In July of 2013, my husband and I traveled to Oregon to meet our son for the first time. It was the beginning of a life-changing adventure when five days later we boarded a plane back to Pittsburgh with our soon-to-be-adopted then-seven year old son in tow. The first few weeks were fairly uneventful as everyone tiptoed around trying to find their place in the new dynamic. Chris had decided before meeting us that he would call us Dad and Papa and as we settled into our new monikers, Chris settled into his new life.
He had been living with us for less than a month that Sunday morning he first stumbled into our bedroom and exclaimed, “Oh. So that’s how you sleep.”I’m not sure what he expected to find when he opened the door to our bedroom. I imagine he pictured us in brotherly bunk beds or matching Ozzie & Harriet-style twin beds, me with my hair in pink curlers and Todd smoking a pipe while thumbing through the latest copy of National Geographic. Of course that’s not what he found. Instead he saw two middle-aged men at opposite sides of a queen-sized bed, one still half-asleep while the other checked Facebook on his phone. The only thing shocking about the scene was just how pedestrian it was.
Not that our son was unprepared for what he saw that morning. It had been explained to him prior to our meeting that he was being adopted by two gay men. He understood that Todd and I were married. It was clear we shared a bedroom. He knew there would be no mother in our family photos. Yet for as much as Chris appeared to understand the realities of his new family, for those first few weeks his brain didn’t always quite make the right connections. We were a puzzle he was still putting together.
During those early days there were mornings over breakfast where Chris would ask me if I planned on marrying a woman and then later that night over dinner he would encourage me to date his yoga teacher. I would remind him that I was already married to his Papa and that while his yoga teacher was perfectly lovely and had great hair, she was also a woman and I was gay which meant I liked men and besides it was generally considered bad form to date other people while married. He would nod his head, seeming to understand, and then turn to Todd and ask if there was maybe perhaps a special lady in his life.
The scenario repeated itself for several months. He was fairly persistent and I almost considered asking his yoga teacher out for coffee just to shut him up. Of course that was then and this is now. A lot has changed in the two years since we became a family. Chris has successfully put together the puzzle. Oh sure, he may on occasion still crave a maternal presence, but he is fiercely protective and proud of his all boys club.
Sometimes at the playground I see him pointing at us saying to the other kids, “My dads are gay.” We are a badge of honor, his gay card and membership has its benefits. On a recent family vacation to Puerto Rico, Chris made new friends at the hotel pool by way of announcing, “I have two dads. They’re gay.” The other kids ate it up, and we became something of a curiosity while Chris became the coolest kid on the beach.
To an outsider watching it might seem like he was using us to show off, and I suppose there is a degree of truth to that. Still, when I see him play the gay card I see a once-uncertain boy letting the world know that he is without equivocation proud of his family. I hear my son no longer asking about girlfriends or wives. I hear my son confidently saying: This is my family. We are just like other families. Do you want to play on the swings?