AP featured image
Madelyn Whitehead, 2, helps her father, Rob Whitehead, from Maryland Heights, vote during absentee voting on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018, at the St. Louis County Board of Elections in St. Ann, Mo. (J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

 

I’ve been thinking lately about fathers and what makes defines fatherhood today. When I’m not writing for RedState, I edit books for (mostly) self-published authors. And the most recent project I finished was the memoir of a friend’s late father, who lived during World War II. It was fascinating to bear witness to the experiences he had and the choices he made that inextricably affected her life. For many of us, it’s hard to come to grips with the concept of “a time before we existed”– when we have no say or control over actions that might affect us forever.

So, this Father’s Day, instead of sharing a story about my own my father, Charles Lower, who passed away in 2015, I’ve decided to go a different route by sharing stories from people who found family through adoption.

To start with, I couldnt have written this without the inspiration of a very special person. Her name is Mary Chastain. As her bio will tell you, she’s “a writer and editor at Legal Insurrection and contributor at The Hill. A reformed socialist, now a libertarian, she has an interest in budgets, taxes, and anything that leads to smaller government.”

But if you follow her somewhere like Twitter, you also know her abiding love of the Chicago Cubs and tennis (especially Roger Federer). To call her passionate about sports would be an understatement.

One other thing people who follow Mary know is that (except during Lent) her language can be a little salty. So, beware: what follows is NSFW (contains adult language).

And since some of what’s contained here is about her personal life, I asked permission to share her story, as a courtesy. She said it would be more than fine! How awesome is that?

But we have to back up a little bit first. On June 18th, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida shared on his social media accounts that he has an adopted son from Cuba.

He wrote:

“For all those wondering, this is my son Nestor. We share no blood but he is my life. He came from Cuba (legally, of course) six years ago and lives with me in Florida. I am so proud of him and raising him has been the best, most rewarding thing I’ve done in my life.”

He continued:

“Nestor turned 19 a few days ago & will be off to University. He arrived here at 12. As you can imagine, I was triggered when (to make an absurd debate point) a fellow congressman diminished the contributions of Republicans because we don’t raise non-white kids. Well, I have.”

A few comments later, Nestor himself replied: “I love you, keep up the good work, we all support you and love you!”

Then a day later, a CBS News piece also shared, what, at least in part, prompted Gaetz to reveal his personal story: current and former colleagues, in his defense, started sharing images and anecdotes, including this one from Jose Felix Diaz, who’d worked in the Florida state legislature with Gaetz.

He wrote:

“I am seeing so many hateful comments about Matt Gaetz & Nestor. When that kid lost his mom, Matt was dating his sister and he stepped up. Plain and simple. He has been an outstanding role model & mentor for Nestor and anyone that served with Matt knows this great kid.”

Responding to the CBS News story, Mary wrote: “Why put son in quotes, CBS? My dad adopted me so I guess that makes me his ‘daughter,’ right?”

It was the start of a thread that stretched outside the world of politics and media bias, showing the positive force that social media can aspire to be.

Mary commented that while the congressman isn’t always her cup of tea, “no wonder” he kept things private, considering the media’s reaction. When someone asked why she felt the need to qualify her comments, she wrote: “Let’s just say my dad never officially adopted me. I’d still consider him my dad, and he’d still consider me his daughter. You don’t need official papers or blood to be family.”

She continued:

“This shit irritates me. People who adopt or take in kids at any age to give them a good life should be applauded, not dragged. It sounds like Gaetz gave Nestor the stable household he needed. I often forget I’m adopted. I didn’t have contact with my biological dad between the ages of four and 18. Even though I know my bio dad pretty well now, my adopted dad is still my dad. Always has been (my mom married him when I was one) and always will be.”

It was like floodgates had been opened, as people commented with their own adoption stories.

Tweets from two moms summed up perfectly why the quotation marks in the CBS headline were so wrong:

“I am an adoptive mom to two sons. They are my sons. My mom was raised by two amazing people who never legally adopted her. They are her parents and she is their daughter. No matter what CBS thinks. Whatever happened to ‘there are all kinds of families?'”

“I raised 2 stepsons, and always referred to them as my sons. No quotation marks necessary.”

One man said: “My wife adopted my son when he was 11. She’s the only one he calls ‘mom.’ People who adopt children are pure saints.”

Another man wrote: “I didn’t know I was adopted till I was 22 (for better or worse), as infuriating as that was, I am am glad for the years my dad (not biological) spent with me/raising me as the son I was to him.”

Then there were these proud dads:

“I am finishing up adopting my daughter right now. It is an incredible feeling to make it official! I have had a few people ‘correct’ me when I said my daughter and thought it was polite to tell me I meant step daughter.”

“I never adopted my ex wife’s kids. They were still my kids because I raised them…. They’re good hard working men now and know they can call me anytime day or night, even just to talk.”

And there were many more like these.

Mary responded:

“I’m seeing so many sweet stories of adoption or taking in kids without officially adopting in my mentions. SEND ME MORE! These are beautiful stories that need to be shared.”

I knew then that she was right: we need to hear these kinds of stories! And before I finish up, here’s something special Mary wrote exclusively for this post:

“It made me so happy to see so many sweet stories. Adoption truly saves lives and every kid deserves a chance. Nothing warms my heart more than seeing adults take in children at any age and treat them as if they are biologically related. My dad has been my dad since I was one. A few times I’ve given his medical background, because I forget we’re not biologically related!

But the fact is paper and blood do not always make a family. My best friend has three daughters and they are just as much mine.”

What Mary writes here epitomizes so many of the stories people shared: not all of them included adoption. Fittingly, she notes that, if (God forbid) anything happens to her, she wouldn’t hesitate having her close friend raise her own kids.

In closing, Mary circled back to where this story began: with the meaning of fathers and fatherhood:

“God bless Gaetz and everyone else who has stepped in and given children a stable and loving home.”

Let’s all join Mary in that prayer — this Father’s Day and every day that follows.

Do you have a story about adoption or the people in your life you consider your parents or kids — regardless of blood ties? Share it in the comments area below!

Becca Lower
Becca Lower is a writer with RedState and formerly worked at IJR.com as a writer and editor. She grew up outside Cincinnati, OH, in former Speaker John Boehner's district, and currently lives in Mesa, AZ.

Find her on Twitter at @BeccaJLower. Direct all tips/marriage proposals: [email protected]
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