Friday, May 16, 2014

Things I KNOW

When I was growing up, I KNEW that I wanted to be a parent.  My mother was a very good role model, and I KNEW that I wanted to experience the same kind of connection and joy she got from being a mom.  When I came out, I set that goal on a back burner of sorts.  Society wasn't too keen on gay people having anything to do with kids, and becoming a parent seemed like an insurmountable mountain.  Adoption and surrogacy are the most common methods, but they're lengthy and very pricey.  In those days there were plenty of stories about parents losing custody of their children, whether biological or adopted.  I also KNEW I didn't want to be a single parent, because I saw how hard it was for Mom.  It seemed like the universe was telling me that it wasn't in the cards.  Then one day it told me otherwise.

I met someone and fell in love.  He wanted to be a father too, and we started thinking.  Then planning.  I KNEW it wouldn't be easy.  I KNEW that we'd encounter problems along the way, and that it wouldn't be popular with everyone.  Then again, I'm not really one to put popularity first.  We prepared ourselves for negativity at every turn, but have been pleasantly surprised.  Medical and county offices not only recognized our relationship, they were cheering us on.  The hearts and minds of most people recognize love and commitment when they see it.  We still haven't had any major incidents of people being rude about our family because we're gay.

But just before Nessa's first birthday, we took a brief trip.  The morning we were heading home, we stopped for breakfast.  We had to leave before the little one normally gets up, and she was a bit out of sorts.  Her diaper had a blow out just as we were getting ready to leave the house, requiring a last minute bath so we were ready to meet with our attorney for the adoption later that day.  In her usual congenial way, Nessa was still a sweet and happy baby...but she was making a bit more noise than usual.  Not screaming or crying, but squawking and squeaking more than usual.

Our waitress rushed to the table and, in a genuine attempt to be helpful, offered a package of crackers to occupy her.  We politely declined and told her that in addition to the considerable mess that would cause, we would feed her egg from our plates as usual.  She replied that she was the one who would have to clean up the mess and that she didn't mind.  We again declined saying "I think we'll be fine, but thanks anyway."  One minute later, Nessa squawked again; the waitress appeared from nowhere with an open package of crackers, already handing them over to the munchkin.  Naturally, Nessa grabbed hold and cracker dust went flying everywhere.  "See...I told you that's what she wanted."  And off she went with a smile.

The waitress is lucky my mother raised me to use good manners, because I managed to choke out a "Say thank you, Nessa."  What I really wanted to say was "And I told you NO to crackers.  Twice."  I didn't, because she really was trying to be helpful.  Nevermind the fact that it wasn't the mess on the table or floor we wanted to avoid.  We wanted her to be somewhat presentable when we met with our lawyer...about the adoption.  We're funny like that.  Nevermind that we believe shoving food at our daughter's face is not the best initial reaction to every little noise she makes.  Perhaps we might want to try...parenting...first.  It's why we bring toys and books with us. 

Nevermind that giving her an entire cracker is probably not wise, given that she has a total of 4 teeth (barely) and is likely to choke if it's not broken up into smaller pieces.  Nevermind that, as her parents predicted, she wasn't interested in her egg when it arrived because she was looking for more crackers.  Nevermind that substituting a cracker for an egg meant she was hungry and fussy during a 4 hour drive home.  Nevermind that it's more than a little insulting to believe that you, meeting our daughter for the first time, are more capable of reading her wants and needs than the people who have cared for her night and day for the last year.  The fact that this belief seems based solely on the fact that you are a woman and we must be incompetent twits because we're "only" dads only adds insult to injury.

Truth be told, that's what hurt and angered me the most.  For some time I've KNOWN this was going to happen eventually.  But preparing for the experience and having it are two separate things.  I think the Dad squad handled the situation with grace and poise.  Experience is often the best teacher, and I'll handle it even better next time.  I'll still play nice in the sandbox, but I won't hesitate to make it clear that not only are we the customers, we're the dads...and we make the decisions and rules.  I'll explain my reasoning if necessary, but I won't just smile while someone countermands my parenting.  Not only is it my right, but I don't want to experience another long car ride like that if I can avoid it.  And that is something I KNOW. 

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