label makers

The new math teacher called to introduce himself. Chris’s class had been without a permanent math teacher since the second week of school when Miss Perky, a first time teacher who cited Lassie as her favorite movie, failed to show up for work…much to the surprise of everyone at the school, most notably the administration.

But all of that was behind us now and after a revolving door of well-meaning substitutes the school had hired a new teacher, a veteran of the New York City schools who, according to the letter of introduction he had sent home, would “not tolerate any disrespect”.

I was at the library reading with Elijah when he called, but seeing the school’s phone number on my caller ID I decided to answer.

“Hi. This is Mr. Smith. I’m Chris’s new math teacher. Is Chris’s Mom or Dad there?”

“This is Chris’s Dad,” I said. I hesitated a moment and then continued, “Actually Chris has two dads. There is no mother.”

A brief pause followed and then, “Oh. Two Dads. Okay. That’s cool, I’m from New York.”

I’m from New York is code for I’ve seen it all.

“Actually Park Slope. It’s in Brooklyn, so…”

It was the most ridiculous response and I immediately liked him for saying it. We chatted for a few more minutes and then I went back to reading to Elijah.

Later when I would play back the conversation in my mind I became fixated on that moment of hesitation right before I had said, “Actually Chris has two dads.” Why had I hesitated? It was a matter of fact that my son had two fathers and in that moment when I corrected the teacher I was doing it, not to make a statement, but simply to inform.

Yet still I hesitated as if I had felt that I shouldn’t say it.

When I read clickbait headlines on Huffington Post like My Son’s School Discriminated Against Him Because He Has Two Dads or Everybody in the World Is Out to Get Me Because I’m a Black Christian Homosexual Transgendered Woman I immediately think, “Or maybe you’re just an asshole and it has nothing to do with your race, religion, sexuality or gender identity.”

We are so quick to assume that people are discriminating against us based on what we are rather than who we are and I suppose because of that I have become hyper vigilant. If someone is going to dislike me I want it to be based on the person I am and not the labels that have been attached to me.

And I realize that sounds hypocritical coming from a guy who calls his blog seansbiggayblog and then wrote a book called Which One of You is the Mother? The Absolutely Positively True Adoption Story of Two Gay Dadsbut then I am an enigma wrapped in cheese.

I hesitated because in that moment I wanted to present a fact to the teacher – my son has two dads – but at the same time I did not want to label myself or make our family dynamic an issue because it’s not an issue.

The point of this blog and my book is that we are no different than any other family.

Now I’m not some Pollyanna. I understand that in the real world gays with kids is an issue for a shrinking percentage of small-minded bigots and as I’ve unfortunately discovered a growing number of paranoid gay parents, but for me and my husband and our two kids it’s a non-starter.

We are who we are and if you don’t like us we hope it’s because we’re assholes and not because we’re gay or because our kids have two dads. Although honestly, whatever the reason we don’t much care.

All we ask is the next time you call our house, please don’t ask for the mother and not because it’s a big deal but because we told you our sons have two dads and now you know.

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the coulda been kid

The adoption agency called and asked if we would be interested in fostering a four year old. This would be an immediate placement, meaning the child could be living with us by the end of the day. However, as the caseworker explained, this placement would not be permanent as they were looking for a long-term foster family and not an adoptive family. The end goal of this placement was to be reunification with the child’s birth parents.

We would be temporary.

As much as I would love to give a home to every child in the foster system, the fact is I can’t do it. I tell myself (and others) that the reason we don’t foster is because it wouldn’t be fair to Chris and Elijah. This is your new brother, but don’t get too attached because he’ll be moving out in 4 to 6 months. But the real reason we don’t foster is because I can’t handle it. I’m not strong enough. I fall in love at first sight. I become too attached. I can’t say goodbye.

The truth is even if I knew from the beginning that a placement was to be temporary when the time came for that child to leave it would destroy me. I can’t be temporary. I’m just not wired that way. I’m grateful to those people who are able to be placeholders, people like Chris’s foster parents who have selflessly given home and heart to dozens of children in need.

