There was an error in this gadget

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Becoming a parent



I was sharing this day’s events with my mentor and cooperating teacher from my high school student teaching experience and she told me that I HAD to make this a chapter in the book. I met Sue a few months prior to my high school student teaching time at Libbey High School in Toledo. She was, and remains an amazing woman. Almost 20 years later, we still email and meet up to chat about art, life, and teaching. We had lunch in Ann Arbor the other day and I updated her on all that had transpired since Anna was born. She wanted to know more about how we were both parents, so I shared this with her:

Several years have passed since we became an official family, a day that I will never forget. On September 26, 2006, our second-parent adoption for Anna Laura became finalized. We drove north to the courthouse, met both sets of our parents, and waited anxiously as our lawyer was stuck in traffic coming from Ann Arbor.
I took the day off, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. Tod’s adoption was finalized on June 6, 2006 (yes, that was 6/6/06!) but we couldn’t do mine until his was done, so we had to wait another three months for mine to come up again and to generate more lawyer fees and paperwork. Thankfully, the lawyer that handled Anna’s Mom’s side (at $500 an hour thankyouverymuch) was NOT involved in this process.
Some argued that I had nothing to worry about and that the adoption was really just a formality. I didn’t trust anything. I had heard too much, and seen too much, and I was genuinely concerned that something might indeed happen and that I wouldn’t be able to be Anna’s official parent along with Tod. Our lawyer reassured us and told us that the only thing that could possibly derail the proceedings would be an attack from Hezbollah. But still, in true Doubting Thomas fashion, I worried.
The meeting with the judge, a kind older man, (hardly the flaming liberal activist judge I expected) was quick and to the point. Tod had to give up custody of Anna to the state for an eternity that was in actuality only a few minutes. My Mom said that my neck and then my ears turned bright red as the judge declared Anna a ward of the state.
Anna never left our laps, as she was busy trying to move around, oblivious to all the drama unfolding in front of her. After she was turned over to the state, and Tod relinquished all of his rights, the judge then declared that Anna was now the proud owner of TWO Dads, and that we were both her rightful parents. I have shared this aspect (the relinquishing of parental rights) with many parents, and some have laughed and jokingly suggested that they wished that they had that option presented to them when their kids were evil. There has also been talk of the State of Nebraska and their child abandonment law that pretty much made the state a landfill for any unruly or unwanted child. A child craves security, a child craves stability, and a child craves a family.
For a brief moment, Anna had neither. She was officially a ward of the State of Michigan for the minute or so it took the judge to reassign us a both parents. I can’t imagine ever having that happen to me. My worst fears as a kid were that my parents would leave me somewhere and drive off never to be seen again.

You could hear a collective sigh from the galley where our parents sat when all was said and done. Hugs and tears abounded as we celebrated a huge milestone for us both. I felt like that character in the chick flick “Waiting to Exhale” as I did just that. She had held her breath, waiting for that special man; I had held my breath, waiting for that moment when Anna was officially mine. Our family has many milestones to celebrate and remember: birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, but none are as important as our Family Day, September 26th. That moment, and our heart stopping day in court will forever be a defining moment in my life. I became a guardian of Anna the day she was born; I became her Papa that afternoon in September.