A little about us:
We met in 2010 through an online dating site. Ryan (me) was working at a crisis hotline and Matt had started down the path of becoming owner of a structural engineering firm. Although Ryan had already applied for a doctoral program in Counseling Psychology in North Dakota, we decided to push through. While apart, Matt made sure to call Ryan to ensure he was up for his classes each day, despite the time difference, and Ryan made sure to schedule regular dinner and movie dates via Skype. Matt paid to fly Ryan or himself back and forth from North Dakota to Maryland every six to eight weeks. We were very committed to staying together. During Spring break, Matt proposed, and Ryan moved back to Maryland to plan the wedding and embark on his career as a mental health therapist.
For the past five years, we have lived in Howard County, Maryland. We enjoy hiking, camping, going to various art, craft, and Renaissance Festivals. We take our dogs out on walks regularly and to weekend excursions to my parents’ cabin in West Virginia. We have regular game nights with neighbors, friends, and family. Ryan really enjoys hosting parties and Matt makes a mean turkey, so each year we try to host our annual Friendsgiving feast in order to celebrate the friendships in our lives.
We have been together for eight years and have been married for five. Despite no identified fertility issues, we expected to have some difficulty conceiving a child and planned for adoption as our method of choice for growing our family (LOL).
Shortly after getting married, we purchased a three bedroom, three bathroom townhouse in Howard County. We are located next to the local elementary school, and the neighborhood playground is in our backyard. We opted to move to Howard County due to its diverse community and excellent school districts. We want our children to have a wonderful education. Multiculturalism and a community are also values that we believe are important to instill in our children. It is for that reason that we made sure to move into a community that had various cultures, ethnicities, and opinions represented. Additionally, Matt serves on the Home Owners Association Board as Vice President and Ryan assists in organizing neighborhood social events in order to model these values and the importance of giving back.
About Ryan (written by Matt):
Ryan has an uncanny knack for interacting with people. He can defuse an angry crowd, or make the saddest person laugh hysterically. We have a friend who I only had a superficial relationship with for a few years; Ryan picked up that something was off and spent an hour with him, and he quickly opened up and became one of our closest friends. And this is especially true watching him interact with kids – he knows what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. Ryan tries to be understanding of everyone, and does his best to make the world (and the people) around him better. He does his best to make meaningful interactions with everyone he meets, and this is especially true of the people he cares about. Ryan has a big heart, and gets others to show theirs.
Our house is decorated with most of Ryan’s artwork, too; paintings, collages, photographs, and more fill the walls. At a prior job he ran a large art program for people with mental illnesses, partnering with local galleries and museums. And we frequently attend art/craft fairs, painting events, art classes… or just have an evening where we draw together.
Ryan also has an adventurous and playful side, and is always willing to try new things, with the people he cares about in tow. He tested his fear of heights and the open ocean by going parasailing, and brought my sister and me along with him for the experience.
About Matt (written by Ryan):
Matt is probably the most stable, even-keeled person I know. He is organized, dutiful, and steadfast. He prides himself on his productivity at work and at home. He has been my rock through many hard times and ensures that whatever needs to get done around the house does. He is also very creative and a wonderful storyteller.
One of his favorite things is to teach people new things. For example, he loves Disney World and on our second year anniversary, we spent a week there. He took me from park to park and ride to ride not only telling me the background for how the ride was created, but also little known facts about the narrative behind each ride. (I didn’t realize that each ride even had a narrative!). While I was in North Dakota, he was able to fly in and teach me principles in statistics in two hours what the professor couldn’t teach me in two months!
He is also a huge movie buff and can not only tell you the name of each actor in the film, but some of the drama behind the scenes between actors, directors, and producers. Matt is also very protective, but in a balanced way. He gives me the space to be as independent as I need to be, but if he sees me struggling too much, he isn’t afraid to swoop in and assist. All in all, he is a dedicated, knowledgeable, and caring man. I don’t know what I’d do without him!
