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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The Next Chapter

The saying “time flies” seems like such a cliche, something your mother always says that makes you roll your eyes a little.

Fast forward and I wake up a few weeks ago to realise it’s been 5 years. Yes, a whole 5 years since our lives were changed forever.

The most fascinating change in 5 years in the difference in perception, where before he was just complex, now he’s a teenager.

“Oh how is Flash going? He must be getting so big now?!”
“He’s a monster who eats everything in sight, won’t stop growing, slams doors and refuses to talk to me when I ask basic questions like ‘how was your day?'”
“So… he’s a teenager?”
“Exactly”

Five years is a short time or a long time, depending how you look at it.
Just 5 short years or half a decade, but a lot can change.

From the stability of primary school he launched into high school, three new schools in just two years, moving house and the constant upheaval of our lives has put a test to our determination, our willpower and our strength, but ultimately as they say, love prevails.

It’s been a testing time to say the least and for the most part it’s the trials and tribulations of life as a teenager on a journey that’s new and unexpected for us all. We’ve watched him grow and develop, change, mature to become a resilient young man with more attitude and sass than we were ever quite prepared for.

When I say sass, I mean this boy is going to outdo us one day and rule the world.

We’re sitting on the verandah and a baby next door starts crying.
“Dad, they should have a mute button on babies”
“Yeah, one for teenagers too”
“Yeah or one for fat hairy old gay men too.”

*Mic Drop*

Yeah, he’s good, we’ll give him that.

He’s growing, he’s becoming an adult, but not quite there yet. His struggles at school and at home have been more than we could have ever expected. The highs have been high and the lows have been so very very low. But that’s what this has been, the next chapter. He’s graduated from the life he had to a time of friendship and development for himself and us as a family. More than anything we’ve opened and closed a chapter that is so intricate I may never find the words to show, but I’ll try.

So that is where I shall take you from here, to the next chapter.

Yes, I know these last few years the writing has been few and far between and the production of the original book has been so far delayed it’s hard to think it will ever eventuate, but it’s almost done!

So stay tuned, for the next chapter….

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I wanna be like you.

Sometimes it’s really easy for people to forget that the child who walks and talks beside us hasn’t been there forever. Obviously strangers on the street wouldn’t know any better but plenty who know us know that he hasn’t been ours since birth. Yet, this doesn’t stop them from dropping some of the silliest one liners on us that make us shake our heads.

We weren’t responsible for teaching him to walk and talk, but you’d be forgiven sometimes for thinking that he might have had a had in it. You see our son, precious as he is, when he came to us had a specific fascination with a pop star that’s well, somewhat contentious to those with a more discerning musical taste.

Now when I say fascination, I may be laying it on lightly, obsession may be a little more of an accurate description.

The artist in question, is one Justin Bieber.

Yes that’s right, the hair flipping, high voiced “baby” crooning, panty dropping, teen super star of the world.

Our boy is a Belieber , he has the Bieber fever and we realised pretty quickly there was nothing we could do about it.

In his scarce collection of belongings that came with him from his old house to ours came a throng of belieber material. Two copies of his movie on DVD, his albums (yes there was MORE than one?), posters and even, wait for it, the doll. Yes, there was a JB Doll, pint sized and plastic just like the boy it was created from in all it’s glory.

justin-doll

The one and only Bieber

But this was a shameful obsession for Flash, one approached with great trepidation. You see he had seen and he had heard the word from his peers, the Biebs wasn’t the coolest person in the world around school, well not for the boys anyway. So his approach was always like his own little coming out, he had to test the waters, poke and prod and search for a reaction first.

It was one of those things he had to drop in the first time we met as we asked him about the things he enjoyed, disliked etc.
Yeah, I like my bike and my cars and stuff and I like music…
What sort of music do you like
*Silence…*
Well you know Justin Bieber, I don’t like him at all! He’s so lame but ALL the girls love him.
His youth worker at the time casually raised his eyebrows at us with one of those looks, we smiled.
Really? We’ve heard he’s really popular, lots of people like him
*Silence…*
He looked up.
Yeah, well I do like some of his stuff, he’s kinda cool…
An admission, that was like releasing an avalanche.
Well that’s pretty cool isn’t it?
You could see the relief of the burden of judgement wash over him.

The thing about this little obsession was different to the ones we had over pop stars as kids. It wasn’t like that time I had scrimped and save to buy the Hanson video, so I could replay it over and over and over to decide which one I wanted to by my boyfriend.
Like the N’Sync and Backstreet boy posters that adorned my walls as a teenager and the slight obsession I had over Nick Carter for the better part of a decade.

