In which I am a proud father (this is not a repost)

My son, Ryan, graduated college with a creative writing degree this past December. He got a job immediately after school, and moved all the way across the country to work there. I miss him every single day, but I'm incredibly proud of him, and the work he's doing.

Earlier today, I read something he wrote for work. It was so evocative and beautiful, I emailed him, quoted it, and told him how much I loved it.

He wrote back, "Not going to lie, I thought to myself, how would Wil say this? That's a little bit of you there."

I got something in both of my eyes. He was talking about the phrasing, but… in my mind, he was talking about something much more meaningful and personal to both of us. After my vision cleared, I replied, "I am so happy for you, and so proud of you. I have something in both of my eyes. I love you!"

He sent back, "You're the best. I love you too."

I got something in my eyes all over again (I really need to change the filter on our heater, I guess), and then I read the email chain to Anne. She didn't get anything in her eyes for a change, but she told me that she thought it was awesome.

And you know what? It is awesome. I don't know if every parent thinks the way we do, but when our boys were little, we believed that we were not just making sure they were healthy and safe; we were doing our best to help them grow into the kind of adults we'd like to have around us. We took the responsibility of raising (rearing, if you're pedantic about that sort of thing) our children very seriously. It wasn't easy, with their biological father undermining us at every opportunity, and making things unbelievably hard on all of us. No, it wasn't easy at all, but we always stayed focused on what was important, and today, every time I talk to my kids, they say or do something that shows us we succeeded… and that is the most awesome thing in the world.

66 thoughts on “In which I am a proud father (this is not a repost)”

  1. I just got something in both my eyes, too. These are the things that make being an adult completely worth it. I can’t wait to be a parent someday.

  2. Thank you for posting this. My husband has recently brought up the subject of adopting my 10 year old. Long story short, my ex husband has been an absent father for about 8 years and my current husband has been in my son’s life for the last 6 years. I’m on the fence about how to broach the subject, not with my ex, but with my son. He calls my husband dad; that’s the only dad he knows. It’s posts like this, though, that prove to me that some of us are lucky enough to find the greatest men in the world. Thank you again for posting this!

  3. What a wonderful post! You could not be a better example of the phrase “any man can be a Father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad.” Congratulations to Ryan on all his success – and he has a terrific Dad. :)

  4. Wil, I just have to say that I’ve been following you for awhile now, and my favorite things you write are those about your family. I’ve always found it amazing how much love shines through your words, and it often leaves me with things in my eyes as well. Like Ryan, I was raised (or reared, as it were) by a non-biological father who never let me doubt how much he loves me, and never once made me feel like I was anything but his own son. Seeing how you’ve raised your boys would give me an enormous amount of respect for you even if I didn’t already have it.
    Congratulations to Ryan, and to you and Anne. You’ve all got a lot to be proud of.

  5. I went through all the same things with my stepson. When his mother and I divorced, he opted to stay with me. I always wondered and prayed that I was raising him to be the man he needed to be, never really knowing if I was doing well enough.
    Now that he is an adult, I know, we succeeded. He is not perfect, but he is as close as I could ever expect.

  6. The universe is weird in how common the threads of lives can be. I always wanted a shot at what you and Anne have and I’ve been lucky enough to have it with my guy, Jim and his son Q and now our twins. Not going to lie it is damn tough to go from single to what I am now- a Mom of twins and a parental figure to Jim’s son (and in only 19 months!). Q has it tough. I can’t go into details but half of his life is not fair. His teenage years are going to be hard for him and us. All I want for Q is to be happy and healthy despite all the negative attacks he hears constantly from his Mom and her horrible family.
    We are trying everything to make Q sucessful and your sons make me hopeful that we’ll suceed.

  7. Raising kids right can feel a little bit like trying to shoot a bullet out of the air with an arrow. It isn’t, that, really, but it feels like it.
    That bullet didn’t stand a chance with you two.

  8. I love these posts about your family, even though it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that you have grown children. My husband adopted his first wife’s 3-year-old son. Even though their relationship did not last, he never gave up his responsibility as a dad. Even though she remarried three more times and begged him to let one of these guys adopt her son, he never gave up his responsibility. Today we have a 35-year-old son along with our biological 16-year-old son, and two beautiful grandchildren. My husband’s proudest moment was pinning his newly inducted Navy Chief son…as both a retired Navy Chief himself and as his Dad.