For the past two decades these heroes have taken in children from the most unimaginable situations. One child brought in to their care had been so badly neglected that she suffered brain damage when her birth parents attempted to starve her to death. My son’s former foster parents literally nursed this child from the brink of death, loving her for over a year before saying goodbye when she was adopted by her forever family.

I wish I possessed their courage and strength. Because that particular brand of courage and strength is in demand.

Today in the United States of America there are more than 400,000 children in foster care.

400,000 children in need of a home.

For many of these kids the need for a home is (at least for the moment) temporary, but for more than 100,000 of these children the need for a home is a lifelong commitment.

And here’s the thing: those numbers never go down. It seems as soon as one child is placed with a family another child is brought into the system to take his place. The need is never-ending.

I think about all those kids who came before Chris and Elijah and all the children that will come after them. I think about the hundreds of profiles that have come across my desk. I think about all the photos and stories. I think about that four year old.

I remember all the times I was convinced that a child would be a perfect match only to never hear from the caseworker. I remember all the times my heart broke reading page after page of neglect and abuse. I remember all the times I had to say no.

You can’t save them all, I tell myself.

Except it’s not about saving. These kids do not need to be saved. These kids need to be a given a chance.

Like all of us, they just need to be loved.


November is National Adoption Month. Learn more about adoption and find out more about local adoption.

bully, for you

Everyone is a bully. Every word is a judgment. Every unkind remark is an assault. Every sideways glance is an unwanted advance.

Do not leave your house. It isn’t safe. People are mean.

Yes, people are mean. So what? People are mean whether you are eight or eighty. I learned that a long time ago. When I was a kid I was routinely tormented by bullies, or as we called them back in the day, the popular kids. They called me gay, fag, faggot, homo, homo-gay-faggot, et cetera. I suppose on some level their words hurt my feelings, I know their lack of originality offended my authorial sensibilities, but I never feared for my safety or felt intimidated. Twenty-five years later I look back and I couldn’t tell you who in my ninth grade gym class called me what variation of homosexual while playing a heated game of some ball related activity.

I moved on from my bullies. I grew up. They grew up. Now together we live in the real world surrounded by a new generation of would-be bullies – bosses, co-workers, internet trolls. They question our productivity. They fail to value our contributions. They call us names from the safety of their smart phones.

Eight or eighty the game’s the same.

People are mean. You aren’t going to change them. You can’t control their behavior.

Recently a kid at school made fun of Chris’s glasses. This event did not traumatize him, it was just something that happened, but in relating the story to me he said this kid was a bully. I explained that while it was unkind of the kid to talk smack about his specs, the child in question was really just a jerk and not actually a bully and besides did he (Chris) even care what this kid thought? (For the record, he did not.)

The truth is most people are jerks. Especially kids. But in today’s hypersensitive world, where every word and action is a personal attack designed to further perpetuate and feed our need to be a victim, the once harmless Scott Farkus is now deemed a dangerous sociopath.

I don’t blame my son for failing to differentiate between garden variety assholes and bullies, not when our schools suspend a five year old for calling a classmate stupid. And I don’t blame our schools for overreacting, not when there are kids so tormented they are driven to suicide. But I do blame our society for creating a culture where every word is considered a de facto judgment. Every unkind remark is perceived to be an all-out assault. Every sideways glance is treated as a threatening unwanted advance.

Don’t get me wrong. If someone were truly tormenting my child I would hunt down and then crush the little bastard. But I refuse to intervene every time some kid directs an unkind remark in the general direction of my children. Part of growing up is learning how to deal with and ultimately outsmart the jerks of the world. I know far too many people who never learned that skill and now they collapse under the weight of every passing criticism convinced that every person is a ruthless bully out to get them.

People are mean. You aren’t going to change them. You can’t control their behavior.

You can control how you react.

So don’t react. Take control by being in control. The bully wants a reaction. It gives them power over you. Be stronger than them.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

please don’t eat the daisies

When someone has a baby it is customary for their friends and family to throw them a baby shower. These baby showers are extravagant affairs complete with whimsical decorations, silly games, overpriced gifts and cake. Lots of cake. No one has ever thrown us a baby shower.

That’s not the point of this blog post. I’m just putting that out there because I have two kids and also I like cake.