Why we want children:
I have been asked this question often and each time I find it hard to answer. The issue is that the answer isn’t logical, but emotional. I have always wanted to have children. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer “a daddy”. My feelings were solidified one Christmas when I was holding my infant goddaughter, and her warm head nestled into my chest. It was in that moment where I was flooded with images of teaching my child how to walk, field trips to pumpkin patches, Halloween costumes, first words, first days of school, first dates, first loves, and first heartbreaks. I wanted to be there every step of the way, providing support and love as my child learned who she or he was and how they wanted to navigate the world. I wanted to feel the pain and pride of watching my child grow and having to watch them grow into the independent person she or he crafted her or himself to be. After handing the infant back to my cousin, the longing I was left with remained. I want to be the person who provides the love, support, and guidance to a child and watch her or him grow into whoever they were meant to be.
We have a good friend whose two sons I teach new complicated board games to. I take immense personal enjoyment and pride in showing people new experiences, and it was great to see their understanding emerge of as we played. Their strategies quickly evolved to the point where they were both challenging me.
So it might sound cliché, but what greater opportunity is there for this than encouraging a child to see all the world has to offer, from the amazing to the mundane: going to the ocean the first time, attending their first day of school, riding their first rollercoaster, going to their first school dance, sampling different customs and cuisines of other countries, and so much more that I can’t even begin to predict.
Often when we are discussing parenting styles with our friends who are also parents, we hear a lot of discussion about sleep training, different types of formula, bleaching versus not bleaching surfaces, and the pressure they feel from other parents. We also hear from several of them that communication, love, and trust in her/his partner is paramount for providing the appropriate support for the child and each other. We have excellent communication skills and check in with each other often about our thoughts on everything from movies, politics, and, of course, parenting. Parenting can be chaotic, stressful and tiring, often leading to breakdowns in communication. The fact that we already practice good communication skills and discuss ways to improve communication when necessary shows our recognition of these factors.
As parents, we believe that it is important to tailor our parenting style to the child’s developmental and individual needs. We recognize that every child has her or his own personality. Some children are more independent and need less hands-on assistance with accomplishing tasks and need the ability to learn from their own mistakes. Other children can be more sensitive, require more coaching, and need more assurance and emotional support. We feel that it is imperative to take the child’s personality and individual needs into account when deciding on how to approach any parenting situation.
With that said, we also recognize that a child does need structure and consistency in order to feel secure and safe. It is through predictability and consistency that trust and attachment bonds are formed between the child and parents. For these reasons we believe in starting a predictable bed time and food schedule pretty early on, most likely after the first four months of age.
In regards to discipline, we believe that positive reinforcement as opposed to corporal punishment is key to any behavioral change. We believe that children should learn from mistakes, but also not be afraid to make them. Some of our best lessons are learned through making mistakes.
As a couple, we value novel experiences. This may mean new mental or physical challenges, or exposure to different cultural rituals, art, and/or cuisine. We believe that these experiences will foster resilience. These experiences can also teach our children tolerance and empathy, while reducing anxiety about trying new things, and having more flexible styles of thinking and learning about the world. We want our children to be comfortable challenging their assumptions and taking calculated risks.
Academics are something that we also value. We believe that children deserve the opportunity for an excellent education. This is why we moved to Howard County. The school system here has been ranked one of the top in the country, and also provides a lot of cultural diversity. If our children need assistance in academics, we will do what we need to in order to provide the necessary assistance for our child. This may include psychological testing to rule in/out learning disabilities, tutors, any in-school accommodations, and psychiatric and/or counseling services.
Despite our strong belief that our children deserve the best in education, we also believe that it is important for our children to foster interests and skills that may improve the quality of their lives, and encourage continued curiosity about the world. We will support interest in sports, the arts, politics, debate, social justice, volunteerism, and any other extracurricular activities at school. We also recognize that there are various ways for our children to become independent and would support our child’s choice to go to college, trade school, or build upon a talent they may have acquired.
