Happy Father’s Day! Father’s Day is often known as a joyous day for millions of fathers around the country. However, this day does not always bring unlimited joy to all fathers or children who are a part of an adoption story. Father’s Day can, in fact, be incredibly painful, bringing up old wounds and heartbreak. However, there are lots of ways to celebrate fathers of any role during Father’s Day.

There are also ways for families to celebrate Father’s Day even if the child has been placed in a closed adoption or only semi-open adoption setting. Father’s Day becomes more about supporting one another in the role of fatherhood and recognizing that role can be essentially shared. It can look like many different things. The role of a father can look different depending on where that father is standing in their child’s life.

While the opinions on how and who can celebrate Father’s Day will vary, it is really up to you to decide how you celebrate Father’s Day and who you choose to honor. If you are an adoptive father, a birth father, or if you are an adoptee, you have the right to choose how you celebrate or if you celebrate.

There are many different ways to honor various father figures within your life or to even celebrate fatherhood in general if the child is not present. It is a hard concept to wrap one’s mind around, but it is very prevalent in today’s society where open adoption has become more popular and shows like Teen Mom and This Is Us have portrayed more realistic depictions of the inner workings of families whose lives have been intertwined by adoption. For each different role a father may play or each different title that they may hold, there are definitely ways to celebrate and honor those fathers. There are also ways to cope with Father’s Day if it is a not so joyous time in your life.

Adoptive Father

As an adoptive father, there are really limitless ways to celebrate Father’s Day.

As Father’s Day is typically celebrated by those who want to celebrate their father, it may be your child who has been adopted or any other children that you have who will celebrate you or choose the way in which the day is celebrated. For my husband, who has both biological and children whom we have adopted, they really hold no difference in the way that he is celebrated. In his case, it is breakfast in bed and a day full of video games. There may be a baseball game thrown in there at some point.

I know many around me who celebrate Father’s Day with either dinner or just letting the father do what they want for the day. Many simply spend the day with their father. There is no hard-and-fast rule on how to go about celebrating Father’s Day as an adoptive father nor is there really a guideline. Celebrating Father’s Day for yourself really is about the celebration that your children or family have for you or with you. I have a friend whose father celebrates by holding a cookout for many of the fathers in his life. He loves to host people and enjoys grilling so this helps him honor the fathers in his life as well as do something fun for himself for that day.

As previously noted, there is no difference between an adoptive father and a father who has had children biologically. However, it is not uncommon to feel a little bit of uncomfortable energy surrounding Father’s Day as an adoptive father. This may be valid for you or not, but for some fathers, Father’s Day can be difficult knowing that there is another father out there to whom their child is attached. Regardless of how you feel about titles and roles, it is common to feel this sort of internal dilemma when it comes to Father’s Day. Yet there is nothing written in any rule that both fathers cannot be honored or acknowledged. There is nothing about your child being adopted and having a biological father or birth father out there that changes your relationship with your child and your role as their father. This can be difficult to understand, however, it is something you learn as you go along. The difference will be in the relationship you have with your child. The title of “Father” may be shared in some ways, but the roles will be different and the relationship your child has with you will be different as well.

For this scenario, I often like to give the example of a stepparent. My oldest son is my stepson. His mom is wonderful and the largest force in his life. While I love him like I gave birth to him, he is hers in a way that he will never be mine, and that is perfectly okay. It does not change my love for him nor do I change his love for her. For Mother’s Day, he is able to celebrate it with her though he typically leaves me a sweet or silly message. For Mother’s Day this year, it was a card with the lyrics to The Golden Girls theme song! Ha! He has always been able to show his love to me while maintaining Mother’s Day with his mom. The point is that there does not have to be a huge dilemma when there are two mother or father figures in a child’s life. There are many ways to honor and celebrate all who share that title, though their roles and relationships will vary.

Birth Father

In popular culture, one birth father that many people may know about is from the show Teen Mom OG. Teen Mom OG chronicled the adoption story of Tyler and Catelynn Baltierra. Their daughter Carly was placed for adoption at birth with adoptive parents Brandon and Teresa. Tyler has always been very vocal about his love for Carly but his understanding that, given their situation when Carly was born, Brandon and Teresa were the best option for Carly at the time. However, Tyler has always been very vocal and very open with his struggles with the adoption though he is still sure of his decision. He speaks often about missing Carly and missing out on being that father role in her life. However, it does not seem that Tyler has ever resented Brandon’s role in Carly’s life and has honored this throughout the show.

