When we’re out and about our Little Man calls me Dad.
At home he calls me ‘Phil’.
When we went to France on holiday, he called me Philippe.
If we have croissants for breakfast on a Sunday, he reverts back to Philippe.
He thinks this is hilarious.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to work out his motivation.
He calls me by the name that brings him the least social attention, and the name with which he feels most comfortable.
I’m fine with all these names.
This particular kid has had a variety of fathers, and father figures.
We have created a variety of terminology to differentiate between them.
We use variations of Dad, birth Dad, Foster Dad and first names.
We don’t tend to say ‘real Dad’ and never say ‘proper Dad’.
That just seems too disrespectful to too many people.
What’s more, we are all painfully aware that ‘You’re not my real Dad’ is the equivalent of the ‘Nuclear Option’ in our household.
Occasionally, it’s a button that has been pressed.
I don’t know a Foster Dad or Adopter Dad who hasn’t had his authority, status and role challenged in this way.
Just like in a nuclear war, everyone loses when the button is pressed.
Pointing out that I’m not ‘Real Dad‘ is not just an attack on me, but also an act of self harm.
Pointing out that ‘Real Dad’ is absent is like picking away at a wound, that even in the most improved circumstances, may never fully heal.
There are many reasons why kids go into care.
Parents may have passed away or be ill.
Parents may have mental health issues.
Parents may deemed not sufficiently competent to look after children.
Parents may have issues with drugs and alcohol.
Parents may be violent and malicious.
When your Dad has been deemed incapable of looking after you, or has absented himself, it’s very hard to be proud of him, or big him up in the playground.
A kid we fostered recently tracked me down on Instagram.
Now 19 and at University, he lived with us when he was 10.
I don’t think he’d ever had any relationship with his biological father.
Whilst with us, he and I played copious amounts of football, swing ball and table tennis.
We also watched a lot of sport.
I convinced him that Fernando Torres was not a bad person even if his best football days were behind him.
I taught him how to make a cheese and bean toastie.
I explained to him the necessity of accuracy when using the toilet.
Perhaps most importantly, I showed him that you don’t have to be related by blood to share your home, your time and your love.
How ever you got your Dad, and whoever you’re fathering, have a great Father’s Day.