By Todd Craig
As I said before, the word fatherhood carries some powerful connotations with it.
I know this because five and a half years ago, my husband and I became parents when we adopted an infant boy, and ever since, I’ve taken on the title of father to my son.
Let me first say that fatherhood shapes you unlike anything else. Things that used to be important, like which club you’d meet up at on Friday night, fade quickly into the past. Routines and structure become more and more important. You start doing things that only responsible adults do like shopping for life insurance, reading the nutrition labels on your grocery store items, and talking about the importance of things like keeping yesterday’s pair of Lightning McQueen underwear from hanging off the bookshelf.
In short, you become a dad.
When I was single, I would always get to that point in the relationship where you start looking long term. I was greedy, I would tell my prospective boyfriends. I wanted the house, the fenced yard, and kids. I wanted a family.
Most of the boys I dated would echo the same thoughts, but from their mouths it always sounded more like an echo than an honest statement of desire. How many of them felt as seriously as I did about having a family? I don’t know.
So when the man who would become my husband and I began getting serious, we talked at length of the future and of having kids; it was something we both wanted. As our relationship evolved, so did our plans. We soon found ourselves engaged. We held a commitment ceremony, and we bought a house in the suburbs of Colorado Springs within two years of our first date. The house had three bedrooms.
We hired an adoption agency up in Denver about six months later.
The agency had never worked with two dads before. They told us they only worked with fifty couples at a time and profiled couples that had been on the list the longest to prospective birth mothers first. They told us that the average wait for a couple was approximately a year, but because we were a gay male couple, the wait time might double for us. Undeterred, we filled out the forms that summer knowing that we could use the years of waiting to get ourselves emotionally and financially as prepared as possible.
Four months later in October, a birth mother picked us.
She gave birth on Halloween. That weekend, she asked to meet us before going through with the adoption. We met at a local restaurant. There we held this beautiful little three-day old baby boy in our arms.
We left without hearing a decision. We arrived home and sat on the sofa in a silent ball of emotions for a couple of hours. We put in a DVD to kill time and fill the dead air. It didn’t help.
Then the phone rang.
We were dads.
We picked up our son that Sunday. He was five days old.
Those first few years flew by in a blur of sleepless nights with a crying baby, and endless trips to our local Target for formula and diapers. Life as we had known it was wiped out in a nuclear explosion called fatherhood. More than once, we would exchange what-the-hell-did-we-get-ourselves-into types of glances at hearing the 3 a.m. cries echoing down the hallway.
But just when we were about to snap our mental caps, our little guy started sleeping through the night. Soon, he was growing, babbling a few words, and crawling his way straight into our hearts.
Now that he’s age five and a half, I find that the role of dad to this little boy has grown in significance. He wants me to throw the football with him in the back yard; he follows me throughout the day just happy to be in my presence. I am constantly aware of how this little boy looks up to my person, repeats the words that I say, and takes his cues from my actions.
He’s five and a half now. If I’m lucky, I’ll have another twelve to thirteen years or so to teach him the things that he’ll need to be a man. I want to instill so much into my son. I want him to demonstrate respect. I want him to make change for a dollar in his head. I want him to open doors for ladies, read passionately, and laugh at his mistakes while still learning from them. I want him to fight through the tough times, take advantage of the quiet times, and pursue his passions with undeniable enthusiasm and energy. I want him to feel at home in nature, to stand up for the little guy, and to know the words to at least three Adele songs. He should be able to throw a football in a tight spiral, to dance without looking too foolish, and to feel the love and support of his parents each and every day of his life. I want him to bound out of bed like he does now, ready for life and ready for fun. I want him to be excited for ladybugs, homemade sugar cookies, and Christmas presents – even when he’s 18. I want him to play more board games than video games. I want him to love his Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Lightning McQueen toys for another ten years. After all, we have a fuck-ton of money spent on those.
Is all of that too much to teach to one boy? And how in the hell did my dad do all of this?
So now my husband and I find ourselves stressing things like being polite and teaching him how to open the door for others, and even though he tends to block the doorway with his little body, he gets the idea. The highlight of my day is reading his favorite bedtime stories at night, and he loves picking out the story for the night by himself. We get excited taking him to movies, volunteering in his classroom, and planning his birthday parties.
In short, fatherhood is what our lives are all about anymore. Dance clubs, ten-dollar martinis, and tight shirts no longer exist in our world. We may be gay dads, but it's that label of dads that defines us.
Recently, this was illustrated when we took a trip to Las Vegas for a convention for my husband’s work. There’s a huge jewelry show there every year, and my husband couldn’t believe that he’d finally get to experience it for himself.
While we were a little nervous at leaving our son’s side for the first time in five years for the trip, it helped when we made arrangements with my parents to come down and watch him for the duration of the five-day trip. It’s hard to be too traumatized with missing your parents when your grandparents are in town. It probably also helps that visits from grandma and grandpa are slightly more lucrative than visits from Santa and the Easter Bunny.
Las Vegas proved to be a great time, however, parenthood’s talons held us in a firm grasp as we were in bed by 11:00 all but one night.
Our biggest expense of the trip wasn’t money for the slot machines or the poker tables; it was our trip to the Disney Outlet.
When we our return flight finally touched down, we arrived home late at night, well after our son’s bedtime by a long shot. While we were tempted to sneak into his room and wake him up, we resisted the urge. For as fun as it was being in Vegas, it sure felt good to get back home and back to being a dad.
This last idea was driven home the next morning when I was woken up by a very soft kiss from a certain five-year old boy that afterwards whispered quietly into my ear, "I missed you while you weren't here, daddy!"
Damn. Fatherhood is powerful stuff, but you know what? We wouldn’t have it any other way.