Father Shares, and Looks Up to, Son’s Love of Hockey

By MARK ROTELLA, senior editor at Publishers Weekly. Published: June 15, 2013, NYTimes.

I had wanted to play hockey since I was 14 and saw Guy Lafleur score a hat trick at the Forum while I was visiting relatives in Montreal. But I lived in Florida. The best I could do was fool around with a hockey stick and a tennis ball as I roller-skated up and down our suburban cul-de-sac near St. Petersburg, with a taped rectangle against the garage door as my net.

More than 30 years later, my 7-year-old son, Sam, has the hockey bug. Sam, whom my wife and I adopted as an infant, has a wiry, muscular frame, and he cuts through the ice with grace and confidence. In three years, he went from a tumbling beginner to a confident boy who can execute crossovers skating backward.hockeydad1-articleLarge

When we first went to hockey practice, Sam would fall to the ice or slide into the boards. But he would get up, rub a sore arm or leg for a moment, then adjust his equipment and continue.

Sam was determined to skate better — a drive I never had in team sports. He was also a risk taker, unafraid to jump in and chase the puck with the older, bigger players.

Good-looking and physically at ease, Sam is the cool kid in school. I was a geek at his age; tall and lanky, I removed myself from the possibility of being hurt.

Before my wife, Martha, and I adopted Sam, we had come to accept that we were not going to be genetically connected to him. We would not pass along Martha’s musical ear, for example. But we also would not be passing along her “bad” genes; she had been treated for breast cancer several years earlier.

And, like all parents, we wondered how his personality would develop. Would he be studious, as Martha and I were? Would he be self-reflective and academically curious? Would he share our love of reading?

“Your kid is going to be a hockey player,” one of his coaches once told me. “He’s fearless, he’s quick — and he can take pain.”As it turns out, Sam approaches reading and spelling as a form of competition — just as he likes to be the first one on and off the ice with every shift change during his hockey games.

Although concerned about Sam’s safety, I hoped to spare him the quiet existence I had at his age. But he had inherited neither my reticence nor my childhood.

Watching Sam revived my teenage yearning to play hockey. And so, at 44, with his hearty endorsement, I enrolled in my first clinic. At 10 p.m. one Thursday in February 2011, I walked into the locker room, dank with sweat, at Floyd Hall Arena in Little Falls, N.J. Twenty other men were there. I found an empty spot on the bench, pulled my new equipment out of my bag and ripped off the sales tags as I strapped each piece of armor to my body. “You may want to put your shin guards and socks on before your pants,” said the muscular, unshaven player sitting next to me.

Out on the ice, shaky on my feet, I sent wild passes. The other players exchanged annoyed glances. Forty-five minutes later I was winded, my legs numb. Then the coach put us on teams for a scrimmage. All the memories of my dreadful middle school years rushed back. “I’ll take Rotella if you take Cindy” was a phrase I recalled when other youngsters were picking teams.

A few minutes into my first scrimmage, I received a pass directly in front of the net. My stick, along with the puck, caught in my skates, and I took a spill in front of the goalie. Mortified, I skated to the bench for a line change.

Two minutes later, I had caught my breath and was eager to get back out there. This time I skated down to our net just in time to stop a player from scoring.

Back in the locker room, I thought I would pass out from exhaustion and exhilaration. I felt totally connected to my French Canadian heritage — and to my son.

Now that Sam plays travel hockey, he is on the ice four or five days a week. He is part of a fraternity of youngsters who get up at 5 a.m. on weekends to play a game for an hour. He is firmly, and comfortably, in his milieu.

And once or twice a week, I find common ground with many of the hockey dads and fellow players in clinics and on my team, the Rebels. When we were young, they would have scoffed at having me on the ice. Some of them probably still do.

But no matter. There is nothing like passing the puck to a teammate who one-times it into the goal — especially during a late-night game at an outdoor rink in the dead of winter. I would never have been able to do that in Florida.

Recently a hockey friend encouraged me to play at an advanced level with men our age as well as some college students.

