3 Things Foster Care Taught Me About Being a Dad

ONE:  Tomorrow with my kids is not guaranteed

This is true for every parent but becomes uniquely real when you are a foster parent. We all intellectually know that our children (biological, or adopted) are a gift for today and that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow with them. Foster care brings home this truth in a tangible way. As every foster parent knows, our goal is to love each child that comes into our homes without withholding anything, knowing that this child may be moving on to a biological parent or another family member. It might be tomorrow, it might be 3 months from now, it might be 2 years from now. No matter what, today becomes even more important because you know that tomorrow with them is not guaranteed.   If you have kids, this is true whether you are a foster parent or not. Go and do something of value with them while it’s still today.

TWO:  Parenting experience doesn’t buy me as much as I would have thought

Before having children, I thought of parenting a little like learning to ride a bike. Hard at first, but if you keep working, improving, and gaining experience, it will get easier the longer you ride. Practice makes perfect, right? What I’ve found now that I am a dad of kids from hard places is that I often find myself coming to points where I have no idea what to do next. I am surprised by how often I’m surprised. I used to think that my previous parenting would prepare me well for what’s next. I’m not finding that to be as true as I’d hoped. So maybe it is like riding a bike . . . in a forest . . . with a blindfold on. And the only way to survive that is to hold on to the hand of the One who can see everything.

THREE:  Men were made for this

From the time we were little boys trying to jump over the small creek down the road, or seeing if we could carry more bricks than our best friend, we as men have always been asking ourselves “Do I have what it takes to do hard stuff?” There is something that lights up deep in us when we see a film where men fight for those who’ve been oppressed. We were wired to fight for the vulnerable. We were designed to see hard things and take them on. I still remember a moment I had in a rocking chair with one of our kiddos who was a baby at the time. I was looking at her thinking about all the things she had already experienced in her short life, and every instinct that rose in me in that moment was to fight for her. I wasn’t looking to be her hero. I just saw someone who needed someone to fight for her and knew that I was willing. Everyone has someone who needs them to speak up on their behalf.

I’m not sure when in our development from boys to men we start to settle for lesser things — “no need to jump the creek, this side is just fine.” But I know it happens to all of us and that the temptation to settle never goes away. So Father’s day is here and it’s a time to celebrate the things in dads that make us dads. It goes way beyond our stupid jokes, cargo shorts, and 20-year-old ties we’re pretty sure are still O.K. (though these are clearly key ingredients). Being a dad is about rejecting the temptation to stay where it’s safe and willingly go where it’s not.

Happy Father’s Day.


This post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We try to keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to help kids and families in foster care.  To sign up, go to http://bit.ly/1rwn6eO.