Trying to do a phone interview with Clint McCormack and Bryan Reamer, the two parents who were featured in OWN’s “10 Kids, 2 Dads” reality special last year, is a lot like trying to get honey out of a bee-lined hive. You’re not going to have an easy time of it. One kid comes in asking about food, another interrupts to talk about schoolwork, a third has just awoken from a nap and wants attention.
Still, somehow, the dads manage to live in this sort of controlled chaotic environment and create a loving family atmosphere where everyone is happy.
As a committed gay couple living in suburban Michigan, the couple knew they wanted to start a family, but 10 kids and nonstop commotion wasn’t exactly what they had envisioned.
What might seem crazy to most just felt right to the Farmington Hills couple, that originally set out to adopt just one child before eventually winding up with their 10 boys. McCormack comes from a family of six children while Reamer has just a brother, but both wanted to raise a family.
“We never intentionally wanted to adopt 10 children; it was the furthest thing from our minds,” McCormack says. “We thought maybe two or three max, but it just happened.”
After looking into foster children originally, McCormack found a place where they would be connected with birth mothers and in 1998, they adopted Keegan at his birth. Not satisfied to have an only child, a year later, they decided to look at adopting another child.
McCormack next found an agency in New Jersey to help the couple be matched with a child who could be a sibling to Keegan. Instead of one, the agency offered twins, Kenny and Mark (now 19).
“I decided to wait until I got the paperwork until I said anything to Bryan,” McCormack says. “Initially, he was a little wary of it, but we took the next step and met them and decided to proceed.”
No sooner was the twins’ adoption finalized when they got another call from the agency about a 3-year-old who they couldn’t find a home for. A caseworker came to their home, dropped off the kid and said, “I’ll see you on Sunday,” and then just left.
“He was not saying anything and I called Bryan and told him to hurry home. I noticed his diaper was wet and when I went to change it, I noticed he had leg braces on. I was never told that,” he says. “We brought him to a pediatrician the next day. He was really frail and going home, I was crying, saying I couldn’t adopt him because he’s going to die on us, and what would that do to our kids and I couldn’t handle it.”
Reamer knew that they couldn’t send him back. Being the more practical of the pair, he laid out his case that if they brought him back, he would die and the boy needed their love. Not long after, Caleb became son number four. Today, their “miracle kid” is walking normally and loving life.
“I thought our family was complete at that point,” McCormack says. “Maybe a year later, we got another call.”
The situation presented to them was that the agency had three brothers and they couldn’t find a home that would take in all three. They wanted Reamer and McCormack to consider adopting them, because if they didn’t, they would have to be split up.
“I called Bryan right away and told him they were going to split these kids up, and they were 7, 8 and 9, and you can’t do that to a kid. So, we started the whole process again,” McCormack says. “That’s how we got Seth (now 17), Garrett (now 18) and Graeme (now 19).”
With seven boys in the house, all becoming young men, McCormack started to yearn for the patter of little feet around the home again. He really wanted a baby — and a girl. The latter wouldn’t happen, but over the next few years Hayden (now 6), Liam (now 8) and Cooper (now 4) joined the family.
Before any of their adoptions went through, the couple asked themselves three questions:
“Can we do it financially? Can we do it physically? Can we do it emotionally?” Once an honest yes could be agreed upon, they knew it was in the cards.
“We are not adopting any more children,” McCormack says. “We have been offered two more children but we’ve turned them down. We are talking about what we want to do when we retire and stuff, and it’s like no more kids.”
The family lives in a four-bedroom house with two-and-a-half baths, and the oldest boys are currently in college and ready to move out. All the children have cell phones except the two little ones and they all constantly stay in touch with one another so everyone is always accounted for — at least as best you can with teenagers.
The two play to each other’s strengths to keep their home running smoothly. McCormack (or Papa as the kids call him) takes on the role of homemaker and chauffeur, while Reamer (Daddy) helps with homework and sports and is the disciplinarian of the household.
Reamer says his favorite thing about being a dad is when one of the younger kids comes up to him unsolicited and gives him a hug and kiss and says, “I love you Daddy.”
“Or when one of the older kids asks an interesting question. It gives me the opportunity to present different answers depending on situations,” he says. “This challenges them to broaden their scope of possibilities to evaluate when coming to a conclusion about something.”
Then he enjoys a lot of other dad-type things like sledding or attending sporting events.
“We always wanted children and when you want something, you make it work,” McCormack says. “We have really good kids. We were told things about their past where other people may have run away from, but we are very lucky.”
Think your life is consumed with kids’ activities? Imagine what McCormack and Reamer go through over the course of a week. There are sports, music lessons, school functions, community events, driving tests, play dates, doctor’s appointments and even college visits. And a lot of trips to the grocery store.
“I spend my days as a taxi driver,” McCormack says. “I try to remember everything but sometimes things fall through the cracks. Some have work, some have school, some have sports. I know where the kids are all the time, but I’m constantly being reminded I need to be here or there at a specific time.”
During the song “It’s a Hard Knock Life” from the musical “Annie,” there’s a lyric that goes, “Santa Clause we never see, Santa Claus what’s that, who’s he?” It’s something that hit very close to home for the two dads when they were first adopting their family.
“When we adopted our three together they didn’t know what birthdays were, they didn’t know what Christmas was, they didn’t know what Thanksgiving was, and they were 7, 8 and 9,” McCormack says. “They never experienced holidays. I was so dumbfounded that there are children in the states who don’t get anything for Christmas or experience Thanksgiving or Easter.”
Because of that, every Christmas the two dads and their 10 sons provide as many Christmas presents to foster children as they can through their foundation, Cee Bee Enterprises. Last year they provided gifts to more than 145 kids.
You would think that having 10 boys in the house would put a strain on the couple’s love life, but Reamer says that he and McCormack plan time together each day and still find time to do things away from the kids.
“We go out to dinner on Friday night and we have another home and our children are old enough where we can go up to our cottage for a weekend and the older ones can watch the littler ones,” he says. “We check on them constantly.”
As for the show on the Oprah Network, McCormack says it was a fun experience for everyone involved. Primarily shot in April 2012 in their former Canton home, the special chronicles the McCormack-Reamer family’s daily life, which includes all the madness you’d expect from a 12-person, two-dog household.
“Our reason for doing it was to show people that you can get great kids out of foster care,” he says. “We wanted people to see that it’s just like everyone else’s family.”