Today I gained a son!
If you’ve been playing along at home, the past year has been in large part about jumping the hurdles and hoops and red tape of local, state and federal gummint in the hopes of making my stepson my legal son.
Finally all the parts came together, and we had our day in family court. There was no question of what might happen, really… all the papers have been signed, fees paid, interviews had.
We had to wait our turn in the hallway, while another family finalized their adoption. They had about a dozen friends and family in with them, balloons, cake, the whole works. We seemed so reserved by comparison. It was simply myself, my wife Cheryl and our son Max in the courtroom with our lawyer, the judge, the bailiff and two court reporters (secretarys? stenographers? legal assistants? I don’t know… but they looked busy). We had no cake, no friends and family, no balloons.
But it didn’t matter. This was about making it official, and we wanted it intimate (We had plans to have my older kids over to celebrate later in the evening anyway). The judge was awesome… very sweet. She spent some time chatting with Max about himself, his favorite activities, what he likes to do with me, and so on. She had him sign the paperwork (usually only kids older than 12 sign, but she felt he was “old enough and smart enough” to get to sign), then she took me by surprise. She had me raise my right hand, and take an oath:
I, William, solemnly swear
To treat Max
In all respects as my natural child
I am prepared to accept
This gift of a child to raise
I will share my life with him
Help to mold his mind
Nurture his body
And enrich his spirit
I will never betray his trust
Dampen his hopes or
Discourage his dreams
I will be patient and kind
I make this commitment willingly
I will cherish Max
All the days of my life.*
Now, any of you who know me well know I’m a bit of a crybaby, so I only got through one or two lines before falling apart and blubbering like a little girl (she took me by surprise!). But it was all okay, everyone laughed kindly and passed me tissues. I will say that although as birth father to my three older kids I never had to take such an oath (but wouldn’t it be cool if they had you do that?), I hope they know that I did so in my heart when they came into my life 20, 24 and 27 years ago, and I hope I’ve lived up to it.
We’ll be framing and hanging said oath on the wall (they gave us a copy, nicely printed on parchment).
The bailiff was likewise a really nice guy, obviously loves this part of his job, and volunteered to take the pics for us.
Something I did not know is that there will be a new birth certificate generated, with my name on it. It’s all new, baby, just as it should be.
Ironically, to finalize that new birth certificate, our last stop was in another office to stand in line and turn in the signed papers… on which we discovered a mistake in Max’s birthdate (previously called out and fixed but never communicated to the court). Luckily, a little white out and hopefully that’s all done. We’ll see when the certificate arrives.
We left the courthouse newly galvanized, shared a happy lunch together, and headed home.
And that’s when the other shoe dropped.
*Based upon prayer in “Guide My Feet” by Marian Wright Edelman (c) 1995 Marian Wright Edelman
Note: All this happened back on May 22nd, so I’ve dated this post thusly. But there’s been a lot going on and I haven’t been able to write about it till today – June 2.