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06/01/2007

Adopting a new set of plans

by Jeremy Hooper

 Images 2007Familyday120X240She is part of every last one of our life decisions, and we've never even met her. Hell, she's likely not even born yet. But regardless of unborn and unknown status, she is as real as Santa Claus the Easter Bunny unicorns rain.

Or him. I guess it could be a him, as while we always say we want a girl, we've certainly placed no true limits on the gender. Either way, the child we will adopt already has a palpable presence in the life of my partner and myself.

We'll get a bigger city apartment within two years.

A country house will hopefully happen within the next five (as we do want the child to know green grass and a backyard swing set).

Do we get a second dog now, or wait until after the child joins our fam?

Public school or private? Let the research and debate begin!

There is not a children's shop wherein we don't discuss our views on appropriate style of dress for the toddling set. There is not a car we look at without considering a car seat. We are mapping out not only our destinies, but also that of a third human life. And you know what? They are the most soul-satisfyingly joyous set of plans we have ever had to make!

Had you told this writer back at the turn of the millennium that his late 20's self would be considering whether to use cloth or disposable diapers, I would have told you to "shut up and get me a Smirnoff Ice, for that new show 'Queer as Folk' is about to come home," before making some joke about a "hanging chad." At that time, the thought of fatherhood was simply inconceivable (pun absolutely intended).

Then I met Andrew. One of the first things he made known to me when we first met was that he absolutely wanted kids. To which I reacted -- well, I didn't know how to react. It was an idea that had simply never crossed this then-entertainment industry professional's celeb and "fabulous party"-absorbed life! However, as it became apparent that Andrew was the one who would be in my life for all of our alloted time on this spinning orb, the idea of joint fatherhood was clearly something with which I was forced to contend.

Now don't get me wrong -- I've always adored children. I worked in my mother's day care facilities as a teen, and have always been able to relate and form a bond with those under legal driving age. But my own? Someone calling me "dad"? That was a thought I crossed out of my mind on the day, at age 15, that I finally admitted to myself that this whole dude-attraction thing was not, in fact, a phase. But was it really a possibility?

I sat down to think about it. I thought of the love Andrew and I share, and the dedication we have to making the world a better place. I thought of our ability to provide. I thought of Manhattan, the other love in both of our lives, who will also be part of us as long as we're still breathing. I thought of my own strained family bond. I thought of the amazing relationship we have with Andrew's family (including young children, who have and will always know their uncles Andrew and Jeremy as simply part of the spectrum of normalcy). I thought of a Snickers bar, as all the thinking started to make me hungry. But then, after silencing the stomach rumblings, I thought of all of the kids in the world who deserve a good loving home with parents who will willingly put their selves aside to be there for every one of the little one's needs.

It didn't take long for it to become clear: I was going to be a parent! It also didn't take long for any earlier apprehension to disappear, and for sheer excitement to set in. In fact, if I now have any regret about the decision, it is only that I spent so long denying myself of the possibility.

We soon decided on adoption, for the aforementioned reason that there are just so many kids worldwide who need a good home. Some sort of fate brought Andrew and I together, and while it sounds hippy-dippy, we put stock in the idea that the same fate will bring us to the child we were meant to love and raise. Our timeline for the process spans the next three to four years, with efforts to step up in earnest this fall. We are as nervous, excited, apprehensive, and happy as any pregnant woman during her own gestation period, except we will have to press forward with these feelings for far more than nine months. But that's okay, as we will use the extra time to learn and plan, so that by the time we are fortunate enough to be blessed with a new addition, we will be flawless daddies who -- oh who am I kidding? Extra time or not, we'll surely still make loads and loads of mistakes, just like every other parent in the world. But that's okay, as we will learn and grow from them as a family.