The point of this blog post is that we have decided to adopt again. It turns out two is not enough. My guess is a year from now we will be saying that three is not enough. I should probably rephrase that because Chris and Elijah are absolutely enough. They are more than we could have hoped for or dreamed of; they are as perfect for us as we are for them and if we never had another child we would still be complete.

So when I say that two is not enough what I mean to say is why should we stop at two or three or even five for that matter, especially when there are tens of thousands of children in need of a forever home. And while not every one of those kids may be a suitable match to our family dynamic, I have no doubt at least one or two or twenty-seven of those tens of thousands are a match and they are out there right now waiting for us to find them.

Todd calls it a calling. You know, like when someone is called to serve God or called to work in the Peace Corps or called to eat obscene amounts of donuts twice a week. It is odd to compare serving God to adopting children, but as soon as he said it I understood exactly what he meant.

Maybe it’s because I just turned forty and the closer I get to death the more philosophical I become, but I believe all roads have led me to Chris and Elijah. Everything that came before now, even the really shitty stuff, had to happen so I could be their Dad. They were my calling.

I am exactly where I am meant to be.

We were talking with our caseworker last week and I said how lucky we were to have been matched with two well-adjusted and happy boys. She said that while it’s true we did have two fairly smooth adoptions we should not underestimate our contribution and that a big reason why the boys were so happy and well-adjusted was because of what we brought to the table.

I’m normally embarrassed by such praise, immediately defaulting to false modesty, but not this time because I knew what she was saying to be true. We are really good at this.

I know we cannot adopt every kid out there, nor should we, but if we have room in our hearts and the ability to change even one more life, then we should do it. We have to do it.

After all, it’s our calling.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

off the grid

This weekend we are taking the boys camping. I love the word camping, it makes me sound so masculine. I tell people, I’m going camping, and immediately their brain is flooded with images of me draped from head-to-toe in a flannel Michael Kors onesie walking through the woods with a rifle slung over my shoulder hunting and gathering my supper before retiring to my tent for a night of wild romance with my accommodating lady friend.

No one actually thinks that because everyone knows I’m not the kind of guy who does that kind of camping with that kind of lady. The truth is I am staying in a cabin with running water and a toilet, the only flannel I own are bed sheets from Macys, I don’t like guns, my hunting and gathering skills are limited to Saturday morning donut runs to the neighborhood bakery, and my accommodating lady friend has a beard.

When people admonish me and tell me that I’m “missing out”, that I should go “real camping” and sleep in a tent and take my bath in a stream and squat over a hole in the ground I think, Are you fucking crazy? Why would I do that? It’s 2015. Who voluntarily shits in a hole?

I thank God every day that I live in a time of high-speed Internet, cable TV and indoor plumbing. I do not want to kill my supper or figure out which mushrooms will make me hallucinate. After all, isn’t that why we have Giant Eagles and drug dealers?

Not that I’m a total Phyllis Nefler. (By the way if you understood that reference, congratulations, you are a homosexual!) Our cabin is off the grid. This means it is self-sustaining. There is a small garden and chickens to provide vegetables and eggs for us to eat, it is run wholly on solar power, rain water is collected in a cistern, and as there is no septic system the cabin has a composting toilet which is basically one step up from an outhouse and two steps up from a hole in the ground.

Also, there are no Law & Order re-runs mostly due to the (gasp!) lack of cable TV.

In short, and by my standards, we are roughing it.

Not that I’m worried. I’ve been through worse. I used to direct community theater. I once shared a house with a violent lunatic. I accidentally saw someone much older than me naked.

Living off the grid I can handle.

The best part of our weekend away (for me) is that our cabin was advertised as a tiny house. This means it has less than 400 square feet of livable space, the kitchen is in the living room and there are sleeping lofts for the boys.

Of course I know from the hundreds of hours I’ve spent watching tiny house TV shows that the real reason our cabin has been classified as a tiny house is because of the composting toilet. Those tiny house freaks love a composting toilet.

I will admit to having an ulterior motive (beyond the eating of s’mores) for this camping trip. I’m using it a test run in the event of the zombie apocalypse or President Donald Trump. In either case I think my family will need a place to escape and start over while the rest of civilization crumbles.

