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|My Two Dads|
|Written by Maria Mancia PHOTO Eddie Quiñones|
|Wednesday, 10 June 2009 13:04|
The painting that hangs above the coffee table is anything but unassuming. It is clearly a dauntless display of indomitable colors, audacious yet harmonious, making one yearn for the ocean and a hot summer day.
Erik Sosa-Kibby, the painter extraordinaire, has an easy laugh, hearty and lush, making him instantly approachable and alluring. The powerful combination of his engaging personality and undisputed talent, have made him extremely successful. However, three years ago, this Mexican-Guatemalan artist placed his career on hold to pursue something he considers of much greater import: fatherhood.
“I have always wanted to be a father, especially to twins,” he explains. “My childhood was typical in many ways: we were poor and undocumented, and in search of the American dream. My father had machista views and ways. He was very stern and remote, and I had a challenging time relating to him. Having my own children has given me the opportunity to view things from his perspective, helping me close old wounds.”
It wasn’t until college that Erik officially told his family that he is gay. Telling his father was particularly stressful. However, it helped them understand each other better and the animosity was finally put aside. “He finally understood who I was and suddenly our differences made sense,” he says. “That’s not to say that my dad was necessarily ecstatic. I was gay, but my family accepted me.”
Erik concedes that the challenges he and his family overcame have made him who he is today: “I do not regret one single thing I have experienced. How I interact with people, resolve issues and conceptualize my art is due to my past.”
Erik’s desires to be a father became reality when he met and fell in love with his now lifetime partner, Mark W. Sosa-Kibby, a corporate executive. In the early stages of their relationship, they established their individual desires to have children. They are now happily settled into a house and a happy routine. They have also hyphenated their last names to symbolize their commitment to each other and to insure that they will be recognized legally as a union.
“We had everything we could want: each other, wonderful friends, financial security and the support of our families,” Erik says. “It was obvious to us that we were ready to adopt, allowing us to raise and nurture a child in need of a better environment.”
A PLEASANT SURPRISE
Months later, Erik and Mark received word from the adoption agency that there was a child who might be a good match. They immediately flew to Guatemala. However, instead of one child, there were two beautiful baby boys waiting. Suddenly the question became, “why not two boys?” The children were not blood related, but they were born only 13 days apart. One was gravely ill and required immediate medical attention. The decision was easy: they adopted both boys, and Erik finally had the twins he always wanted.
The boys, Cole and Parker, are healthy today and nearly 3 years old. Cole had a heart murmur and required medical care, which he may never have received if not for the adoption. Nowadays Parker is busy painting and Cole has discovered the harmonica.
The biggest obstacle Erik and Mark are currently facing is the nightmare of potty training. “Now that the era of diapers has come and gone, the washing machine is always spinning. It requires a lot of patience, and when we think they have mastered the art of the potty, they have a relapse”, Erik explains. “It’s frustrating, but how can one be mad at the cries of, ‘Papa, I potty in my undha-whaaa!!!’”
Erik’s days are filled with caring for the boys. He is a stay-at-home dad and is deeply immersed in every aspect of his children’s lives. Among his biggest concerns are making sure the boys are well adjusted and receive a great education. Erik also wants Cole and Parker to be cognizant of their heritage and is raising them to be bilingual. Mark is also bilingual, and even majored in psychology and Spanish literature in college. Together, the family travels extensively through Latin America.
“My parents emphasized the importance of an education and a successful career. I was on the football and soccer teams in high school and participated in many school plays. But I was also confused about who I was back then: poor, Latino and gay. I want my sons to have all of the advantages I had, plus more, minus the worries. I want them to be proud of their accomplishments and of having two fathers who care and provide for them,” says Erik.
Erik and Mark will soon celebrate their 10th anniversary. Together they are driven by the desire to transcend stereotypes and simply define themselves as a loving family.
Erik also believes in teaching his sons the importance of being altruistic. He leads by example, and has raised money for the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. To date, he continues to donate pieces of his artwork and uses his art openings to raise funds for organizations he supports.