June 15, 2012

Eric Shepperd

How One Father Of Nine Feels About Father's Day

A father of nine, Tom Wells, event chair for DrugFreeAz.org, shares just how he feels about Father’s Day

Mothers’ Day is a widely celebrated event every year. The radio, television, Internet and newspapers are chocked full of advertisements touting the wonderful things to buy mom for “her” day. Huge family gatherings with grandiose spreads of food, all in the spirit of thanking mom for all that she does to keep the family functioning flawlessly. And flowers! All this and more is deserved.

Fathers’ Day … not so much.

It’s interesting to me that the father figure is often viewed differently. I’m sure there are numerous sociological reasons why this is, and these likely lend credence to rendering the importance of the father in the home as “less important.” Not true.

As a father of nine, ranging from toddler to adult, our family has dealt with the challenges of life at every social level; preschool, grade school, middle school, high school, college and life as an adult — all at the same time. Yikes! Our three oldest birth children prepared us for the future to follow with our six adopted children. A very common thread in the lives of foster/adopted little ones was there was no father. Oh, he may have been unidentified and known but nearly always non-existent. This lack of a father in the lives of children can be a significant negative. So, now that I’m done ranting about being a man …

Of all the obvious questions I get from people about our family, the subject that comes up the most (understandably) is about social pressures, specifically related to drugs or alcohol use. Being involved with adoption and a great organization, DrugFreeAZ.org, for a long time, I apparently have the answers for that. Be clear; I don’t. However, I do know this: I have to be involved in my kids’ lives. It is the basis for everything I can and do bring to the table. If I’m not involved with the kids, nothing else is significant.

My involvement is why my influence, voice, feelings, guidance and opinions are heard and understood. My relationship with my children is no different than a relationship with anyone else. The more involved, the closer the friendship and the deeper the trust. There is a certain “given” about a relationship with one’s kids that I get — I’m the dad — but that “given” needs to be nurtured and strengthened just like any relationship. With my adopted kids, it’s really important that they know I care and that I’m there for them.

Ultimately, my wife and I can’t be with our children 24/7, nor should we be. My goal, our goal, is to provide knowledge and understanding to enable our kids to make a good choice when faced with doing so. Whether that choice involves sex, drugs, alcohol or just disrespect for others, if my kids don’t understand the consequences of a bad choice, it’s hard to imagine them making a good one.

It’s really scary — no, strike that — it’s intense in today’s world. Nothing like when I was a youngster. There are so many avenues and potential influences that it’s just not feasible to control them all. More importantly, educating myself on these potentials becomes critical. It’s not good enough to just be aware; I need to know why. I’m into social media because my kids are. I pick my battles wisely and focus on controlling what I can, trying not to be oppressive. But, sometimes I just have to be.

In the end, I’m comfortable that we are providing a road that is potentially a successful one. I’m really not a father, just a parent with a great parent partner. I understand that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are simply justified by their economic impact. I don’t need a day to be recognized for my efforts; my kids leading healthy and productive lives is all the recognition I need.