I’m not worried about Todd who could make a ball gown out of chewing gum and bread ties or Elijah who can run really fast or even me because I can be absolutely ruthless, but I do fear for Chris. He’s pretty and easily distracted and I’m fairly certain that he’d be the first person to get picked off by a reanimated corpse, I mean conservative republican.

This trip will be just the thing to toughen him up, to turn him from a Beth into a Daryl, and just as soon as I finish fashioning these flannel sheets into a ready-to-wear onesie I’m going to drop that boy off in the middle of the woods with a bottle of Miralax and a shovel.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

crying on the toilet and other bathroom distractions

The following is an excerpt from my book Which One of You is the Mother? You can purchase the book on Amazon here.


The difference between five and nine is greater than four. We learned this new math in the days and weeks following Elijah’s placement with us. I had imagined a five year old would arrive factory ready — just plug him in, flip the switch and presto! you have a fully functioning mini humanoid. This is untrue. It turns out five year olds are basically talking babies that can use the toilet. You still have to bathe them, dress them, tie their shoes, hold their hands in public, teach them to read, force them to nap, force them to brush their teeth, monitor them as they brush their teeth, and clean up after they brush their teeth, and while they may be able to talk the toilet business is 50/50 on a good day.

Chris was a breeze in comparison. Granted he was a few years older, so he could be trusted to take a bath, dress himself and not run out into traffic. Elijah was another story. He was exhausting. He required constant attention. I laugh at the former me who once considered adopting a child under the age of three. I could absolutely handle a newborn, I bragged to my friends and family. If an all-things-considered-well-behaved five year old nearly drove me to the brink a newborn would have killed me.

And Elijah is a good kid. Oh sure sometimes he pees his pants while waiting in line at the amusement park but otherwise he’s fairly continent. He is an average five year old who listens 75% of the time and hates napping. He has never once been horrible in public, which is more than I could say for those non-GMO-gluten-free-Paleo kids I see at the mall. (And for the record, I see you other parents judging me when my son eats his genetically modified deep-fried sugar-dipped potato-in-a-bun.) Elijah may ask a million questions but he asks them because he’s curious. He wants to learn. There is no end to his inquisition: What are clouds? Where does the moon sleep? Do girls have wieners? I do my best to answer his questions, but I also recognize that I am not an expert in meteorology, astronomy or female anatomy.

The endless questions were nothing compared to the boundless energy and I began to fear that I had met my match. Here I was a forty year old man and my undoing would be at the hands of a five year old. Elijah had been with us for about two weeks the Sunday afternoon I fell victim to a plate of questionable Middle Eastern kebabs. Food poisoning is never pleasant and I spent the better part of the night projectile vomiting the previous day’s spaghetti dinner.

The next morning I awoke dehydrated with a blinding headache. If it had been just me I could have managed the situation. I would have popped a few aspirin, confined myself to the couch and slept the day away. But it wasn’t just me. It was me and a five year old (due to a clerical error Elijah was still not enrolled in school).  Todd had gone back to work the previous week and now I was on daddy duty, food poisoning be damned.

Five year olds don’t understand being sick. They don’t understand blinding headaches and dehydration. They cannot be left to their own devices while you cough your best Camille in some faraway Bavarian sanatorium. Five year olds want to play and be five. Five year olds do not want to sit quietly and watch Law & Order reruns all day. They instead prefer to run through the house singing at top volume and pretending to be a Disney princess. At least that’s what my five year old preferred to do on this particular day. When I suggested we take a nap after his 437th encore of Let It Go, he laughed at me. My five year old son laughed at me and then he threw all forty pounds of his little body onto my stomach which at this point, now void of food, had begun to digest my internal organs.

It was sometime around 2:45 p.m. that I excused myself to the bathroom where I cried for seven and a half peaceful minutes.

I do this a lot now. I excuse myself to the bathroom and I cry. The bathroom is my sanctuary. I have spent the better part of an hour holed up behind its locked door, watching videos on my phone or reading the back of the shampoo bottle. Sometimes I turn on the water and I pretend I’m taking a shower. Sometimes I slip down into the bubbles and let Calgon take me away. Sometimes I fall asleep on the toilet.

