Two Dads, one very opinionated son.

Our Foster story, the journey from strangers to family.


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Lights, Camera, Drag?

In 2013 I was granted a fantastic opportunity, our local community television station was creating an GLBTIQ talk show, QTV Brisbane, I was selected as one of the hosts. The program was a great experiment for our community and a really fantastic opportunity to do something fun and entertaining. I got the opportunity to work with an amazing team of people to put the program together and they were incredibly understanding when I asked if it would be ok for Flash to come along to some of the filming. Thinking this would be a great time for him to get to see something really cool and interesting they graciously allowed him to attend and watch, providing he was on his best behaviour.

Having just started high school he was becoming a typical teenage boy, into everything and with an ever growing opinion about how he was always right. Naturally however he thought the idea of coming to see the show being filmed was “really cool.” After we’d recorded a few episodes and were into the swing of things I bundled him into the car with me to head to the studio.

Perhaps I’d oversold the idea a little bit, he’d probably gone into the experience thinking there would be bright lights, bustling film crews and a whole lot of “Lights, Camera, Action!” When we arrived to the small studios with a cast and crew of less than ten tucked into a small community TV station you could read the bemused disappointment on his fact that said “This is it?” We weren’t exactly on a high end budget, but we had a tight schedule and lots of work to get to, tonights topic: Drag Queens.

We’d had a chat in the car on the way about what the show would be about tonight and what a drag queen was, he didn’t find it that hard to understand.
“So it’s a boy?”
“Yes”
“And he’s dressed like a girl?”
“Yup”
“Can’t people tell?”
“Well, not always, but it’s more about creating a character.”
“Like an actor?”
“That’s right.”
“Cool”

Later we were sitting in the production meeting discussing notes for the show as he looked around earnestly, bored really, looking for something to do. After a knock on the door in walked Melody, with heels and hair she towered at about 7 foot tall as she strode in.
He eyed her up and down with a kind of wide eyed wonder as she did her introductions with everyone, striking up conversation as we prepared for the show. He looked at me sideways,

“Would you like to go and say hi?”
“Sure!”

He trotted on over with me and exchanged introductions, he warmed up pretty quickly.
“Would you like a photo with Melody?”
“Yes please!”
“Want me to pick you up?” She asked
“Sure!”
With that she swung down and picked him up in both arms holding him like a baby as he grinned from ear to ear. Laughing he turned to her,
“You know I know you’re just a boy in a dress right?”
I almost choked on my coffee but she laughed it off as she put the cheeky bugger down and he trotted off to find something else to do.

As we got ready for the nights show our producer Steve and I sat down with him to give him the run down on how to behave for the night. Covered in tattoos, piercings and facial hair Steve was a formidable straight main with an unshakeable passion for supporting our community. He took Flash under his wing but put him in his place pretty firmly as he showed him around the studio.

Once the camera’s finished rolling I looked around as Flash walked back into the room.
“Everything ok sweetheart? Did you like the show?”
“Yeah… it was ok, pretty cool…”
Casually evasive, he was up to something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

We all worked to pack down the set, gather our things and head back to the production room for a debrief. As we became enthralled in the conversations around the episode and plans for next week, his little eyes began to flutter as he grew tired. Suddenly there was a knock on the door, a uniformed police officer stepped through revealing several officers behind him.

“Is everyone ok in here?”
“Yes, we’re all fine mate, is there something we can help with” replied Steve
“Well… we received a call for help from this building, we’ve been through the place and you’re the only ones here.”
“A call for help?”
“Someone dialled 000, said ‘help me’ and hung up”

Every set of eyes turned in unison towards a certain someone suddenly very awake in his chair looking around the room in wonder as to who this mystery caller might be.
Steve looked at him, then at me.
“Maybe we should step out for a moment?”

I followed him out with the officers into the hall shaking my head in exasperation.
“I’m so sorry, we all know who this was.”
The boys in blue weren’t impressed, Steve was not impressed, I was not impressed.
Flash, was packing it.
“I didn’t do it!”
Which was his code for “I definitely did it. Please don’t arrest me.”

Thankfully the police were gracious in their departure and saved him from a drilling,  passing it on to me instead. However he wasn’t saved the wrath of Steve who was chilling and calm in expressing his disappointment but graciously allowing him to return again, providing he was kept under observation at all times.

One would think it was a lesson learnt, but who are you kidding? He’s a teenage boy, this was our snapshot of the future ahead of poor decision making, stupid pranks and an absence of logic and forethought that only teenage boys can truly possess.