We hear social conservatives lambasting gay parenting all the time. Of all of the attacks they launch on our lives and loves, I truly feel that this is one of the most heartless. Whereas they may find legal or religious reasons to oppose things like marriage, their refusal to wrap their minds around the idea of two same-sex parents taking in and bringing up a new life in the way that they see fit, is a short-sighted view that is truly detrimental to the greater good. They define "normal" families by the method of conception, not the parental fitness and actual child welfare. They see the world not through the lens of actuality, wherein heterosexuals sometimes cannot raise their biological children and gay folks have the ability and desire to conceive, but rather through a more convenient looking glass, in which only fertile male/female pairings are in existence (and kids all have a home). Their refusal to see the truth and accept ideas that don't jibe with their world views is the root problem of all of their antipathy for the LGBT community. It's just that when it comes to parenting, their attacks hurt far more than just adult gays. These particular stones also hurt the children that they claim to be so desperate to "protect."

While I'm clearly biased, I find gay-headed homes to often be the most loving, happy, and peaceful among us (with the kids as well-adjusted as any others). So on this second annual Blogging For LGBT Families day, it is my great hope Andrew and I will get to realize our dream of becoming one of those joyous homes. Not for only ourselves, but also for our future valedictorian, cancer-curing scientist, and eventual leader of the free world (yea, we've made those plans too).

Now seriously, parents: Cloth diapers are better for a number of reasons, right? Help me out on this one, as Andrew is quite against the idea at this point!

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Your thoughts

Jeremy, I'm definitely with you on the cloth diapers (my partner would not agree so I'm familiar with this discussion). Anything reusable is better for the environment (look up how many diapers are tossed into landfills every day). You can get ones made from organic cotton that have to be healthier for baby's skin than whatever is in those disposable ones. Sure, it means more laundry but you'll already be doing several loads per day with all the spitting up and spills and such. And hey, my butt rode around in cloth diapers and there's absolutely nothing wrong with me (well, at least in my opinion). Stand your ground. Go cloth!!!

Posted by: Jessica | Jun 1, 2007 12:14:45 PM

All my good wishes are with you. And cloth diapers, absolutely! That is, as long as you have your own (very good) washer and dryer. Disposible diapers are one of the worst things for the environment ever invented. Plus, when your little one is older, the cloth ones make great dusting/cleaning rags. And I don't know if this has any correlation, but my mom used cloth diapers on me and I ended up getting straight A's in all honors classes in high school, a National Merit Scholarship in college, and now I teach physics. So cloth diapers make you smarter :)

Posted by: Lisa Volkening | Jun 1, 2007 12:16:28 PM

I love your articles. Ha. Very relatable (even for a heterosexual woman) and so true. I think you and your partner sound like you'd make fabulous parents. Good luck with everything. :)

Posted by: Stef | Jun 1, 2007 12:27:14 PM

Book suggestion for each and every prospective and current gay parent: "Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like it Is" by Abigail Garner. Full disclosure: my partner is one of the interviewees. It brings up a lot of aspects of gay parenting you might not think about from the perspective of many, many children in different situations who were all raised by gay parents.

Cloth for every day, disposable for emergencies/out-of-home situations/etc. Cuts down significantly on the waste, while still allowing for not having to carry around a stinky cloth diaper (or ten!) when you are away from home and your washing machine.

Posted by: Amanda | Jun 1, 2007 12:48:58 PM

I will be 38 this year. Like you, if one had told me in my 20s that I would be a parent, I would have looked at them like they had just told me Joan Rivers face was real. Today, I'm the proud parent of an 8 year old. The joys of raising a boy...LOL...good thing you are hoping for a girl. Last night I had to put him on restriction after I found out that he had drawn some amazing art...on what was an amazing rug. He thought it looked cool (me...not so much).

My advice on the dog...wait for the second one! I've found that the dogs tend to get a little jealous of the new life in the house. Our dog is old now and while our little one loves her to death, she looks at him like he's from the planet Mars.

Anyway...parenting has rewards I never imagined. Sure, it's a lot of work...but damn!!! Thanks for sharing! The best to you and yours!

j.

Posted by: Jonathan | Jun 1, 2007 1:15:53 PM

Thanks for the advice and kind words, kids. Oh, and also thanks to those who pointed out the typos.

Reason #512 to have a kid: She can proofread and copy edit my work!

Posted by: G-A-Y | Jun 1, 2007 1:36:26 PM

Congrats to both of you! I would bet it will happen in less than three or four years, though.