The game was faster and more physical than I had ever played. We rotated our lines, and during my second time on the ice, the puck ricocheted off our goalie toward me on the right wing. I raced to the puck and turned for a breakaway to the opponent’s net.

I was tripped by a defender and fell hard, landing on my chest. I rubbed my aching ribs and thought of Sam. But I could move and breathe, so my ribs were most likely not broken.

I got back on my skates and continued to play the rest of the hour and a half. The fear of continued injury had abated with the excitement of the game.

Then, when I skated back to the bench for the next line change, something occurred to me. Sam will never be a little version of me. While learning to play a sport that he loves, I can only hope to become a bigger version of him.

The LGBT Community and Adoption

When it comes to the civil rights of the LGBT community, there has been progress in some places and none in others.  For same-sex couples and gay singles who are hoping to become parents through adoption, one of the most frustrating areas of “no progress” has been in the realm of international adoption.

Many of the countries that have a need for international adoption don’t recognize the rights of gay individuals in their own society, and this is clearly reflected in their adoption policies.  Despite overwhelming numbers of children living in orphanages, birth countries have not opened their eligibility to gay couples and singles.  Some countries even go to extreme lengths to prevent gay individuals from adopting; one popular program requires every unmarried applicant to sign a notarized affidavit stating that they are not gay. TV shows like Modern Family that features Cam & Mitchell’s adoption from Vietnam is a lovely idea, but actually has no basis in reality and distorts the possibilities that gay families have in current international adoption practice.LGBT Domestic Adoption

As an agency that supports the rights of gay families to adopt, we struggle with the requirements imposed upon us, and are often challenged by prospective families to explain how we can support programs that discriminate against applicants in this way.  While we continuously explore potential programs that would be open to a more diverse pool of families, our mission is to find adoptive homes for children who need families, and we must respect each country’s right to set their own criteria, while clearly communicating those criteria to our community so they can make the best decisions for their family. We credit our long lasting relationships with many placing countries on our dedicated adherence to their eligibility requirements, even those we don’t agree with and in this way we have successfully found loving homes for more than 20,000 children.

We hope and work towards the goal that international adoption may one day be an option for same-sex couples and gay singles.  We have spent years and will continue to research program development opportunities where gay families may be able to adopt the children who need families.  In the meantime, we have always placed and continue to place children through domestic adoption with a broad range of families, including same-sex couples and gay singles.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss our domestic programs with gay families, which range from a traditional full-service agency program, to independent private adoptions, to foster care/adoption counseling and LGBT support groups.  We are here to support families in their quest to become parents as we seek loving, stable homes for all children who need families.

Bubba Watson’s Masters Miracle

Bubba & Caleb

Bubba tweeted this picture of his baby boy Caleb.

 

This year, a miracle happened at the Masters, both on and off the green. While self-taught superstar Bubba Watson made his game-clinching shot down in Augusta, his wife Angie and his newly adopted son Caleb watched from their house in Orlando. Just one week earlier, before Bubba donned his iconic green Masters jacket, they got the call that they had been waiting on for four years, they were finally going to be new parents. “It’ll probably be more emotional than this win, just to be there with my son and my wife.  I’ll get to raise an amazing kid.” Bubba remarks on going home to see his wife and 8-week old son.

The couple is elated to bring their newborn home, but it has been a long and storied road to Caleb’s arrival. After Angie and Bubba decided on a domestic adoption, they chose an agency, Chicks in Crisis, to help start the home study process while living in Florida. But, mid-way through, the couple made the decision to move to Arizona to be closer to family and their church. “When you move states it’s a totally different process, our home study got wiped away so we had to start over.” says Watson.

After their move, their plan to adopt was met with number of setbacks. As for many other families, life kept moving swiftly, bringing with it a number of unexpected ups and downs. In 2008, Watson’s father was diagnosed with throat cancer, and two years later he passed away in 2010, right after Bubba won his first Major championship. Around this time, Angie was misdiagnosed, and the family was scared that she was suffering from a cancerous tumor. The couple stuck together through their emotional turmoil, never giving up on their plan of completing their family.

