Justin and I started our journey for adoption a little over a year ago. We have talked about what a roller coaster the journey has been. We have had hurdles with agencies accepting us as an LGBT couple even though we have been together over 10 years. We have had people call and scam us about being a birthmother and then not even being pregnant. But we hit the greatest obstacle on our journey yet…. the words “some assembly required”.
We bought several items to put in the nursery such as a toy chest, Pack and Play, and a baby sleeper. Thinking it was a rainy Sunday and we would assemble them for something fun to do together, we dumped boxes of parts out on the floor. Hours later, and I emphasize hours, we have a toy chest assembled with the drawers in backwards! We held out the instructions that have no words, just drawings of screws and wooden pegs with an arrow pointing to another piece. I think Justin even said at one point “are you sure we are reading this right side up?”.
Now keep in mind we are both smart people. I have an engineering degree and should be able to figure this thing out in a heartbeat. But we sat there in our pile of screws, pegs, side A’s, and front panel’s for hours putting together these simple pieces. It got me chuckling that in order to be a parent you really need to be part daddy and part engineer to figure out how to assemble the nursery.
One of the best things we did when we bought the crib last summer was paid the deliverymen to assemble it. For $20 they would deliver and assemble it. Money well spent in my eyes. Justin probably agrees, because I am sure we would be divorced if we had to put that together ourselves. Or we would have 5 screws left worried if our crib would fall over!
Just wait until years from now when our child is waiting for Christmas or their birthday. The daddy engineers will be in the family room assembling their toys. I know the “some assembly required” is going to get more complicated with a kid hovering over us waiting for the toy to be done – and it will be worth every moment of agony assembling when we see the joy in our child’s eyes playing with the toy. Tonight the hopeful dads and part engineers sit together in the nursery dreaming. We are blessed and hopeful of things to come. Keep us in your thoughts this month.
Read more about Jason and Justin’s journey to become parents on JasonandJustin.com.
The Poop! – The first black tar that comes out of your child is shocking. After that the months are a blur but the amount of poop you’re handling and butt you’re wiping is etched in your brain. The quantity increases exponentially with each increasing size of diaper. When you’re at a 4 and you find a leftover NB on the bottom of the diaper bag that you finally have a free minute to clean out, you wonder how the NB fit on your baby, let alone hold any poop. You try to stay ahead of the tide of poop and be prepared to move up a size before the quantity becomes overwhelming, but it’s futile. When you least expect it (meaning when you have no change of clothes available and you’re in the biggest rush), the poop will find its way out of your toddler’s clothing much like the Blob found its way out of each building that they tried to contain it in. If you haven’t experienced the poop crawling up baby’s back and exiting through its hair and neckline, you haven’t lived!
The Meltdowns! – Your child is having the best day. You haven’t seen him so happy-go-lucky and carefree. He is enjoying every moment of quality time with you, his siblings, and anyone else who we meet along the way. You’re thinking to yourself, “This is so great. I must be doing something right. And I lucked out with such a healthy, normal kid!” Then it happens. You accidentally toss out the wrapper of his granola bar with an eighth of an ounce of unfinished bar still lodged in the unripped end of the wrapper. You didn’t see it in there. You have a brand new bar, with six yummy ounces all waiting to be devoured. But no matter. The ground shakes and the sky falls, as all hell breaks loose. You see the two eyes of your offspring merge into one as the deafening sounds explode and the body goes limp in a pile right in front of you and other horrified spectators. The show goes on for what seems like eternity before the anger turns into a cold shoulder with intermittent shuttering as the emotions wind down. The magic is gone, and all you can do is hope that there will be another day soon when it will return. You walk on eggshells the rest of the day, and breathe a sigh of relief when the bedroom door is closed after the last good night.
The Activities! – Who knew there were so many activities for kids in this world? Maybe it’s because we live in the shadow of a mayor metropolis (Los Angeles) whereas my childhood was in a very rural area (upstate New York), but who has choices like this? Is this normal to have five different activities to choose from for each half of each weekend day? And websites that are geared toward letting parents know what is available (i.e. Red Tricycle). For slow half days you always have the fallbacks like Disneyland, Santa Monica Pier, the beach, Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, Kidspace, the Zoo, or Underwood Farms. Of course that’s if you don’t have a play date planned with your child’s friend, or friend of a friend, or sibling of a friend. Or with one of the above mentioned does not have a fabulous birthday party to which your child is invited. If you have relatives nearby that’s always an intermittent visit. Then there’s always the library! The point is that all these venues and events have been created for the sole purpose of getting you sanely to around eight or nine o’clock at night, where it’s then all up to you to “put down” your child. Personally I’m waiting for someone to devise a “put down” party.
