What I Signed Up For

What I Signed Up For

In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the third annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.

What I Signed Up For

By Bruce Ellis

When I first met my wife, I knew that I was head over heels in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.  One part of her life that was new to me, though, was the fact that she had an eight-year-old son.  If I was going to be part of her life, then I would need to be part of his as well.  From the very beginning, I made a point of not just including him in our time together, but also finding time for him and me to get to know each other one on one.  Through that decision, a bond grew between the two of us.  When the time came for my wife and I to be married, and she asked if I wanted to legally adopt her son, I was thrilled to say yes.

The adoption process was daunting at first.  It was scary dealing with all of the paperwork required in order to waive the parental rights for the biological dad.  It troubled me that we would need to wait to track him down him, since he had not had contact with my wife or her son for several years.  But we had a stroke of luck, and after a little digging, we were able to locate him through his mother.  He agreed to sign the paperwork to allow the adoption to go ahead.

Not once in this entire experience did I ever consider anything else as a possibility but for me to legally become this young man’s father.

In the years since, some people have said that my son looks just like me, mostly due to mannerisms (I am average height with pale skin and dark blonde hair, while he is short with dark hair and an olive complexion). When people do finally discover that he is not my biological child, the most common reaction, especially from women, is to compliment me about how wonderful it is for me to be willing to raise another man’s son.

They are completely wrong.  He is not another man’s son.  He is my child, and he always will be.  The commitment that I made is the same as any man who has been faced with fatherhood and chose to embrace it with both arms.  I look at my friends around me who have children with biological connections to them, and I know that I care for my son just as much as any of them do.  Whether it is a child that you created, a child that was created through some medical process, a child that you adopted at birth, or even later on in life, a father’s love for his child is a powerful and fierce thing that knows no bounds.

And since the day that the judge signed the papers, my love for him has grown more and more.  Through the days of adolescence, and into maturity, I watched him grow into someone who means the world to me.  I am just as much amazed by this young man as I am proud of him.

When my son was just over the age of eighteen, he stumbled into a situation that brought him into contact with the law, and despite all of the troubles and stress that it caused our family, I am still proud of the strength and determination that he showed through the challenge.

What was unbelievable to me was that even my wife -- who had a front row seat to witness how my son’s and my relationship had grown over the years -- was plagued by a basic misunderstanding about my relationship with my son.  One day after a long ordeal that had left all of us worn and stressed out, my wife and I sank down onto the couch to try and catch our breath and recover.  We knew that our stress was not over and it would take a while to get through the situation that we were in with our son.

As we sat there, she suddenly turned to me and said. “I’m sorry; this isn’t what you signed up for.”

People talk a lot about the sanctity of marriage, but they sometimes forget the sanctity of parenthood, a love that is equal if not greater than marriage.  In marriage two people agree to support each other, but with parenthood, it is a love that sacrifices for the object of your affection, with little or no expectations from the child.

You care for and protect them in Sickness and in Health, for Better or Worse, Richer or Poorer, and it is a love that lasts even past the death.  It is a love that children will carry within themselves for the rest of their lives, and hopefully pass on to children of their own one day.  I explained this all to my wife.  How he was my son just as much as he was hers.  How if anything were to ever happen to the two of us and we were not together anymore, then I would still have that amazing relationship with my son, for the rest of my life.

Being a parent is less something you choose and more something you are blessed with.  It is an opportunity to guide and shape a child, to show him or her all of the things you love and make you who you are, and a chance to learn new and exciting things because of what he or she discovers in life.  It has its ups and downs.

No road is ever one hundred percent smooth. And in some cases it may feel like it is filled with more sorrow than joy, but it is not.  The challenges that we face for our children in protecting as well as guiding them, and sometimes even just letting them make their own way, are the things that make both us and them stronger.  It is these experiences that have made my life more rewarding.

This is exactly what I signed up for, and I would not trade a moment of it for anything in the world.

Bruce Ellis is a father, husband, writer & independent publisher living in central Florida.

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Click here to read the posts from the first annual Adoption Portraits series!

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