My “dad” instincts started when I was very young. My earliest memories are from age three. I believe a significant event kick-started the memory-recall part of my brain. It was the news that my mother was pregnant and I was going to become a big brother. I was going to have someone to care about—start my fatherly training, if you will—and I better remember it.
One of my earliest memories is of my mother was in the hospital awaiting delivery. My father had taken me to the gift shop to get a present for my new little sister. I remember the glass shelf it was on. It was an angel holding a red heart. I could think of nothing better to give this new little life than an angel who would watch over it, protect it, and love it.
That ceramic angel became cherished and has topped my sister’s birthday cakes for five decades now. I loved being her big brother,
When I was in college, something else started taking over my consciousness. I was coming to the realization that this “gay thing” within me was not going away. It was not a “phase,” as I had tried to tell myself hundreds of times. It was me. In my belief system, that meant I would never become what I wanted to be . . . a dad.
That thought took me to a dark place, and I considered ending it all right then and there. I prayed about it, and as I laid out my threat and my plan to God—fix me now, or I am going to do it for you—I was overwhelmed with a message and the sense that I was to carry on. I was not to limit who I was, and I was to find my destiny as the best gay person I could be. I put down the blades.
Years passed and the fathering instinct in me made me anxious to be more than someone’s big brother. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be a dad. The drive to be my best kicked in. My then partner and I trained for foster care and a more advanced level of care which would enable us to care for drug-exposed newborns. It felt like my true north, on my way to being fully me.
We had a number of placements. These were infants whose mothers endangered them through short-term lapses in judgment. These women were offered reunification services that would train them on how to live and protect their children, and once they achieved the plan, their children were returned to them. It was good practice for us, and it was gratifying to help families work on problems and move toward healthy lives.
We knew at some point we would get a child whose birth parent was unwilling or unable to adapt to sobriety or a non-abusive life, and that child might become ours permanently.
One day, late July 2002, we got the call. A baby had been born. He was premature, six weeks early, and born after his birth mother ingested heroin. He weighed four pounds and had heroin in his system. Reunification services were going to be offered to his birth parents, a young married Catholic couple, but as they were both heroin addicts, it was likely that they would have trouble staying clean and taking responsibility for their child. As it was, their actions while he was still in the womb could have killed him. We would be his foster parents for now, and, potentially, his permanent adoptive parents.
I was told that I could meet my new son that evening. The birth parents would be told the time of our arrival so they could be out of the care unit and we would see him alone. As I drove to the hospital, I felt I was in a dream state. That morning I had been just a gay guy with a partner, and now, that evening, I was finally becoming a dad.
The birth parents were not much into the rules. In spite of the request to give us a private moment with the baby, they were there and met us at the door on our arrival. It was shocking to meet them, not only because they were the birth parents of the child we would be taking home the next day, but because they in no way looked like the people they had seemed to be on paper. I knew that the nineteen-year-old birth mom had been addicted to heroin since she was sixteen, and it was her now husband, two years older, who had enticed her into using the drug. They both had circulated on the street and with gangs.
The people we saw before us did not project that history. They looked like sweet-faced teens. She was in a fluffy pink bathrobe, her beautiful hair pulled back into a pony tail. He was kind and attentive.
They did not have my focus for long. My attention was on the baby who lay in the clear plastic incubator bed, with IVs in his tiny extremities. Despite all the medical apparatus, he was beautiful. He had gotten most of the heroin out of his system, and would only need painkillers for another day. I marveled at the being I saw before me. I wondered what natural survival mode could have propelled him to leave his mother’s body so early to be free of the foreign narcotics within him.
We chatted with his birth parents for a long while. They were amazingly traditional and “ordinary.” There were only a few telltale signs that they came from a different world from ours. One was their litany of friends who had lost their children into the protective care system. The couple quizzed us as to whether we knew this child or that. Quietly I shook my head and wondered what it was like to be in a social environment where those separations were commonplace.
