The Dadcraft Life: How Andrew, father of three biological children and one adopted child, has managed to love his family well.
Can you share with us what prompted you to pursue adoption?
Several years ago I traveled to Mali, Africa, with my parents to utilize my photography skills by documenting the ongoing relief efforts at a newly built hospital. While interacting with a mother and her newborn, I mentioned how beautiful the baby girl was. The woman smiled, handed me the baby, and began speaking in her language.
I stood there with an idiotic grin on my face while nodding in approval. Moments later, the interpreter approached me and said, “She wants you to take her child as it will have a chance at actually living.” [CRICKETS]
I slowly handed the beautiful child back to her mother knowing that I was completely helpless in providing for her child. That experience was burned into every part of me. The mother of this child was at complete peace in giving up her daughter to a stranger [who could provide for her daughter’s needs]. It is one of the most selfless acts I have ever encountered. Upon returning stateside, I shared the story with my wife and while we didn’t know how the specifics would be ironed out, we knew in that moment that we were supposed to pursue adoption.
You eventually adopted your daughter, Reeve. And, you have three biological children. How have you ensured all your children feel equally valued?
Every couple struggles with this question. My wife and I continually fight our natural inclinations to favor one child over another. Because we are both aware of our shortcomings, we respectfully let one another know whenever we have possibly overstepped those boundaries.
Understanding those boundaries takes time and effort on our part, as we have to know our children and how they were created (a beautiful thing about children is that they each have distinct personalities.). My wife and I fail miserably at always providing equality for our children, but I know that if we are quick to acknowledge our shortcomings, they will not look to us for perfection, but to God.
In what ways can the community of fellow dads support adoptive fathers in their adoption journeys?
Our adoption story wasn’t the fairytale experience that I dreamt about. I struggled. I wrestled with seeing my daughter as an outsider, a disrupter of our family norms. Adoption can be expensive, and I wrongfully held the costs against her. I am not proud of it whatsoever.
Over time I have been able to view my daughter as exactly that… my daughter.
I was encouraged, supported, and challenged by the men who came alongside me, shared a cigar, and were just there for me while I wrestled through all of the emotions, frustrations, and questions. I wanted to be “super dad” and save the day. But, I failed. My wife saw it and was there for me and tried to hold the reins, but having mature “brothers” who had weathered life’s parenting storms and could help with a word of advice was pivotal.
These men became brothers in the truest sense of the word. They didn’t always have the answers, but I knew they would fight for me. More importantly, they fought for our family. They were willing to put me in my place and tell me when I was wrong, and they would also hold a punching bag at the gym while I worked out the frustrations of my life at that time.
Those men were intentional. They sought me out and that’s what I’d encourage other men to do. Be intentional in reaching out to a buddy, even if it looks like he has it all together. I can tell you that even the “perfect family man” is a wreck in one or more areas of his life and just needs someone to fight for him and his family.
We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?
I teach my boys how to be protectors of their mother and sister. I’m extremely protective, so that’s my bent. Along with that, I am teaching my daughter to be respected. I teach her what that means by taking her out on daddy-daughter dates so that when she is older and ready to date (say around 45), she’ll know how a man is supposed to treat her.
Our kids watch my every move and log it away for their future relationships, so it’s essential that I show my boys how to protect and (more importantly) serve their spouse. As a father, my job is to provide but ultimately parent in such a way that my children become physically, spiritually, and emotionally stable people that positively impact their families and the world around them.
We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?
It was easy to still be self-serving in a marriage without kids, but once children entered the picture, I had to learn to be more selfless and put my family’s needs and desires before my own. Becoming a father has refined me in every aspect of my life. Fatherhood stretches my preconceived notions of what joy, anger, patience, and love should be. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am a better man because of these blessings within our home.