Being an adoptive father has been the best experience of my life.

I love this picture of me and two of my dear daughters!  The 2-year-old thinks Dad is a superhero and the 13-year-old thinks Dad has cooties!  The 2-year-old jumps into my arms without any hesitation and full faith that I will catch her.  However, the 13-year-old doesn’t want to be seen with Dad in public.  One lives for Eskimo and butterfly kisses while the other wipes off my kisses.  While one laughs at my every joke, the other gives me a deadpan look afterwards saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”  I’ve had my share of “I hate you” and “You’re not my real Dad.”  But I’ve also had our share of “I love you” and “I’m so glad you’re my Dad.”  And that is its own reward.  I love being an adoptive dad!  Here are my observations on how being an adoptive dad is different:

1)    Opportunity to lead

When my beautiful wife and I first started dating, we decided that one of our goals would be to adopt.  We both settled on a good round number: three kids.  Twenty plus years, eight kids, three states, and five houses later, an idealistic dream became a reality–a passion–of ours.

What started out as a “honey do” list, with me being dragged along kicking and screaming,  turned out to be something that I felt called to do as a man.  It turned into a career of me helping other young men become the best that they could be.  The best dads that they could be.  If you are a man reading this, take the lead!  It will be the best decision you will have ever made!

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2)    Opportunity to leave a legacy

Grand Slam!  Well not quite.  I’ve had the honor and privilege to coach just about every one of my kids in one sport or another.  I remember coaching my oldest son in Little League baseball.  He had a natural talent.  At age two and a half, he could catch better than most kids his age.  As he got older, we learned that he had great speed and was a quick learner at all different types of sports and great hand-eye coordination.  During his first stint in Little League, he hit a ball over a fence not quite built for five-year-olds.  The bases weren’t quite loaded, but we called it a Grand Slam anyway!  I was so proud of him.  I was proud of my son.

Dads tend to live vicariously through their children: dreams of college scholarships, number one draft picks, World Series, Super Bowl, etc.  But for an adoptive dad, those day dreams are met with a stark reality: if those gifts are truly a gift, your child did not inherit them from you.  Does that diminish the feelings of pride?  Absolutely not!  After all, it’s the birth family’s genes that flow your through your child’s veins.

If you are considering becoming an adoptive dad, ask yourself, “Am I okay with my child looking different, acting different, and having different gifts, talents, and abilities than those that have run in my family for generations?”  Recognize your child may have different gifts and talents that your bloodline doesn’t have.  Then combine them with the gifts you would like to pass on.  The legacy you leave will be rock solid.

3)    Opportunity to mentor a child

I had many mentors growing up in the inner city of New York.  But the first mentor who had a significant impact on me was the pastor of a small church.  He was soft spoken but had a powerful inner strength.  He was not only a godly man who loved his family, but he also pursued adoption with his wife.  His example planted the seed of me pursuing my own adoptive family years later.

Here is my take on adopting from a man’s point of view: it is an opportunity to mentor a child that may not have had that opportunity before.  I mentioned earlier that I coached some of my kids.  As an adoptive dad, I’ve also been their youth pastor, their driving instructor, their counselor, and their home-school instructor.  Adoptive moms are great too; this is not to diminish the work that they do.  But foster and adoptive dads are needed also.  A good dad can be a good example to their adopted children on how to work hard, how to play hard, how to be respectful of women, and how to love their family.  They may have never had that type of role model before.  It’s been said that a good man is hard to find.  Well, a good adoptive dad is even more rare.  We need more adoptive dads to pour their lives into the next generation.

If you are a husband whose wife is considering adoption, don’t just get on the same page as your wife, be a leader!  Do your research, speak to other adoptive fathers, and decide what your role will be.  This will be a life-changing decision for not only the child, but also for your entire family.