About two years ago, when Chris and I first started talking on the phone during the early days of the pandemic, I worried about one thing above all others:
What if he wanted kids of his own?
He obviously knew that I had three kids already, but did he get what that truly meant? Did he understand how much work it was for me already? Did he know how I felt about the prospect of having more kids?
I didn’t wait long to breach the topic with him. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of, “just so you know, I don’t want any more kids.”
I think he was a bit taken aback by my forwardness, but he was thoughtful in his answer. He told me he understood my point of view. He could totally respect it.
It wasn’t enough for me, and I kept pushing. I wanted him to understand that while I might be falling for him, there was no way I was changing my mind about this. So, did he want kids of his own?
I felt him choose his words carefully. He told me that he didn’t need biological children. But he wanted to be a part of a family, in some way, someday.
That was all I needed to hear. I put the issue to the side, and I let my guard down a bit more. I could fall in love now, and talk about what it would mean to have him in my kids’ lives later.
Of course, you all know how the story ended. After surprising me in my driveway one spring day, and then after months of going back and forth between DC and Atlanta, Chris moved up to live with us. He did the hard work of everyday parenting right from the start, as the pandemic meant we were all living together all the time. After about a year, the kids started calling him “Dad” (though Tommy still calls him “Chris”). And it was another year before he became their legal father.
During that time, I’ve had many, many people ask me a version of this question:
Does he want kids of his own?
It made sense in the beginning of our relationship. Chris was merely my boyfriend, a single guy who had never been married and never had children. And if you spend two minutes with Chris, it’s clear that he loves kids. And so the question lingered – did he want his own kids?
And since I was his girlfriend, presumably that was a question for me. Did I want to have more children?
I don’t mean to be so blunt. Kids are great! I love mine. I love having a million kids around and if I had four kids I’m sure my life would be pretty similar.
But I don’t want any more kids. There are a lot of reasons for this, but much of it boils down to not wanting babies anymore. (I’ll wait for grandkids, thank you very much!) And so when people would ask me about Chris in the early days, I knew they were wondering if this would be a deal-breaker for Chris. How could a man who so clearly wanted to be a dad be dating someone who so clearly didn’t want to have any more kids?
I think we’ve proven that there is another way.
And yet, people still ask me – and now they ask Chris – this question. When I’m having a good day, I try to remember that people are likely trying to ask, “are you and Chris going to have any more kids?” and my answer has not changed. On a bad day, I feel frustrated by this question.
No matter what kind of day I’m having, it’s the phrasing that we both find really odd. It implies a belonging of sorts – i.e. if you once had a father who raised you for some time, and now have another father who is raising you, that’s not real fatherhood for either of those men. But this idea – that you can only belong to one person – it sees love with a deficit mindset.
And I just don’t see love that way.
Chris is now the kids’ father in every way. He does all the things that any good father would do, he is legally bound to them like any natural born father, and he loves them the same as a father who produced them biologically.
So, does Chris “want kids of his own?”
My reply is always the same. He has kids of his own. Their names are Claire, Austin and Tommy and yes, he missed watching them learn how to walk, but he didn’t miss a single baseball game last year, and he has spent hundreds of hours helping with homework, and he’s always the one cuddled up in a blanket reading bedtime stories at night. And who knows what the future will bring, but I’m sure there will be dozens more track meets where he’s yelling louder than any parent out there, and hours and hours in the passenger seat of the car teaching three teenagers how to drive, and a moment when we both cry watching each kid walk up to their college dorm.
Because our kids? They are his, just as they are mine. They are kids of his own.
Image Credit: Sharyn Peavey.