This year, I’m turning 40, and I’m celebrating four decades of adventure, exploration, making, learning, growing, loving, and being loved.
I’ve had the chance to work on a lot of community projects, political movements, and artistic projects with other people. But the most special project I’ve ever worked on started ten years ago, and I’ve never talked about it in public before today.
Most of the time, you can get out of a promise. You can join a group and then leave it later if you want to. You can take a job and leave it later. Slowly, close friendships can end. Even marriage, which is supposed to be the ultimate act of commitment, has a way out, which we all know is often used. But to be asked by someone to help make a child was truly holy. Patty and Gabe were inviting me on a trip that we would all take together as a family until the day we died. It was probably the time when I felt the most faith and confidence in who I am.
I made my choice in about two seconds. Yes, was the answer. I really love kids a lot. They bring me more happiness than anything else. I was also interested in the challenge of being part of a non-traditional family in a world that encourages conformity in so many ways. And both Patty and Gabe are people I have a lot of respect for. They put their faith and trust in me, and I did the same for them.
Both of them were surprised by how quickly I said yes to the offer. They told me to give it more thought. They asked me again after a week. Without a doubt was always my answer.
He came into the world in February 2005. Next year, he will be ten years old. I love him above all else. I’ve spent ten years amazed at how much he’s grown. I’m so happy to be his dad and part of Gabe and Patty’s family.
In 2004, Patty Barerra and Gabe Thirlwall, two of my friends, asked me to help them have a baby. It was the coolest thing someone had ever asked me to do.
But some of my own friends and most of my extended family still don’t know about him! I’d like to explain why and also why I want to tell you about it all of a sudden.
1. Security. All parents keep some things about their newborns private, but the level of privacy varies a lot from one family to the next. Some parents post pictures of their babies all the time on social media, but others are very strict about keeping their toddlers’ pictures and names private. I wanted the moms to decide how much privacy they wanted, and I thought the best way to do that was for me to keep the whole thing to myself. I told my immediate family and a few close friends, but not everyone. That was it, though. I would feel like I was getting in Patty and Gabe’s business if I did anything else. That happened ten years ago, though. Santiago is getting older, so his moms don’t worry as much about his privacy as they did when he was younger.
A few months ago, I asked them if I could tell more people about the family. This was the answer: “Shouldn’t you ask the boy? He’s old enough to decide for himself now.” That changed my life in a big way. For some reason, a silly part of me thought that this project would always be done by three people. Or at least I didn’t think the fourth voice would be so important so quickly. I asked Santiago if I could tell everyone that he was my son. He agreed. Before I asked him, I did have to make sure he knew he was my son. You might find that strange, but the truth is we had never really talked about it. We spend a lot of time together as an active uncle would, and he has always called me “Mez,” as all my other friends do. When do you tell a child you don’t live with them anymore? “Hey, I should say that I’m your dad,” he said. It’s hard to talk about that again. And, to be honest, it never seemed important to bring it up at the time. We were always having a good time. And that was the most important thing.
Close friends and family asked me over and over again for years, “Does he know yet?” I think my answer took them by surprise. I simply said, “I’m not sure. We haven’t discussed it. I don’t think it’s important at all. I know he loves me, and he knows I love him. I don’t think he would even care. After all, the word “Dad” might not mean much to a young child who has never lived with a father.” So, I finally talked to him a few months ago. Something like this happened:
“Hey, so I’m your dad.”
“Yes, I understand.”
“So, you can still call me “Mez,” or if you want to, you can call me “Dad.”
“Is it ok if I call you my son?”
“So, it’s kind of like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, right? I’m your dad, but it’s not that simple.”
“…and I promise I won’t cut off your hand.” (He seemed relieved).
I also asked him for permission to write this. He said, “Yes.” So I did.