on being a father on father’s day and every day

I first became a father on July 8, 2013, the day I met my then-seven year old son for the first time. Four years later and my husband and I are on the verge of (legally) becoming fathers for a third time as we begin to finalize the adoption of our (biologically) oldest (chronologically) youngest son.

We came to fatherhood a bit late; I was 38 and my husband was 41. I sometimes think we both wished we had started having children a bit sooner, years ago back when we still had the energy to keep up with a seven year old before we started buying pants with elastic waistlines.

But because I know that our kids were always meant to be our kids I also know that starting earlier would not have been an option. The timing would have been off—a day sooner or a day later and suddenly we’re in an alternate timeline where Todd has a full head of hair and I hate doughnuts and instead of three kids we have 27 dogs and everything is just wrong.

The five of us were a series of lines, always meant to cross, but at very specific points.

When I was younger I knew I wanted a family, a big family with six kids, but when I was younger I also knew I was gay and because of that I understood that my big family with six kids would never happen. At 11 years old, at 18 years old, at 27 years old, I could never conceive of a time when a gay man could have children.

And yet, here I am.

I get to play ball with A’Sean and help Chris memorize a monologue and laugh when Elijah says really inappropriate words.

I get to celebrate their successes and encourage them past their defeats.

I get to see them grow up.

I get to watch them be brothers.

I get to imagine who they will be when I’m gone and not be sad because I know they have each other.

Being a father is the greatest joy of my life and raising my boys is my greatest accomplishment. My kids make me laugh and they make me scream. They challenge me and they exhaust me. They bring out my best and they bring out my worst. They give me purpose.

Every day is not the best day, but every day is a better day because I get to be their dad. So even when I’m screaming at them (which I do) or sneaking off to the bathroom to cry (which I do even more) or beating myself up for getting everything wrong (which I do every day), I would not trade a moment of this great privilege.

Happy Father’s Day – today and every day.

u wanna fight?

It was our first Father’s Day. We had been fathers for approximately eleven months, but this would be our first year officially celebrating the Hallmark holiday as dads. It seemed necessary to mark this momentous occasion with something more than cake…or rather, in addition to cake because every holiday demands cake. We spent the weeks before Father’s Day searching online for a family-friendly, father-centric activity. The local zoo was offering free admission for all dads with the paid admission of a child so we settled on the zoo…because we like the zoo and also because we’re cheap and there is nothing cheaper than free.

In the days leading up to our zoo trip my mind was preoccupied by a single thought. It was this same thought I was now obsessing over as we drove the ten minutes from our house to the zoo. What if two dads was one too many? I imagined the attendant refusing to allow both of my son’s fathers to enter the zoo for free. Managers would be called and scenes would be made. Our first Father’s Day would be in ruins as we slunk away on principle.

The parking lot was full. We eventually found a space and made our way to the end of the half-mile line that stretched into the distance. While my husband and son discussed which animals they were most excited to see that day, I silently stewed in the soup of my inevitable persecution. The closer we got to the ticket booth the more anxious I became. I had convinced myself that this was not going to go well.  And if when that moment came that we were singled out for our sexuality how exactly would I handle it? Would I cause a scene and risk embarrassing my son just to prove a point? Or would I fork over the extra $15 and live to fight another day?

The line inched up and I pictured myself calling the local TV stations—the teaser on the six o’clock news: Gay Dads Day at the Zoo Goes Bottoms Up! The line continued to move. I envisioned our new six-bedroom house (with an indoor pool and elevator) that we would purchase with the profits from O’Donnell-Collar v. Pittsburgh Zoo. We were next in line. I saw myself becoming a self-righteous pundit on msnbc; I would be Rachel Maddow’s favorite guest and together we would sneer at those conservative dumbos over at Fox.

Have a good time. Oh, and Happy Father’s Day.

The voice of the attendant brought me back to reality. There was no scene. There were no questions. There was only, “Have a good time. Oh, and Happy Father’s Day.” As the three of us walked through the gates I realized that I was…disappointed. I was so ready for a fight, but the fight never came. There would be no profile on the six o’clock news. There would be no six bedroom house with an indoor pool and an elevator. There would be no Rachel Maddow.

My son had two dads and no one cared.

My disappointment quickly passed, giving way to something far worse: shame. I expected the worst and the worst turned out to be me. If we listen to the news and social media we become convinced that everyone is out to get us. We believe that every person we meet will judge us based on our race, our religion, our gender, our sexuality. Every day we show up for a fight that never comes.

Yes, there are bad people in the world. There are people who hate and oppress and discriminate and will hurt you just as soon as look at you, but they are not all people. Most people are kind and accepting and they don’t care if you have two dads or six heads.

I’m taking off the gloves. I’m going to turn down the noise from TV and social media. I’m going to anticipate the best and if the worst comes, at least it won’t be me bringing it.

Read more about my adventures as a gay adoptive father in my book Which One of You is the Mother? 

Available for pre-order on Amazon now. Release date August 24, 2015.