FF: Describe your family.
DS: I am Maggie’s husband of twelve years and Eliot’s dad for the past two years. I’m Kevin and Linda’s son, Anne Marie’s brother and brother-in-law to her husband, Tony. I’m privileged to have known well all four of my grandparents. When we adopted Eliot in 2009 our family grew to include members of his birth family. We’re an imperfect but decent group of folks.
FF: How has fatherhood changed you?
DS: I’ll need a few more years before I can answer this with any certainty. Honestly, like marriage, I think fatherhood is simply revealing more of who I already was–both good and bad.
FF: Have you made any mistakes as a dad? If you’re not a liar, name one and talk about what it meant to you.
DS: I make mistakes daily. My flexible schedule allows me to be with Eliot while Maggie works. Because much of my work is done from home I often feel the tug to respond to work-related tasks when my attention should be given entirely to my son. Put another way, I struggle to be fully present to Eliot. Like my previous answer, I’m pretty sure this struggle has little to do with my delightful son and everything to do with my own distracted self.
FF: What’s the most helpful advice you heard when you were becoming a father or as you’ve been a father?
DS: In the days before Eliot came to live with us a friend and parent of three sensed my growing anxiety about being a good parent. Her counsel was simple and significant: “Parenting is all about grace.” This truth has alleviated some of my tendencies to strive to get it right. I desire my son to come up in a family atmosphere where grace is the air he breathes.
FF: How do you attend to your relationship with Maggie? How has it changed since you’ve become parents?
DS: My first answer will sound silly, but it’s true. Getting Eliot on a sleep schedule as soon as was reasonably possible may be our best parenting decision as of now. By the time he was four months he was sleeping through the night. Reclaiming our evenings together, not to mention our rest, was great for that new stage of married life. I realize not all children will take to sleep this well, but it’s worth trying!
Another thing we’ve done is to go on a date twice a month. We’ve been able to secure some great babysitters who spend time with Eliot while we take a few hours together. I should say that Maggie initiated both of these things.
Our relationship continues to evolve now that Eliot is part of our family. Sleep training and date nights are proof of the added intentionality we’ve found to be necessary to nurture our marriage. But much of this evolution is completely haphazard. Predicting how your spouse will respond to parenthood is tricky business; it’s been good to watch each other react to this little person who we care so deeply for.
FF: Does your job as a pastor bring any particular blessings and challenges to you when it comes being a dad?
DS: I’ve mentioned the flexible schedule being a gift to our family. There are plenty of dads who rarely see their children throughout the week and I’m grateful this isn’t my situation. On the flip side, much of my time is given to the church and this includes times –weekends and some evenings – when many families are together. I’m also keenly aware of the pressures many pastors’ children have felt and I hope to actively oppose those sorts of expectations. Again, it’s all about grace!
DS: I learned that waiting is hard! While it’s not unique to adoption, the process does require vast amounts of patience and making peace with ambiguity and an unknown future. This was tough for someone who desires to be in control, especially of these types of really important events.
FF: What surprises are there along the way for parents? What do you wish you were told to expect?
DS: Hold loosely to your plans. Make plans, wise plans. But don’t be too nervous when the plans change. Make a new one and go with it until a new shift is required.
FF: What is one recent memory you made with your child?
DS: Maggie’s work schedule requires three weeks of full-time work, so this week I’m spending a lot of time with Eliot. Our mothers are graciously traveling to be with us for the next two weeks. Yesterday we ran errands. Today involved a walk to a neighborhood splash park. Given his passionate interest, I’m sure a ride on a train will be required tomorrow. All of these moments are excuses to watch him interact with his circumstances. I love the delight I’ve gained as he invites me into his ever-expanding world.