Gay Dad Life

Family Spotlight: Micheal & his Son Daniel

A story about a little boy’s challenges, a grown man’s grief, and the infinite healing power of love.


There’s a little boy running around the interviewer’s apartment, swinging a tiny stuffed tiger around as he makes laps around the dinner table. His dad sips a glass of wine at the table, carrying on two conversations: one with me, one with his son.

The eleven-year-old shakes his toy at the spaniel trailing after him, delighted by the dog’s attention.

Daniel is more like other kids than he is different, his dad, Micheal Chappell, is fond of saying. Daniel slides out of his seat at the dinner table as quickly as he’s asked to take a seat – just like any other kid would.

You can tell he’s listening to the conversation: his ears perk up when he hears “balloon” or  the name of his stuffed toy.

But Daniel doesn’t speak. Until he was nine, he didn’t walk. When Micheal met him at sixteen months old, Daniel couldn’t see, hear or move his muscles – he just lay frozen in his crib.

A few days before Micheal went on a vacation to St. Thomas, he was introduced to Daniel by a client of his, who was Daniel’s foster parent at the time and eager to find him a permanent home. Although Micheal was enthralled by Daniel, he wasn’t thinking of becoming a parent.

“I traveled and worked a lot,” says the former Mr. Washington State Leather. “My life was spontaneous.”

A year earlier, Micheal had lost his younger brother, Raymond, to suicide. He was plagued by the loss even on his Caribbean vacation.

“I was in St. Thomas staying at a nice resort, and that’s where I was when I started reading this journal that I had been writing for a year since I lost my brother.” It was then, re-processing the loss, that Micheal made up his mind: he wanted to be Daniel’s father.

Micheal didn’t know how a future with Daniel would look. “I just saw a spark in his eyes. I guess I didn’t have any expectation. I didn’t know where that road was going.”

Though Micheal was hopeful, doctors were not. They weren’t sure how to diagnose him, but he would need heart surgery when – or if – he made it to four years old.

And even though Micheal was qualified to adopt and Daniel desperately needed a committed caretaker, the caseworker delayed the process.

“She came to my house three times to talk about one subject, and that was me being gay.”

On one such occasion, she asked simply, “How is this going to affect him when he’s an adolescent?”

Micheal wasn’t quite sure what she meant. Was she referring to his physical limitations? No, she said. She wondered how he would feel walking through the mall with two men.

Micheal had been upfront about being gay, knew his rights (discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is illegal in the state of Washington), and told her so. She picked up her purse and left his house without a word.

The adoption was eventually granted. Then came the work of getting Daniel the medical care he needed. At two, he had 16 doctors. He took steroids and received breathing treatments.

The pediatrician warned he might only live to be ten years old.

The cardiologist asked Micheal to bring Daniel back to his office in two years when he would be old enough to undergo heart surgery.

“So I took him back to that heart doctor when he was four years old,” Micheal says. The doctor was surprised to see them. “‘When I told you to bring this little boy back, he was not a candidate for heart surgery. He had no life expectancy.’”

Michael’s breath was sucked out of him. He wasn’t sure if he was ecstatic or furious that the doctor hadn’t said that two years ago.

“It was just so heavy. For three or four nights I couldn’t sleep. And on that third or fourth night, finally, I thought, ‘I’m glad he didn’t tell me. Because there wasn’t one day that I let Daniel think he was going to die.”

Daniel is 12 now. He goes to public school – he’s in a DI (Differentiated Instruction) classroom where he receives physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Micheal can’t resist pulling up one, then another video of his son doing something no one thought he would ever be able to do: Daniel pounding away at a street piano, riding his favorite horse on the carousel downtown or up to bat at Bambinos Baseball.

The pair sat side by side at a wedding this weekend. Daniel sat quietly, mostly, fidgeting and looking around. Amid the readings and the vows, every so often, you could hear his father lean in and whisper, “I love you. I love you” to his boy.

Kids and adults alike struggle to find the best way to interact with Daniel. People want to be around him, says Micheal, they just don’t know what to do. That, along with the extra planning it takes to arrange a caretaker for Daniel, can be isolating for Micheal.

Social life takes more planning than before – a challenge he thinks any single parent faces. He’s taken business certification courses, runs weekly with a local running club and hires a caretaker for Daniel two evenings a week.

Those who do connect with Micheal and Daniel find themselves deeply impacted. Daniel, for his limited ability to communicate, shares plenty.

Micheal took Daniel along with him to show a house to a prospective buyer last summer. On their way in, they saw an SUV slow to the curb across the street.

Twenty minutes later, when they emerged, the vehicle was still there. Daniel’s cardiologist – the one who didn’t believe he’d see that two-year-old boy in his office again – emerged from the car. He had waited just for the chance to say hi.

“I’m just in the audience of this little boy’s life sometimes,” says Micheal. “His life is different. It’s beautiful, and people see it. He’s touched a lot of people.”

Show Comments ()
Gay Dad Life

'NolaPapa' Launches YouTube Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

Check out Erik Alexander's new YouTune Channel: Story of a Gay Dad

When we first found out that our second daughter was African American I froze. Not because of her race, but because I knew NOTHING about African American hair. So I frantically tried to learn as much as I could while she was a newborn so I was ready to style it when she was a little older.

