Gay Dad Life

Family Spotlight: John & Rodney

John (40) is a fundraiser, Rodney (41) a registered massage therapist. They live in Toronto, Canada, with their two children.


 Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your family?

 J: We have a son, Anthony, who is six, and a daughter, Anna, who is three. We adopted them through the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. We have been together for twelve years, since 2002.

Q: What was life like before children?

J: (laughing) Life was good. Balanced. We were able to do things together and do things independently. See friends, go see a movie. We didn’t have to run our plans by each other all the time.

Q: How and when did children become a part of your relationship?

 R: I always wanted kids, so I made sure, after my first two relationships, that whoever I started dating had the same desire.

J: On our second date Rodney asked me if I wanted to have children.

Q: When did the process start for you as a couple?

 J: It was December 2006. We were coming back from Christmas with Rodney’s family, and in the car Rodney restarted the conversation about becoming dads.

R: We enrolled in a course at the 519 (the LGBTQ Community Centre in Toronto) called Daddies and Papas 2B, a 12-week course for gay and bisexual men to explore issues related to becoming a parent, such as co-parenting, surrogacy and adoption. We chose adoption via the Children’s Aid Society as it seemed to have a clear path towards our goal.

J: We did all the paperwork, which took about a year, as part of our 11-week course with the CAS and our home study. We also needed a police check, fingerprinting, medical checks and reference letters from family and friends.

Q: How did Anthony come into your lives?

 J: We told CAS we were open to a boy or a girl. But, as more girls are requested than boys, we assumed we’d get a boy. In July 2008 we finally got a phone call from the social worker. She had a boy we might be interested in, she said. She came over, told us all his details, and finally showed us his photo. He was so adorable.

R: He was 9 months old, and living in Oshawa, about an hour northeast of Toronto, with foster parents.

J: We had Anthony’s picture on our fridge for a week, while we were waiting for our first meeting with him. The first time we met him, we were there with our social worker, and the foster parents with theirs. We stayed for about two hours, playing with Anthony. His social worker asked what our feelings were. They were pretty clear! Then we set up a schedule of progressively longer meetings, where we took him out to a park during visits, and then took him home for day visits then our first overnight, then two and eventually up to five nights.

R: During the visits, the foster mom was going through a process of getting comfortable with us and becoming happy for us. She suggested that we leave a picture of us for him, so she could point to us and say, ‘Look, your daddies!”

Q: How did your friends and family react?

 J: Although we had told our families and closest friends of our plans to adopt, we hadn't told all our friends and acquaintances, because we didn't want them to ask questions all the time.

R: We were told not to tell everybody, not to make a nursery, because this could take as much as four years.

J: In hindsight, maybe we should have told more people we were thinking of having kids, because when we sent out an email with the news, they were surprised. Pleasantly so, of course.

Q: What did you do to get ready? How were the first couple of days?

J: It was overwhelming, to be honest, with all the visits. Plus we had to build a bedroom for Anthony and I had to wrap up work so I could take paternity leave for nine months.

R: I remember one time listening to Anthony sleep, but suddenly we couldn't hear him breathe, but he was fine. And when we heard him cry out in the night for the first time, I got up thinking, oh my god, what's wrong with our kid? Nothing was wrong; he was just crying.

We were fortunate that friends held two showers for us, an incredible outpouring of support and gifts.

J: Being with Anthony, I felt like a babysitter most of the time. I had a really hard time, figuring out my new identity. I wasn't working, I was no longer going to the gym or going out with friends - none of my usual routines. But I didn't feel like a dad either. Going to parenting groups, I was usually the only male, listening to discussions about giving birth and breastfeeding, so I felt a bit isolated. Post-adoption blues, they call it.

Rodney and John holding Anthony and Anna Rodney and John holding Anthony and Anna

Q: And how about Anna?

 J: Rodney always wanted two children but I said, let's do one at a time. Once Anthony was old enough, we began asking our friends with kids what it was like to have two. We went back to CAS, but needed to get a new social worker and new medical studies and update our home study. Three weeks after all the paperwork was done, in March 2011, we got a phone call.

R: On paper we didn’t have a preference for a boy or girl but Anthony told the social worker he wanted a baby sister. Plus our moms, who had only grandsons, really wanted a girl. A girl it was - a nine-month old baby. We met her for a few time before we introduced Anthony and they took to each other instantly. Anna came to live with us permanently in May of 2011.

Q: What was it like with two children?

R: When Anna came, we were more relaxed. We’d had some experience, like we knew how to make the food and how to change a diaper and read their cues.

J: We definitely had a better sense of what we were doing but then we had a more complicated schedule, with the two kids.

Q: What is the legal situation for you and your children?

 R: The probation period for each took about a year. In June 2009 when we went in front of the judge to finalize Anthony’s adoption, it was Pride week. The judge gave a nice speech that it was especially meaningful to him, a gay man, and that he never thought he'd preside over gay adoption in his lifetime but here we were and it was during Pride week too.  Our session had started late that day, we were told, because the judge read our file in his chambers and was crying; he had to compose himself before he could come to the courtroom. The finalization of Anna’s adoption in the court was in 2012 and we had the same judge!

J: In Ontario we're recognized as the legal parents with both our names on their birth certificates.

Q: Can you tell us how your family has grown more than you expected?

 R: Anthony has a biological older brother who had already been adopted by a lesbian family. We feel that we were chosen to be Anthony’s parents because we’re a same-sex couple, with the thinking that the two sets of parents would be likely to stay in touch. And Anna has a half-brother, who lives with her adoptive family in Toronto. We want our kids to have a relationship with these kids.

Q: How much do your children understand adoption?

 R: Anthony knows he’s adopted, for sure. We’re open and honest about it to make it normal for him, at least as much as he can understand at this age. We keep the ideas simple for him - a woman carried him in her belly but couldn’t take care of him so he came to live with daddy and papa. Plus he knows a lot of other kids who are adopted - and kids with same sex parents too actually - so it’s all acceptable and even celebrated.

Q: Any advice for wannabe dads?

 R: (laughing) Travel now. Do it now, when you have time! If you’re thinking of taking a course, do it now. Kids do take all of your attention.

J: We had to let go of things, but other things make up for that.

R: Yes, like watching Anthony learning to read and now reading to Anna.

J: There is a lot of joy. Children will surprise and delight you. The first time your kid spontaneously says I love you, that’s one of those moments that you cherish.

Children’s Aid Society of Toronto

30 Isabella Street

Toronto, ON M4Y 1N1

Canada

(416) 924-4646

torontocas.ca

 

Daddies & Papas 2B is a joint program of the two following organizations:

Queer Parenting Programs

The 519 Church Street Community Centre

519 Church Street

Toronto, ON M4Y 2C9

Canada

(416) 392-6874

the519.org

 

LGBTQ Parenting Network

Sherbourne Health Centre

333 Sherbourne Street

Toronto, ON M5A 2S5

Canada

(416) 324-4100 ext. 5219

lgbtqparentingconnection.ca

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