This was an idol fascination. He truly looked up to the Bieb’s as someone that he wanted to “be” or at least be like. In all of the simplicity of his childhood and his search for attention and acceptance he was thinking “If I can just be like this guy, then more people will like me” which was essentially some smart thinking. He’d done the math, millions of girls like this guy, so wouldn’t it make sense to be like him? If he could master the magic of the Beibs then surely more people would love him, right?

However this only spelled itself out in the most painful and entertaining of ways.

We had a small BBQ with one half of our family shortly after he’d moved in and once he had them gathered in the houseand was feeling sufficiently comfortable he figured it was time to pull out his signature move.

“Ummm Excuse me, can everyone stay here for a minute, I need to show you my dance.”

His captive audience awaited.
The music started.
“Opps! No! Wrong song! Just wait!”
Stop. Start. Run out.

What followed was impressive.

He entered down the hallway, baseball cap pulled down over his face, plastic guitar across his back.
*Stop. Head down. Dramatic pause* 
The head slowly rose upwards as he stared at his adoring crowd, the performance was upon us.
He knocked it out of the ball park, A plus for effort. He memorised some of the top Bieber moves, the air grab, the pointing at the adoring fan in the audience, even some of the actual dance moves.
BAM.
The hat flew off across the room, he ran, jumped and slid across the room on his knees, the guitar came round as he smashed out his best solo effort, his adoring crowd cheered appropriately.

The song ended, the whole family applauded.
“Wait, I have to show you my next dance!”
He proceeded to play a different song and entered the room dramatically again.
This time,  performing the same exact dance, move for move, to a different song. His repertoire was strong, but not diverse.

Turns out this was a habit formed at school of all places.

On Fridays in a somewhat “Show and Tell” style segment they were allowed to chose things to show and do for the class. Apparently it had become a ritual that on Fridays he would perform his dance to the class, the exact same dance, each week.
To their credit his classmates never mocked him or teased him and in amongst all his anxiety and swirling mass of thoughts and ideas in his head he had the confidence to get up and do it week after week.

Therein lies the conundrum.

How to teach this exuberant child that has the confidence and the resilience to get up and perform like this to his peers and to relative strangers about how to reign it in and harness it without shaming him. At the end of the day there’s nothing wrong with his choices, he could be singing the Spice Girls and wearing a TuTu for all we could care. But this was about drawing the line of obsession and reading peoples interest and engagement to appropriate the best time and place and the best performance, plus work on that choreo just a touch.

Those were the questions we started to have over the weeks, the subtle poking and prodding.

That’s a really great set of dance moves, but I noticed they were really similar to the last set, have you thought how you could change them up between songs?

Finding different ways to shift his thinking and gauge his understanding of how people digest and perceive him was and still is an ongoing process but an important one. Later down the track he would end up in speech and drama classes that saw him thrive, like one of his fathers his seems born to perform.

But ultimately what was most frustrating at times was those little things that sometimes people would say, those little “WTF” moments. After they’d see his dance (he’d do it for strangers if we let him), we’d hear the odd laugh or smirk;
“Clearly you can see he’s learning from you”
“Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”
*Hint*
*Nudge*
*Eye Roll*

This would be all well and good if perhaps we’d raised him from a baby, but these comments sometimes could be deriding our confidence in raising him to be his own person. Not to mention our general disdain for Justin Bieber and combined talent at being terrible dancers, this part to him was all him and those comments serve to almost strip him of his identity by playing it back onto us.

He’d had nine years to formulate his own personality which was thriving and to have anything “flamboyant” about it thrown back to the fact he now had two gay dads could be frustrating. The comments would never come with malice, always in jest, usually from those we loved and treasured most. Still they added more weight to the growing complexities of raising a very energetic young man in a world where all eyes were on us and who we were raising him to be.

That’s not to say we don’t see our behaviours moulded on him on a daily basis. As the years go by we see him growing and developing, picking up pieces from the world around him. We hear his language start to shift, his vocabulary and his enunciation start to change to become reflective of ours. Sitting down cross legged one day I looked across to him beside me and it was almost comical, subconsciously he was sitting identically, book in hand with his legs crossed engrossed in the pages as my very own mini me.

It’s not like we walk him up and down the house and teach him how he should walk.
“No! Faster! Head up!”
“No! Move the hips from side to side!”
“But some SASS into it boy!”
“And 1 and 2 and 3 and STRUT!”
“Be fierce!”
“Where’s that pout? And point! Hair toss! And laugh!”

He’s a little person cultivating his own identity, piecing bits together form all the world and around him. Bits will come from us and from others. Whether those bits and pieces come together to make a straight man or a gay man are irrelevant. The only thing we’ll hope for is that they create a confident man capable of being whoever and doing whatever he puts his mind to. Maybe he’ll be the next Bieber one day? Who knows? Anything is possible.