Finally, in 2012 the Watson’s had a year of breakthroughs, despite a few bumps in the road. “We had two babies, two moms turned us down that went with other families, and then the Wednesday night right before Bay Hill is when we got the word that Monday we’d pick [Caleb] up.” Even through the craziness of his sudden celebrity and a Masters victory, Bubba is most excited and thankful for his new-found fatherhood, planning the very best he can for Baby Caleb. “As a father, you just want him to excel at something, and whatever that is, whatever their passion is, you just want to support them, be there for them, and hopefully they can grow up and be better than you one day at whatever it is.”

Black History Month Celebrated with Javaka Steptoe

 

On a sunny afternoon in February 2011, dozens of Spence-Chapin families gathered to celebrate Black History Month with noted author/illustrator Javaka Steptoe.

The families, all part of the African-American Parents Advisory Committee (AAPAC), were abuzz with excitement as they waited for direction. Steptoe was there to guide the group through a collage-making activity. The goal would be to create a piece of art that would convey the richness of Spence-Chapin’s work and the cultural mosaic it has formed through its African-American adoption program. African -American adoptive family art project

Working with wood blocks, the families created images of themselves using photos, colored paper, markers and paint.  Once completed, Steptoe took each block and  “wove” them together to form a “quilt” depicting the many faces of AAPAC.

Steptoe delivered the final wood-based collage this winter. The AAPAC families chose to dedicate it to Spence-Chapin where it now hangs in the main conference room in honor of past Executive Director Kathy Legg.

 

Submitted by Traci Lester

Home For The Holidays

Spence-Chapin Family Brings Home Miracle Baby

Big sister Camille, adopted from Spence-Chapin in December 2009 and home in time for the holidays, welcomes the Rowe family’s newest Christmas present – her new baby brother Oscar. Take a look at their moving story.

Adoption Reunion on Latest Episode of TV Show Glee

On Tuesday, May 25th, millions of viewers tuned in to watch the latest episode of the hit Fox show, Glee.  Perhaps of most interest to those of us in the adoption world was the reunion of Rachel with her birth mother, Shelby.  While such mainstream portrayals can successfully illustrate the expectations, emotional intensity and anxiety that accompany a search and reunion, Glee dismissed the importance of working to forge a relationship after the reunion.

Rachel and Shelby find out that they share many traits, but they also discover all of the things they do not share.  Having been absent from Rachel’s life for 16 years, Shelby realizes that she will never have the sort of anecdotes and memories that Rachel shares with her adoptive fathers.  While Rachel looks to Shelby to be the instant mom she’s always wanted, the two eventually realize that such bonds are forged over time and do not automatically exist through genetics.  The Glee writers can be applauded for bringing to light such an important aspect, but the applause quickly dies as Rachel and Shelby almost instantly decide to maintain a relationship from a distance and the characters part ways with a shared song.

In real life, search and reunions are far more complex than in the magical world of television.  Spence-Chapin’s post-adoption team advises that forming a relationship with a birth relative is never instant but is a process full of ups and downs.  “Reunion relationships are amongst the most complicated, with no road maps or etiquette to guide the process,” says Spence-Chapin post-adoption expert, Ronny Diamond.  Following initial contact, the birth family member and child can go through a “honeymoon” stage.  Afterwards, either the adoptee or the birth parent often pulls back.  In the episode of Glee, this is the stage at which Rachel and Shelby parted.  Future episodes may show whether they continue to work out their differences and issues.  If they do, the relationship can become more settled because expectations will have been discussed and agreement reached in many areas.

Of course, reunion experiences will not be the same for all adoptees and birth parents.  Many factors can have an impact, such as their ages, value differences, lifestyles, economic status, educational levels, religion, etc.  Birth parents who placed in the years before “open adoption” became a common practice do not have shared history with the adoptee.  However, they do have genetic and emotional ties and, with some work, a relationship may be formed.  Such relationships “can be incredibly rewarding or painfully disappointing, so I always recommend clarifying one’s expectations prior to reuniting,” advises Ronny Diamond.