Dear Isabella and Jordan,
On June 15th, your papa and I will celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first date. We met at a café for brunch not far from where we currently live. After that we went roller blading. Can you picture that? I wish we had cell phones back in the day so that we could have captured selfies of that moment!
It was Father’s Day, but neither of us spent any time with our dads that day. Pops was in Buffalo, probably crying over his grill because neither of his sons were there to celebrate him. Papa’s father had died almost 10 years earlier. Our talk, however, did turn to fatherhood. We both talked about our dads, and about our childhoods, and about how we both knew that someday, somehow, we wanted to be dads ourselves.
This is not usually first date conversation. This was especially true for two gay men in 1997. Having children was the farthest thing on the minds of many gay men then—in fact it still is—and neither of us knew any gay men, single or coupled, who were raising children. But the idea that I had met someone else who wanted children as much as I did was very attractive. Well, that plus Papa’s beautiful smile and his great sense of humor (and by that I mean he laughed at my jokes).
I knew from that day that Papa was the man for me. I’m not sure if it was that instantaneous for him; you’d have to ask him. What I do know is that every Father’s Day since then, Papa and I remember our first date and how we started on that day envisioning the existence of our family.
This year I’m also remembering how challenging it was to actually make that family become not just a dream, but a reality. As you are both well aware (now that Jordan has graduated from the 5th grade sexual health curriculum), it’s not possible for your dads to bring children into the world in the way a mom and a dad might. You get my meaning here Jordan? Not something you want to think about?
After getting married, we spent time thinking about other options. We could find a woman to be a surrogate. We could go overseas and adopt a child. The option we decided on, the path to fatherhood that felt most comfortable to us, was to become foster parents and eventually adopt children who needed a forever home.
When I was interviewed by Gays with Kids earlier this month about our experience with the foster adoption process, it brought back many memories of the long and rewarding process. In the bedtime story we told both of you when you were little, we glossed over the details: “Papa and Daddy decided we wanted to be dads, so we went to Amara, an adoption agency that said ‘You will make great dads!’ Soon, we were matched with you. We fell in love instantly!”
Before the instantaneous love part, however, there were a good many hoops we had to jump through. There were long and often boring training sessions that we had to attend. We were interviewed by staff at Amara. Then we were interviewed again. We wrote answers to more questions they had; my answers took up 10 pages! Then they came to check out our house. Even the house had to be interviewed!
We set up a crib. I learned how to change diapers. We talked to Grandma and Grandpa and Mimi and Pops and all your aunts and uncles about the big changes coming, and what we might name a little munchkin if we were given the opportunity.
Oh, also we went to see lots of movies and slept in on the weekends.
All that changed on October 31, 2003 when an Amara caseworker delivered Isabella to our front door. She cried! She giggled! She pooped! Man that pooping just didn’t stop. I was convinced we would never sleep again, and I spent many sleepless nights worried about the variety of ways that our precious little baby might get hurt.
Jordan, when we met you in 2007, your smile—even through all that drool—and affection convinced us right away that you were the perfect addition to our family. Mimi told us that we had a millionaire’s family. We certainly felt like we had won the lottery, blessed and rich beyond belief.
Now don’t get me wrong, we have our challenges as a family. We yell. We get frustrated. We cry. We are all good about apologizing and trying harder.
Some of our challenges aren’t with one another. Each of you, when you were young, experienced loss and trauma not fit for a human of any age. Although Papa and I would like to squeeze and love all of the hurt away, it’s not something we can do.
But every family has it’s challenges. And every family has it’s blessings too. I can’t speak for Papa, but I know that being a parent has been the most difficult and simultaneously most exceptional and rewarding experience in life. The blessing of you two—when it wasn’t clear if or how we could make that Father’s Day dream from twenty years ago become a reality—has transformed me.
I’m so glad we dreamed you two into our lives.