Father’s Day is usually thought of as a time for barbecues, ties, corny jokes and naps. It’s meant to be special, and it is. But for me, it used to also be a day of misfit, a day when I couldn’t really celebrate with anyone.
After years of infertility struggles with my wife, I felt out of place each June when little kids at church sang a happy Father’s Day song to all of their dads in the audience. Sure, they were cute. But I didn’t have anyone to sing me a song (though my wife, who knew the pain of Mother’s Day, was a great source of support for me).
I certainly celebrated my own dad. I still do every year. He’s a great man whom I love and admire fully. But my celebration wasn’t with him during those especially ho-hum years. He passed away two years before I was married.
So there I was, stuck in no-man’s land. I wasn’t a dad, and I didn’t have a dad (on this earth, anyway).
Thank goodness for my father-in-law. While no one can ever take the place of my own dad, my wife’s dad is by all means a father to me. I think a lot about how much he did for us and how grateful I was to have him in my life during that trying period. He’s filled much of the void that I felt after my own dad died. So I wasn’t totally alone.
But the void even he couldn’t fill was the one beneath me on the family tree. That empty branch that didn’t hold any of my posterity.
It would take certain miracles to fill that blank space, but the miracles did come. The easiest way to describe them is with the word “adoption.” It would take hours for me to fully recount how, against all odds, a birth mother held off on selecting another adoptive couple to love her baby so that she could place him with us.
Read more: Why I’m Glad I Struggled with Infertility
I would need even more time to tell you about how, 2 years after we had our first child, we tried to make an upward career step that would have required us to move out of state—but instead we decided to stay. Weeks later, we found out that another birth mom was looking for a couple in our state who had a child already with whom to place her baby.
I’ve noticed lately that there is a lot more awareness for women in general on Mother’s Day—single mothers, widows, those who have lost children, those who can’t or don’t have children. I’m glad to see the growing sentiment of inclusiveness for them on a day that, for many, is absolutely grueling on an emotional level.
I haven’t, however, noticed that there’s much emphasis on men of all kinds when it comes to Father’s Day. I think the day is generally a more laid back holiday than Mother’s Day to begin with. Yet I know there are some men who, though they may not talk about it, are wishing they could be on the receiving end of the wacky socks and the cliché grill scrapers.
I’m approaching my fifth Father’s Day as a father, and it’s still sinking in. What a joy! What a happiness that I try so hard not to take for granted! So here’s to the dads who get the same old tie every year. Here’s to the dads who take care of the kids all alone. Here’s to the birth fathers who chose what they knew to be best for their little ones. And here’s to all the other men—the ones who pray and hope with all their might for fatherhood. You all deserve a power drill, too.