View the complete episode here

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Unusual Activity

During our time spent in training as preparation for becoming carers we were exposed to a whole world of different situations, they were confronting, emotional and sometimes down right mind boggling. In an effort to try and cover all bases they listed some of the most horrendous, outrageous and depressing things that kids who’ve been in care can do.

Some things were pretty basic, like hoarding food, apparently this was one of the most standard habits. Many children in care, they would tell us, would find comfort and safety in hoarding food in their rooms or other places. They wanted to prepare us for that inevitable moment when we would walk into the room and want to discover what that festering smell was and find a stash of food piled up under the bed. For many it’s a matter of safety, preparation in case something went wrong, for some they never had enough to eat at home and always lived in fear of going hungry again.

Other things involved behaviours, like swearing and running away or detailing how obscure things can trigger traumatic memories and create outbursts or breakdowns. Some things were even more detailed and depressing, but if we were to do down that road you’d need a moment and a few stiff drinks to process it all, that was the confrontational stuff.

But the thing about all this preparation was that it was all “what if’s” and “maybe’s” and “possibilities” because you never ever can know what is going to be around the corner, so the need to try and brief us on everything was high.

Coming out of this training, processing it all and moving forward preparing to look after this little human was daunting. There is always this constant narrative in your head when you see and hear things they do, you’re always thinking “Why? What’s caused this? What’s happening inside that head and how can we fix it?” Then just when you think you might be on top of it they love to throw you a curve ball.

It was a day at the beach.
Dad had to go to work so Daddy had decided a nice day trip to the beach with the dog would be lovely. So bags packed, off they went and enjoyed a lovely afternoon swimming in the surf and mucking around with the four legged child.

Afterwards in the car home a smell started to seep through the car.
“Mate… did you fart?”
“No! That’s disgusting”
The dog looked up immediately as if to protest her innocence.
It worsened as they got home, something was definitely not right.
So off he was sent to have a shower.
“Pass your clothes out when your done and I’ll take them down to get washed” he called out to him.
The door opened and a hand thrust out the dirty beach clothes, the smell was overpowering.
“Right, he’s not made it to the bathroom in time or something.”
Habitually he took the clothes down for washing, he checked the underwear and nothing, clean. Then he started to empty the pockets before putting the pants in the wash and as he reached in he felt something unexpected, the penny dropped, he flung the pants  on the ground and stepped back.

He’d brought home a turd in his pocket.

That’s right, you read correctly, a turd, in his pocket.

One set of gloves, half a bottle of disinfectant and 3 washes of the offending clothing later we reconvened.

“Why?”

We were stumped, when confronted with the evidence he turned the most innocent eyes upon us and shrugged.
“I dunno”
“So you were in the water and you needed to go?”
“Yeah”
“Fair enough, it happens, but why did you bring it back and then home?”
“I dunno”
“Right… well next time you know you can leave it in the water? Or at least take it back to a bathroom, ok?”
“…. so, I’m not in trouble…?”
“No mate… lets just try to use a toilet in the future?”
“Ok dad”

We went back over the notes, surely we must have missed the section about defecating in his pocket? Nope, nothing.

A few days later we caught up with his psychologist and he laughed, a lot. In all his years, he said, that was a first.
Was there some deep reason at play?
Probably not.

There could have been endless possibilities or reasons but nothing concrete, no textbook to answer the questions, just the never ending mind of this child. Perhaps it was a test?

Whatever it was it certainly taught us that you can never ever be prepared for what’s to come next and always be cautious when doing the washing.


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A Point Of Difference

A week ago he walked out of his room, his wide brimmed school hat perched on his head with his curly untameable fringe sticking out over his eyes. His socks were pulled up to his knees awkwardly and his shirt was roughly tucked into his pants, his belt on too tight and his pants pulled too high, I gazed at him and smiled.
“What?” He laughed as he looked down.
“I just can’t believe it” I said
“What? Dad?”
“I can’t believe you’re actually in year 8, already!” I began to tear up a little.
“Daaaad” he sighed, do you HAVE to keep saying it?
“Do you HAVE to keep getting so big?
“Daddy! Can you make him stop, please. He’s embarrassing!”
It’s a good thing I didn’t get to take him to school, although it was the same school as last year and the same uniform I would have made him stop for several hundred photographs before he got to the classroom. It was just under 4 years ago when we first got to drop him to a year 4 classroom, but watching him prepare for his first full year as a high school student was over whelming.