The Love! – I used to hear parents say that they would gladly lose a leg for their child, or even give up their life, and I would kind of chuckle to myself. I like my legs, and I’m in no rush to end my life. But now that I’m almost seven years and three boys into the whole parenting thing, I would throw in a kidney, an eyeball, and a tongue for them. Every day I’m doing things that I would never have imagined myself doing before the boys were here. Scoping out the road as we make our way across the intersection. Putting the texting machine (i.e. my cellphone) in the trunk as I drive the boys around town. Catching a sneezeful of snot in my bare hand so my sniffly older son will not infect my still healthy youngest. But those pale in comparison to the ways that my sons show their love to me. Asking, “Can we snuggle?” as we catch the last bit of TV before bed. Running over and making sure I’m okay when I hit my head on the corner of an opened cabinet door. Yelling, “I love you, Daddy!!!” out the front door as I start on my jog down to the beach, over and over again until I am simply too far away to hear that it’s still happening. It is surprise number 4 that makes surprises 1, 2, and 3 so easy to deal with. I just hope I’m ready for 5, 6, and 7.
By Rob Watson
When my sons were very little, about three years old, there were times when I would sit back and just marvel at them. Here were these incredible little boys exploring and reacting to the world around them. Since my sons are “almost twins”, only four months apart in age having been born to different drug addicted mothers, they experienced most things at the same developmental level.
Because each had his own individual personality, the reactions and interactions became unique and fascinating. As they grew, they seemed to depart from things that were generically baby gestures, to behaviors that were characteristic of them themselves. They were becoming their own people with personalities.
This was both exciting and daunting for a parent to observe. On the one hand, it was the watch of time and change interceding far too quickly, and at too great a rapid pace. On the other, it was the biggest thrill I could imagine: seeing my two sons emerge and become who they would be. I could not wait to meet and know, and love them.
I remember one morning when the boys were three years old, a cold Sunday, when I was orchestrating activities with them. Jesse, for no apparent reason, came over, grabbed my face, pulled it toward him, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. My partner happened to be snapping pictures and he caught the moment. I look disheveled, and the lighting in the picture is bad, but to this day, it is my favorite photo of all time.
Jesse, the generously affectionate young man he was becoming, had emerged for his first moment from the blond little toddler. Knowing who he is now, it was a thrill to see the glimpse of him then. Watching my sons develop from babies into the men they will be is my greatest life’s honor.
Not all parents relate to this joy of children developing into themselves as I do, particularly when those parents are homophobic and the child’s emergence is indicating that he or she may be either gay or transgender. In those cases, things can get very ugly, very fast.
The “American Family Association” founder James Dobson declared that starting as early as age five, children might show some sort of inclinations, and he prescribed parental actions to make the children change their instincts.
One such parent was Oregon mom, Jessica Dutro. Her little boy Zachary was not reacting to things in as masculine a way as she expected. She thought he would become gay. “He walks like it and talks like it. Ugh.” She wrote to boyfriend, Brian Canady, and she instructed Brian to “work on him”. They both worked on Zachary. Until Zachary was dead.
Jessica Dutro is an abusive woman. Her behavior towards her other kids shows that fact. The blend of homophobia with those abusive tendencies made her deadly.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a requiem to Fred Phelps, a man who personified hatred. His life was a failure, and my final message to him was one of pity. Today, I write a requiem to Zachary. He was not hatred, he was sweet and energetic. He was killed by hatred. There is no pity in this message. I am angry.
Good bye. We, the world, have failed you little one. You came to us, bright and full of promise, and we left you in the hands of one who did not appreciate your brightness, and in fact, she sought to make you suffer for who she thought you might be.
I am sorry. I did not cause the force that killed you, and in fact, I fight it daily. You are dead, however, and for me, that means that I did not fight hard enough, not nearly hard enough.
You were killed by homophobia, my child. It came through the hands of parents, through the very hands and arms that should have been there to grab you, and hold you and love you. It was the force of homophobia that killed you however, not just those physical blows that delivered it. While your parents embodied that hatred, it was not created by them, it had been given to them in many ways from the world around them.
I am sorry you were born in a world where too many voices tell you not to be you. No one should have to fight for the right to be themselves, least of all, a four year old child.
I am sorry you were born into a world where so many feel that the ability to physically make a child is more important that the ability to love and nurture one. Where people are writing court papers vilifying parents who do not physically procreate, they should be writing briefs condemning parents who do not love. Birthing a child is merely bringing it to life. Loving a child is truly giving it a reason to live.
I am sorry you were born into a world where people believe in misinterpreted Bible passages and tired dogmas. They hold onto them only so they can rationalize hating something they don’t understand. Something they see in you, even in your innocence.
I am sorry for all the beauty, magnificence, talent and life that you represented that is now gone. I miss the adult you were to become: the father, the artist, or the hero. I mourn the children you did not get to raise and the better world you did not get to help build.
