Chapter 46

Two months later the doorbell rang, and was answered by Adam. "Judge Cunningham? This is a pleasant surprise. Please, won't you come in? Please have a seat. Can I get you anything to drink, water, iced tea, milk, orange juice?"

"I'd love a glass of iced tea. Thank you." Adam scooted out of the room and came back with the iced tea, his fathers in tow.

"Welcome to our home, Your Honor. To what do we owe the pleasure of this visit?" Jay said.

"Thank you. I wanted to check and see how Janita was doing, and also wanted thank the two of your for opening your home, and very obviously, your hearts to her. She's a very lucky girl."

"We're the lucky ones, Your Honor." Kyle spoke up. "Janita's a wonderful girl. It was tough at first to get her to trust us. She was so convinced that if she didn't keep the house spotless, do all the laundry and prepare all the meals we were going to send her back to the shelter."

"How did you finally get her to trust you?"

"I have to admit we screwed up at first."

"How so?"

"At first we told her that she didn't have to do any cleaning other than her bedroom and bathroom, no cooking unless she absolutely wanted to, and no laundry unless she felt uncomfortable with one of us doing hers. If so, then she could do her own."

"So how was that screwing up?"

"Apparently those people," Kyle refused to refer to the Conklins as her parents, "ingrained in her that doing all that was payment for her meals, room and board. When we prevented her from doing any of that, we basically took her security blanket away from her."

"I see. I noticed that you referred to the Conklins as `those people', not `her parents'."

Jay spoke up. "They may have created her, but they were no more parents than those fish over there in that fish tank. No real parent could or would treat their own flesh and blood that way. Kyle and I are her parents now."

"And from what I hear, awesome parents. It's very easy to see how much you love and care for her."

"Thank you, Your Honor. Anyways, after we let her start doing some chores, she started to relax. Once she became comfortable here, we weaned her from them. She's now a normal seventeen-year-old with friends and a normal seventeen-year-old life."

"Please, call me Marilyn. I'm very glad to hear that. You've all done a wonderful job from what I'm told and I'm pleased to no end. This brings me to the other reason why I'm here. The traditional family paradigm from ten years ago is no longer working today. We see children being raised by their grandparents, aunts, uncles, even older siblings, and yes, gay couples. We have support networks in place for all of these types of family units, save one. There is no support network in place for gay family units, and I want to start one. What I would like to do is set up a meeting with your entire family, myself, the Director of Health and Human Services, Child Protective Services, and the Mayor. We need to identify specific concerns that you have and issues that you faced as a family so that we can create a support network to help you and families that come after you."

"I can tell you right now, Marilyn, the biggest obstacle out there is finding a judge that will allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt. We were very lucky to have Judge Clark preside over our adoption hearing. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been allowed to adopt Adam. Unfortunately he retired shortly afterwards. We tried to adopt another child so he would grow up with a brother or a sister, but the judge that replaced him not only denied us, but threatened to overturn his adoption if we pursued the matter, so we dropped it. He meant too much to us to risk losing him." Kyle told her. "We were lucky that he had already turned eighteen when the anti-adoption law was passed so we were able to fight the overturning and win."

"While that was a big obstacle, Kyle, it wasn't the biggest one we faced." Kyle shot him a puzzled look. "The biggest obstacle right now is that damned anti-adoption law." Kyle nodded acknowledgement of his point. "We would have adopted Janita immediately if it weren't for that law. We've actually submitted the paperwork to adopt her in hopes that the lobbyists will be able to get it overturned."

"There's a good chance it will be overturned" the judge said, "which is why we want to get the support framework in place. I had CPS provide me with the number of gay and lesbian families that were successful in adopting children, and, sadly, you are the only one so far. There is such a need out there for loving families that are willing to become foster parents or adoptive parents. Your family is unique in that you fit both roles. You're adoptive parents to Adam, and foster parents to Janita. We need to make sure that you can get whatever support you need. This support network will cover adoptive parents, foster parents and the combination of both. Will you help us?"

"Absolutely! We'll give you one-hundred percent."

Janita walked in with Janine. She noticed the judge sitting there and became very frightened. She squeezed Janine's hand. What's going on? Why is she here? Am I being taken away?

"Janita, nice to see you again. How are you doing, dear?"

"F-f-f-fine, Your Honor."

Kyle and Jay exchanged glances. "Janita, honey, what's wrong?" Kyle asked. She just shook her head as tears began to fall.

"I bet I know what it is." Jay spoke up. "Janita, Judge Cunningham is not here to take you away from us. She's here to enlist our help in setting up a support network for families like ours." She appeared visibly relieved. "Will you help us with this project?"

"I don't know what I can do."

"You've just showed me a big concern I hadn't thought of. When you walked in and saw me here, you thought I was here to take you away, didn't you?" Janita nodded. "Please believe me when I say that I am more than pleased with the family you have been placed with and I have no intention of allowing you to be removed from your family. The point I'm trying to make is that we need to have very specific guidelines to lay down how and under what circumstances a child can be removed from his or her foster family. This is just one of many things we need to accomplish. I cannot express strongly enough how much we need and value any input your family can provide. Basically, your family is providing the paradigm I'm looking for."

