A decade ago, I began dating an incredible woman, “Hannah,” a single mother to her newborn “Max.” Max knew from the beginning that I wasn’t his biological father, but he’s always called me Dad, and I legally adopted him when he was 4. Hannah and I were discussing marriage when she was killed by a drunk driver. It was the worst year of my life. I only got through it because I knew Max needed me. I tried to include Hannah’s parents in his life and even offered to move closer so they could see him more, but they said they didn’t want me “foisting a kid on them.” For Max’s sake, I try to be friendly. Two years ago, I started dating a wonderful man, “Luke.” (I’m bisexual.) Our relationship is great, and Max loves him. Luke moved in with us shortly before lockdown, and it’s been a godsend having someone to look after Max when I’m at work. (I’m an essential worker.) Hannah’s parents were appalled to find out I was dating a man after I told them last year and suddenly wanted to become “involved” once Luke moved in.
When they found out that Luke looks after Max while I’m at work, they called CPS and reported that I had abandoned Max with a strange man and “potential predator.” Luke and Max actually received a visit while I was at work, which established that Max was safe but also terrified and distressed both of them. I have now received several calls from social workers who have been told that Max lives with “two strange men,” neither of whom are related to him, and that his grandparents are “frantic” about his safety. Hannah’s parents say they’re going to sue me for full custody because I had “nothing to do with their grandchild.” I’m at a loss. They’ve always been low-key homophobic, but this is so extreme and out of the blue that I’m concerned for their stability. Aside from consulting a lawyer (which I’m doing), what should I do? How do I explain to Max, who loves his grandparents, what is happening? I don’t see how I can ever see these people again after their behavior. I have been exhausted since lockdown began, with increased pressure at the hospital, Luke struggling to work from home, and Max’s education, and this has honestly broken me. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about it.
—Not a Stranger