A man named Fred Phelps died a few weeks ago, two years after you did. He lived his life being hateful, trying to get people to be more homophobic. He failed and his efforts made people not want to be like him. Homophobia lost. You lived your life being loving, and your efforts made two people hate you. Homophobia still lost however, because I will never ever forget you.
I pray that your short life is held up as the horrible cost of the homophobic mindset. That mindset is not an opinion. It is not a right to religious beliefs. It is a deep and ever present danger that kills the innocent. I pray that your life robs homophobia of its glory and helps shame it into non-existence.
Nothing will replace the life we lost in you. You were our child and we allowed our world to inspire your fate. You deserved so much better.
With you in our hearts, little man, I promise you, we will do so much better. We will shut this intolerance, this indecency down even harder. We can’t give you back your life, but through your memory, we can take back our own lives and this world.
We have the power to make this world one of love, fairness and peace. You have reminded us why we need to do that for all the future little boys and little girls just like you. We owe it to them. We owed it to you. We will not fail again.
To listen to a podcast where the author delivers the requiem, please go to: http://outinsantacruz.com/firefox-cookies-and-zachary/
Born in the 60’s and living as a teenager in the mid to late 70’s, my early years seem so much different than anything my sons are sure to experience when they hit their teen years. That’s a good thing because the world has so much more to offer now. Alas, that’s also a bad thing. They have a hyper vigilant father, because in this day and age I know I have to be. There is social media, the Internet, and cell phones to contend with. Predators get their own five-week coverage on CNN, so we learn every scary detail about them. Across the nation gay men and women are enjoying a ride to the land of normalcy as we speak, but with that comes the extremists and religious zealots who will stop at nothing to prove their point, even going as far as to hurt our children.
I’m torn because I want my sons to have a sense of adventure, but I’m afraid that if they do some of things that I myself have done or experienced, my heart will not be able to take it. I’ve gone skydiving, for example, just to check it off my bucket list, but with skydiving the odds seem very much in the jumper’s favor. Nevertheless, I will be horrified the day they tell me they want to try it (and I’m sure that at least one of them will!)
I’ve had other experiences that I couldn’t even fathom happening in this day and age. Like my solo bicycle ride across the US when I was 22. Several months before the summer of 1984 I announced to my parents that I would be bicycling across the nation in order to get to California, which I had recently come to learn was a mecca for both triathlon training and gay life! Who knew? Although my parents were a little nervous to say the least, there was no negotiation or discussion about the rationality or the intelligence of my decision. I was doing it and that was that. I could not imagine anything less than a ton of conversations with plenty of grilling going on with my boys if they were to want to do this trip.
For two months (91 miles per day average), I pedaled west (and then south down the entire Pacific coast), not knowing where I was going to sleep each night until I got there. If it wasn’t a church yard, or school yard, or behind a billboard, or in the woods right off of the beaten path (I had a lightweight tent and sleeping bag with me), then it was in the home of an absolute stranger that invited me in for the evening. I hadn’t watched ‘Nancy Grace’ or ‘America’s Most Wanted’ prior to my trip, so I had no reason to think that anyone had any bad intentions. In other words, I was extremely naïve. That would not be the case with my sons. I would totally load them up with fear.
Another time, when I was a young athletic 15-year old just learning about sensuality and sexuality (I was a late bloomer), my family took the hour-long car ride to New York City to see the big tree at night in Rockefeller Center during Christmas break. We ate at a fairly upscale restaurant right across from the tree, with a beautiful window table so we could see the tree as we dined. It was halfway through the meal when I noticed him. An older guy (30s?) was smiling at me through the window, and then the current of the crowd would take him away. Minutes later he was back, giving me “the look” as he was again swept away. This went on for the remainder of the meal and I could hardly contain myself. When he saw us getting up after settling the bill, he was gone and did not return to the window, despite my every attempt to will him back.
We went close to the tree where a crowd was of course congregating all around, celebrating and meandering as the holiday music played and flurries fell in the freezing cold. I was standing a couple of rows behind my family, just so it wasn’t so obvious that I was searching for my guy with the jean jacket over a white hoodie. All of a sudden I could feel hands come from behind me and slip effortlessly into each of my pockets. I knew right away it was he as he pulled me close to his gymnast body and said, “You are so sexy.” I think I said “You too”, but the music was crazy loud by now and anyway it didn’t matter what I said. I stood there and enjoyed his hands for the next several moments until he was gone, just in time for my parents to say, “Let’s get going” to my siblings and me. I now know how easy it would have been to pull me away to a windowless van waiting down the street.
Overall I think my experiences affected me positively but clearly I dodged some bullets. My parents didn’t have the World Wide Web. They had seven television channels, one of which was extremely fuzzy unless they shook the rabbit ears just right. I will do my best now to stay ahead of the learning curve, be on the lookout for the danger de jour, and talk talk talk to my sons about what lies ahead, and beneath, and above them. Learn from my mistakes, I’ll say, no matter how pleasurable they actually were.