"We are both honored and humbled by that, Your Honor" Jay specifically used her title to emphasize their respect for her "and I assure you we will help in any way we can."

The judge glanced at her watch. "Well, I've taken up enough of your time. I thank you for your time and your hospitality and I look forward to working with you all on this very important project." As one the family and accompanied the judge to the door. "Good night, everyone and thank you again."

"You're welcome, Marilyn, and please note that you're welcome here anytime. Good night, and have a safe trip home."

The family spent the entire evening, and every evening for the next few days excitedly discussing the judge's request. "Wow. She said that our family is a model for gay parenting. I didn't think we were anything special. I just thought we were an average family." Kyle said as he quietly played his guitar.

"We're doing something right, that's for sure. I don't know what it is, but we need to keep doing it."

"I'll tell you what it is." Adam entered the conversation. "First and foremost, you adopted a dumpster baby, and took in an abused girl. It's also the way you raised us. You don't shower us with gifts or spoil us."

"What do you call everything that's up in my room?" Janita interrupted.

"That's different. They just gave you the things that your birth parents should have given you all along the way. You just got it all in one shot, that's all. What I mean is, when we express an interest in something, you don't immediately go out and buy it, unless it's a birthday or Christmas present, or something we need for school. You also make time for us to do things as a family. Family game night. Family movie night. Family vacations. That sort of thing. You're open and honest with us and you treat us with respect. Remember, K-dad the discussion we had back when I was eight about why I had two fathers instead of a father and a mother?"

"Yes, I do. I'm surprised that you do as well."

"You were open and honest about love and sex, and how I came to be here. That's what I'm talking about. I'm sure that's something that's sorely lacking in this day and age. That's something we need to make people aware of and change."

"As a matter of fact, that's something Tommy and I are working on. We've joined an organization called "Return To Family Gaming". Let me read you an article that I wrote which will be appearing in the weekend edition of Provincetown Times and in About Town Magazine." Kyle put down his guitar and got his laptop. After it booted up, he called up a document and started to read.

 

"Reinventing Family Gaming

By Kyle Matthews-Williams

 

Let's set the Wayback Machine to fifty years ago. Look through the windows of any house and you will find the entire family sitting around the table playing a board or card game, relaxing, socializing, and having a good time at their weekly Family Game Night.

Now let's fast-forward to the present. Looking through the windows again will reveal a startlingly different scene. No one is sitting at the table this time. Instead, the father is in one room watching the game on ESPN, the mother is in another room watching the Food Network, the kids are in yet another room surfing the internet, IMing their friends, talking and texting on their cell phones or playing video games.

What happened to Family Game Nights? Technological revolution made it a thing of the past for the most part. This is something that Return to Family Gaming is attempting to change. It is not about abolishing electronic gaming. It's about having fun playing non-electronic games as a family whether it be traditional board games like Monopoly or The Game of Life[1], non-traditional card games such as Fluxx or Chrononauts[2], collectible games such as Magic: The Gathering[3], or Yu-Gi-Oh![4], or wacky card games like Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot[5] or Sitting Ducks Gallery[6], to name a few. Even role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons[7], FUDGE[8] or GURPS[9] can be enjoyed by families.

That's what Return to Family Gaming is all about. Celebrating non-electronic gaming and promoting it as a positive, social environment. It's a great stress buster to take out an opponent's last bunny with Quite Irascible Diffractable Cheese Balls[10] just moments before the last carrot is taken from Kaballa's Market[11], or finally destroying the evil orc that has been wiping out entire villages."

"That's really cool, K-dad. Sign Kelly and me up." Adam responded enthusiastically.

Janita looked at Janine. "Sign us up as well."

"Awesome. You know, this gives me an idea. I think it's time we gathered around the kitchen table and killed some bunnies. Anyone up for a game of Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot?"

There was a scramble to see who would be the first person to get to the kitchen table. Janine actually beat everyone to the table, which meant that she got to go first when they started playing. Such was the norm in the Matthews-Williams household.

 


 



[1] Monopoly and The Game of Life are copyright by Parker Brothers, all rights reserved.

[2] Fluxx and Chrononauts are copyright by Looney Labs, all rights reserved.

[3] Magic: The Gathering is copyright by Wizards of the Coast, all rights reserved

[4] Yu-Gi-Oh! is copyright by Konami, all rights reserved

[5] Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot is copyright by Jeffrey Neil Bellinger, all rights reserved

[6] Sitting Ducks Gallery is copyright by Keith Myers, all rights reserved

[7] Dungeons and Dragons is copyright by Wizards of the Coast, all rights reserved

[8] FUDGE is copyright by Grey Ghost Press, all rights reserved

[9] GURPS is copyright by Steve Jackson Games, all rights reserved

[10] Quite Irascible Diffractable Cheese Balls is copyright by Jeffrey Neil Bellinger, all rights reserved

[11] Kaballa's Market is copyright by Jeffrey Neil Bellinger, all rights reserved