I am an 80’s kid. I grew up watching He-Man Masters of the Universe, GI Joe, and Transformers. Growing up, the theme was always Good vs. Evil. From the Smurfs fighting Gargamel to the games we played in the backyard battling “the bad guys,” it was always about saving the ones we love.
Sometimes we used toy guns, and other times, made up weapons were more useful. Baseballs made perfect grenades, and paper towel rolls created the best telescopes. A group of trees or bushes made a great fort, and we could plan our battle strategies and coordinate our attacks. I played this type of game over and over with different buddies as a child, mostly before becoming more seriously involved in sports. Even then, the same basic strategies applied, but it was more about Our Team vs. Their Team than Good vs. Evil.
I find it interesting how life prepares you for the future one step at a time and the stakes get higher at every level. The same principles are used in each scenario. Themes like “Always make the hard right choice,” “Never leave a man behind,” or “You always win in the end when you are fighting for true love.” These situations would play out in the games we played. When your best friend is about to be attacked by whatever evil force you have made up by the tree line in the backyard, you know it’s a long shot, but you head into the danger anyway to save the day. If your team is down in the final minutes of the Middle School County Basketball Tournament, and your lungs are screaming with fatigue, you dig a little bit deeper and push yourself farther to help your team win.
Even when it hurts, literally hurts, you continue to fight because, your best friends are counting on you, and that drive is enough to get past the temporary pain. Besides, when the game is over you knew you would all go to somebody’s house to watch TV or play video games while your body recovers. And, of course, the house you went to was determined by whoever had the best snacks or a crank down basketball goal.
As we get older, the games change. The themes are the same, but the choices don’t get easier. In Middle School we had to learn social skills and decide how far we would (or wouldn’t) be willing to go to fit in with our friends. In High School we developed physically, academically, and socially. Finding our way through our first real romances and relationships wasn’t easy.
These situations seem to put us in the middle of the same struggle of Good vs. Evil. Do I copy a homework assignment because I am behind? Should I be flirting with the cute girl in weight lifting when I have a girlfriend? Do I jump in to defend that kid getting picked on in the hallway, or will everyone just turn on me? Am I studying hard enough to get into a good college or just getting by because I am only focused on Friday night’s football game? I mean, it is senior night….
College brings it up another notch as we prepare for our first job. This job is so important because it starts our career. We really need to make sure our career gets off on the right foot because now we are married and thinking about starting a family.
Whoa, let’s step back. This is getting really heavy, really quickly. Weren’t we just fighting bad guys in the back yard a few minutes ago? The truth is, no matter what the game is, or how high the stakes are, life is really simple. The decisions we make are based on what we love. Even after all these years, we still make choices to pursue good and use all of our powers to defeat evil.
My wife and I have four boys (two adopted and two biological) who are seven years old and under. The television shows chosen by our sons are dominated by super heroes. Every boy in my house wants to be a superhero! But, the reality is, the real superhero is my wife – the only girl in the house.
If your adoption experience/journey is anything like mine, my wife is the driver. She knows every step of the process, every document and government form required during the paper chase. She is in every adoption Facebook group from our adoption agency to the groups dedicated to special needs, adoption from China, and the provinces from where our sons resided. She advocates for kids we can’t adopt so that maybe someone will see them and feel a stir for them. I can’t think of a month when she spent any of her allowance money (yes, we have allowances – you probably do too if you are adopting or have adopted!) on anything except adoption fundraisers. You should see how many adoption t-shirts this girl owns. Lastly, she stays home with our boys during the day caring for their every need. Wow…and this isn’t a platform to lift up my wife. I am simply stating what she does to be a superhero.
For me, and many other adoptive dads, I would guess, our job is to get to work and bring home the bacon! This is leaving our role a little short though. While the moms often push the adoption envelope more than their counterparts, we dads support our wives in these callings and provide love and support to children who need families. This makes us superheroes too. We support the children in many different ways, but one of the best ways we fight for them is by supporting their mommas. We support our wives through the entire adoption process. Dad stands strong as mom feels the strain of each passing day.
There is a growing weight as we move further in the adoption process and a growing awareness that our child is across the world just lying there (because in China they are sleeping while we are awake) waiting for us to finish paperwork. The weight that I am talking about is the ridiculous trail of hoops and obstacles put in place to keep these children safe. It’s hard to see it that way. The process can seem like a huge waste of time when all I want to do is care for my child. Regardless, dads tell their wives that everything will be ok. They tell their wives that the God we worship every Sunday is watching over our child until we get there.
In a private moment fueled with emotion, somehow Dad keeps it together as he holds his wife while she sobs in the middle of the living room floor. I’ve adopted twice, and each has had this moment. The point is, Dads, we can give our wives a safe place to be emotional, let her guard down, and grieve the distance during the process. We can pause from our normal reaction of rationalizing and fixing problems to simply support. Our job is hard, especially in times of intense emotion, but that is selfless. That is strong. That is heroic.
When I see other fathers who have adopted, I feel a sense of pride and camaraderie. I am proud of the men who can get past their financial fears and have faith that God will continue providing for and molding their families. I’m proud of the men who are strong enough and fortunate enough to love these precious children. I have respect for men who can be so strong that they are willing to step forward in this fight of Good vs. Evil. Make no mistake – there is plenty of evil ready to grab these kids as soon as they age out of the orphanage. Sometimes the evil even lurks inside those orphanage walls. I love the dads who are willing to stand up and say, “I am claiming this child for good! I will shelter you, love you, share a family that loves you, and give you a fighting chance in this world!”
To all of my sons – I promise to love you and show you how to love. I promise you will never be alone. Nobody will fight harder for you than your mother and I will. I will teach you what a real man looks like. A real man shows love and compassion. This strength in a man can be mistaken as weakness in a society that values financial success, vanity, and other forms of self-promotion. Let me assure you, boys, adoptive fathers do not share these values. We fight against them. We fight for good. We fight for redemption. Delivering treasure from tragedy, we fight for love!
From Transformers to basketball games…
From first love to real love…
From career and family to eternal love and forever families…
… way to go adoptive fathers!
Everything comes full circle the day you look out your back window and see all your boys playing in the backyard with toy guns, baseball grenades, and paper towel rolls for telescopes saving the world.
But, why should I be surprised to see dads stepping up to be superheroes?! We have been practicing for it our entire lives.
Ryan lives with his wife Amy and their four sons Noah, Liam, Tucker, and Tyson in Indiana. Ryan is an account manager for a major health insurance provider. Ryan enjoys being outdoors and watching movies with his family.
If you want to know more about Ryan and his family, you can follow his wife’s blog, My Passionate Balance.