This guest post is by Mercy Verner, a birthmother.
I made one of the hardest decisions of my life. It started a little over a year ago. I found out I was pregnant. I stared at the test, as if it would change. I realized that it was not going to change, and I immediately freaked out.
I didn’t know what to do. I knew I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t take care of another human being. At least, not in the way that I wanted to. I wanted my child to have more than what I had growing up.
I decided that that is what I needed to do. I needed to give my child a better life than what I could give. I went through all the options associated with adoption. I browsed many adoption websites and a few places, but none of them seemed right.
Then I stumbled across a website that dealt with same-sex couples and I learned about open adoption. I looked through the possible adoptive parents and one couple – Matt and Trey – stuck out from the rest. They looked a bit goofy, and they seemed truly happy with each other.
I explored their profile and watched a video about them interviewing their cat about being a big sister. It reminded me so much of my family, and right then and there I knew that they were the perfect couple.
As our relationship with them began to grow, they felt like part of the family. Months had gone by and things were going the way I wanted them to. I was almost ready(ish). In my head, I knew exactly what I needed to do, but my heart was aching. Emotionally, I wasn’t ready at all.
Then the contractions started. I was so scared. I wasn’t ready to let go. I just wanted to keep her in there and never let go. Unfortunately, the reality set in. I was at a regular check-up after being in inactive labor for eleven days.
As the doctor checked me, she spoke those few words that I definitely did not want to hear just yet. She informed me that I would be having a baby that night. I was freaking out, and trying to stay cool at the same time.
It did not work that well. I didn’t have anything ready. I made my way up to labor and delivery; it became even more overwhelming. I laid in that hospital bed, trying to sort out my thoughts, and waiting for the nurses to give me an update about how everything was going.
I thought that I couldn’t do it; it just seemed to surreal. Then the father walked into the room and it somewhat reassured me. He had been there through the entire pregnancy and I was so happy to have him there.
It was a hard pregnancy, with many decisions. I don’t know how I could have made it through all the craziness of pregnancy without him. In a few short hours, we welcomed our daughter to the world. August 19, 2013.
I spent that night with my daughter. I could hardly sleep. I woke up with every little sound she made. The next morning I was awaiting the arrival of Matt and Trey. It felt like an eternity for them to get to the hospital.
They finally arrived and I was so glad they had made it and were there with me. I spent the next week with all three of them. During that week, the father and I had to sign the final adoption papers.
That was the hardest thing to do. Just hearing what was happening. It was easier just to not talk about it. As I signed them, I began to panic. I tried my hardest to stay strong. I wasn’t about to let myself be selfish, especially when it came to my daughter.
I kept telling myself that I love her and that this is the best thing I could possibly ever do for her. As they left my hometown and we made our goodbyes, I could feel my heart breaking. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I didn’t want to go.
I knew that I would see them again soon. I was so skeptical. I thought that we would hardly talk. Oh boy, was I ever wrong. I talk to them all the time, and whenever. We Facetime when we can and I receive pictures of her almost daily.
I get to see my daughter grow up, I truly love the concept of an open adoption. It helped that I could still be mom. It definitely is hard but it is something that is a day-by-day challenge. I absolutely love my relationship with Matt and Trey and especially my daughter.
I was so scared that this would be a nightmare, but I was wrong. My family has grown so much more.
By John Jericiau
I often have this same recurring dream. I just woke up from it in fact. I’m in my Honda Odyssey. It’s been parked outside a party or some kind of get together. The event has ended and I’m in the driver’s seat about to start it. The road that I’m parked on is extremely steep, and I’m parked facing uphill. There is snow on the ground and all my windows are foggy from the cold except for the front windshield. I have black gloves on.
I proceed to turn the key to start the engine, and nothing happens. The engine doesn’t turn over. However, I do begin to roll backward. Ever so slowly at first, but I quickly pick up speed. Nothing I do to prevent this from happening works. I can’t turn off the car. I can’t shift gears. The other partygoers that are meandering back to their cars start to scream. I feel large objects as my Odyssey drives over them.
My rationale mind takes over and I decide that I have to do something. My speed is increasing and I don’t want to crash someone’s dinner on the way down the hill. Blindly I cut the steering wheel one direction as hard as I can, and the behemoth I was trying to control raises its left front and left rear wheels. I softly (never with a bang) land and slide for a bit on the entire right side of the vehicle, until I come to a gradual stop. No crash, no explosion. I’m not hurt. Partygoers come running and I fearfully ask if I hurt anyone. Not a soul. It’s only then that I remember that I had a baby sleeping in the car seat behind my seat. I whip my head around to see that he is still sleeping soundly.
