I grew up on a farm in Central Texas. My dad retired from the Navy and my mom a teacher. We did not have much money, but my sisters and I had a really good childhood — not idyllic, but happy. We would go camping in the snow, take road trips across country, and hit up every road side attraction from coast to coast. With all that came the stories. Like the time I got the measles while we were camping in Vancouver or when my dad tossed his cigarette out the window and it flew back in catching our luggage on fire as we rambled down the interstate in West Texas or my personal favorite, getting left at a rest area in the panhandle of Florida. (It is a bit interesting that all of my fondest memories of childhood revolve around some level of danger, but they sure do make fun tales!)
Growing up, I always thought I would have a family as well. Kids that I could share some of the great experiences that I had and create new ones. I wanted to be at little league games and dance recitals. I wanted to sit around the dinner table and share stories of when my mom was a little girl. I wanted to put band aids on scratches and sneak money under pillows after the excitement of losing a tooth. Being an uncle is great, but it’s not the same as being a dad.
When I met my partner, Steve, we were 19 and we thought we had it all figured out. Be together forever and have a family. Easier said than done. The trouble was at the time there weren’t many role models out there to show us that we could have kids, much less how to do it. There was very little mainstream gay–no Will and Grace, Ellen and Rosie didn’t have shows yet. Neil Patrick Harris was still Doogie and Lance Bass was still on tour. We didn’t know any same sex couples that had kids. We knew they existed, but like the Loch Ness Monster or Louis Vuitton sample sales, they were the things of legend.
I guess this is the reason I want to share our story, to help others who want the same and don’t see their reflection in their own families or their own community. To learn from our mistakes. To exist and be visible. So we can all be dads, not “gay” dads.
Many years and many, many ups and downs later, Steve and I were gearing up to celebrate our fortieth birthdays and agreed that if we didn’t do something soon, our own personal window for fatherhood would start to close. Over the years I had researched adoption and surrogacy. We had friends who had gone both routes and we grilled them, learning more with every conversation, article, book or website. Each time we thought we were ready to make a decision, we weren’t. Work, life, our relationship–anything became a perceived obstacle or an excuse.
One night we were in bed talking and doing some research on adoption in Texas. That’s when we came across the TARE website, through the Department of Family and Protective Services. For those of you not familiar with this site, don’t look at it without a box of Kleenex’s. So many kids, all ages, races, personalities. All with these bright faces and amazing smiles, desperate to find a family and home where they can be safe and grow; where someone can take care of them and let them realize their potential. That did it. We signed up for a foster care class the next day. We were laser focused. Five weeks later, we were approved by the state for foster care and adoption. That was quite a process. We’ll save that story for another time.
The same day we got our license, three children were placed in our home. All under three, all related, all in diapers. Sean, a month shy of his third birthday. Our little escape artist who could unlock the front door and tried to work the microwave in the first 12 hours. Luc, who at 18 months knew no words, not even responding to his own name. And Willow; beautiful at six weeks old, who slept on my chest for the first two weeks.
Steve is Hispanic, I’m Caucasian and our three kids are African-American. When we pile out of the car, it’s a bit like the “It’s a Small World” ride at Disneyland or a random Benetton ad. We know we all look so different, but it hasn’t really mattered. We take each of our cultures and heritages seriously, but not so seriously that we can’t function.
It took us one day shy of 18 months for everything to be final–and we are still working on finishing Steve’s legal adoption. It was a long road and at times we thought we could lose the kids, or our minds. We are very lucky, and very happy.
It’s been a little over two years since those three came to us. We’ve started having our own experiences and our own adventures–just minus the danger.