I would kill for a midday nap. I think most adults wish they could indulge in a nap at some point during the day. But children hate naps. If I tell Elijah to take a nap he will collapse on the floor and begin to sob uncontrollably. The first time he did this I hurriedly closed all the windows in the house, afraid that the neighbors would think I was beating him. Now if I even mention the word nap he launches into a five-act opera entitled Emotionally Unstable Italian Grandmother at the Funeral of Her Dead Husband.

The truth is we’re still figuring him out. He’s an odd little kid; he thinks it’s hilarious to look you directly in the eyes when you’re speaking to him and then do the exact opposite of what you just told him to do even though you’re sure he heard you because, after all, he was looking you directly in the eyes when you were talking to him. He also loves to repeat everything you say except for those moments when he’s pretending not to hear you. He eats nothing but chicken nuggets with mustard. Give him a choice between eating a plate of fresh vegetables and being water boarded by Dick Cheney and he’d go with virtual drowning by Darth Vader.

If Chris is the very definition of resilience, then Elijah is the very definition of obstinance.

But still, he makes me laugh. His preschool teacher remarked that she had never before met a five year old who understood sarcasm…and then used it. His caseworker noted in his file that Elijah was “a chameleon”. She said, “He could adapt to any environment and would often assume the personalities of those around him.” It was no doubt a coping mechanism he had adopted, the result of having lived in so many different homes.

In the foster home where he lived before, Elijah had been taught that physical affection was unacceptable; there were no hugs or goodnight kisses. He adapted to this environment and learned to live without affection. When we met him Elijah was emotionally reserved, if not aloof and frosty. He forbade us to hug or kiss him for those first few months. One night before bed he told me that I could not kiss him on the cheek because “boys don’t kiss”. They do in this house, I said, but respected his wishes. Finally after months of watching us shower Chris with affection Elijah changed his outlook. Now he hugs first and when we tuck the boys into bed he demands to be kissed goodnight.

Time moves slowly when you are living inside a moment. In the time before hugs and kisses Elijah would only call us by our first names; it seemed we would never be Dad and Papa. We never forced the issue. If he was comfortable calling us Sean and Todd then he could call us Sean and Todd. Still, when addressing one another in front of him we always referred to each other as Dad and Papa. We instructed Chris to do the same when talking about us to Elijah. We laid the groundwork and it took time, but eventually Elijah began to experiment with our new names until those new names became our only names. Now every morning he wakes me up by crawling into bed and whispering mischievously into my ear, “Daddy!”  Now he rushes Todd at the door and with open arms delivers a welcoming, “Papa!” No longer Sean and Todd, now it seems we are who we have always been, his Dad and Papa.

He has become so much like the three of us; it’s hard to know who he is after us especially when we never knew who he was before us. Our obstinate little chameleon has now assumed our manner of speaking, our casual attitude, our sense of humor. Unfortunately he has also adopted some of Chris’s less desirable qualities, like selective laziness. Long gone are the days when Elijah would voluntarily (and thoroughly) clean up after himself. We’ve said goodbye to the boy who eagerly offered to set the dinner table. Now we’re left with the pint-sized smartass who, when asked to carry more than one bag of groceries into the house, indignantly replies, “I only have two hands”.

The difference between five and nine is still greater than four. But with each whisper of Daddy, with each offer of I love you, with each willing hug that difference shrinks. Chris and Elijah wanted a forever home, but what they received in the bargain was so much more than a roof and four walls. They found each other. Elijah idolizes Chris and has assumed the role of loyal companion and much smaller shadow. And Chris, the boy who wanted an older brother, has himself taken that role and become the defender, confidante and best friend.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

making a list, checking it twice!

I apologize. I hate social media top ten lists. I realize I’m in the minority here because the truth is these lists are incredibly popular. They generate insane numbers of shares and views. I suppose they’re popular because they don’t require much thinking. Certainly not for the lazy writer who counts the top ten list among his top ten best friends. Shame on every last one of you lazy writers for phoning it in and shame on you for reading these lists…and for clicking on those You Won’t Believe What Happens Next videos. (You know what happens next? Exactly what you would expect to happen next.)

