I am leaving my job. After looking for several years I was finally able to land what looks like a great position. When I gave notice immediately some of my coworkers began to approach me, saying they were sorry I was leaving and asking about the new digs. The conversation with one of my peers began with questions about the new job and then moved to queries about my son. This is someone I have not had much interaction with over the last three years, but I knew that she had two kids and was a pretty devoted mom. She started off by casually asking about whether I was going to get to adopt my son–maybe almost wishing it into the conversation. When I told her that I didn’t know, I could tell that it shook her a little. She knew that he had been with me for a long time and I think the emotion of being a parent and the possibility of losing your child began to grip her. I could see her imagining what it must be like to be in my shoes. It was interesting to watch her expression change. She empathized with me, saying that it must really be difficult emotionally. Then she told me how much she respected me for doing what I was doing.
Sometimes it’s easy to brush off the compliments and commendations for being a foster parent. It’s nice to hear but the reward of being a foster parent I must admit, has always been a secondary motivation to this whole experience. I have always intended that somehow I would be a parent, that Darrow and I would have a family. In real life the foster part of my title is often obscured by the rest of the title–Dad. As we continued to talk about my son, I began to tell her how much being a dad and being his dad meant to me. I think in some ways my enthusiasm for being a parent startled her. What I realized is that she and I were not so different. Sure my son is not of me, and is not legally mine, and may never be, but the love that I feel for him and the care that I provide to him and the things that I want for him are the same–exactly the same for I too am a parent.
In return, I get what she gets–to participate in the bond of love that we share with our children. I also get to watch and even help in his development. The other night at dinner for example, our son picked up some bread off of his plate and handed it to Darrow. I assumed that he didn’t want it anymore. He doesn’t seem to like things cluttering his plate. Then he surprised us both by asking for more butter–on his bread. He asks for a lot of things–constantly. But usually it’s, “juice, juice, juice” and sometimes, “juice please.” This was the first time that he had requested something that included an action on his part. Darrow and I looked at each other nodding, acknowledging once again to each other and to him that he is getting bigger.
This coworker during the course of our conversation began to relay that her daughter was preparing to graduate from high school and that she anticipated being a blubbering mess at the ceremony. I could relate. I have seen my share of milestones and had my share of blubberings. As I thought of our sudden camaraderie I remembered that after three years of working together that we had never really clicked. There was never much personal information exchanged between us. But here we were sharing some of the best of our personal lives with each other, suddenly and at the end of my tenure with that employer. It reminded me that being in a same-sex parented family, I might be unlike most other families. In reality, I have no idea what this coworker’s views are on the subject, but it didn’t seem to matter and most often these days it doesn’t seem to matter. Like many of the people that I encounter because of my son, we are all apart of the collective of parents, who love their kids, who spend too much time doting on them, who spending too much time talking about them, who believe that everyone wants to know about them.
I know sometimes that I wear the foster care woes like a candy wrapper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. It has at times exhausted me and probably my patient family and friends. What I remember these days is that the whole foster thing is the trappings of this means with which we have chosen to create a family, but I am just a parent, just like every other parent.