  9. You know, there are many people in this world that should not have, nor should they rear, children.
    You, and Anne, on the other hand, are clearly the kinds of parents of which we should all be very proud. Ryan is in this world and it appears we are the better for it. Thank you!

  10. You should be proud and that is pretty awesome. And that something in the eyes thing seems to be electronically transmitted. I approached parenting our daughter in much the same way. I wanted her to be someone I would want to have as a friend. And I feel pretty successful at it, and every now and then when someone says something to us about how awesome she is, I get something in my eyes, too.

  11. My childhood wasn’t the best. I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m just stating that it was hard sometimes. My father didn’t control his temper like he should have. I witnessed him hurting my mother, and there were many times he hurt me physically and emotionally. I guess because of that, I’m fascinated with men that really love and cherish children that aren’t biologically their own. I sometimes felt that my dad took care of me and put up with me because he had to. When I was a kid I wondered how a man could care for a child that wasn’t even his. When he didn’t have to.

  12. You’ve said it before; I’ve said it before. In essence, “Father” is something that’s biologically automatic. “Dad” is earned. You’re a damn good Dad!

  13. Thanks for sharing such a great moment Wil! This is why I follow your blog :)
    @ A.H. Klein – I understand. I never knew my biological father or his family. Through a succession of stepdads I learned by experience that men don’t care for children who aren’t theirs. I believed that for a long time, until I met my second husband and he helped raise the youngest of my four daughters. He was tough but he cared about her and she’s a lovely young woman and one of my best friends now that she’s grown.
    On the flip side though, I’ve seen many biological parents who don’t care either. Very sad. Stories like Wil’s give me hope though.

  14. Honestly, Wil? Of all the things that you write about on your blog (and elsewhere), it’s your stories about fatherhood that I love the most. Even before I was a father myself, they always resonated with me, and ESPECIALLY now that I *am* a father. :)

  15. My husband has been father to our children longer than the biological male contributor ever was. It shows. I hope he gets many moments like you detailed here, because being a parent is hard; being a step-parent is harder.
    Thanks for sharing and giving us all a little something in our eyes today.

  16. I really need you to post stories about how the boys were holy terrors at one point, to remind me that it’s okay I don’t have kids ;)
    Hope Ryan is settling in in MD well. If he comes out to a DCRG bout, I’ll make sure he gets VIP treatment.

  17. I recently heard our son repeat one of my own favorite weird things to say, without him knowing that I heard…I was so deeply touched by that.
    I love him more than life and am always so proud of him (because he gives my wife and I so many reasons to be proud!), but knowing that he has taken this one tiny part of me with him, a really inconsequential part, and decided to make it part of himself moved me to tears.
    Thanks for your post, Wil. It made me think of this. Kudos to you and your son.

  18. Oh, when they were in their early teens, they were nightmare Pod People (I wrote about it; search for Pod People on my blog). But we knew it was a phase, and we rolled with it.

  19. This, combined with teaching him how to photobomb like a pro, make you an awesome dad! :-)
    Just a comment on the blog in general, I love your stories about your family the most.

  20. That was really touching. :) Thanks for sharing!
    I’m a stepdaughter with an awful biological father and a wonderful, loving stepfather who stepped up and made it possible for me to believe that not all men are terrifying and abusive. He’s also the coolest grandpa ever to my own son. I’m going to go call him…

  21. When I was growing up, my father was openly hostile to my mother and stepfather. My stepmother was openly hostile to me. When I grew up and moved to San Jose from Wisconsin, my father came to visit. After that visit, he pretty much cut me out of his life. I started calling him my father (and my stepmonster), and my stepfather has been my dad since then (even though I called him Dad while growing up). It takes biology to make a father. It takes work and understanding to make a dad. Sounds like you’ve pretty much got that in spades, Mr. Wheaton. Good on you. ^5

  22. Would that more fathers would claim the wonders of their children and how it affects them — great to see. I adore my 4yo son and I am loving every minute of helping him grow into a great person.

  23. Wil, I love when you share these kinds of posts. My dad is the man my mom married when I was five. He had two kids from a previous marriage, and never treated me any differently from my brothers. In fact, the day after my parents got married, he took the three of us kids out to the front porch and said “These are the only steps in this house. You’re all my kids, and you’re all brothers and sister. Take care of each other.”
    22 years later, I’m so happy to say in addition to being my dad, he’s one of my best friends. Like you did with your kids, he helped me grow into all of the awesome geeky interests in my life, like video games, fantasy books, and scary movies.
    So thanks, Wil. Not every stepfather can step up and be a dad. Sounds like you’ve done an amazing job.