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest please enjoy today’s blog post 10 Ways My Life Has Changed Since I Adopted My Sons

  1. People think I’m selfless. This is a common misconception. When you tell someone that you adopted your children they assume you are good person because only a good person would do something so selfless. Whatever. Adopting my kids was the most selfish thing I ever did. Basically I wanted something and I got it and then I ate donuts. End of story.
  2.  I got Christmas back. When I was a kid I loved Christmas. I would stay up all night waiting for Santa Claus. The weeks leading up to his arrival were pure magic and there was nothing better than Christmas Eve, the one night of the year when I believed that anything was possible. But then I grew up and slowly Christmas started to lose its magic. I would still go through the motions, but it was hollow. Then I had kids and poof! Christmas was back. Suddenly I’m a five year old again, staying up all night, and embracing the incredible magic of one perfect night. Is there a Santa Claus? Absolutely.
  3. I have two children. This one is a bit obvious, but every good top ten list has padding. Still, nothing will change your life more than being responsible for tiny people.
  4. I have a stronger relationship with my husband. Todd and I have had our ups and downs over the years, and it’s no secret that in the years leading up to adopting we were in a downswing. Fortunately we got our act together and just when we realized we didn’t have to be together it made us want to be together. I’ve known Todd for almost twenty years and I thought there was nothing left to know about him, but then I saw him as a father and I fell in love with him all over again. Having the boys has made me see and appreciate my husband in a new way. He is, simply put, the best person I know. I admire and love him.
  5. I watch cartoons again. Before the age of ten I watched cartoons nonstop, then I found soap operas and it was goodbye Garfield & Friends and hello General Hospital. Maybe I just got tired of the recycled plots or maybe it was the day ABC cancelled One Life to Live, but I turned away from soaps around the time we adopted Chris. Now I spend my evenings catching up Teen Titans and I leave the goings-on in Port Charles to a new generation of ten year olds.
  6. I played baseball with my son. I hated playing baseball as a kid. My Dad made me play because he thought I should and he thought I should because he knew I was different and I think having me play baseball was his way of trying to make sure I fit in, and for that I thank him. But still, it is a painfully boring game. And even though my kids show no interest in sports (yet) one of the best first days of being a Dad was the day I took Chris to the park and we played catch. It was a rite of passage that made me feel more like his father than a thousand re-issued birth certificates.
  7. I learned patience. I have a temper. I blame it on ten years spent directing plays in the theater and working with needy adult children. I screamed a lot as a director but I only screamed because I knew if I hit people I would probably go to jail. Anyway, parenting children is a breeze after you’ve worked with a gaggle of passive aggressive narcissists (there were exceptions, you know who you are!)
  8. I became a better version of my parents. My parents were very good parents, but they did have stumbles. I have the benefit of their experience and being able to learn from their wrong turns just as I hope my children will learn from my mistakes.
  9. I gained 25 30 35 pounds. The reason you gain weight when you have kids is not because you don’t have time to exercise. The reason you gain weight when you have kids is because you eat all the leftover food on their plate every night. And then eat a half gallon of ice cream while you catch up on Call the Midwife.
  10. I downsized. My weight notwithstanding, I have really cut back in every aspect of my life. My circle of friends is now a short line. I don’t waste money and hours at the mall. I don’t need stuff to make me happy because my family makes me happy. They bring out the best in me that isn’t always there. My husband and children are all I need. Ten years ago such simplicity would have made me run screaming into the night, but now I find comfort in just how easy it is to be happy.

Now please share the hell out of this top ten list as you are required to do by the gods of social media.

making babies the new old fashioned way

Most people become parents the old fashioned way. They either say, “Let’s have a baby,” and then engage in meaningful heterosexual intercoursing, or they say, “Let’s have a drink,” and then three hours later forget to use a condom. And while both roads may lead to a baby, the second option makes for a better romantic comedy. We tried going the traditional intercourse route for years but it turns out you can’t make omelets without eggs. You also can’t make a baby with two penises because contrary to what your seventh grade health teacher told you in sex ed, you cannot get pregnant in the fanny.

