Last weekend, I decided to roll up my sleeves and do some weeding in the backyard. My husband Benjamin was out performing in a show, The Music Man, so I had the house to myself. I put on some music – the original Broadway cast recording of Annie, because that’s how we roll – and headed out back.
As I got into the “weeding zone,” singing along to “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and belting it out to “Tomorrow,” it occurred to me how much fun it will be to have a kid in the mix. It’s not exactly that we are fixated (at least not yet), but every once in a while, we have visions of our future family that make us really appreciate the choice we have made to become dads, and have a child through open adoption.
But then I had a momentary crisis – “Maybe” came on. It is beautiful, with a lovely, longing melody. However, it occurred to me that in the context of open adoption, it’s heartbreaking: Annie longs to know her birthparents, wants to believe that they made a mistake and feel regret, and wants reassurance that her parents love her.
These can be major issues for adopted children – longing to know birthparents, wanting to know why they were placed for adoption, having feelings of rejection. How could we subject our adopted child to Annie and potentially expose them to all of these difficult issues? Would we need to put Annie on some sort of “no show” list and wait until they are older? What about other musicals with issues about orphans? Oliver!, Les Miserables, and Newsies, to name a few?
At the same time, how could we – as gay dads with a particular fondness for music and theater and the combination thereof – NOT subject our child to Annie and these other classics from our own childhoods? It was unfathomable.
The more I thought about it, the more I recognized that Annie is far from a crisis: it is an opportunity. We are fortunate that adoption has come a long way, and that most domestic adoptions in the U.S. are now open. Indeed, open adoption has evolved in reaction to the secrecy and shame that characterized adoption when we grew up, as embodied in Annie. It will be different for our child. They will know their birthparents, and will hopefully have contact of some kind. They will know that adoption was an act of love by their birthparents, wanting only the best for their child. And they will know the constant, unconditional love of having two doting parents from the very beginning.
Annie will be a teachable moment for us as parents, not something to shy away from. It will also be a learning experience for us, as our child will likely relate to Annie in ways that we never could.
Phew, crisis averted! But I still have a lot of weeding to do…
(BTW: For further reflections on Annie, and why so many of us are obsessed with it, check out this “deconstrution” by musical theatre aficionado Seth Rudetsky. It’s brilliant.)
Joe Greaves and his husband Benjamin Pither live in the SF Bay Area. They are hoping to adopt their first child soon. To learn more about Joe and Benjamin, visit: http://www.iheartadoption.org/users/joeandbenjamin