|All in the Family|
In addition to having fathered biologically, I have adopted. I also have assumed a self-described fatherly (okay, grandfatherly) role thanks to a close relationship with a very dear friend’s grandson. I have fathered married and unmarried, interracially and intra-racially. I’ve engaged in under-the-same-roof fathering and cross-country fathering. I have been an absent father as well as one who has been all-in.
These various experiences have changed me. They’ve revised my perceptions of the role a father plays and helped shift my beliefs about what is possible and what is not. This includes revelations concerning my relationships with mothers.
Over the years I have evolved from the quite inflexible position of not even considering partnering with women who had kids to wholeheartedly embracing the concept, even preferring it. And in the process kicking myself for ignorantly thinking otherwise.
Credit all the wonderful moms who have touched my life. Each had critical roles in maturing my understanding of how (and how not) to be a father. Especially, my wife. Her fierce, nontraditional way of being is challenging me to rethink all I have come to understand about raising kids.
Take adoption. Before my parenting journey began, adoption seemed a radical, if not unnatural option. Today, I realize it’s possible for a person to embrace an adopted child with the same depth and breadth of love as any biological son or daughter.
Another former struggle for me was how I perceived a parenting environment should be structured. I grew up in the classic, traditional two-parent home with a sister. We all were biologically related.
|How I used to react to dating moms with kids - stupidly.|
The result? A rigid, inflexible belief system that held monolithic values and one-dimensional thinking. Sadly, this came at the expense my rejecting alternative systems, concepts and possibilities. So much for progressive sensibilities. Even now I still struggle and consider myself a work in progress.
This formed the basis for unfairly judging one family model to the detriment of others. Models that might be just as viable and healthy, or in some cases more so, as the prototypic one man/one woman/one house family formation – the one firmly rooted in biological association and our nation’s collective psyche.
On reflection, I wouldn’t change the way my family system operated growing up. My mom and dad raised my sister and me in a manner that was safe, stable and nurturing. It worked for us. That said, I now realize it was by no means the only possible manner in which to be raised.
The multiple dimensions through which I am experiencing fatherhood has blossomed my mind to many beautiful possibilities through which familial relationships may thrive. Acknowledge and celebrate your way of growing up. But don’t let bias keep you from considering all the other wondrous models in which family systems can operate and thrive.
Follow J.R. on Twitter @4humansbeing or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.