Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gay Penguins and the First Hints of Anxiety

What a week! It truly feels as if this is the first chance that I have had to sit down and write about the many adoption-related thoughts and emotions that have been whirling around my head and heart this week.

I will start with the good ones.  On Tuesday, I read one of my favorite picture books to my class of fifth graders.  The book is called, And Tango Makes Three and it tells the true story of two male penguins who lived at the Central Park Zoo in New York.  While all the other penguins mated in pairs of one male and one female, these two male penguins wanted to spend their lives with each other.  Upon seeing these two male penguins attempt to sit on and incubate a rock, a kind-hearted zookeeper decided to give these two their own penguin egg.  He took an egg from a pair of penguins who continued to lay two eggs, but was only able to care for one of them and he gave the second egg to the pair of male penguins.  The egg hatches, the baby penguin is born.  They name him Tango and he is raised by the two male penguins.

It is an incredible book and each year, before I read it, I let the kids know that there are a lot of schools in our country who won't allow teachers to read the book.  I then read the story and sit in awe of the children's reaction.  In past years, my heart has been warmed by hearing the comments that the kids make.  Each year, several students talk about how silly they think it is that anyone would have a problem with this book.  And then, they go on to talk about how anyone who loves their child can be a family.

I am always inspired by this interaction with my students, but this year it just meant more.  Amidst our decision to adopt a child, I have often wondered what our child will encounter.  Will people question our family? Will people make comments to our child?  What kinds of hate will we face?  And then here was this group of twenty-one fifth grade students, telling me that it was okay to be any kind of family.  My class doesn't know that Carla and I are beginning the adoption process.  They know that I am gay and they know that Carla and I are married, but I am not sure that even crossed their minds much during this discussion.  Now I realize that not every child feels this way and I also realize that as these children grow up, their kind hearts might be swayed towards harsher sentiments.  But as I sat with my class on Tuesday and heard their comments, I was so hopeful that our child wouldn't grow up in a world as filled with hate as it is today.  My students make me so hopeful for the future.  The fact that picture books like this one even exist makes me hopeful for the future.  The fact that I feel safe to have this conversation with my students without fear of the repercussions it might bring  makes me feel hopeful for the future.  And knowing that there are children whose hearts are so full of love makes me incredibly hopeful for the future.

So that was a good day.

On Wednesday, Carla and I went to another adoption class.  This is our second to last class and it was called "Making Connections."  While all of our other classes have focused on the philosophies of open adoption and building empathy for the birthmothers, this was the first class that dealt with what happens  in the process of matching a birthmother with prospective adoptive parents and what happens once that match has been made.  I sat through much of that class with true pains of anxiety in my chest.  I have to say that these are the first real anxiety pains that I have felt in this process.  I am still not completely sure what led to the anxiety.

I think a piece of it was how real it all started to feel.  So much of our process has been consumed by paperwork and crossing items off of a checklist.  I don't think I have thought all that much about what happens when all the items have been crossed off.  It all of a sudden felt really real.  And while that feeling of realness is incredibly exciting, it is also somewhat terrifying.

Another piece of it has to be my terrible fear of rejection and failure.  Ever since I was young, I hated the thought of being rejected or of failing at something.  I used to convince myself that I had failed tests that I had taken, just to prepare myself for what the results would be.  Even when I knew I had done well, I still prepared myself for the worst because that way I never had to feel disappointed.  I can feel myself doing the same thing now.  I find myself saying things like, "It will be okay if it takes five years to be chosen."  I know that I am just trying to prepare myself so that I don't have to feel those dreaded feelings of disappointment.

And I guess the last piece of it is just the unknown.  Thus far, our adoption counselor has been able to tell us exactly what will happen each step of the process.  Once we are placed on that waiting list however, that all changes.  The control is completely out of our hands and it is hard to be prepared when the possibilities of what could happen are endless.

So all of that was swirling around in my head as we sat there for the two hour class.  As we left, I tried to explain what I was feeling to Carla, but couldn't quite get the words right.  I think I have a better understanding of it now.  But as we left that night, the one thing I knew for certain was how lucky I was to have Carla as my wife.  She is the opposite of me in many ways.  She is so optimistic and I am so incredibly thankful for that.  I can't even imagine what it would be like if we were both the way that I am.  I am thankful to have found someone as strong as she is and someone who is able to balance me so well.  She makes me feel like there is some possible way that we are going to make it through all of this and that at the end we are going to be family of more than just her and me. And for that I am incredibly thankful.

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