June 3rd, 2016

Movember dad Andy shares how growing up without a biological dad meant finding father figures in nontraditional places

What's a dad got to do with me?
The idea of a father figure in my life was different than the normal nuclear family. Though I can’t remember the time I figured out that I didn’t have a father as a child, he passed away suddenly before I created a single memory of him, I still always had one… my grandfather, my Nano, and later came my stepfather, Jock.

A father to me is a leader, a sounding board, a teacher, a comedian, a playmate, a coach, a chef, and a boss. As a new father myself, I embrace my new roles and chose to be a guide, a role model, a clown, a nurse, an imaginary friend, a magician, a ballet dancer, the list goes on.  At every moment I'm with my family discovering something new and living in the undetermined world around us, it challenges me to be a better man and to be a better father for my kids. It also gives me pause to reflect on the fathers I’ve had in my life.  

My mom, sister and I moved in with my grandparents shortly after my dad passed away. My first father figure became Nano, my grandfather. I'm sure he never knew he had such a profound impact on me, and I wish I had shared that with him. I have nothing but the fondest memories of him. One of my oldest memories was a game we used to play, where he would pretend to sleep in a chair. My sister and I would try to sneak up and run past him without being swatted on the po-po (butt) with his enormous brown slipper, all while singing “pat you on the po-po” when we were struck. I'm not sure why getting whacked by a massive slipper was so much fun but I'm sure we never laughed harder in our young lives. Nano was a father to me because he was so involved in my life. He showed up and it meant the most because he wanted to be there and was excited to be a part of my life.

Nano was a blood relative and we shared a few characteristics as a result. However, with my stepdad Jock, it’s pretty amazing how similar I am to someone who shares no DNA or biological make up. I think that speaks to the true impact a father can have in your life.  Being a father is something you choose, and something you actively participate in.  A dad doesn't have to be from birth, he just has to be there, present and willing to be a significant part of your life.  I've had coaches fill this role, uncles, and even close friends at times, but none more than Jock, my dad now.  

I remember Jock marrying my mom 25 years ago when I was 10. He never thought he wanted to be married or have kids until he met my mother and her two kids.  Sure, he missed all the fun of changing my diapers, but now he delights in changing my kid's diapers and taking in all the newborn moments with them.  Being a dad for me has created a new level of love and emotion that I never knew existed, I see this in the way Jock looks and interacts with my family and me.  He is an incredible part of my life and a positive influence in teaching me what it is to be a man.  He's shown me how to put in a hard days work, my way around a kitchen, to respect women, and of course how to constantly make people laugh and feel good about themselves.  He's someone I look up to, respect and love like a father because he is my dad.

I may have grown up without a biological father, but I never really felt like I lost out on anything. I was always surrounded with love and father figures who I consider dads. And I've learned by example from them.  As a dad now to a daughter and a son, I'm both looking forward to being a substantial part of their life and also encouraging them to find other mentors and guides to support them along their life long journey. Being a father is mostly about being present and taking the time to be with your kids and anyone can choose to do that. Play with them, guide them and listen to your kids, but most of all be present. I want to give a massive shout out to all the fathers in my life and to those who raise children however they have come into your life. Stay Rad Dads!