Only a year ago he began at his new school, a huge change that we had instigated in an effort to get him ready for the challenges of high school. His new school was offering a middle school transition year to help students moving from primary into high school, we had bravely taken the plunge and were terrified. Where we felt terror he felt anxious, a lifetime at the one school whilst fraught with good and many bad experiences had created a sense of comfort, short of moving in with us this was to be the biggest change of his life. In a way it was a severance of the final ties that bound him to his old life, a chance to really start fresh and create a new beginning, which was a thought that played on his mind.

A few days before his first day we were making dinner in the kitchen as he entertained himself in the living room. He was rattling off a million questions about what to expect and we were answering what we could until something we said threw him.
“We can’t wait to take you in for your first day tomorrow, we’re so excited and proud of you!”
He went silent.
A moment later his face appeared around the doorway into the kitchen, he looked at us quizzically.
“Are you BOTH taking me to school tomorrow?” he queried cautiously.
“Well, yes. Of course we are, why wouldn’t we be?”
“Oh… well, I thought it would just be one of you…” he cast his eyes downwards.
“Is that going to be a problem” I queried?
His eyes remained on the floor.
“Well… no…. I guess…” He walked away slowly into the living room again and was quiet.

We turned and looked at each other. It was one of those moments where we didn’t really need words, we’d both reached the same conclusion.

He didn’t want to be the kid who turned up to school with two dads.

Somewhere in our minds we’d prepared for this day.
We knew that at some point there would come a day he may become embarrassed by us or be worried about what people may think of us but we were not prepared for it now. He had never been shameful about us before, we’d watched him meet new kids before and do the explanation;
“That’s my dad and that’s my other dad” never with an air of shame, always with pride or simple nonchalance.

Perhaps that was the sting, the turn around in attitude from what was to what is in a heartbeat, it made my head spin and my heart ache.

We sat down over dinner a while later, he picked at his food with his eyes downcast, not saying much.
“Mate, do you want to tell us why you don’t want us both there tomorrow?”
He sighed without looking up
“No….”
“Mate, you need to be honest, you won’t be in trouble but we need to talk about it”
He sighed, again, but his fork down and looked up with tears in his eyes and gave the most unexpected answer.
“It’s just… if I turn up to school and everyone sees me with two dads… well… they’re going to know I’m adopted… and they’ll think I’m weird.”
A wave of relief washed over me and I almost had to stop from smiling.
He had definitely been worried about being seen to be different but not for fear of the judgement about having two dads, but for fear of being identified as a child of the foster care system.

His innocence was astounding, where we thought him to be so quick to fear judgement about our lives he had not seen it as a point of difference for judgement but merely an indicator that would give away his own past.

We hugged him tight that night to reassure him that everything would be alright, we could sense the relief that he had got his worries off his chest. A big new chapter lay ahead, with no idea how to navigate it and us as his only guides, it was definitely going to be bumpy ride.


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Words on a page, moving to the stage.

Life is hurtling forwards for us, as per usual, we’re reaching the end of another year and we’re just racing to keep up.
It’s been eventful, dramatic, moving, exhausting and fabulous, I’ve simply lost the time to write about it at all of late.

I have however been offered the opportunity with the Brisbane Powerhouse and the MELT festival in 2015 to present our story, live on stage. It’s an interesting opportunity, I’m not a comedian, but when I saw the opportunity I simply thought that there is so much to our story to tell, only so much can be brought to life using words on a page, what better medium than to speak them?

So on February 12th at 6pm I will take to the stage on my own, Flash isn’t allowed to join us and my darling husband is more terrified of microphones than he is of snakes and spiders. So it will be just me presenting our story, warts and all, in a room full (hopefully) of people to give just that bit more of an insight into what it’s like in the world of Two Dads & Me.

To make it all happen of course we need the love and support of our Brisbane audience, tickets are available for purchase online and are now starting to sell, I would really love to see a full house and really kick this show off with a bang!

Tickets can be purchased here
http://brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/2015/02/12/two-dads-and-me/

You can also spread the word, spread the love and register your attendance via the Facebook event here.
Even better you can use the event to invite your friends and spread the word.
We are just a little show, with a little budget, tickets are going to sell on word of mouth more than anything (They’re only $25 too!)
https://www.facebook.com/events/1575423732691546/
Copies of our book will also be available on the night too (finally!).

We look forward to seeing you all there and thank you again for your continued support

MJ, Ant & Flash
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