I’m not sure why this is floating around in my head. Some say that dreams are a reflection of our best hopes and worst worries. I shouldn’t be worried about snow. I live in Southern California (although I’m originally from New York.) It’s fairly flat in our beach community, although we spend a fair amount of time in the mountains surrounding us. Plus, in all my years I’ve never seen a car accident happen, let alone be in one (and I have probably jinxed – double jinxed – that streak.)
I have had some problems with my Honda. Now and then it would fail to start, much like in my dream, and I would have to find a jump. I recently had a new battery installed, covered by the warranty. And there was the time in the first month I had the Honda, where I felt that there was a delay from the time I pressed on the gas until the time where I started moving forward, and I rolled backwards in my driveway a few feet until the wall of my house stopped me. I’ve kept that boo boo covered for 1 ½ years with an Obama supporter magnet, but after many times finding it thrown on the ground by people passing by my parking spot at a store, it recently disappeared completely.
I’m surprised that I don’t have nightmares about my greatest fear: child abduction. I’ve stopped watching ‘Nancy Grace’ or ‘America’s Most Wanted’ long ago because of the head games those shows would play on me. I imagine that because of all the haters out there (and now that Fred Phelps has died there is at least one less) who will stop at nothing to extinguish my happiness, they will try to hit me right where it hurts. Not my wallet, but my heart. And as any parent knows, steal my kid and game over. I know it’s crazy to think that someone would take a child just because of whom their parent loves, but I’ve lived through 9/11, and I’ve read about the murders in Russia, so I’ve got to keep my guard up.
So as I’m sitting in my house listening to the boys play in the backyard, and there comes a lull in the noise, I find myself running back to check on them, or yelling back there “Everybody okay?” or I ask them to sing that song from ‘Frozen’ yet one more time.
As I’m driving I’m constantly studying my surroundings, inventing scenarios and the solutions to escape them. If that oncoming bus suddenly veered into my lane, what would I do? If that mild mannered Pit Bull on the ground ahead of us suddenly charged out at my boys, which foot would I use to kick it and knock it out? Or if someone in a nondescript van snatched one of my boys who was lagging a half a block back while we were walking down the street, would I chase it or call for help? The police would take about 5 minutes to get to my house; Uber about 3.
It’s tiring being so vigilant, always having to be on your toes. But the alternative is frightening, horrific, and maddening. So I will stay prepared, and maybe someday I will wake up from the nightmare called hate.
It happens often, and it’s happening right now. Even though I have three boys and all the activities in their lives to orchestrate, there are times when our household is running like a well-oiled machine, humming through life day by day with ease. I have no worries, except wondering how I’m going to spend each moment of each fabulous day.
This is not one of those times. Maybe it’s because one parent (my other half) has been travelling for work a lot in an unpredictable pattern. It might be because the boys have passed around a cold virus like a ping-pong ball at the rec center. Or perhaps one might say it’s because we have three boys under 7.
While these might be factors that shake up the schedule, most parents are well aware that this is just how life works. Just when things are running smoothly and you’re getting a handle on your to-do list, getting back to consistent workouts, and actually reading a book, a rogue wave comes along to wash away all your careful planning.
Colds and other illnesses are always a danger. Besides having a miserable child, you have a miserable child who is banned from all their activities (so they are with you nearly 24/7 to infect you) and who is extra clingy (and ready to infect you with a productive cough that has your face as a target.)
The extended family is always a threat to a calm life. Aging parents have more reports of discomfort and pain than a classroom full of kids, and you’re recipient numero uno of those reports. Siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles have their own lives and troubles, babies and divorces, accidents and arrests, and depending on your relationship with the particular relative, you may feel like you have an extra child or two.
Other things I call administrative in nature can take up a huge chunk of your time and energy, and believe me sometimes these things are the bane of my existence. Finding time to work on these silent killers (silent because they get no press, no pay, and no applause) can be frustrating. This is usually how I find myself spending the hours of 9:00pm to 11:00pm much to the chagrin of my other half, who nevertheless understands that I honestly have no other time in my day to perform the administrative duties. Preparing taxes (heavy on my mind right now), paying bills, and picking out summer activities. Planning vacation, making doctor’s appointments, and buying new clothes for boys who are growing like weeds. Laundry, dishes, and general cleaning. I say general cleaning because forget about getting to more specific cleaning. Weeks have gone by where I’ve noticed a random pile of dirt or a toy in the corner, and I have literally not had a second to pick it up. Sounds utterly crazy, but I know you know what I’m talking about.
Renew a passport. Call a friend. Get a vehicle’s oil changed. File some papers. Buy the monthly anniversary gift. Reorganize the closet in the foyer. After a while the list that constantly loops through my brain becomes a loud numbing buzz, one that paralyzes me and prevents me from doing anything on the list. So I get nothing done that can be characterized as a “project.” Except now I am really really good at making lists. And complaining about the length and difficulty of them to anyone who will listen – which is no one because who listens to an aging parent?