The nurse brought my new son over in a blanket and I held him softly on my chest. I look into his eyes and we connected. He was home, I was home. This was right. Deep in my heart, I knew this child was, and would be, my son forever. He would be named Jason. Loving, protecting, and defending him would be my life’s calling. While I dutifully listened and took down instructions such as an evening babysitter might receive, I knew I was embarking on the love of my life. I knew that this was my first day of being who I was meant to be. I was a father. My son had fought his battle getting into this world, this far. It would be up to me to help him the rest of the way. He would never have to fight alone again.
As I have shared stories of my family since that time, some people have claimed that I have done my son a disservice by being his father and a gay dad. They have asserted that depriving him of his birth parents was an act of violence against him. I understand that the Million Moms are petitioning advertisers to get The Fosters, a program that depicts a family like mine, off the air. They think we are dangerous.
But the birth parents were given over a year of chances to get themselves together to be ready to raise a baby, particularly one with special needs. They never actually spent much of the time they were given with Jason to bond with him, and he never knew them as parents. The birth mother went on in the next few years to bear several more drug-exposed babies, each one more severely exposed than the last. The birth father ended up in prison. Neither kicked their heroin addiction, and there were numerous rumors around that both had died of overdose.
That night, after saying goodbye, my thoughts went to all the arrangements we had to make to prepare for Jason’s homecoming. He was going to need very specific care and handling. We were prepared and mobilized. I was about to embark on the most significant journey I could imagine. I was a dad. I was on the brink of my destiny. I stopped doubting why I was here. I had to get a move on.
When I hit the lobby, however, I paused. There was something I had to do first. I walked across the marble floor to the gift shop and scoured the glass shelves.
I needed to buy a ceramic angel.
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Special thanks to Rachel Hockett for editing help on this article.
I loved this story the first time I read it; I love it even more now. At age 60; a single child, with no children of my own, I made the decision as a young girl that I would break the pattern of abuse that had been transferred from my mother’s mother, to my mother, to me and that I would NEVER have children. It is a decision I live with and stand by every day, but I do feel those “maternal” instincts and have spent decades teaching kids and lots of time in their company, gaming, or playing in orchestras and small chamber groups. I’m always the “den mom”. Rob, you were so right to follow your inclinations; you came from a very, very loving home and they were perfect examples for HOW to be a loving parent.
My parents, while they loved me, didn’t really make parenting a priority; my father was my primary care-giver for the first five years of my life and he never made me feel unwanted. My mother was a but more complicated and we had a bitter, toxic, mother-daughter relationship until I was 40, when I knew that she did not have THAT many more years on this earth and that in retrospect, she really did not understand the damage she had inflicted on me. I sought her out and we had a wonderful relationship for the last 7 years of her life. The fact that my father was a maintenance-alcoholic and she was an enabler until she divorced him after 24 years of marriage was not lost on me; I could not live in the stress of a marriage where a husband deceived me so and left my viola-playing husband, 2 days short of our 3rd anniversary over just this issue, so I do understand her stresses and the fact that she, a woman of authenticity and honesty, had had to lie to herself for year, although she did love my father; he was a good man, always had a job and was never mean or abusive. But, that being said, we never did anything, but watch Daddy drink in my later years, or she did.
I was blissfully and at times, desperately, following my muse, Beethoven and becoming a holy terror on the viola in California. As the clashes with my mother became more severe and violent (she wanted me to be a) an actress b) a model c) an anchorwoman d) marry a rich dude – in no particular order – just a bunch of vicarious whims, but never-ending) and as I inevitably pulled away from the nest, more bitter, until she was telling callers that I was “dead”. At age 18, after graduation, I hit the door and never looked back, with a full ride to college.
Years passed and regrets set in. It was time to mend the fences. I had kept up with the family and knew she was ill. My father died suddenly, in his sleep in 1987, and my mom called me. She flew to Ann Arbor that summer, where I was living and we had a wonderful two weeks. We made the slow march back to a relationship, and I really got to know her for the first time. She was a wonderful woman. My daddy was a wonderful man; they were just two people, trying. They actually got it right more than they got it wrong.
