We get a lot of compliments about adopting a child out of foster care, which is nice, I’m not complaining. No child enters into the foster care system without a truly terrible story, so people conjure up a classic Dickens drama with us cast as the kindly, middle-class couple who sweep in and save the day.
Other people think there is something that seems riskier about bringing a child into your home who may have been exposed to drugs, neglect, and abuse, so we are seen as brave as well as charitable. Even if you’re the kind of asshole who lectures parents about overpopulation and about how irresponsible it is to bring a child into a world like this, we still get a pass. We’re raising a child, but we didn’t create him in the first place.
As far as being gay dads, we’ve never hidden who we are, and no one’s given us anything but support. One of Mikey’s classmates at preschool told her mom that her friend Mikey has two dads, and her mom asked her what she thought about that.
“I think he’s lucky,” she said. “And I like his hair.”
Mikey’s hair requires a daily struggle with combs and conditioners just to make it look like the style we have going on, a middle-ground between afro and dreds. We were crushed when his now ex-hair-dresser hacked two inches off his hair all around, but we’ve been told by a few that it makes him look a little less feral. Which is probably good.
Outside the follicular controversy, we get many more compliments directly about our son. He stands out in a group of his peers as cuter, smarter, funnier, happier, more coordinated, and more articulate than most. That’s truly not just the voice of the proud Daddy talking here. And I’m quite certain I’m the first parent, gay or otherwise, who has ever felt this way. Seriously.
One of Mikey’s best friends in preschool has a cognitive therapist who visits him once a week. Levi doesn’t want to stop playing with Mikey, so the therapist suggested Mikey join them. I talked to Levi’s dad, who got a little choked up, talking about how much Mikey’s friendship has helped his son.
“I love that boy,” he said, plainly.
On Sunday, we went to a birthday party for another preschool friend at an indoor playground in Pasadena. Mikey and the birthday boy were climbing a structure made up of platforms covered by a rope netting to form a sort of vertical maze. After they made it up to the top, about 50 feet in the air, Mikey climbed back down and Brian started to cry. He said he didn’t know how to come down, and he was stuck.
Before any of us adults had a moment to react, Mikey said, “Don’t worry, Brian, I show you,” and scrambled back up and helped his friend down.
Mikey’s not an angel, but he’s really just instinctively good. That isn’t to say that he is fast sharing toys he really likes. And that is not to say we haven’t had some temper tantrums when he’s tired or thwarted from doing something involving sharp objects and explosives. Even simple bedtime negotiations are fraught with peril.
Last Friday, Mikey was all wound up after hanging out with his friends at our local sushi bar, where they all went under the table to giggle, and presumably to eat dried up gum. When we got home, he asked if he could watch Wonderpets on TV. We said he could maybe watch one episode, but then it would be too late to read our usual bedtime books. After getting into his pajamas, Mikey decided that he still wanted to watch Wonderpets.
After the show, we went to bed. He asked for a book, and I told him that he had made a choice to watch the TV show, but I would cuddle with him for a little while. He was very upset about not reading the books he had stacked by the bed.
Trying to control his temper but using his words, he said plainly, with cold anger, “I don’t like this.”
I told him I understood that. But that sympathy wasn’t enough.
“I don’t like you, Daddy!”
“You don’t like me, is that right?”
“No,” he growled. “I don’t. I don’t like you, Daddy.”
“Well, you probably don’t want to cuddle with someone you don’t like,” I said, getting up. “I’ll go away now.”
“Daddy?” he said, and grabbed my hand. I could see his big eyes in the dark. “I like you a little?”
Sunday the 20th was our first year anniversary of adopting Mikey. We do like him a little.