The Gift of Fatherhood: An Open Adoption Story

This guest post is by Russell Elkins, an adoptive father and author 

russell-elkins-adoptionEvery spring I dreaded the father-and-son campout organized by my church. Naturally, I had no qualms with men taking their boys out for some quality time in a tent.

My dislike for this time of year didn’t even have to do with our infertility struggles. What I hated was the pressure other men would put on me to come.

“It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a son, Russ. We want you to come anyway.”

“No thanks.”

“Really. You should come. Steve only has daughters and he’s coming.”

“No thanks.”

“Oh, come on. Bill’s kids are all grown up and moved on. He’s coming without any of his sons.”

“I said no thanks.”

I had this same basic conversation over and over every year with different men. I didn’t want to go because I felt out of place. It was as simple as that. I wasn’t a father.

I realized that their invitations were out of love, but I couldn’t help but feel like they were also out of pity, and I don’t like feeling pitiful. The more I resisted, the more they insisted.

Then adoption changed my life.

A little over four years ago my little man was born. I looked forward to someday taking him to the father-and-son campout with all my church friends, but I had to wait for the time to be right.

This year, now that he was four years old, was the first year I was able to take him. We were both so excited. He didn’t know what the word “Friday” really meant, other than knowing that “Friday” he would be going camping with Daddy.

All week he kept saying, “Is it Friday yet?” and “Sorry, Mom. No girls. Just boys.”

Friday came. I arrived home from work, packed up our hotdogs and sleeping bags, and we were on our way. As I drove toward our destination, someone unsettling was making its way right at us.

We were heading straight into a dark-clouded storm, and two minutes before we found our campsite the rain began to pour.

“It’s raining pretty hard. Do you still want to go camping?” I asked.

“Yes yes yes.”

I couldn’t turn back now—not without at least giving it a try.

Maybe the clouds would pass by quickly. Maybe the rain would stop after just a few minutes. Maybe we’d be all right.

No such luck.

The sky did let up—just enough for us to enjoy the evening. We huddled around the campfire with extra layers of clothing, but within a few hours we were simply too wet.

We were having fun, but the idea of pitching a tent on such a cold wet night left me with visions of pneumonia and a traumatized little boy.

Lucky for us, although we were half an hour away from home, whoever planned the campout chose a location less than two miles from my parents’ home. Rather than call it quits like many of the other fathers, we drove to my parents’ home to finish our campout.

They had spare bedrooms with comfortable beds, but we chose to blow up our air mattresses and unroll our sleeping bags on the family room floor.

I turned out the lights and kissed my little man on the forehead.

“Goodnight, Ira,” I said.

“Goodnight, Dad.”

A few minutes passed in the dark before he spoke again. “Dad? You awake?”

“Yes. What’s up?”

“I love you.”

I melted.

All of the years of infertility, frustration, and longing to be a father were gone.

I had waited so many years to experience the joys of fatherhood, and moments like this proved it was more than worth the wait.

And all of this came about because of the selfless act of a young mother who chose us to raise her child. Being a father is the greatest thing I will ever be, and fatherhood is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me.

Russell Elkins is an adoptive father and the author of the Open Adoption, Open Heart series, An Adoptive Father’s Inspiring Journey.

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