Not Your Real Dad

My sperm are stupid.

Not that anyone’s sperm are “smart” in terms of being able to problem solve or think existentially about what it means to be sperm, but evolutionarily speaking there is only one purpose for sperm, and that is to swim north once they hit the uterus and find a ripe and ready egg to fertilize. My sperm do not do this.

Instead, my sperm, as medical professionals have explained on several occasions, don’t want to swim north. They are not imbued with any sense of biological duty to pass my genetic material to future generations. They feel no sense of destiny for which they must manifest. They are content to simply be.

Which is not something men worry about when they are growing up. I’m sure there is the odd nuclear scientist and recovering Hollywood stuntman who, based on how they make their livelihoods, know that their odds of impregnating someone are less than 100%. But like most people, I assumed the gas in my family’s reproductive fuel tank wouldn’t have burned out by now. But after trying for six years, my sperm — with their stupid sperm brains and cockeyed sperm tails — are content to mosey around in medium circles instead of charging forward and eventually turning into little human children. This is unlikely to change.

After pushing the limits of medical assistance as far as we were comfortable pushing them, my wife and I had to face some real questions about what the future of our family would look like. How important was it to us that we have kids, and how important was it that those kids shared our genes?

We knew the answer to the first question. We both imagined growing older with a family that is ours. I’d teach the kids how to mow the lawn and my wife would teach them how to plant a garden and hopefully as they got older, all that knowledge and wisdom and proper potty training techniques would help them to nudge the world in the right direction, if just ever so slightly.

The second question was answered for us. Genetically, we weren’t gonna get any kids that were both mine and hers, so we would need to seek alternatives. That’s when we decided to become foster parents. Our intention was and continues to be to foster children who we can eventually adopt. This is not a surefire plan, because fostering a child for a prolonged period of time in no way guarantees that you will be able to adopt them. There is a good chance that decision will not ultimately be up to us. Knowing this, we decided to move forward.

Over a year ago we started the process of becoming licensed foster parents. After a year of work, we received our license in April of this year. If I had to describe the licensing process in one word, I would ask if “shit show” was one word. There is not enough bandwidth to discuss this issue in one blog post. It is a bureaucratic quagmire of such hellish beauty that it inspires both reverence and revulsion in magnificent oscillation. And after getting a license, it doesn’t really get much better. It is hard and it is stressful and at times you will want to give up on getting your license for a reason that has nothing to do with actually having a child in your house and rests squarely on the shoulders of “THE SYSTEM.”

BUT — for anyone interested in becoming a foster parent, I will always recommend doing it for one reason: there is a distressingly large chasm between the number of children in the foster system in this country, and the number of open foster homes for them to live in. In the State of Washington alone there are nearly 10,000 children in the foster system. There is a massive need for foster homes and for those who have the means, it is a tangible way to actually effect positive change in society. I am unable to produce children naturally, and that’s a real bummer. But there are innumerable wonderful, innocent children in the foster system who are starving for a sense of permanency and love in their lives. So I am willing to put up with a disproportionate amount of bullshit if I can get a kid in my house whose life I can hopefully help make better.

So here I am right now. We currently have two foster children living in our home. A one-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy. I’m not their real dad. I expect that at some point in the future this will be said to me by one of them, probably in a fit of rage that isn’t totally undeserved. But for now the one-year-old and the five-year-old are living with us and as far as I’m concerned, I’m more real than any other dad in their lives. They are safe here. They are loved here. They cry and throw tantrums and are scared here. They make us laugh and they frustrate us and we don’t know how long they will be in our home. That makes us sad. But for now, and until then, it’s pretty good.

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