Monday, August 14, 2006

To Adopt Or Not To Adopt

My daughter's father came for a visit the other day. He usually stops by in late summer, sometimes just once and sometimes for a few consecutive weekends, but the longest it's ever lasted was until Halloween. I don't know why it's always in late summer, but that's how it's worked out for the last 5 or 6 years. So this time I asked him if he would be willing to let Tom adopt. It would depend, of course, on cost and whether or not she wanted to be adopted, but I wanted to know if Eric would be willing to sign off. I didn't get an answer but I am thinking seriously about this. It wouldn't change much but her name, but it would eliminate the possibility of Eric getting custody should I die.

I dated Eric for two months when I was eighteen. Apparently, dating me filled him with such self-esteem that he decided he could do better. He also decided that my mere presence among our friends was cause for violence. I applied for a restraining order at one point, but never followed through with it. I figured restraining orders were for battered wives, not ex-girlfriends who could probably avoid a beating by avoiding mutual friends. But I didn't avoid those friends, and Eric and I were sort of on-again off-again until I heard that he had impregnated a fifteen year old. At that point, I asked him to leave my apartment and didn't really see him again until about a year later. They had broken up and he had gotten locked out of the place he was staying at, and I told him he could crash at my place. I shared the bed, figuring that if he tried to start anything, I could just tell him no; it had happened before. But it didn't work out this time. I woke up the next day pregnant.

He ended up getting back together with his son's mother, and when I told him I was pregnant, I got no response. I've already covered the decision to raise my daughter alone in other posts here. Just suffice it to say that aside from the occasional ten dollar bill offered in hopes of winning my affections, he has never paid any child support. She was 3 weeks old the first time he saw her, though I had called him from the hospital the day she was born. He has given her one birthday gift and no cards or gifts for any other holiday. He is basically just a guy with similar features who comes by once or twice a year to say Hi. She calls him Eric.

But now she has a dad, a man who know her likes and dislikes, who buys her souvenir magnets and postcards from all over the country, who thinks of her as his own, who loves her. Legally she has no father; the space on her birth certificate is blank. Eric never came to the hospital to sign it, and the DNA test we got to prove paternity to him was never entered into any court files. I would like her to have a father, and for her to have the same name as future siblings. I would like to know that if I were to die, that a toothless pizza delivery guy couldn't split up my kids by staking a claim to one. I would like to know that if Tom were to die, that all of the kids would get the same Social Security benefits. But most of all, I would like to be rid of that tiny fear in the back of my head that someday Eric will pop up and try to get visitation rights. Adoption or not, I wouldn't tell my daughter that she couldn't see him. But if she did not want to, I don't want to ever have to make her. He has a history of drug use, of drinking, of living in filth. He has no respect for personal hygiene. Simply put, he's not good enough for her. But Tom is. I just hope Eric agrees to sign off. Once I get everyone to say they would go through with an adoption, then I will ask her if she wants to be adopted. Then maybe my 'big happy family with one last name on the mailbox' fantasy will come true.

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