In regards to our child’s physical health, we believe in going to the pediatrician regularly. We will follow pediatrician recommendations including what and when to vaccinate our child. We believe in the science behind vaccines and that they are an important part of preventative health.
Child Empowerment, Affirmation, and Resilience:
We believe that there are multiple ways to empower our child and that we need to utilize as many of them as possible in order to raise a healthy daughter or son. We think that empowering, affirming, and building resilience needs to be approached environmentally, culturally, and at times, directly.
As parents, it will be incumbent on us to build an environment that will foster our child’s self-esteem and resilience. This means being able to actively listen to our child’s unique perspective on life. We will need to provide our child space to allow her or him to develop her or his own personality. We will also need to find ways to regularly remind our child that our child is loved, powerful, and capable and to teach our child how to affirm this about her or himself. We will need to be sure that we not only discuss our morals and values, but live them. We will need to be sure that we are reinforcing our child’s assertiveness, not just compliance to rules. We feel secure that we are competent enough and willing to continue to grow in these areas.
In order to build our child’s feelings of affirmation in the environment, we plan on infusing our child’s social network with a variety of strong, supportive role-models. We believe that this will be especially important as a “non-traditional” family. We also will ensure that our child is exposed to a variety of different strong women. As a gay couple, it will be important for our child to be able to pull from our experiences, however, it is just as important for our child to have female role models to look up to. For a daughter, it will be important for her to see and have the opportunity to talk about her unique experience of what it is like to be a girl with another person who has been through it. I also think it will be important for a son to also have strong female role-models in his life. He needs to recognize that there are different experiences outside of the male experience, learn how to listen before speaking, and to learn how to treat women with the same amount of respect as he does for men.
We also believe in the strength of creating a supportive culture through community. We have been visiting the local Unitarian Universalist Congregation in order to assess our comfortability levels with introducing our future family into that community. We are considering this spiritual community for a few reasons. The first is that they seek inspiration for all of the world’s major religions. This would allow our child to learn about many world religions and start to decide for her or himself what she or he believes spiritually. We also like the Our Whole Lives program, which addresses sexuality and sexual identity in developmentally appropriate ways throughout our child’s life. We believe that feeling empowered means being knowledgeable about your body, identity, and sexual preferences in order to make appropriate decisions about her or his body. It also aids in our child’s ability to identify her or his boundaries, the boundaries of others, and to be able to assertive to defend her or his personal boundaries. Despite all of these great reasons to join this community, one of the largest aspects of this community that we appreciate, is the number of adoptive, interracial, and gay families that are in attendance and how accepting the larger congregation is of “alternative families”. It is our hope that in participating in this community, it will allow our child to see other families similar to our child’s. Seeing her or his experience reflected back to our child can be very affirming and also allows our child to make friends with others who may have similar experiences. This would allow our child to be comfortable with our family structure and dynamics in a culture of acceptance and inclusion. It will allow our child to be able to talk to her or his peers about some of the unique experiences that may arise as the adoptive child of a gay couple.
We believe that building empowerment, self-affirmation, and resilience can also be directly fostered throughout our child’s life. This could start at a very young age. This may include celebrating not only birthdays, but adoption day. We could also affirm our child through children’s books and bedtime stories. Reading these books will assist in normalizing our family and provide opportunities for discussion about our family with our child.
We also believe it is important to support our child’s interests. If this means dressing up for tea, having makeup smeared on our faces, or providing transportation to various sporting events, we are game. If that means finding music tutors, going to recitals, or dressing up for Halloween, we are all in.
We hope that this provides you, the donor, with adequate information to fund us in our quest to becoming parents. We recognize that we are asking for a lot of assistance and every little bit helps. We both really appreciate any and all donation amounts regardless of size and frequency of your donation. Please help us in our journey to further building our family.
-Ryan and Matt