But, I am still glad I made my decision; I may be a little slow in the “getting it right” department. At age 60, I’m still playing and consulting on computers, single, and living a good life, but I had to lose two houses (one in a nasty divorce, one during the housing crisis), spend two months in TGH, another five weeks in physical rehab, be homeless for eleven months, and then, when all should have been well, lose six weeks and have a whopping case of PTSD. This wouldn’t have been any fun, nor very stable for a kid and I had no wish to visit any instability on a hapless child; I remember the feeling all too well. Bless you Rob, and people like you. Dads make a difference. It doesn’t matter if the parents are same-sex or not. What matters is a loving, giving home life, and the wonderful examples of trust, sharing and love that you and your husband set forth for your children every day. God bless you all! All my love! Mary ❤
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I am touched. I have a gay son and he has a loving partner. They would be perfect parents. My son has helped me raise my daughter who turns seventeen soon. He has been the one we turn to and has taken care of us (my heterosexual son, daughter and myself). His partner is a respected professional man who adores his family and my son a kind and beautiful intelligent man, a child could not hope for more loving parents – they are both so busy taking care of the people they love, I hope they have a family of their own one day. Wish you the best .
beautiful story. beautiful soul. good to know there is good in the world.
This is a beautiful story!! Your son belongs with you!! I am so glad he did not get returned to the couple!! I know that in an ideal world every child would be born into a home that is loving and prepared to meet their needs. But, obviously, we live in a less than ideal world. It breaks my heart to see children taken from good foster parents and given back to parents (or at times, grandparents) who are unable to provide a safe and loving environment for them! I also think it is a shame that these babies born to drug addicted mothers are somehow seen as “damaged goods” so they can go to “second choice” families! You are NOT a second rate father and your son is NOT damaged goods!!! Second rate families are those who place adds in the paper looking to adopt “a healthy, white baby” into their affluent “Christian” homes. (I actually saw such adds in the classified section of the newspaper when I lived in OKC several years ago). You and your sons are blessed in every way!
This is a beautiful post, Rob. Some people make a conscious decision to be good parents, but that generally comes after a period of soul-searching. To know at such a young age is wonderful and astonishing! Your posts are uplifting and I so enjoy reading them and of course, seeing pictures of the family! ❤
Dammit thanks for making me cry. This was such a sweet/sad story. How a mother could do that to her child is beyond me. My life ceased to be mine alone the moment I found out I was pregnant. On the other hand the sweet side is that he was able to find a loving Father
I have found that reading stories on this page often make me weep….from joy.
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All children should have such loving parents as you and your partner! He is a very lucky boy to have survived and then to be adopted by you.It’s heart wrenching that he is a special needs child because of the damage inflicted upon him. I think when a woman does that once, she should be sterilized.
Happy Father’s Day! and blessings for that beautiful baby. Enjoy Fatherhood as I did. Sweet and lovely story that need to be repeated more often for children that are hungry for a loving home.
I grew up in a home with drug abusing parents and left home at 15 as a result. My brother (two years older) was adopted out to two wonderful parents before I was born. Though my relationship with my mother is reasonable – partly helped by living very far apart – I absolutely support children being adopted into loving and wanting homes. Too often, this policy of keeping children in broken and dangerous homes is written by people who have no idea of what it is like, and how it impacts on the individual for the full life cycle. I am lucky, a non-user and highly educated but the reality is that drug use breeds more drug use. Thank you for your story.
This was beautiful. ALL a child needs is a parent(s) willing to love them and give them the best. Who cares which gender (or none at all) that parent chooses to lie down next to at night. Thank you for enunciating so beautifully how it should be!
You have a beautiful soul.
But I do have to admit that a laughed at the bit about The Fosters only because I’m watching it right now as I type this.
This brought tears to my eyes, too – wonderfully written tribute to you and your partner,
and your beginning as parents. My partner and I have raised 5 children, and now have 8 grandchildren. We have dealt with bigotry and ignorance in many forms over the years, but we have 5 children that we are very proud of, and we wouldn’t change a thing. God bless you both!
Thank you for sharing your story Mr. Watson. Jason has a daddy to be very proud of.
