It’s hard to believe that it’s 2010. Ten years ago at this time, I was in grad school studying development and international relations. I was so absorbed in my studies that I quit my finance job and began work on a second master’s degree. I was on a trajectory to join the ranks of the Foreign Service where I would work as a diplomat living abroad, moving every two or three years, with friends and travels to exotic places. Ten years ago, I was completing my thesis research on development issues in urban areas of Brazil and living in Sao Paulo. I was in Kosovo helping in the aftermath of the Balkans war. Ten years ago, I was about to change the world and the world was about to change me.
Today, I looked around at the four of us and wondered how I got here. Here was our local Starbuck’s where the four of us sipped cocoa, coffee, formula and snacked on muffins. Then we took turns peeling stickers out of a Thomas the Tank Engine Giant Sticker Book and putting them on each others faces. Today I was a silly Dad sitting with his equally silly dad-partner and our two beautiful little boys. And I was happy. I never meant to be here—this was just where life took me. Or where I let it take me.
We have chronicled the story of our lives for nearly three years, first as prospective parents, then as foster parents and now as adoptive parents, but I’ve never shared how I got here. I didn’t set out to be a dad in my forties. I think for a time I pushed it away. It seemed like a scary prospect. How would I live my life if I had to help someone else live theirs? I could commit to going to a movie, to volunteering on a regular basis. I could even commit to being someone’s partner. I couldn’t imagine myself though, with bottles and diapers and kindergarten and so on. I have never been good at so-on. It was a level of commitment that I feared. I could walk out of a bad movie, even a bad relationship, but there’s no walking out on kids.
I think what made being a dad possible, was my partner. Even now, I can think of no one else that I would have ever considered having children with. Be it the tenuousness of prior relationships, or the fact that I just didn’t see any of them as good dad material, there was to be no pitter-patter of feet. When I met Darrow, I remember having the “do you want kids” discussion. I may not have been ready at the time, but I certainly didn’t want to commit myself to someone who never wanted to have children. Besides there was definite appeal in any man who wanted to be a dad. It’s a sign of maturity, responsibility, and almost certainly, anyone who dreams of being a dad is just kind of irresistible, don’t you think?
Through the first few years of our relationship there was talk about kids but there was always so much going on in our lives. We were living the urban D.C. life. We moved three times—remodeling two of the three houses ourselves. My career had begun to unfold, and though I turned down the Foreign Service, I was still traveling an awful lot. Darrow’s job responsibilities increased and he continued his DJ gig. He eventually began a career change which included three years of grad school in a completely new field of work. Once he was finally working again and I had taken a job that required little travel and we were settled into our home in Baltimore, there was little else preventing us from moving forward with the next phase of our lives—building a family. I needed a little prodding but not much. There is always fear in taking that next big step, whether it is going to college, moving to a new city, or taking a new job. Nothing however is so life-changing as becoming parents.
We began with orientations at adoption agencies and wanna-be parent conferences. I remember in the middle of one, having to sit outside on the curb to catch my breath. It was the first time I recall ever hyperventilating. Whatever my internal struggles, I never let them affect our decision to move forward. It was in fact me, who first got us started down the foster-to-adopt path. There we were in an orientation believing that some time very soon we would be adopting a child. That was April 2007. In October of that year a beautiful little boy came to our house and changed our lives forever. He is still here and now has an equally beautiful little brother.
As for changing the world—I realized after getting to know people who were already overseas, that while it was an amazing kind of life, the Foreign Service was also rather lonely. And living abroad in the developing world also got quite complicated after 9/11. I ended up being in Washington while working on a lot of development programs overseas including the relief efforts in South Asia after the Tsunami in 2005. I think I made a difference. I still work on international programs, though I am based in Washington and travel very little. And I still feel like I am making a difference.
I don’t know where the next ten years will take me. Sometimes I imagine living in another part of the country. I still wonder if we won’t end up in some big old house somewhere with lots of kids. And while my career continues to rise, I wonder if I will let it take me much higher because of how it impacts the time with my family. In ten years, I am certain that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I will not be alone. I will have had ten more years more of being a dad along with my amazing partner, and ten years of never having to wonder if I made the right decision about how I chose to live my life.