Family Spotlight: Jamie & Jonathan
AT A GLANCE
Names: Jamie and Jonathan
Profession(s): Registered Nurse, critical care and trauma (Jamie), Registered Nurse, clinical education (Jonathan)
Relationship Status: A cumulative relationship of more than three years, with one period apart, domestic partnership, engaged
Children: Hunter 14, and Hope 10, from Jamie’s former marriage
Location: Peoria, Illinois
Always wanted children: “We both love having the kids as often as we do; we do want to start the adoption process ASAP.”
Favorite family activity: movies in the theater room, and spending time outside
What do your children call each of you: Dad (Jamie), Johnny (Jonathan)
Eight years after the start of his first marriage to a woman, Jamie, the father of Hunter and Hope, was divorced and had come out soon after the separation.
Luckily, for everyone’s sake, even after their divorce, Jamie and his wife continue to share a positive relationship. “We talk nearly everyday, and not just about the kids,” he says, explaining that they have joint custody, and he even helps her with the children financially without the need for any kind of formal “child support” system. “She is re-married — to a straight guy. We share all birthdays and events together with the whole family. We consider each other friends. And it's perfect!”
After the divorce Jonathan entered his life; or rather re-entered, as they’d both grown up in Peoria, Illinois, and had gone to the same schools, albeit with eight years difference between them. Jamie was even friends with Jonathan’s mother. “I would run into her at the grocery store and probably have hour long conversations with her in the parking lot while he sat in the car, cussin’ at me, I’m sure of it,” Jamie says.
“I just wanted to get home,” Jonathan teases.
“You wanted to go home and play Atari or something.”
The two reconnected after and, after coming out to each other, a relationship began, though with a hiatus while Jonathan moved to Chicago for work, to experience the scene there and work out his identity, while Jamie stayed in Peoria for his children. They rekindled the relationship when Jonathan returned, and have been together since. Over those two years they bought a house together, got engaged, and are at the start of the adoption process.
“Johnny really wants a kid to call his own,” Jamie says. “I love him, and if I can help share in this dream for him, then that's even better. We are excited to start this process.”
For their family, they’re planning to become certified through the Department of Child & Family Services, making them eligible as foster parents. “That at least gets the ball rolling on things,” Jonathan says. “Then, it’s just a lot of paperwork, a lot of waiting, a lot of courts lawyer type of stuff, legal documents. A lot of back and forth.”
“The laws aren't particularly strict, so once we get started, it should take 2 years,” Jamie says, adding that teenage Hunter couldn’t really care less about the prospect of a new sibling.
“Hope, on the other hand, is very excited,” he explains. “She can't wait to be a big sister.”
They’re also working together to make Jonathan a dad to Jamie’s two kids, which is another challenge in itself.
“The first time we were together they only met him once, and they didn’t meet him as my boyfriend at the time, he was just my friend,” Jamie explains. “Then, lucky for Jonathan, I had the guy I was with for two years in between the first time and the second time we were together, because my daughter was really young, my son was young, they saw me with another guy and that’s all they really knew, honestly. When he and I broke up and I got together with Jonathan, it was a really easy transition for them. They call him by his first name, they call him Johnny.”
“I think I thought they would see me more as they see their father, and they don’t because I’m not,” Jonathan says. “It’s things like that, trying to get their attention, figure out what their interests were, things like that. Trying to connect with them on their level is probably the biggest challenge.”
“It’s probably one of our biggest struggles, because I’ll look at him and I’ll say, ‘Just be the fun one. Let me be the mean one, the disciplinarian, the harsh one,’” Jamie says, explaining his plan of making the kids always see Jonathan as the kind nurturer; a plan that doesn’t always work in practice. “I let so many things go sometimes that it drives him crazy and he has to say something.”
Though the whole family gets along on both sides. “I can't imagine it being any better,” Jamie says. “Kids are happy, and my ex-wife finally understands true intimacy. Her husband is great with my kids, and the kids really like him. My ex-wife asked me one day if there was anything she could do to make Johnny feel more comfortable… She's incredible. She treats him really well.”
Even better, when Hope drew a picture of her family at school, it included Jonathan as well. “She really understands the meaning of a family,” Jamie says. “Those are our most joyous moments, when she does stuff like that. My son, I think he’s quite comical and we just like having a good time. I wish he were more connected with Jonathan, and I think over time that will come, honestly.”
Jonathan’s favourite memory as part of the family is the past Christmas they all spent together. They bought the tree, and let the kids decorate it, “We lifted up Hope so she could put the star on the top,” Jonathan says. “That was kind of nice. It was the first Christmas we were all together, under one roof, in our own place.” For Jamie it’s going to baseball games, something the whole family enjoys doing.
As gay couples seek to create families with children from previous marriages and relationships, “blending” their families is another challenge to be faced. Like Jonathan becoming another father to the kids from Jamie’s first marriage, and with the possibility of bringing a new child into the mix, it’s a relationship they’re both working hard at building. “As far as blending a family together, you have to be patient, honestly,” Jamie says. “I have to be patient with him, he has to be patient with me, we both have to be patient with the kids, and it didn’t all come together interlocking like Lego pieces, like I thought it would. I just thought it would be magical, and it’s hard.”
“I choose not to put our kids first, I put our relationship first because if we’re on the same page together, then we are putting the kids first, because we’re putting ourselves first as well,” Jamie concludes, with a thoughtful pause. “God, I should write a book!”