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  • Writer's pictureDamian Kerlin

What is the true meaning of happiness?

Happiness has lots of meanings. We are happy if we have safety and security in our lives, and we’re happy in the deepest way when we feel a sense of belonging and connection with one another, and with the beautiful world around us. We are happy if we have a sense of purpose and meaning and as a parent to adopted six-year-old twins, currently, there is no greater purpose.

Since becoming a Dadi, I’ve experienced a kind of love that I’ve been struggling to put into words and considering I spend the majority of my time constructing sentences, it’s remarkable what a challenge it has been for me to compose that one perfect, sentence, never mind my happiest memory, that explains how much I love my boys, but let me try.

In those days before the boys moved in, I remember staring at their empty car seats we had diligently waiting, trying to picture two children, our children, in them. Now they are covered in stains and crackers crumbs. The past three years seems to have passed both as slow as forever and as fast as the blink of an eye. What did we do with all this love before them?

I was not sure if I would be good at fatherhood, if I’m honest, the whole thing terrified me. Looking back, I am not quite sure why that was. I was not scared of the commitment or the idea of having to raise and look after someone. It just felt like such a big deal.

Turns out, I love being a Daddy. I feel like an adult now and I never really did before I had children. Plans stopped being about 'if', but 'when' and for the first time in my life, I could visualise a future for myself, for us. There was this one thing that I knew would always be there – the twins – so thinking ahead was not like staring into the abyss of possibilities. Becoming a Daddy wedged my feet to the ground, but not in a way that tied me down physically. It just collected all my insecurities, all my fears, most of my wildness and a little bit of my ego and made them all settle comfortably into my soul.

Their whirlwind tantrums, how the simplest and most menial tasks can take hours, I feel, when that moment of peace finally comes, that we got through something huge, and I say, ‘If you two were anyone else, that would not have been cool.’ I mean it. I would not take that crap from anyone else.

Now and then, whether it is during dinner with the four of us or family movie night I find myself surprised to find myself in a conventional family, well as much as you can be as a same-sex parent with adopted twin boys. I still hold on to my younger self who did not know if that is what I wanted to do or not. Inside of me, there is still a boy going: ‘I may not have done this if I hadn’t met Andrew,’ and anyone who judged me for that would’ve been wrong.

In so many ways being a gay parent is exactly as joyful, relentless, messy and profound as being any parents, but being a Dadi and raising children with another Dad is also unique. Same-sex parents must carry the emotional labour (the other kind) of having to assert and reassert their roles in their child’s life on a daily basis to everyone from doctors to chatty supermarket workers. It may be the third beer I am on, but I feel totes emosh queering such a traditionally straight experience and knowing that our children will grow up with friends from all sorts of families, understanding that there’s no such things as ‘normal’.

Happiness in the deepest sense is not a feeling state or a succession of pleasures, but a deep sense of well-being and an appreciation for life itself, with all of its mystery and changes. So, my happiest moment cannot be defined because it simply doesn’t exist. It is instead a lot of small moments that have built up over time, such as the bedtime kiss good night, the taking of my hand as we walk side by side, the reassuring look over their shoulder as they walk into school, those are the moment I treasure, those moments are infinite, they carry with me wherever I go; treasured, happy memories.

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