What a beautiful person you are Rob. Such a loving person as a boy, man, and dad (father). To hear that you helped others be reunited with their kids was very touching. I’ve known many that needed that help and they didn’t have angels like you and you and your partner. That is so very wonderful to me. It is obvious how great of a dad you and he make to me. I can see it in your writing and your presence. Being a parent is not about sexuality, and, homosexuality and bisexuality (trans) has good effects on children. They learn to accept and be great people. I could go on and on. You nearly brought me to tears with this writing. ❤ Cheryl
Hi, your story was so sweet. As I continued reading, I thought maybe it should become a movie. Just saying. thought it was that good. Hope you get everything you’ve ever wanted.
Rob, This is such a tremendous and personal post. I find it interesting that we all have that drive to leave a legacy. Not so much procreating, but to leave an imprint of our better selves, I think. I never wanted to have children because my own childhood was so abysmal, yet as I aged, I found I had a deep need to share what knowledge, compassion and wisdom I had garnered over the years to my students; viola, violin, and the “students” who follow my writings. It is a poor substitute for having a little one from scratch, whether it is my own or by adoption.
You and your partner are an awesome couple. I have known you for quite some time and I can think of no better parents than you and your partner. Your children will reap the benefits of your kindness, compassion, intelligence, and fun. They will grow up in a stable environment with the example of two very loving parents. Why people continue to ignore this reality is entirely beyond me. Bless you; if you don’t find that ceramic angel, there are 2 of them, ready-made in the house.
Thank you for sharing your story!
Such a moving story. Touched my heart and made me cry because I wish every child would have such a devoted dad. Wish mine would, but his father doesn’t seem to place his sons hapiness above his own 😥 Second time I read your blog (the first was the one about your mom, yesterday I think) and I loved them both, so I’ll be following you! xx
I used to have mixed feelings about same sex parents adoptions. This was because here in Italy adoption is really hard, so we have plenty of “normal” families waiting in the line for the few children that can be adopted. Than I heard that in USA it was ok to give drug exposed children, hiv positive children, special need children to same sex couples as those “second choice” children would have been left in fostering institutes instead and started thinking how bigotry was involved in this choice of “the best for the children” normal family. Now I can only see one cons to same sex parents, which could be those children may experience some bullying in the wrong environment, but if my son can proudly say he has two daddy (and one mummy, as I am divorced) without making it to much of a fuss, I can only see pros in giving children to people who will love them for what they are and not for the sake of the perfect family.
My husband and I adopted drug affected babies through the foster care system. My one son, who is 17, is gay and also has a strong desire to be a parent some day. Fortunately for him he has grown up in a home where adoption is a very viable option to making a family. I can only hope and pray he finds a partner who has similar goals and is willing to open his heart and home to a child like this one….or another that needs a home. Four out of five of my kids are adopted and I used to be an adoption social worker for two private agencies. I would welcome loving parents and a solid home anytime, regardless of the sex of the parents!!!! Thanks for sharing this lovely story. I will share it with my son!
This was a lovely reply to a lovely story!! These children (in both families) are so very fortunate to have become a part of your families–no doubt, you as parents have been blessed by having them in your families as well!
Beautiful and inspiring story that truly brought tears to my eyes!! It gives me hope that I too can fulfill my fatherly instinct someday!! Thank you!!,
I have my own special needs child (now adult) and your willingness to take on such an immensely important job with such a child is angelic. People who call you names and negate the positive influence you and other gay moms and dads bring to their children’s lives just because of your sexual identity are so ill-informed and so wrong. God bless you and your family. Namaste.
What a beautiful, loving story. Best wishes to you on your life’s path. And for your partner, and, of course, Jason.
thank you for your beautiful story. you don’t become a mum or a dad just because you put half your dna into a child, it takes a lot more to be a parent than that. your little man will always be loved and safe, and you saved him from a horrid life.
he didn’t need a ceramic angel, he had a real life angel, who he now calls DAD!
As a woman who was adopted by two loving parents myself, this story made me cry. It’s a beautiful thing to read about two parents who are willing to bring a baby who may have future disabilities into their home and care for it as their own. I have ADD and bi-polar, I also suffered from Fetal alcohol syndrome. My parents stood by me and loved me. And I’m very happy that other children, including yours, have the same happy home that I grew up in.
A million moms should realize that their days are numbered, they have a billion moms and dads against them.