Monday, December 29, 2014

To my children on the occasion of their parents wedding.

My dear Gabriel and Joshua

Last Saturday, your dads got married.  It was a wonderful wedding that we have been planning for many months.  (Well, let me be honest here – Leon has been doing most of the planning, most of the hard work – I have been nodding occasionally, agreeing with this and disallowing that, every now and again, as is my wont).

We spoke to you both about us getting married quite a long time ago.  Your reactions were not, initially, very encouraging.  “Oh gross!” you both exclaimed.  “Do we have to come?!” And finally, “Are you going to kiss?!”  But your views seem to have mellowed a little since then.  Gabriel, you baked a rainbow cake and iced it in white and suggested that we have the same for our wedding.  Joshua, you got very enthusiastic about what we were all going to wear and demanded red takkies for your shoes – not to mention matching braces.

We have come a long, long way.  Leon and my journey to this point has been almost 16 years, and our parenting has been almost 13 of those 16 years.  You have been with us for most of our relationship so far.  It is extremely difficult for me to remember what life was like without you.

I remember my own shock, when it became clear that Leon wanted children.  It was never something I had imagined for myself, believe me!  I balked at the idea of endlessly changing nappies and shoving spoonfuls of mush from bottles into gaping mouths.  I asked myself (and him!) what was the point of being in a gay relationship, if one was going to ruin it with children!  But I also listened to him.  I’m sure I was no different from any marital partner who discovers that their life partner wants children.  I listened. 

Leon made it clear that this was a non-negotiable for him.  He had to have children.  And from the moment I heard what he was saying, my life was turned inside-out and upside-down.  Because children are very different from puppies or kittens.  They start reading you from the moment they see you.  They analyse all your good and all your bad.  They take everything in and then they take over the whole of your life.

Gabriel, I can remember when we first met.  Leon called me excitedly to say that the Princess Alice Adoption Home had called him to say that they had a baby who they thought might be right for us.  I raced there.  I wanted to meet you myself before I made any decision.  I was told where your cot was and I sat beside you.  You lay there quietly, sucking your middle finger and watching me.  Analysing me.  Assessing me.  We sat like that for quite a while.  I put out a finger and you took hold of it with your other hand.  And that is when it happened.  I became your father from that moment.  From that moment my being was entirely and forever changed.  From being just an ordinary man, I became a father.

They say, when you are adopting children, in the legal documents, that this child which you are adopting is “as if born from you”.  I can tell you both, Gabriel and Joshua, that this is true.  You are both “as if born from” Leon and me.  There is no other way of putting it.  When we first met you Joshua, the social worker brought you into the tiny office she was working from.  She put you first on Leon’s lap and then after a while, Leon passed you on to me.  You were watching us both intently.

You were reading us, assessing us, forming your very strong opinion of us.  And it was then – right there in that office – that you became our son and we became your parents.  In a single moment of time.  In an instant.  It was that quick and that powerful.  You were “as if born from us”.  When I look at you, I see myself.  That is just the way it is.  It isn’t complicated.  It didn’t take forever.  It required no effort at all.  It happened there and then.  Just like that.

And so it was that the two of us started the parenting journey that has really defined most of our lives for the past 13 years now.  We got used to the nappies.  I got used to the occasional projectile vomit.  We worked our way through the pre-school and the early years, trying to do the best we possibly could for you both.  But what is seldom recognised is that you have not just been passive participants in all of this.  You have lived your lives with us too.  You have had to put up with our weaknesses and faults, along with our strengths.  You have had to tolerate our irritating ways and our foibles.  You have had to accept that we are very distinct individuals and we often have very different (and probably very confusing) views on just about everything.

You have given us completely unconditional love.  You have comforted us when we were low.  You have laughed with us, when we were happy.  You have tolerated our latest ideas and survived some of the worst of them.  You have built our family together with the two of us.  Solidly, steadfastly, through easy and through seriously difficult times.  You have co-built what we have together.

What the legal documents about adoption don’t make reference to, is the way in which adopting a child will change you – and how it will do so irreversibly.  Because my life – our lives – can never be the same again, since you came to live with us.  You have shown me things I would never have known.  You have given me more joy than is possible to describe.  You have given me more to be proud in than I would ever have achieved in my own life.  You have shown me an aspect of love that I would never have known, without you in my life.

So when people have asked your other dad and I, why we have waited until now to get married, we have answered “because it feels right to us to do it now”.  Both of you are old enough to understand what we are doing in getting married.  Both of you are old enough to be fully part of it.  Our marriage is between the two of us, but a large part of us – is you.

Our wedding was a celebration.  All the people who came there, were people who are deeply connected to our lives.  Our families; our friends, from near and from far; our colleagues from work; some of your friends and the parents of some of your classmates.  It was a wonderful celebration of our life together.  We are so lucky to live in a country where our family is legally recognised.

These are things which have been fought for.  They did not come easily, or automatically.  They have been the fruits of struggle.  For some of our family members, it has been a difficult thing.  For some of our friends, the same.  For some of our colleagues also.  These are not always easy things.
But, in general and in relation to everything that matters, the support we have received has been overwhelming. 

We wanted to celebrate our love in the communion of our friends and loved ones.  We wanted you to experience that love – that joy – that acceptance and that support, which we know surrounds us.  It is a wonderful thing, which we can all depend on.

The fact that we are married now, doesn’t really change much.  Breakfast is still going to be breakfast.  Homework is still going to be homework.  I am probably still going to be grumpy more than I should be.  But what has changed is the fact that we are now publicly, openly, in overwhelming celebration – a wonderfully supported family.  If families as happy and as complete as ours are not public – then who should be?  We celebrate the house we have built for ourselves.  We celebrate our commitment to each other and our love for each other.  That is what we did, when we married each other last Saturday.

We chose the name Gabriel, for he is the bearer of good news. We chose the name Joshua, because he is the one who leads people to complete their journey.  We chose them both because of the cultural tradition from which we have come and which forms a dominant part of our milieu, (for better or for worse). We are all what we are.  We can only try to live up to the ideals we set for ourselves, not those which have been set by other people.

But here, now, at this really important moment, let us all reflect on the wonderful thing which we as a family have built together.  May it continue to change to suit all of our very individual and different needs.  And from us as your parents, you can depend on our love for you as we grow in love for each other.  You can depend on this, for as long as we are alive to give it.

All my love

Your dad


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