By Londell Jackson
For 40 years, I've enjoyed the gift of two fathers: my pops and my dad.
To you, pops, I thank you for your role in giving me life. Whether or not your were able to share in my life's milestones, I'm glad my god has given me the opportunity to know you for myself. In you I can see parts of me, just as I am able to see mom in who I have become today.
To my dad, I thank you for caring for me as if I was your own. You have shown me what it means to be a strong man for family and for self. You have shown me that despite our many imperfections, we can still allow our stars to shine and find joy in life.
To my granddad and my Uncle David: you both have served as role models for me while growing up, and thank you for being there when I needed it most.
To all of you who have helped to nurture a child's life -- large or small -- thank you for your time and your talents. The minutes spent helping a child to learn about and understand the world around them: priceless. The ability to be goofy and serious, gentle and firm, enduring and even coalescing, these traits are some of those which define a father. Thank you for caring enough to help shepherd your family to greatness.
Happy Fathers Day!
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Thursday, June 14, 2012
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.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
By Todd Craig
That’s a pretty heavy word with powerful connotations at its every utterance. When I was a socially awkward kid growing up, fatherhood meant finding a way to both meet my father’s expectations and balance them with the reality of being a very different person from most of those expectations, primarily with my being gay.
Let me be clear, however, that my father and I have a great relationship, one that’s evolved past my failed attempts at hitting a baseball, the arguments of adolescence, my inability to grasp algebra, and my predilection for kissing guys.
So how would I go about describing my father? Well, he’s an amazing personality. He was born and raised, like myself, in South Dakota. He’s first and foremost an engineer; he’s even an engineer who’s the son of an engineer. The math, science, logic, and schematics of the profession define his very essence and give a structure and stability to his soul that many long for.
But to say that his profession defines my father would be nothing less than a disservice.
So my father is an engineer and competitor, but still, those two labels fall short of defining him. My father inherited his thick, strong frame from my Irish grandmother. He was an athlete from the get go, which helped him succeed in both social and academic endeavors as he grew up. I’ve heard enough stories from his army buddies and college reunions to know that he was well-liked and popular throughout his life. In fact, my father, for all of his freakish math and science understanding, is nothing like a character from The Big Bang Theory. He’s an innately social creature, a people person capable of striking up a conversation with anyone about any topic. He loves sharing a cold beer with his golfing buddies and loves to “hold court” with anyone who will listen to his endless supply of stories and ribald humor.
True story about my father #1: The first boy I ever brought home to meet my parents was the boy who ended up being my husband. I was 32, and my husband-to-be was 20 at the time. I was insanely worried about how they would react. You see, my husband sashays into a room. He rocks a Coach bag, pedicured toes, and enough attitude to beat the Queen of England into submission. My parents gave him a fair chance though, and when my father saddled up to my husband and said, “We have a city councilman who just had that surgery to become a woman,” even as my eyes rolled, I knew that the conversation had begun, and that we’d all be all right as a family.
My father probably deserved a son carved from his mold. He deserved a son who was athletic so that he could coach him about hitting a baseball and cheer him on as he broke tackles at the homecoming game. He deserved a son for whom math and science came easily so that he could explain all of the ins and outs of engineering school. He deserved a son who was as comfortable in social situations as he was so that he could take him out for a beer and introduce him to his friends at the golf course.
But instead, he got me. Where my father’s body was compact and athletic, my body looked like it was built for reading X-Men comic books. And unlike my father’s natural ability to connect with anyone, this queer, bookish, liberal arts major certainly never held onto any amount of social swagger. Growing up, I shared little in common with Dad. Where his world consisted of numbers and designs, mine filled with books and poetry. Where he was social and outgoing, I was painfully shy and withdrawn. Where he appreciated beautiful women, his son ended up gay.
Despite all of these hurdles to overcome, maybe it’s a testament to my father that he still tried. He never gave up on me, and he found ways that we soon could bond. He taught me how to swing a golf club, and even though I never demonstrated any athletic prowess, we watched countless hours of sports together. Some, like my Denver Broncos, I grew to enjoy as passionately as he did.
True story about my father #2: Shortly after the reception to our wedding began to wind down, the guests all gathered in our honeymoon suite to continue with the beverages and merriment. There sat my father “holding court” again at the front of the table, regaling my Boulder lesbians about how even though the election had already been called for Kennedy how he went out and voted for Nixon anyway because he’d be goddamned if he ever voted for a Democrat. It would have been awkward talking politics anywhere else, but not for my old man. He’s always stood for what he believed in.
Every spring, because of my father’s influence, I watch The Masters golf tournament. And when they play clips of Jack Nicklaus’ final major victory from 1986 as they do every year, I remember watching it live with my dad who jumped out of his La-Z-Boy recliner when Nicklaus holed his putt at the par 3 17th to take command of the tournament at age 46. It was a moment of greatness in the game of golf, but more importantly a moment of greatness for fathers and sons watching together everywhere as my dad and I were. You see, Nicklaus has eschewed a professional caddie that day. Instead his son, Jackie, carried his father’s clubs and walked side-by-side with his dad on that day of his greatest win ever.
Looking back, my father has instilled a number of qualities in me that I couldn’t shake even if I wanted to. He taught me how to work hard. He taught me how to enjoy sports, even though my aptitude for playing them never really existed. He taught me the importance of family and friends. He taught me that if you’re not ten minutes early, you’re fifteen minutes late. He taught me to eat dinner at 5:00, feel free to be stubborn when you’re convinced that you’re right, and to keep cool under pressure.
True story about my father #3: My father voted for Obama in the last election. The Republican party, for whom my father so steadfastly supported all of his life, lost him with their arcane social policies, their backwards thinking on health care, and their lack of sane candidates.
Now all of the lessons passed my father to me are inherently priceless. They formed me. They continue to shape who I am as I’ve advanced throughout adulthood. And five years ago, they became the foundation of something far more important.
You see, that’s when my husband and I became fathers with the adoption of our infant son, and when I was given the task of trying to be a dad to a little boy of my own.
And it has occurred to me on a near daily basis that I have a pretty huge legacy to live up to when it comes to being a dad.
Friday, June 19, 2009
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