This year, my thoughts of fatherhood are intertwined with the concept of sonship. What does it mean to be a son (or daughter)? Being a father is about the relationship. The same is true for being a son. Just as my father’s relationship with me defines him as a father, my relationship with him is what makes me his son.
The relationships between us (as parents) and our children (as sons and daughters) are complex and multifaceted. These are not one way relationships. This can be particularly challenging for our adopted, step, and foster children because this relationship likely was not in place from our children’s first breath. This week I have been taking time to reflect on the dynamics of the powerful and chosen relationship that is formed through adoption.
As adoptive parents, we had months, if not years, to prepare for our new relationship with our child. But for many of our children, this relationship began the moment a caretaker or social worker introduced them to us. This places an awesome opportunity, but also a great burden of responsibility, on us as parents, to guide our children in building healthy relationships with us.
Being a biological or genetic father does not automatically make you a parent to a child. This is not to diminish the importance of genetics and nature. Being a father is about the relationship, not the genes.
My father has been a wonderful role model for me. Was he the perfect father? He would be the first to admit that he was not. Is this a criticism? Of course not! There is no perfect earthly father. But he did his best (and still does) to provide for our family, set an example of a loving father, and show me and my brother the value of hard work. Despite falling short of my father’s (and mother’s!) expectations on many occasions, I know my father’s love for me never wavered. My hope is that the love shown to me and the values instilled in my character will be passed down to my own children.
This post ended up being “deeper” than I had initially intended! If nothing else, at least this provided me the opportunity to express my feelings in writing about being a father and a child. I want to wish all the other dads out there a Happy Father’s Day. We have a fantastic opportunity to impact the lives of our children. I pray that we not only seize this opportunity, but relish and enjoy the fleeting time we have with our children. May we set an example of fatherhood that will resonate for generations to come.
Written by Greg Cowan, a 2x Gladney dad and dad to 3 gorgeous children.