I decided to launch our YouTube channel Nolapapa: Story of a Gay Dad to focus on this very topic! Episodes 1-5 will solely be dedicated to learning how to wash, care for and styling African American hair. Afterwards, the content will shift towards personal & family situations, adoption, gay parenting questions and other great content! I'd love your support and become part of our little village as we launch this new project!

Sending Nola love to each of ya!

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Life

Encouraged by His Son, Single Dad Richard Started Dating Again — and Just Got Married!

After his 14 year relationship ended, Richard got a gentle push into the dating pool from an unexpected source — his son!

In 2014, Richard Rothman's relationship of 15 years ended, leaving him understandably reluctant to jump back into the world of dating as a single gay dad. But after spending one too many Friday nights at home, he got a gentle nudge from somebody unexpected —his teenaged son, Jonathan.

"Dad," Jonathan said. "Would you just get out of the house and go on a date already?" (You may remember wise-beyond-his-years Jonathan from this post that went viral of a tattoo he got commemorating his adoption day.)

On his son's encouragement, Richard started dipping a tentative toe back into the dating pool. In 2015, he met Kevin thanks to mutual friends that introduced them via social media. It took four months before Richard introduced Kevin to his son, who was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

On New Year's Eve in 2017, Kevin proposed while the couple was vacationing in Palm Springs. The city has an outdoor festival every year, he explained, which the couple attended. The band Plain White T's happened to be performing their hit "Hey There Delilah" as Kevin got down on one knee and proposed. "Now whenever I hear that song it brings back memories of that night," Richard said.

Richard and Kevin married on March 30, 2019 back at the scene of the crime — in Palm Springs, at the Frederick Loewe Estate. Jonathan was Richard's best man, and also walked him down the aisle (awwww.....). Kevin's brother Bobby served as his best man.

"As so many wonderful moments continue to happen for us in Palm Springs, we now own a home there in addition to our primary residence in Bentonville, Arkansas," said Richard.

Check out video from the couple's special day below!


And Jonathan is now an E4 Master-at-Arms in the US Navy.

Gay Uncles

Gay Uncles are an Essential Part of This Gay Dad Family's Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and this village includes many gay uncles

In November last year, Ottawa-based husbands Matt Ottaviani and Rej Gareau (whose story we shared in July) became first-time dads through surrogacy. They were overjoyed to welcome their daughter Andy and become a family of three.

But as many of us know, raising a child isn't always just about the nuclear family. The African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child" is a commonly repeated phrase, and rings very true for many families. Matt and Rej are no different, and when they shared their story last month, one thing jumped out to us: the important role Andy's guncles play in her and her dads' lives.

In honor of Gay Uncles Day today, we reached out to Andy's many guncles to learn first-hand how their relationship with the family affects their lives. Here's what they had to say.

Keep reading... Show less
Gay Dad Photo Essays

Pics of the Moment Before and After Gay Men Become Dads

Dig through your phones — what was the last pic taken of you BEFORE you became a dad?

We all have THAT photo: the one taken moments after we become fathers for the first time. For some of us, we're doing "skin to skin" in a delivery room. For others, we're standing proudly alongside our newly adopted child and judge in a courtroom. However or wherever it happens, though, we make sure to snap a picture of it.

But what about that last photo BEFORE you first became a dad? What does that image look like, we wondered? Well, we asked our Instagram community to dig through through phones and find out. Some of us are enjoying a last carefree meal or glass of wine, others of us are captured nervously contemplating our futures. Whatever it is, we've decided these BEFORE pictures are just as meaningful.

Enjoy some of our favorites! Want to play along? Dig through your phones and send us your pics to dads@gayswithkids.com!

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

Gay Dad in Sundance's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' is Relatable AF

Sundance hit "Brittany Runs a Marathon" stars a gay dad trying to get in shape.

Who would make for the best marathon training partner for an overweight, overly boozed 27-year-old woman? A gay dad, of course!

The pairing, for any gay man who has been subjected to impossible beauty standards (not unlike... literally all women?) makes a bit too much sense after watching the new Sundance film, "Brittany Runs a Marathon," starring SNL writer Jillian Bell (as the 27-year-old) and Micah Stock as the (somewhat *ahem* older) gay dad.

Based on a true story, the film follows Brittany, an overweight and over-boozed 20-something, trying to clean up her act by training for the New York City marathon — while doing so, she meets Seth (the gay dad), and the two begin to train together, along with Brittany's neighbor Catherine. Each has their own motivation for running: getting one's live together, recovering from a messy divorce, or an attempt to impress one's athletic son. (Which is the gay dad? Guess you'll have to watch to find out!)

We won't give too much more away, apart from saying that the trio — based off of actual people and events — really works. It's the feel good film you're waiting to see.

Expert Advice

Your 15 Most Common Questions About Adoption, Answered by an Expert

We asked our Instagram community for their biggest questions about adoption. Then asked Molly Rampe Thomas of Choice Network to answer them.

As part of our new "Ask an Expert" series on Instagram, our community of dads and dads-to-be sent us their questions on adoption in the United States. Molly Rampe Thomas, founder of Choice Network, answered them.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

'Life Is Amazing': Congrats to Gay Dads Whose Families Recently Grew!

Help us congratulate gay dads on their recent births and adoptions last month!

Wishing all of these gay dads whose families expanded in the last month or so a lifetime of happiness! Congrats to everyone in our community on their recent births and adoptions!

Keep reading... Show less

Fatherhood, the gay way

Get the latest from Gays With Kids delivered to your inbox!

Follow Gays With Kids

Powered by RebelMouse