Kelly and I are in the midst of becoming parents. I am in the midst of becoming a father.
Don't worry, this site will not become a parenting blog. There are enough of those. But it's a big enough life change that it seems deserving of some reflection.
My own father was only in my life a short time, dying of cancer when I was 10. Here we are together while visiting my grandparents some time in the 1980s:
I remember my dad as funny, witty, clever, meticulous, kind and loving. He was around long enough to influence me in lots of ways. His curiosity and interest in figuring out how things work is something I absorbed and share. He spent lots of time with me building things - from train sets to wooden racing cars to models to robots to computer software - and I’m grateful to have a creative drive as a result.
In some ways I grew up without a father, but perhaps I had more father figures in my life because my biological father wasn't present. My mom did her best -- doing double duty parenting and influencing me in many great ways along the way, I know -- and yet a mother is not a father. So there were men in our community who taught me things about myself, spent time with me, helped me enjoy camping and the outdoors, listened to me, supported me, challenged me, and modeled manhood and fatherhood for me in some of the best ways I can imagine, all in ways that only men can for each other. I'm so thankful for them. There are so many children who grow up without that, or worse.
I've not always been interested in becoming a parent myself. There have been times when I thought it would never be a part of my story. There have been times when I wanted it to be, but didn't feel like I was in the right place for it. There have been times where I've seen such incredible, lasting damage done by a parent to their children - be it through immaturity, ignorance, substance abuse or just plain abusiveness - that I've wanted nothing to do with that much responsibility. There have been times when I couldn't see how the work I want to do in the world is compatible with parenthood. Even today, as I find myself ready, excited and at peace with how it may change my life, I still wrestle with the social, economic, environmental and cultural implications of parenthood as it's so often practiced in the U.S.
(Gosh, was it at all predictable that a guy who lost his father at a young age would have some complex thoughts and feelings around fatherhood? Somebody call the Obvious Police.)
Our path to parenthood is through adoption. This comes with its own kinds of complexity, and yet it's such a privilege and honor to think about becoming parents to a child whose birth mother will choose me and Kelly to create this family. We are so thankful to be surrounded by family, friends and colleagues who are excited for us in this adventure.
I believe some of life happens by choices we make intentionally, and some of it happens based on when, where and how we're swept into the currents of the larger universe. I feel endlessly fortunate to have found a life partner in Kelly, and to be headed toward parenthood together -- some of it by choice, some of it because the universe has carried us to this point. I think she's going to be a wonderful mother.
Here's to my father, my community of father figures, and to finding versions of fatherhood that bring good things to the world.