On December 5th 2012 we were both woken up by the tinny clinking of Lego bricks being tipped out.
We had become dads.
For the next few months this was to become the soundtrack to our lives. We had traded nights out at bars to the sound of Lady Gaga for nights in to the sound of Nick Jr. For the best part of two years during our adoption process, we had been privy to scrutiny and deliberation; we had our pasts documented and our present recorded—all for the hope of a family-filled future. A hard skin, steady tongue and supportive partner are best tools to have during this assessment stage. I’ve lost count of the times during the adoption process that we exchanged glances signalling “Eyes on the prize”.
Like all good parents who go through the adoption process we became experts at research. We spent nights taking books to bed instead of each other. Having been raised a Roman Catholic I find it funny that I took solace in quoting case studies rather than The Lord’s Prayer. Statistics; chat board topics and survey findings fell from our lips with the ease of childhood verses.
It’s nearly 5 years since our children, a sister and brother, now aged 9 and 10, were placed with us. In between then and now I gave up my day-job; we moved house and subsequently moved country (London, UK to Toronto). We have celebrated birthdays, Christmases and everything in between. We had become Anita Bryant’s worst nightmare!
I could write on extolling the joys of being a full-time stay-at-home time dad and “living the dream”. But this isn’t The Brady Bunch and Alice doesn’t save the day. Each day can bring new challenges. Sometimes the task is that it’s the same challenge on repeat. Caffeine and kids TV become your best friends. A night out is planned with military precision. Sound familiar?
But it’s not without its rewards. Seeing open-mouthed awe at a caterpillar cocoon, a little smile beaming with boundless pride at an A on a test, or the smell of toothpaste mixed with candy and colouring pen in a goodnight kiss. There you go—there’s that tug in your chest.
As we hit “tweenage” years concerns turn towards identities. It was easier when our kids were younger and they accepted being part of our family unit as writ. The biggest concerns were homework deadlines and play-dates. But now that experiences and attitudes beyond our home rainbow bubble have started to arise, the more intricate questions are being pondered. “But having a Mom and Dad is more natural, isn’t it?” There it was, the dreaded “N Word”. Had one of us stood before a mirror, turned out the light and whispered it three times? Unconditional acceptance of having two dads turning to embarrassment. But Rivera didn’t throw that bottle, Milk take that bullet, nor Jones rally to the streets in order for our children to sit in an embarrassed uncertainty. If children learn by imitation then we’ll let them imitate tolerance, pride and conscientious curiosity. Make the strange “different” a part of everyday life. Not something to be spoken about in reluctant whispers but in proud confirmation. Ask yourself the question—roses are normally red but does that make the blue rose any less beautiful or worthy of a place to bloom?
5 years down the road and we sometimes look back with that bizarre perspective that comes with hindsight, and it feels a lot longer. I guess that’s how you know that things are working. When something is so much a part of your life that you can’t quite remember what was before? For us, these two little people arrived, absorbed and distilled our idiosyncrasies and have become a constant in our lives. Sure, very so often life throws a new curve-ball but we step up to the plate, dig deep, stare it square in the eye and handle it as best we know how.
Then again—isn’t that just being a parent?