The first post I ever wrote was about my struggle to find my place in the lives of these kids. I wrote:
“I struggle with the fact that even though our kids are in foster care, most of them still have fathers, and if they don’t, they have a father figure already in their life. Where do I fit in their life, and what is my responsibility to them as a man? I change diapers, I do time outs, I discipline, I help with homework, I laugh with them, I comfort them when they’re sad, I pray with them at bedtime. I do all the things a dad should do, but I don’t feel like their dad. I feel like a long term babysitter. I don’t even know if I should feel like their dad. They already have dads, even if they’re crappy ones.”
That was 6 months ago. Now with Fathers Day upon us, I feel like I have been able to settle in and find my place as a ‘substitute dad’ for the kids that pass through Bryan Mac. We have started to use that term more with the new kids that we get. We tell them that we know they already have a mommy and daddy, but for a variety of reasons, they can’t be with them. So as long as they are with us, Ms Heidi and Mr Jon will be their substitute mom and dad.
I haven’t been doing anything different, my motivation hasn’t changed, I just feel like I have a better understanding of what I’m doing. There are definitely still days that I feel overwhelmed and lost, but more and more I’m feeling comfortable in my role as a Family Teacher and foster dad to a bunch of great boys. I am blessed to work with a lot of strong Godly men that have, whether they know it or not, greatly influenced me on my path towards confidence. They share what has worked, what hasn’t, what they have enjoyed, and what they have struggled with. I have been lucky enough to live life with some amazing fathers. I have been able to observe their interactions with biological and cottage kids, and share my insecurities and triumphs.
I have also been very fortunate to be surrounded by strong examples of godly men my entire life. My father is the hardest working and most selfless man I know. He has dedicated his life to serve others as an ER nurse, and has been a leader in our church for as along as I can remember. His example of how to be a good husband and father while helping others is a big part of why I am at Thornwell doing my best to help these kids.
We daily see the ways that not having a father impacts the lives of kids. I recently finished reading Father Fiction by Donald Miller, a great first hand account of how growing up fatherless can change you for life. Fathers are the first teachers. Kids aren’t born with hatred, kids aren’t racist from birth. Comedian Dennis Lears says “Racism isn’t born folks, it’s taught. I have a 2 year old son. Know what he hates? Naps. End of list.” Fathers, or Father figures, are vital to the success of children. We build the foundations, start them on a course. Not to diminish mothers, because their role is equally important, but every child has a mother, not every child has a father.
Most of what we do in the assessment homes is tearing down false foundations. We don’t get to start at the beginning with our kids. We have to help them unlearn habits and language that they may have learned at home so they can begin to build healthy foundations for their future. They often move on to a more permanent cottage, where the Family Teachers do a fantastic job of teaching kids the skills needed to make a positive impact on society.
I feel like I say this a lot, but I love what I do, and I love where I work. I’m so thankful for the great fathers and father figures that I have been blessed to learn from. Thornwell is a blessed placed to have so many men willing to do what it takes to advance Gods kingdom through his children.
A side note on Charleston. Incomprehensible evil and brokenness, just 2 hours away from us. But there’s hope. Those 9 souls are dancing in heaven. The doors of the church were open for worship this morning. God is still God. There is a spirit of brokenness in that community, but there is strength. There is forgiveness. There is unity. The young mans mission was to divide, but this will only make them stronger.