One thing that I noticed recently about Tyler and Catelynn, through following them on Instagram, is that they take time out on Carly’s birthday to celebrate her. Though Carly is not with them, they have a birthday cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to Carly with their daughters each year. This is a great way for them to honor Carly and their role in Carly’s life while still honoring Carly’s life with her adoptive parents.

As a birth father, Father’s Day can be incredibly hard when your child is not in your life or not spending the day with you. Father’s Day may be a source of pain. However, you can choose to honor your role as the child’s birth father or the child’s role in making you a father even if your child is not with you. Just as Catelynn and Tyler celebrate Carly on her birthday, you have the option as a birth father to celebrate the day.

Placing your child for adoption does not automatically negate the fact that you fathered a child. Your love for your child as a father does not vanish through the legal process. While things have changed and your child may call someone else their father, your fatherhood still matters. If you are able to have an open adoption or your child is older, you may even get the chance to speak to them or spend Father’s Day with your child. As adoptive fathers may experience uncomfortable energy on this day, the same may be more true for birth fathers. However, it is okay to play it by ear and do what feels comfortable to celebrate the day. You may even choose to reach out to your child’s adoptive father to wish them a Happy Father’s Day. My children’s birth mother always makes sure to reach out to me on Mother’s Day. This means the world to me and I, too, wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. The bond we share in motherhood and our understanding of our relationships with our children is life-giving to all involved.

Adoptive Father’s Perspective

I understand that I have a limited perspective about Father’s Day being an adoptive mother. With this, I wanted to gain the perspective of a father for a topic such as Father’s Day. So, who better to speak about Father’s Day than my own husband, Mike Jordan?

Mike is a father to our eldest son, 18, from a previous relationship, two biological sons, ages 8 and 5, and two children whom we adopted, one daughter age 3 and one son age 2. We have quite the blend of experiences in fatherhood here, so I was curious about his perspective of Father’s Day through these various lenses.

1. What meaning does Father’s Day hold for you?

“Father’s Day recognizes sacrifices fathers make for their kids. It just means a lot to hear about the stuff I get right! Kidding. But it does mean a lot to me to hear about the good things the kids see in me. It’s not really about me needing the compliments, but it just feels nice because being a good dad is the most important thing to me.”

2. Do you feel any different about Father’s Day through the lens of an adoptive father?

“I thought it might feel different, but not really. It is different and the same at the same time. It took a while to feel like they were mine but also someone else’s. It’s a learning curve. In general, I really view it the same. They are all my kids. Most days, I don’t really think about it at all. It is sometimes weird to think that there is any difference. I usually don’t really feel it or remember in the moment.”

3. Do you think there are ways to honor birth fathers on Father’s Day?

“Depending on your situation, it may vary. Maybe contacting them or even sharing part of the day. Maybe like a ball game together if it’s an open situation. Definitely a gesture and acknowledgment, absolutely. However, there are kids who might find Father’s Day painful. Not every adoptive or birth father is a gem. It can be hard. It totally varies based on the situation. If an adoptee or any child feels like is painful to honor any father in their life, they are under no obligation. There are so many different factors to consider. “

4. Do you have any general thoughts or advice about Father’s Day for fathers in any role?

“Earn it. Father’s Day is not something you just ‘get.’ Adoptive or birth father it is about the love for your kid, and the love you continue to show.  It can be harder to show in a closed situation, but they should celebrate or seek support however they need it for Father’s Day. Just know that they matter.”

Regardless of what event made you a father, Father’s Day can be a mixed bag of emotions and events. It is okay to choose to celebrate or not celebrate the day in any way you so choose. There are many great ways to celebrate Father’s Day, even with the emotions it may evoke and even if the child is not present. There is also much to be said about honoring every father in your child’s life through this day and allowing your child the freedom to do the same. Fatherhood is not narrowly defined, but it is certainly a role to be honored by those who honor the title bestowed upon them to the best of their ability.

Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Do you want more choices with your adoption plan? Do you want to regain more control in your life? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98. We can help you put together an adoption plan that best meets your needs.