  24. Wil,
    As a parent with young teen children, your post gives me hope that what I am doing is not in vain. Thank you for not only choosing to be a great father, but sharng your experience with the rest of us.

  25. You had me at ‘I miss him every single day.’ I sent my only child off to school last year, as an aerospace engineering major. So, chances are good he won’t be getting a job here in rural Tennessee. I agonize over that.
    But I would NEVER prevent him from doing what he loves or making his mark on the world to keep him close to me, and I am so proud of him. Thanks for the inspiring post. :)

  26. Thank you for this. I also have a son (as well as a daughter) I parent where the bio-dad undermines most of what we try to do in this home (my wife suffers the same with regard to my daughter and her bio-mom). It’s frustrating and heartbreaking at times, and I end up being the punching bag for a lot of anger which can’t be directed at their father, but I’m hopeful everything I do for them will look like what happened to you.

  27. This was inspiring! I always go back and forth when I’m reading about how terrible it can get when it comes to rearing children, but then there’s moments like this that makes me look forward to that leap to parenthood :)

  28. My daughter turned 3 last month so I’ve only just started on this road. Lately, as her sponge of a brain gets more and more full I’ve started to wonder (worry) about what kind of mother I’ll be and what kind of person I’ll help her to become. I decided that the best thing that I could do was to try to help her become the type of person who worries about what kind of parent they’ll be and hopes they can help their own children be the best type of people they can be. And so on. And so on.
    In the spirit of that mindset, as many others with much more influence in your life have said, I think that you’ve done an amazing job and you have every right in the world to not only be proud of them but to take no small amount of credit for what they put out into the world. Well played, sir. Well played.

  29. Both my kids pretty much did the same thing except reverse our coasts. Mine have made remarkable progress in a remarkably short period of time in the morass that is the Los Angeles film. scene. I miss the heck out of them. But, I am so grateful that we live in an age of email, texting & video chat.

  30. I truly believe that the key is that they are your kids and you are their dad — not stepkids and stepfather. That’s how I was raised — by my dad, not the person who’s sperm was involved in my conception. And my husband thinks of my sons as his own. Someone told me once “it’s not our job to raise good kids. It’s our job to raise good adults.” It sounds like you and Anne have done just that. Congratulations! And you have every right to be proud and to have that stuff in your eyes.

  31. This is exactly how I feel about my little sister. She moved from Europe to Australia for her phd. It is incredibly difficult for me to not see her all the time, and not be able to talk to her on the phone all the time, and have a 10 hour time difference to deal with, etc. etc., but…
    … she is making a bionic eye – so that’s cool.
    I tell her all the time, but I don’t think she can ever understand the extend of my love and pride for her. :’-)

  32. Biological parents can be such a drag – we experience something similar at my house and every weekend there’s usually a re-acclimation (is that a word?) period where she has to remember the rules at our house all over again – she’s only 8 but is an awesome kid. I love watching her sense of humor develop and every once in a while she has the most amazing timing and wit that I just kind of stop and marvel. Kids are awesome. Well… maybe not everyone’s…

  33. I have something in both my eyes now, too. Thank you for being a ‘dad’ figure as opposed to a ‘just a step-dad’. Taking responsibility for children who aren’t biologically yours, can be a very difficult job. My dad isn’t my biological father and I didn’t even know it until I was 20 and my mom finally told me. He started dating my mom when she was 3 months pregnant and adopted me when my parents were married 3 years later.
    I can’t even begin to tell you how much my dad has shaped my life. I bet your kids know what I mean. It’s all the same ways you helped shape them. It’s an amazing thing to know that a man who wasn’t your biological father, and had no responsibility to you at all, found something in you that made him fall in love and WANT to be the one to be your father. I’m extremely lucky and forever grateful to my daddy. I know that your kids must feel the same way about you. There’s a lot of love around you. You’re a good man.

  34. Beautiful, thanks much for sharing this with us. All my parenting life, that has been my goal, to raise my sons to be good citizens of the world, good husband and fathers, and overall enjoyable people. Still working at it (they are 17 to 23), but feel pretty good about the results so far. My husband also adopted my youngest, which meant so much to me, and he’s been a great dad. I’m still looking forward to seeing all the things the kids will do in their lives. Good for you, mazel tov!

  35. By the way, my parents adopted all of their children, so I can tell you with all certainty that biology is not where the love comes from.

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