Vladimir Putin is used to winning. He is undisputedly a winner from the recent LGBT confrontation-free Olympic Games. He now has his eyes set on the Ukraine and he has taken control of the internet in Russia. The biggest snowjob was not the white wet stuff on the ground in Sochi, it was the year of neigh saying by the Olympic and Russian authorities about treatment of gay people in the former Soviet Union.
Last week came news that Mr. Putin has been nominated in another contest—for a Nobel Prize due to his influence on the conflict in Syria.
As a dad, more than as a gay man, the idea of Putin getting any kind of an award is unfathomable. His treatment of LGBT people is horrific, with gay men being hunted, humiliated and abused, as seen in the film Hunted.
Then there are the million children. Putin and his policies are one of the single greatest forces of child destruction in the world.
It is estimated that across Russia there are about one million un-parented children living in poorly managed foster care homes, and many living is overcrowded orphanages. The abuse of these kids is legendary. According to a Human Rights report, the children are force to stay still and not move, be tied to furniture, lie in urine soaked sheets, stand en masse in wooden pens even in winter, be beaten, starved and ignored. When the children reach 15 or 16, they leave the system. A UNICEF report estimates that a third of them then live on the streets, twenty percent become criminals, and ten percent commit suicide.
The children who have been rescued from this squalor are among the most damaged of the world’s orphans. Parents worldwide have reported how the children they receive into their open arms are ones with all hope and vigor drained from their beings. Saving them is a long process.
Journalist Mary Gold described her own experience when she got her daughter who had been in a Russian foster care home, ““We have since heard horror stories of dreadful conditions in some homes, of babies with dummies taped into their mouths for hours on end; of children who are still being bottle-fed at the age of eight and haven’t been taught to walk or talk. We discovered that our baby had left her cot only to be washed. She had never breathed fresh air — the room in which she was confined was stiflingly hot — and neither had she seen her own reflection. When we collected her four months after we first met her (the time it took for the adoption process to be completed), she was 17 months old but still weighed a pitiful 17lb.”
Russian doctor Vera Drobinskaya told the BBC last year that she discovered conditions in the one orphanage were so bad that “at least 41 children had died over 10 years, apparently of neglect.”
A group in Russia is charted with a desperate band-aid mission. The group called Russia Without Orphans has targeted Moscow where they estimate there are 18,000 orphans. Their goal is to create a solution for the 4000 of those kids who are not placed in foster care homes. The perk of the program is that the people who sign up for it get a state funded apartment in which to raise the kids. The requirements are that the participants must take a minimum of 5 children “of which at least three teenagers over 12 years or children with disabilities”.
This is a situation that calls for a massive international relief effort. Putin’s government is not the least bit interested. Rather than establishing means to better care for parentless kids, they seem fixated on minimizing the potential international parent candidates by propping up homophobia. The parents from the United States have been banned for over a year. CNN also reported, “Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree banning foreign same-sex couples — as well as single people from countries where same-sex marriages are legal — from adopting Russian children…The portion affecting singles appears to stem from concerns Russian lawmakers have publicly expressed that single prospective adoptive parents could turn out to be gay and enter a same-sex marriage in their home countries.” This action closed down prospective adoptions from over a dozen countries. Whether blinding bigotry drives this policy or whether LGBT abuse is a smokescreen to distract the world from Russia’s social failures is open for conjecture.
As a dad, I need to speak up. Will I be listened to? Probably not, but if I don’t sound out on this, I can’t expect others to either. If no one does, then a million children will stay trapped, abandoned, and facing a horrific present with a destructive dysfunctional future.
Dear President Putin,
I am the dad of two kids. You are essentially the father of a country and one of the most powerful men on earth. There are days that I am not sure I have the power to make my kids clean their room. Yet, I have the audacity to write to you and offer you advice to your horrifically failed systems regarding the Russian children. I also represent the one community who could be your greatest resource for help, the world’s LGBT families.
I write because I can. I write because we come from two different worlds. My sons enjoy the Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass stories. To them, they are pure fiction. For you and I, they seem to be an allegorical reality. I come from this side of the looking glass, from atop the rabbit hole. You rule the other side—the one where the leaders wear the picture of a big heart while screeching for their subjects to lose their heads.
Here is why I am writing to you. You are a child abuser. You are nominated for a Nobel prize, but you abuse the children of Russia.
Your children services infrastructure has failed and the children it tortures are among the world’s most traumatized when they emerge from it. That is, if they are lucky enough to emerge from it at all.
Meanwhile, in your through-the-looking-glass logic, you attack gay families and call us child molesters. A University of Cambridge study showed that gay dad lead families are the most likely to come to the rescue of kids like the ones you have trapped in a hopeless and bureaucratic system. An Australian study, the most comprehensive and accurate of its kind, shows that kids raised in LGBT families fair BETTER than they do in heterosexual ones.
