My name is Donald Craig Peterson – but call me Craig. For the past 16 years, my life has been richly blessed as a single father of six amazing children. “Going solo” wasn’t exactly the plan, but when my partner of four years didn’t understand – much less embrace – my passion for an instant family, our relationship ended. Although a prince or two has lurked in the woods near my home, my marital status remains unchanged. I simply didn’t have room on my dance card for both my kids and a potential mate.
I spent my first 23 years in Montana. My father and mother were hands-on in their parenting, and they nurtured a strong sense of independence and adventure in each of their six children. Both qualities have served me well. In college I was half-way to completing a degree in chemical engineering when the desire to serve others became firmly rooted within me. After a successful career in higher education and non-profit administration, I knew – without question – that fatherhood was the logical next step in my life.
Realizing an adoptive match could take years, I wasn’t sure I could wait. I wanted a family now. For several weeks I prayed and eventually felt called to parent the most vulnerable children in foster care – siblings who each have special needs. Six months later the news arrived. I was going to be a father.
My six children came to me in three waves over three-and-a-half years. They are two biological sibling groups – one black and one white – which gave me one daughter, who is my oldest, and five sons very close in age. More importantly, each entered my home with incredible challenges that needed immediate attention. Four had been exposed to alcohol in utero and the other two were severely neglected in infancy. One brought additional trauma from being severely molested over a two-year period. I jumped in with both feet and quickly learned that the “perceived” embarrassment of my children having a gay father was nothing in comparison to their reality of living with a disability.
In spite of their special needs, a family emerged in every sense of the word. My children accepted each other and together mastered many new skills, including playing the violin and performing as the “Sibling Strings.” Today each has reached adulthood with all but one doing better than everyone predicted. My three youngest sons, who still live with me, require daily guidance and support. They are proud to be not only brothers but also best friends.
As the first openly gay man to adopt through the Indiana foster care system in 1998 – after being advised by many to hide my sexual orientation, the honesty backfired. One of the foster families went to the media in protest – simply because I was gay – and a statewide controversy erupted. For the next year while a gag order was in effect, I remained nameless, known only as the “gay man from Indianapolis.” I prevailed in the end, and once the adoption was finalized in court, I felt a moral obligation to share the truth far and wide. Gay men can and do make wonderful parents when given the chance!
With so much attention thrust upon me after all the media coverage, I couldn’t simply be a good parent. I had to be exceptional – practically perfect to open people’s hearts. With my career and former social life on hold, fatherhood became my full-time job for over a decade until the demands of parenting lessened. More recently, I have found another passion in writing. My memoir, Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love, will be released in late 2014 following the Special Olympics National Games during which one of my sons will participate.
Through my blog on The Handsome Father, I will share the ups and downs of my own parenting experience. Somehow I survived the tumultuous teen years. Along the way, I never stopped learning and found ways to continually advocate – while modeling love and humility every day. I will also offer specific advice and a healthy dose of humor through my story telling. My goal is two-fold: to inspire gay men to be fathers and then encourage them to be the best parents possible.