve, 4, and his three younger brothers, triplets just about to turn 3: Leif, Anders, and Erik.
If you're noticing the insistent Nordic-ness of their names, it's intentional; each and every name is Norwegian, drawn from Jamie's heritage. Trygve, Eric tells me, means trustworthy. Leif: heir. Anders: courageous. Erik: eternal ruler. (Though Erik's father, Eric, quickly points out, for all the kids' benefit, that he's presently the ruler in this house and plans to be for some time.)
"Boring" is how Eric describes his kingdom. "You're talking to a full-time stay-at-home dad." His typical day: cooking, cleaning, doing two loads of laundry, getting Trygve to and from preschool in the minivan, weeding, attending to diaper changes and meltdowns and nap times. "Everything revolves around preschool and nap time," he says wearily.
The couple married in 2004 in the church they still attend, Central Lutheran, located near Cal Anderson Park. In fact, the church helped introduce them, in a way. Jamie, now a state representative for the 43rd District, was at the time a single attorney and gay-rights activist doing his part to help the decades-long push for same-sex marriage in this state. One day at church, he noticed a friend had shown up with an attractive new boyfriend, and he asked where they'd met. The answer: Gaydar.co.uk. So Jamie started using the site, and soon met Eric. They e-mailed for about three weeks before talking on the phone one Thursday and agreeing to meet the next evening.
Eric, a high-school principal at the time, ended up having to supervise a school football game at the last minute and effectively stood Jamie up on their first date. Jamie got home from yoga, got the apologetic message on his answering machine, and called Eric to suggest they meet later at Victrola Coffee. They did, and talked for three hours over tea. Pretty quickly, Eric said, the conversation turned to "kids and families and long-term commitments."
Now they're married with children—a religious marriage through their church, even though the state doesn't recognize it yet. Jamie calls the arrangement "very traditional Ward and June Cleaver." For Eric and the kids, weekdays are set in a firm pattern: preschool for Trygve on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, "big outing days," when Eric takes all the kids to the zoo, the aquarium, or a park—"somewhere we can have a totally different experience." Meanwhile, Jamie is an elected representative in the state house, where he helped push through a series of bills expanding domestic partnership rights and, earlier this year, helped pass the historic same-sex-marriage bill. When the legislature is not in session, he works as a vice president and general counsel for McKinstry, the environmentally conscious building and maintenance firm.
"We get a date night probably once every six weeks," Eric says. When they do, they're always home by 10:30 or 11 p.m. Then maybe the two of them watch a movie. "Usually one of us is falling asleep, and usually it's Jamie," Eric says. By 5 a.m. they're awake again to deal with the kids, who are early risers, especially in the summer.
Do they ever decide to do something beyond that, something super crazy?
"Super crazy is we all go out to dinner and terrorize some poor server, get home, get everyone in their pajamas, and then go downstairs and watch a movie," Eric says. Leif's current favorite is Rio, Erik prefers Cars, Anders likes Up, and Trygve is into A Bug's Life. The one movie they all agree on is Monsters, Inc., which their fathers have seen around 40 times at this point, and Eric says he could perform live from memory.
How, exactly, did these harried dads end up with triplets? "We did not plan for triplets," Eric says. With their second pregnancy, however, the attempts with a surrogate kept not working out, so finally the fertility doctor tried implanting three eggs, just to improve the likelihood of success. The odds that all three of those eggs would take were less than 1 percent—and it ended up happening. "We were firmly against selective reduction," Eric says. "Just based on our belief: Who are we to decide who gets to live and who doesn't?"
It's time for Sunday school, and Jamie offers the kids SweeTarts to get them to hold onto "the strap," a length of nylon cord with handholds that allows all four kids to be connected to one dad while walking down a busy street. "We're not above a bribe," Jamie says, handing out the candy. When the triplets were younger, they rode around in a triple-wide stroller nicknamed "the beast."
Jamie is teaching Trygve's Sunday school class today, as usual. The lesson: Paul's letter to the Corinthians, about how everyone has their unique and special role to play in society. While Jamie and the kids are at Sunday school, and before the service, Eric gets a free hour at home. "Nothing glamorous, let me tell you," he says. His plan on this day: "Read the newspaper, put clothes in the dryer, maybe make a cup of coffee."
Out on the street, the kids stop Jamie so that they can stare at a cat in the window of a brick apartment building along their route to Central Lutheran. "This is why it takes a half-hour to get six blocks," Jamie says, carrying his copy of The Family Story Bible. On the next block, the kids stop to examine buttercups. Around the corner, some telephone poles are lying on a parking strip, waiting to be raised, and the kids pause to climb all over them, dirtying their child-sized jeans and hoodies, causing Papa to have to swoop in, dust them off, and pull out the SweeTarts that will get them back on the strap. "Last week we ran into a ladybug," Jamie says. "That was pretty exciting."