What Is a Father?

Susan Harper's children sitting by Christmas Tree

I’ve been thinking all week about Father’s Day. Couple of reasons: What do I get my husband? How can I show him how much we all care and love him? But more importantly, how can I share about the impact he has had on so many children? My husband is a retired social worker, minister, and a musician. We refer to him as “the Preacher Teacher Musician,” also part social worker. He’s always lived his life in the public. He still reaches out to folks, ministering through music. He is and has been an adoptive/foster parent for 40 years. He’s still my partner in providing foster care for children who are medically fragile. Is he perfect? Not on your life, but he is pretty special to many children and grandchildren.

Our youngest twins turn 10 next month. It was about this time of year, around Father’s Day 10 years ago. The boys were just babies. They had been in our care for 8 months. It doesn’t take long in our home to become part of the family. We were the only parents they knew. Folks had been searching for an adoptive home since these little guys were discharged from the hospital. Three different families had been identified, but they did not follow through for personal reasons. Then separate adoptive placements were considered for them because each had their individual medical/developmental challenges. Both are visually impaired with one of them blind from ROP (retinopathy of prematurity).

We were asked if we wanted to adopt. Of course we loved the boys, but felt we were too old. It was at this point that the worker whipped out a piece of paper, signed by the commissioner. This was a waiver of the age rule. The office staff wanted us to adopt the boys. Whoa! We gotta talk! We did for quite a few weeks and with a lot of doctors and specialists, adult children, and each other.

Being a father is more than genetics or biology. Being a father is hanging in there when the going gets tough, supporting your children, fighting for your child’s rights, getting up in the middle of the night, going to the emergency room, and yes, those dreaded school meetings, etc. It’s a hug in the middle of the night when you’d rather go back to sleep. “Dad, Dad, [it’s 4AM] is it a cartoon day?” It is the ability to both turn on the tunes and go back to sleep with the TV on. I can’t tell you how many hours this father sat in a rocking chair sleeping with a sleeping child in his lap, too.

It isn’t the act of producing a child or the genetic ties that makes a person (there is no gender bias) a father. It is the acts that follow with commitment, love, and caring. No, it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it is not. But there is always love! It takes a lot of love, courage, and commitment to work through the challenges of being a DAD, even more so to a child with challenges! We your partners love and are humbled to have you journey through this life with our families! That’s what a Father and a Dad is…and more. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!