Since boy + boy ≠ baby we turned to adoption. We had our reservations. Our first thought was, “Are gay people even allowed to adopt?” To our surprise not only were the gays permitted to adopt, they were encouraged to do so. There are nearly a half million children in the foster system and with most straights choosing to have babies through intercoursing, supply exceeds demand. Initially our caseworker seemed to only pass along profiles for the harder to place children. “He’s only started a few fires. I’d hardly call that a pattern.” We assured her that while we might be open-minded we didn’t think our dogs would enjoy living with someone who tortured animals even if “it was just that one time.” We persevered and eventually we hit the jackpot. Twice.

Adoption is a funny thing. You wait and you wait and you wait and then suddenly you have two kids and you’re driving a minivan. All you know is now and your memories are something that happened in a dream. I could not even begin to list all the ways being a father has changed my life because the person I am after my children is in no way related to the person I was before them.

Yesterday we met with our attorney to discuss the final steps in Elijah’s adoption. Today she will file the last round of paperwork and in a few short weeks we will go to court. When that day finally comes some judge will bang his gavel and poof! we will be a family. Except of course we already are a family. We may not have biologically created our boys, but they were born to be our sons just as we were born to be their fathers. And while the bang of that gavel will mean many things, it won’t change the most important thing.

we aren’t friends

Social media is a funny thing. We use it to share cat videos and photos of our families. We use it to show the world how clever we can be in 144 characters or less. We use it so everyone knows exactly what we are thinking on every subject all the time.

We use it without thinking.

But then again social media isn’t real. We don’t have a thousand friends. Or five thousand friends. Or, if we’re being honest, even a hundred friends. The majority of these imagined friendships exist in a distant world of interconnected routers and servers. They are code. They are not tangible. These friendships are cute and a great way to waste time, but 95% of our dealings on social media are conducted with people we barely know or people we knew a long, long time ago or people we never knew in the first place. And while it’s great that we’re all connected and we live in an age where we can share information, we are not required to be friends simply because the opportunity has presented itself.

I see people complaining that their news feed is clogged with friends who are racists, misogynists, homophobes, and I wonder: Outside of this distant world of interconnected routers and servers would you actually be friends with any of these people?  Honestly. In the real world where people look each other in the eyes and speak with words would you as a black man be friends with a person who thinks that black people deserve to be shot by the police? Would you as a woman have drinks with a man who thinks women should not work and if they do, they should make less money because they’re inferior? Would you as gay person invite into your home the neighbor who believes you should not have the right to visit your dying spouse in the hospital?

Personally, I refuse to maintain some virtual friendship with a virtual stranger who thinks my life as a gay man is wrong. Because someone who thinks your life is wrong is not your friend. At least not in the real world that exists beyond the tap-tap-tap of your smartphone.

You cannot fundamentally disagree with who I am as a person and honestly think that I’ll be okay with that because really you’re a good person you just have different views. No. Voting for Jeb Bush instead of Hillary Clinton is a different view. Preferring Target to Walmart is a different view. The view from your backyard compared to the view from my backyard is a different view. Believing that you are superior to me and sitting in judgment of my life is NOT a different view.

Also, you’re not a good person. I know that’s harsh, but you should hear it. All of your “love the sinner, hate the sin” bullshit is just what you tell yourself so you don’t have to admit to being what you really are: a hateful bigot.

Look, I get it. Your beliefs are important to you. My husband and children are important to me. I understand that the words your god said over two thousand years ago – or at least your interpretation of those words and I’m speaking of those words you choose to acknowledge, not those words you ignore because they’re inconvenient for you – I get that those words matter to you. My rights and freedoms IN THE PRESENT DAY matter to me. And I hear you loud and clear when you say that, while you’re happy for me, you believe marriage is between a man and a woman and that only a man and a woman should have children. Of course if that’s true then why do you keep liking my photos on Facebook, you know, all the photos of me and my husband on our honeymoon and the other photos of me and my husband parenting our children?

I guess it’s because you’re such a good person.

the day i met my son

He was waiting for us at the door. I imagine he had been there for days, from the moment his foster parents told him we were coming. With his perfectly parted hair and his blue shirt buttoned to the very top button, he had a smile so big it threatened to swallow the whole of the earth. I suspected his bags were already packed, tucked discreetly behind the door, in anticipation of our arrival. He would have come home with us in that moment had we let him. He would have gone anywhere with us in that moment. Us, the parents he had been waiting a lifetime to meet.

