The announcement that my daughter and son-in-law were to become parents was one of the best surprises of my life. Couples commonly have babies, but they were adopting children who had been in foster care. I won’t bore you with the process, but they found a sister and brother who were turning ten and eleven. There are choices when adopting out of foster care, and these two seemed just right for them from the very beginning.
I had seen Mark with his nieces and nephews and knew he could roughhouse with the best of them. A few questions came to mind as I tried to picture him as a father. #1 – How long would it take to feel like family with children who came not as babies, but as children with some of their formation behind them? #2 – Would he roughhouse with children who were his responsibility as he had those he could give back to parents when things got out of hand? #3 – Would he know how to separate the fun from the time to get serious? I would get answers pretty quickly.
We delayed our trip to meet the new grandchildren. They were adapting to enough without an extra barrage of people to meet so we waited a couple of months until we got the word from their parents that they were ready. The day we got there had been a busy one with the young son’s soccer practice following a long school day. We took them out to eat for supper and had a very slow server. As I watched father and son across the table, the boy’s fatigue set in. He slid slowly into his dad’s shoulder, resting his body as if he had spent all ten years of his life with him. Answer #1.
Answer # 2 came almost as soon as we returned to their house. Both children squirmed and squealed in anticipation of being turned upside down and backwards by their dad. Confirmation of this answer has come over time as the son mirrors his dad’s obsession with history, and he has supported their passions from the son's soccer referee postition to the daughter's FFA projects raising a steer and a goat.
The third answer also came quickly and has continued over time as both parents have set high standards for politeness, responsibility, and behavior. My favorite example was my compliment to Mark on his nearly weedless garden. He said, “Well, if a child has too much energy to behave inside, there is always a row of weeds.”
As we look toward Father’s Day, I think Mark figured out the three components of good fathers whether the children were born into their families or came another way. They create a feeling of family, have fun, and set high standards. Happy Father’s Day to all those who work hard to pull this off.