It is inconceivable therefore that you shut the door to countries who allow such families to adopt. Even in the United States a few decades ago where LGBT couples were not allowed to marry anywhere, they were still allowed to be foster care parents in most of the states of the union. While the anti-gay forces towed their party line that marriage was for only for heterosexuals with children, they were pragmatic enough to know that they needed our families to take kids who would otherwise suffer with neglect.
Down the rabbit hole, such logic does not seem to exist. Instead, you insist that children either suffer in groups, or are put in your “best case” scenario, that in our country would itself be considered substandard. I know what these kids really need because my two sons are special needs kids. They would not be OK in Russia.
Both my sons were adopted as babies from drug addicted heterosexual parents. They are now eleven years old, born four months apart from each other. My oldest has had therapy to help him process language, to understand sequences and conceptual ideas. It was only a year ago for example, that he could understand what the words “yesterday” and “tomorrow” meant since the actual days they represent change…daily. He had to be taught things that most kids will learn by osmosis.
My other son has severe issues with the ability to focus and used to write everything as a complete mirror image of itself. He too had to be taught…everything. We had to teach him how to turn things around, and make them right.
This is just what I am pleading for you to do in your own country. Turn things around and make them right. I am hoping that the dad in me can reach the dad of a country in you. To that point, one of the things I have learned as a dad is that you cannot do it all alone. At times, it is OK to ask for help. That has been true for me. It is obviously true for you.
You cannot solve your orphaned children situation alone. Forcing even three special needs kids into a home with two other kids and an adult paid to parent them, is not the answer. While it is better than children chained to a bed, it is still far from the minimum those children require for healthy lives.
My sons just returned from a three-day science camp. As I cuddled with my son Jesse in a pile of stuffed animals, he told me about his adventures. He rested his head against my chest and I could feel his world in this teddy bear pile, get as safe and warm as is humanly possible. I gently kissed his head, as my mind wandered to the idea of a Russian Jesse, alone, shut down, with no daddy in sight. My heart breaks knowing there are a million Jesses in your country.
You need help. Rather than restricting your adoption policies, you need to open them wide. Rather than rejecting families who do not biologically procreate, you need to embrace them.
Magic can happen on this side of the looking glass—if you reach out for help, you will get it. If you confront the situation as it really is, and let the world know you need one million families who are willing to love the most needy kids on earth, those families will step up.
They will forgive you, and they will be there for those kids. They will love them, nurture them and heal them. People will call them heroes, but they will consider themselves to be the lucky ones, because they will have the privilege of loving. I am not speaking in theory. This is characteristic of hundreds of LGBT foster families I know.
If you reversed your policies, and emerged from the “Wonderland” world, making things right-sized and no longer backwards, then these families could do what they were meant to do. Others would look at them and tell them how they all deserved Nobel Prizes for their work.
They would not accept those accolades, however; they would want the prizes to go instead to someone who made it all possible.
They would want to give the prize to you.
By John Jericiau
It’s a very unique situation, to say the least. Here I am, a stay-at-home Daddy who is almost seven years deep into the whole parenthood thing. We’ve got three beautiful and thriving sons, two who are 6 years old (but are 8 months apart to the day), and one who is a tad over 16 months old. They’re doing great in school, and participate well in every activity they’ve got going on right now, including tennis lessons, swim lessons, gymnastics, Cross Fit, basketball, and Spanish Immersion. A significant percentage of the time I find myself navigating the day’s (and night’s) events by myself, due to the intensely packed schedule of my husband who is working his doctor butt off on the job while also putting his nose to the grindstone trying to complete successfully his physician executive MBA program. With that and our mutual desire to maintain a high heart rate for at least 60 minutes per day, trying to fit in all that is expected of us (and intimacy – don’t forget the intimacy!) is a huge challenge given the speed that the earth rotates around the sun (meaning there are not enough hours in a day.)
Look around you. Some families have a nanny or two. Not ours. Other families use babysitters to help bridge gaps or provide some needed relief in the schedule. We’ve never used one. And some families have extended families available at the drop of a dime. Ours are not local; although when times are tough we can manage a drive over there for a bit of a break.
The uniqueness I alluded to earlier is that our help comes in the form of our surrogate/friend. Beginning as coworkers, our relationship blossomed into a nice friendship but then absolutely flowered when she offered to carry not one but two of our three sons. And although she was not interested in a biological relationship of any kind (and neither were we – hence the use of egg donors), she was keenly interested in the experience of pregnancy, as she had never experienced that miracle of life previously, and by examining her biological clock, would probably never get the chance to, given the middleness of her age. I’m trying to put lightly that there is no husband in sight and she’s getting up there.
