15 years ago, I was surprised by a conversation with my cousin who had recently tried to grow in sobriety and had been newly engaged to a love interest. Unfortunately, her fiance had left, she was pregnant, and being coached by her parents to abort the child or adopt it away. “You can’t possibly provide a stable home for this child,” they told her.
“What do you want moving forward?” I asked my cousin.
“I think I want to have this child. I may not get another chance to have a family.”
That conversation began my husband Jeff's and my journey into “fatherhood” as we joined my cousin in co-parenting her son. We knew that parenting alone is often tough and that the kids of single parents could face challenging futures. While not biological or dad by adoption for fourteen plus years, my husband and I have had the privilege to feed, clothe, teach, care for, coach, and mentor our "son."
The first Sunday I took a baby carrier containing his sleeping self to Marywood for Mass, one of the Dominican Sisters asked if Jeff and I had adopted. “No, we were adopted by him.” He quickly adopted them too. At Marywood, he learned how to sing, pray, and act kindly toward people who are vulnerable and in need. He also developed a love for elderly ladies who loved his smile and gave him candy every time they saw him.
My husband and I have planned his birthdays, play time with friends, and vacations. We shared him fully in Jeff’s family and watched parents become “grandparents.” Love grew. We upheld holiday traditions year to year and brought in new twists to keep him interested. He loves a feast, eating dinner with adults, and showing off his latest piano piece.
We have more recently been entrusted with teaching him hygiene (shaving), choosing clothes that look good and fit properly, and helping him study for school subjects that are way over my head (algebra, geometry). We have seen how maturity brings joys, changes, and new experiences.
We have watched him grow from holding our finger crossing the street to totally ignoring us at school events. We have seen him goof off with pals, have crushes on girls, and finding any way possible to be where all the action is happening.
We are a protector, provider, guide, and mentor. Are we dad? I wouldn’t call us that, but he does. His friends do too. Jeff and I feel fortunate to be called upon to serve him as he grows into an amazing young man. The wonder of watching him help others and develop great friendships makes the 2 am feedings and difficult homework all worth it.
David Lincoln is from Grand Rapids and has been in a relationship for twenty-one years and married for one. He has been a member of Dominican Chapel Marywood for 22+years and has previously served on the GIFT Grand Rapids board of directors. He enjoys long conversations around a table full of great food.