Being a parent is awesome and scary at the same time, to say the least. You look at that little kid and think, "I'm totally responsible for another human being and she's totally dependent on me!" You're a friend, teacher, cook, nurse, adviser, and activity director - and most of all, an all-around Dad who she trusts implicitly.

You're in for the joy of her first successful bike ride and the worry the first time she takes the car alone -- the rush of pride when she wins the school contest and the sadness for her when her best friend moves out of town.

And then comes the time when you need to launch your baby out of the nest and into the world for her first flight. You think about what you've tried to teach her as she grew up - honesty, respect, compassion, what's right, what's wrong - an entire set of values.

"Did I forget anything?", you ask yourself. "Will she be able to fly?"

Cherish the years, my friend. All too soon it will be Grandpas Jeremy & Andrew.

dr haber


Posted by: dr haber | Jun 1, 2007 3:02:51 PM

This article is why you are one of my favorites! The child that gets to have such obviously loving parents is going to be very lucky indeed. The love and deication you have to her/him is so palpable and he/she may not even exist yet! That's beautiful. Can't wait to read all about the process in future postings. Good luck!

Posted by: Matt | Jun 1, 2007 3:10:31 PM

I can tell that you're both going to be wonderful parents. Jeremy, you really have everything that really matters in life. Someday I hope to find that as well. Just don't stop blogging after the new one comes along as you would be missed.

My reccomendation a compromise between disposable for times when you're away from home and cloth at home. Good luck and congratulations!

Posted by: Daimeon | Jun 1, 2007 3:37:18 PM

Congratulations! Good luck! Don’t stop blogging! Basically, what everyone else said.

About the diapers, I think it should be decided (or at least heavily influenced) by the person who will be changing more of them.

Posted by: Ben | Jun 1, 2007 6:01:30 PM

My partner and I are about in the same place as you and yours. I am very close to calling the adoption service woman and setting up the initial meeting and training session. Of course I already have the two brothers (8 and 4 year olds) from PA picked out, and the two sisters (4 and 2) from Texas as well. That sounds so bad doesn't it...picked out. I just can't help fanasizing about having the little ones come in to have their homework checked, or practice their pitching or just to wrestle dad like my bros and I did when we were little. Can't wait. We hope to adopt older kids and avoid the whole diaper thing, though. Please keep us updated on your progress.

Posted by: Jersey | Jun 1, 2007 6:26:04 PM

This was an incredibly moving entry, and I'm so happy for you and your partner. (It also made me feel really fuzzy inside, which I totally needed after an utterly misanthropic day in retail. ;))

Kids can be a handful, but with your adaptability and your sense of humor, you'll be able to handle anything. Best of luck! Mazel Tov! =)

Posted by: Marie S | Jun 1, 2007 6:30:30 PM

I had to convince my then-husband to give cloth a try, but once we did neither of us wanted to go back. Better for the environment, better for our baby's bum, and the ones you get today are not nearly as difficult to use as the ones available when you and I were growing up. Just don't try to use the polyester-filled Gerber ones you can get at a big box baby store, or your experience won't be as good.

Congratulations, and I hope your adoption goes smoothly.

Posted by: Country Mouse | Jun 2, 2007 3:59:37 PM

I think there's no hard and fast answer to the cloth vs. disposable argument. Much depends on your water source, what area of the country you're in, and whether there's any particular water shortage. Also depends on a child's shape and output and whether one type of diaper works better (e.g., requires fewer changings). Worth a read is "The Poop on Eco-Friendly Diapers" by Elisa Batista:
http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2004/04/63182?currentPage=all

Posted by: Dana | Jun 2, 2007 4:36:53 PM

It just all depends on your priorities... If you adopt a child at birth like we did, you're looking at 3500-4000 diaper changes in the first two years. (add a lot more if he's slow to potty train, like ours :) ) Now.... If your concern is the landfills and environment, you'll probably want to go cloth, AND use biodegradable detergent so you're not polluting up the rivers. But if you want convenience and more peace of mind when you go out with him/her, go disposable. And before you dismiss my disposable reasoning as not as important, remember... as your baby grows, so does the poop... :-D

Posted by: Phil | Jun 4, 2007 11:51:47 AM

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