By Jessica Carreras
Cut/Kenn Bing, Timothy Smith and their daughter, Destiny, celebrate Valentine’s Day at the Chesterfield Township Daddy Daughter Dance.
It’s no secret that having or adopting a child can change a couple’s life together. However, this is especially true on days like Valentine’s Day, when a day for being together becomes a day spent with a little girl or boy. In fact, love itself takes on new meaning.
Kenn Bing and Timothy Smith are no strangers to this reality. They adopted their little girl, Destiny, five-and-a-half years ago – and life since then has never been the same.
Bing and Smith met 10 years ago and hit it off immediately. By 1999 they were an exclusive couple and in 2000 they bought a house together. “Life was full and good and fun,” Bing reminisces. “We always made time for each other in our busy schedules of work and family.” This included boat trips, weekends in Saugatuck and church every Sunday. Bing admits that falling this deeply in love with each other has changed both of their lives for the better – but nothing could have prepared them for Destiny.
Two women with two adopted children showed Bing and Smith what a child would add to their lives. The two were sold. “(They) showed us that love between two people is borderless,” Bing says.
In 2002, after months of going through the rigmarole of applying for adoption, a family friend agreed to give her to them. “She wanted to know her child would be well cared for and loved with all that a child deserves, and she picked us,” Bing excitedly remembers. Within a couple of weeks, they went from being two men in love to Dad (Smith) and Daddy (Bing). “Our lives changed in ways we couldn’t even imagine,” Bing says. “(They) became filled with joys, worries and a lot of diapers!”
They began to take Destiny, who was a year old at the time, everywhere. Birthday parties. Church. The Affirmations Toddler Group. And on trips to Florida to see her grandparents. But more than anything, the three of them shared their love for music. Smith, who had always played the piano and sang, passed his love onto his daughter and partner.
Along with their love for music, they all shared a penchant for dancing. This comes out tenfold near Valentine’s Day when the two fathers prepare to take their daughter to the Chesterfield Township Daddy-Daughter Dance. Held every year near the big Hallmark Holiday, Bing and Smith forgo romantic candlelit dinners for dancing to Hannah Montana with Destiny, who is now 6 and loves the blonde-haired pop star and “High School Musical.” For Bing and Smith, the joy comes from seeing Destiny dance to their old favorites, like the “YMCA” and “I Will Survive.”
Though Bing attended the event with his niece long before Destiny was born, he and Smith have carried on the tradition with their own daughter since she was 3 years old. “We dance together with Destiny on the fast dances and then each of us will dance with her on the slow dances,” Bing describes. “She loves this part – and so do we!”
Though some might fear those who are less accepting of this non-traditional family, Bing and Smith have found that all 500 attendees at the dance each year don’t bat an eyelash. “It really is a non-issue,” Bing insists. “It is truly a family event that marks how much fun your life can be when you allow love to be the source of your life. It truly is liberating and seems to give you a force field from fanatics.”
Moreover, Bing and Smith believe that their family is just as legitimate than any married, straight couple with children. “Our love for each other and for our daughter is brighter and louder than any amendment at state or federal levels, or from a (marriage) license,” Bing asserts proudly.
As for their love life, they have no regrets or uneasiness there, either. Though Valentine’s Days used to be spent together romantically, Bing and Smith have embraced their new reality: Sharing their love with their daughter at the Daddy-Daughter Dance. It is, however, a change they have noticed. “You still try to do things, but together time whittles away slowly,” Bing admits. “Next thing you know, you are talking to each other after 8 p.m. about who is going to buy the diapers and when can we squeeze in a run to Costco again.”
Overall, the two men say that their love for Destiny has made their love for each other stronger – and their love for their lives together, too. “I can’t tell you how it feels to be a father,” Bing says, “To have a child look up to you every day, watch your every move, every expression on your face, every interaction you have with other people…And (who) looks up to you with a simple sentence: ‘Dad, I love you.'”
And that, plus an occasional slow dance with their daughter, makes it all worthwhile.