When presented with a choice, how do you select the child that is to become your son or daughter? It’s a pretty profound decision. Biological parents are spared this kind of decision-making because a higher power, fate or mother nature makes the decision for them. So where do we go to find the answer? It would be irresponsible to be arbitrary about such a thing. It is just as important a decision as the one we made in taking on the life-long responsibility to adopt.
In our discussions we have focused on what it is we see for ourselves as a family. We have embraced this stage in the process just as we have the documentation, the training, the cost, and every other thing we have had to pass through.
It is evident that being a father is not a stretch; the instinct is strong in both of us. Though we have taken care of children before, neither of us has actually been a parent. Our theory therefore has been, the simpler you make this thing, the easier it might be on us Dads, the dogs and on “Junior.” As we have focused on different aspects of this decision, it has become clear that each choice has its own set of questions, issues and ramifications.
We know for certain that we want a boy (though on occasion there is some waffling). Because we are a family with two Dads, there is the sense that we will have a better idea of what to expect and how to care for a boy as he grows up and becomes a man, rather than a girl for which there will definitely be a learning curve. In addition, I think that in some ways both of us are still kids at heart. I imagine that we will spend many hours with our son at play with Legos, trucks or trains. It is a little harder to imagine us sitting at a little plastic table sipping pretend tea, although we have done that with our friends’ five-year-old daughter who fixes us plastic slices of toast in her plastic kitchen.
We know for certain that we would prefer to have a bi-racial child. Going through Baltimore City Department of Social Services (BCDSS) pretty much guarantees that the children waiting for adoption will be African American or bi-racial. Since we are an interracial couple (African-American/White-Latino) we would prefer someone who looks like us. What we determined through our conversations about race was that we did not want it to be necessarily obvious that Junior was adopted. We want that information to remain private as much as possible. Unfortunately his being adopted is inherently tied to our being a gay couple. Because babies attract attention there is the prospect that we would all be “outed” every time we answer that single innocent question in the grocery store line, “where’s his mommy?” We realize that we will both be much more visible as a couple once we have adopted a child. Though I am certainly not looking forward to the varied responses to that question ranging from, “Oh how nice,” to, “Eeeeeek, gay men with children, our worst fears have come true Harold!” it certainly has no bearing on our desire or determination to be fathers. We want to protect our privacy as a family and especially that of our son. We want our son to be the person who makes the decision about if and how this information is disclosed even if it is to a complete stranger. This will be a challenge for all of us. We recognize that to hide the fact that we are a gay couple and that he is adopted by evading the “where’s mommy” question could be construed as being ashamed of either fact. On this issue, other male couples with children have shared with us that sometimes they take the time to address the query, and other times they just don’t have the time or the energy and evade the question. I believe that interactions of the grocery store type will be positive. I believe that regardless of their issues with gay men and adoption, most people are good and will react positively with a child in their presence. With all of that said we have decided not to limit ourselves to just bi-racial children. In all likelihood we will adopt an African-American child. If that makes it more obvious that I am an adoptive parent, so be it. We know our son will have to come to terms with having two dads and being adopted, and that we will all have to become accustomed to being much more visible. It is inevitable.
We know for certain that we can only deal with very specific, non-severe medical or other complications. Our decision is based upon our own research. In order to maintain the privacy of a prospective child coming into our home, I will not elaborate beyond that—just know that we have spent considerable time on this point.
We know for certain that we want to have a baby. While we have no illusions about the needs of an infant, at least in our own minds it gives us parameters around what we may face as new parents. Children who have a history in an abusive home and/or have experienced the foster care system often come with emotional and behavioral issues that we have determined we are not equipped to handle at this time. In addition, the age of our child is important to both of us since we do not know whether there would ever be another. First of all there are no guarantees in life. I will be thankful to live long enough to see my son graduate from college. So, if this is our one chance to have a child, then we want to have an infant. Neither of us wants to miss that part of his life, as short as those first two years might be. Now that we understand the process with BCDSS, there is a fear that we may end up compromising on this point. What happens for example, after we become certified as a foster-adoption resource family, if BCDSS presents us with an 18-month old boy. Would we then respond by saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, he isn’t young enough. You got any younger babies?” Assuming that the situation meets all of our other needs, our fear—which I use for lack of a better word—is would we forego our notion of having an infant and take the placement? Would we look at the situation then not as a compromise but as fate? It would be not unlike many other decisions that we have faced in the last few years: we theorize, we analyze, we agonize and then life just presents itself.
There is no telling what the future holds for us. We imagine that there would be more children in our lives—foster or adopted. Neither of us wants our son to grow up an only child. We have considered children of all ages. We recently dealt with the realization that though both of us want to, and may eventually help an older kid—a teenager possibly about to age out of the foster care system for example—that now is not the time. In addition to looking at older kids, we have also looked at sibling groups because the needs are so great. Sometimes we joke to each other that we are going to be old men living in a house bursting with children and dogs. But for now we have identified what is important to us: to bring a son into our home. I suppose you deal with what life presents to you, or in our case what BCDSS presents to us.