Three years ago, my partner Jamie and I welcomed a remarkable 8-year-old boy into our lives. We met Patrick when he was living in foster care in Cincinnati. Four months later, he was able to come live with us in Manhattan, and another year later, we adopted him. We are the only dads he has ever known.
Patrick is a typical boy in many ways. He is highly social, loves to play rough-and-tumble with other kids, and has obsessions with sports cars and toy trains. Somewhere along the way, he was blessed with an ability to adapt quickly to new situations, including living in this great city. Mostly for the better, Patrick has become a typical Manhattanite, revealed most recently to me when I took him to see the Richard Serra retrospective at MoMA. “I’ve already seen this stuff at the Dia Center on a school field trip,” he told me with a yawn.
Like many others who have decided to become parents, Jamie and I wanted to pass our knowledge, values, and love on to a young person. Adoption is just one of many ways to do this, and in most U.S. states, married and unmarried people, gay or straight, are legally allowed to adopt children.
Most people would say that being gay has nothing to do with parenting. Our abilities to undertake the day-to-day responsibilities of raising a child—making school lunches, teaching activities of daily living, reading together, planning play dates, overseeing homework, and just hanging out together—depend upon strengths and energies within us that are totally unrelated to our sexual preferences.
At the same time, that Jamie and I are gay has everything to do with the family we have created through adoption. I do not pretend that our family is “traditional,” which means we must provide an explanation to people from time to time. New teachers and new friends of Patrick need to know that Patrick has two dads—this avoids uncomfortable misunderstandings down the road. I am accustomed to sharing this information, and rarely mind telling our adoption story. As Patrick gets older, he may develop more complex reactions to the fact that our family is different, and we have to be prepared for that.
The lion’s share of questions and comments about our adoption of Patrick have not been about our being gay parents, but about the fact that he was 8 years old when he came to live with us. Some people have called this act brave and others generous, but we had other motivations for adopting a child who wasn’t an infant. Patrick was old enough to comprehend the circumstances of his adoption, and does not need for us to reveal it to him down the road. We love that he remembers his mother vividly. Most touchingly, during the adoption process, I had a definite sense that Patrick was choosing to be in our lives as much as Jamie and I were choosing him to be in ours. My heart is glad about that.