Every Saturday night our surrogate/friend has watched our two boys and then the third as well when he came along, in order for us to enjoy date night. I can count on one hand how many times we have missed date night in the last half a decade. This alone is huge, and we are enormously grateful (which still pales in comparison to the grateful we feel for carrying our sons, which is humungous.) But the kicker is that there’s more! On her days off, on weekends, on her vacations, she will come over to hang out and lend a hand. Ever have moments when your three boys are acting out and screaming and pretty much acting crazy and you think to yourself that you wish you could grow another hand? In our case my friend’s hand magically appears like a pond in the middle of a desert. She is truly a big help, the boys really like her, and she has definitely become one of the members of our family.
With all this good, which is really good, you have to know that there’s gonna be some bad, albeit not real bad. Just some things that might not occur to a person who has not had a chance to stand in our size 10 ½ shoes. Such as disciplining. The differences in style can be a little more than perplexing. While we might try to reason more and explain our decisions and the rationale we used to come to those decisions, she might be more Army Sargent in her approach. The boys know they only have two parents, but we want our friend to have some disciplining power to handle the boys, especially in our absence, so we tolerate her differences when they appear in our presence, even if it’s not exactly how we would do it.
If we’re enjoying a family night out, whether it’s dinner, the movies, or what not, invariably someone will say to our friend “Beautiful kids, Mom!” especially if my better half is not with us and it appears more likely that we are a heterosexual couple. Now, I’ve been out of the closet a long time (30 years to be exact), with no intention of going back in, but comments like this (harmless and as well-intentioned as they might be) don’t feel right to me. I do not want to appear (or act) any other way than the way I really am, which is really gay. The not-right feeling gets a notch stronger when my friend will, without hesitation, say; “Oh, thank you!” right back. The hairs in my ears stand on end as I smile graciously and take two deep breaths. I find that I am often reminding myself of the gifts that my friend has altruistically given to my family. Inside I am embarrassed of these feelings, for I want to give back to my friend a little happiness, and share some of the feeling of family that runneth over my cup, and stop being so concerned with my own selfish feelings. So I take the opportunity presented to me to hug my boys, thank the stranger, and give a big wet one on the lips of my husband.
By Rob Watson
Last year some workmates and I made an “It Gets Better Video” for the large company at which I work. It had a message of hope, and experience. This past week I heard two more cases of kids killing themselves after intense bullying. The message is not getting through.
At the video shoot, lights were set up, cameras and microphones were put in place and several of us sat in front of the camera and told you how we have been in similar places to where you are today. We know the pain, and we know the anguish. We shared with you about our stories of survival. We shared about fulfilling lives that we each are grateful to be living today. Lives on the other side of the bullying experience. We want you to hear the message that it does and will get better.
My own story was about being a geeky over weight kid in junior high school who wore flamboyant 60 style clothing in a rural jeans and t shirt town. A kid whose sexual orientation was called out when the word “faggot” was etched into his locker for all the other, already hostile, kids to see. That word kept me silent for the next two years.
Not a single one of us left being in front of the camera with dry eyes. The pain was that fresh, and the feeling of wanting better for you was that intense.
In some ways, the times that we went through our bullying experiences were worse than now. No one was calling out bullying as an issue. For those of us who are LGBT, there were virtually no allies. Those things have gotten better. There are things that you have to endure that we did not, however. We were not in an environment of twitter, FaceBook and cyber bullying… and those things can make what you have to deal with so much harsher and constant. We are working to stop those things from getting to you, and you have to help us stop them from having an effect too.
There is a common denominator for all who are and have been bullied. Acceptance. In our stories yesterday most of us shared about the creation within ourselves of our own receptive self-bully. That bully is the most dangerous. He or she is the one that says that all the other bullies are right about us. Our self bully says that we actually deserve the abuse they are doling out. Yesterday, grown professional men shed tears of mourning over the still fresh wounds from those feelings that we had held at one point in our lives that we were not worthy to be here.
The bullies are wrong. All of them. The bully within is the most wrong and deluded of them all.
You are unique and beautiful and have a profound purpose here. I know that to be true. The men yesterday know that to be true. We need you to know it too. There is a quote from the Desiderata, “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.” That quote is not just a nice saying for a greeting card. It is the Truth… and it is the truth about YOU.
There are many more stars than human beings. There are many more magnificent trees. They are each created uniquely, gloriously and magnificently. You were created with the same principles as they were. You have as much right to your place in this universe as our Sun, as the Earth, as the grandest redwood. Own that fact for yourself, today, now.
The only difference is…. When a star, or a redwood or another miracle of the universe is bullied, it doesn’t listen.
Neither should you.
It helps when you can surround yourself with others who believe in you. Instead of listening to those who don’t, find the ones who do. We are out here and as much as you are looking for us…we are looking for you.
Desiderata concludes with these words: “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy”
Photo Credit: Mindaugus Danys