My wife and I have the same last name. That was the catalyst for our meeting. Twelve fateful years ago I was at an event she was managing. She overhead me being introduced and barged her way into the conversation to find out if we were related. I knew we weren’t. And my life changed forever.
One of the first things she told me was that she had a five year-old. I looked at her blankly, as if to say, “so.” She read my face and told me she just wanted to make sure I understood who she was. It was also a point of pride for her to be a single mom, not only gainfully, but successfully employed. Over time I came to understand her position.
Along this ride we’ve been on, one of the stipulations she had for any man who would become her husband was that he would have to adopt her son. The funny thing about the things we say in our youth is that we sometimes don’t truly mean what we say in not understanding the future. And although her desire was 100% on target, anyone in the married lane knows you cannot, or at least you should not put stipulations on your partner for them to marry you. Sure, you should hopefully be on the same page and sure you should believe in the same things. But you can’t realistically demand your spouse to be or do anything and not have it come back to haunt you. Instead, you should encourage. The actions and decisions should be talked out and mutual. Even if it is non-negotiable for you or your spouse. I state this not to indicate that I offered up any resistance, but rather, the stipulation of me adopting him got swept under the rug as life progressed, life got in the way and we grew up — all three of us, then four of us — together. I never forgot my wife’s stipulation, because it had been a desire of mine for years.
Now my son is seventeen and three inches taller than me at six foot two. This year I put my foot down. The fact that it’s taken this long is inexcusable. But based on his age, he has a say in the process versus those who are too young. When I asked him if he wanted me to make things official, he told me yes. So at least I know he wants this just as I do. This is his last year with us, hopefully, before he heads off to college to begin determining the rest of his life. I’ve been in his life since he was five. I’ve attended every game, I’ve witnessed every victory and loss, I’ve worked with his teachers. I took him back and forth to swim lessons. I feed him and I deal with him as a man must when he gets out of line. People often ask, “Why adopt him? You’re already his dad.” Even the attorney who is handling the process made sure to warn me, “Eric, now you know once this is complete, you will be legally-financially responsible for him.” To which I gave a blank stare because I’ve been spiritually responsible for him since I met him. Everything else at this point is just paperwork. But it does matter and here are the reasons why?
My son does not know who his biological father is. The original guy never stepped up. My son has never seen him or heard from or of him. I personally don’t know how this feels. I simply can’t imagine it. I know my value and my place in the world as far as family goes and I’ve never even had to question it because it has always been there. Adopting him might not mean anything to us adults, but it will mean plenty to my son. He will know that a man thought enough of him to claim him — for life. I hope it will bust down any negative beliefs he may have based on the choices his biological father made. Please note: I’m happy to help him find him too, should the day ever come that he wants to.
He is a member of a blended family. My daughter, his sister is going to grow up one day and should the conversation ever come up between the two of them or any combination of all of us, her most obvious and natural question will be “Why didn’t you adopt him?” or even worse, “How could you not?” I don’t intend to ever have to answer that question by removing the circumstance that would cause it to be asked. Nor will any child of mine ever be allowed think she is more mine than anyone else.
I am the model of manhood in my home, trying to showcase character in a world that doesn’t really care about anything, one that almost openly promotes “it’s okay until you get caught” and “it is what it is”. I hope my son will model his actions after mine should he ever find himself in a similar situation. And even if he doesn’t, If and when he becomes a father to either adopted and/or biological kids, I hope he will have his ah-ha moments and think to himself, So this is how Dad must’ve felt or Now I know why he did what he did. He’ll have one less piece of baggage to bring to his relationship with his wife and society at large. And I won’t have it hanging over my head, that I released a yet-to-be man into the population. This isn’t to say that this would happen were I to not adopt, but I’d rather do my part to make sure it doesn’t. I don’t choose to play these odds.
I’m sure there are more reasons for why I should adopt my son. Out of what I stated above all three points can truly be summed up under one main point: It’s about the child, his or her sense of place and value in the world. Adoption within a blended family is not about any legal mumbo jumbo although, as adults, we make this the case. But ultimately it is about showing a child he or she is loved 100%, no strings attached, unconditionally by any and all means necessary.