It had been six weeks since the decision. Some faceless committee on the other side of the country deciding our future and creating our family. From the start all we had been given was a basic narrative and a photo. It’s the photo that gets you. It’s the photo that dares you to imagine a lifetime of birthdays and Christmases and bedtime hugs. It’s the photo that teases you with a tomorrow that may never happen.

That photo. It invades your dreams. It speaks to you. It sometimes calls you Dad.

I had that photo, his photo, on my computer, but I tried not to look at it, afraid that I would go even further down the rabbit hole. Without the photo he was just a collection of words; a story with a beginning, middle and a distant end. Without the photo, I could close the book, put it back on the shelf. Without the photo he was not real.

Except he was real and I had already imagined all of the birthdays and the Christmases and the lifetime of hugs. I heard his voice call me Dad. I pictured a future with him, my son — this boy I’d never met. And that was dangerous. Because the faceless committee on the other side of the country deciding our future might have hated us. They could have chosen another family, a better match.

Of course, that wasn’t the case. They chose us.

We traveled backward through four time zones, arriving in Oregon shortly after we had left Pittsburgh. It was a few miles from the hotel to his foster home and as we drove I remember looking over at my husband and thinking, This is the last time it will be just the two of us. In a few minutes, for the rest of our lives, it would now be the three of us (at least).

I closed the car door and rounded the corner to the house. Everything changed.

In the movies and in books when writers employ that laziest of clichés love at first sight, I always roll my eyes and silently chastise the author for condescending to his audience with weak plot devices. “Show, don’t tell!” I want to scream as I throw the book across the room. “This isn’t real life!” I say as I shake my fists in protest at the movie screen.

People do not fall in love at first sight. Except for parents. Parents fall in love at first sight. From the moment they see their child they are in love. And it does not matter if they are seeing a newborn or a seven year old, that love is immediate and unconditional and eternal.

The moment I saw my son standing at that door — with his perfectly parted hair and his blue shirt buttoned to the very top button and his smile so big it threatened to swallow the whole of the earth — I was in love. We may have lived in two different worlds for the first seven years of his life, but he was my son as sure as if I had made him. Looking at him I realized that every moment in my life before this moment had been nothing more than an audition.

Curtain up.

He opened the door, offering his hand to me in greeting. It had been a rehearsed bit meant to show respect, but also a subtle wink from his foster parents to let me know that they had done their job, that he had manners. He shook with his left hand. I shook with my right hand. It was very awkward, less of a hand shake and more of a hand embrace. Just another reason to love him.

He had decided that I would be called Dad and Todd would be Papa. “I’m Christopher,” he said. 

My son, Christopher. And me, his Dad. Was I really someone’s Dad?

We made our way to the living room and sat on the couch, my husband on the left and me on the right with our son between us as if he had always been there. A camera appeared, immortalizing our first moments as a family. The picture captures two smiling grown men, wide-eyed and deliriously happy, and a young boy, home at last. The photo sits in my son’s room. Sometimes I find myself staring at that photo and suddenly I am inside the picture, living a memory as if today were yesterday and yesterday were now.

I hear my son reading to us. I can’t remember the name of the book, just the sound of his voice. The voice I first imagined before there was a voice, when all I had was a photo and a collection of words. Christopher, Chris, sits across from me, his face buried in his book as he reads with tentative confidence. I close my eyes and his voice takes me out of the room, out of the house, past the hotel, past tomorrow, fast forwarding me through a life that has yet to happen. We are on the plane, back in Pittsburgh, at our home. He is eight, nine, eighteen, twenty-seven years old. There are birthdays and Christmases and a lifetime of hugs. No longer a child, now a man. From the beginning of our story to the end of mine. He reads and I see it all.

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. Five days later when we boarded a plane back to Pittsburgh with our soon-to-be-adopted then-seven year old son in tow, we were a family. Sometimes everything just falls into place. Sometimes love at first sight transcends cliché. Sometimes only a stale platitude will do: it was meant to be.