By Katie Brown, TFG Advocate
I remember when I told my husband, a father of four at the time, that I wanted to host children in my home. He wasn’t thrilled about the idea. We already had our plates full (of mac & cheese and fruit snacks) and adding one more child, no matter how temporary, seemed crazy.
But the great thing about my husband is that he saw my heart. He saw that the Lord was leading me, and he knew that he would be remiss to dismiss what I was feeling. So, instead of saying no, he took one step and said yes to going to an info meeting with me. And another step saying yes to going to training. Step after step, one yes at a time, we made it through the approval process and pretty soon we had our first hosting, a three-year-old girl with these big brown eyes. She would stay with us for two weeks.
Everything was going fine…for about 5 minutes. Then, this child saw our dog.
Side note about the dog: She is not an intimidating dog. She’s a hundred-year-old fat black lab who mostly just sits in the corner and sighs with dismay at the children playing around her. She’s endured having her toenails painted, wearing bonnets, being dressed up like a lion…you get the point. Wouldn’t hurt anyone.
Still, this little one was terrified.
I was crushed. I so badly wanted this sweet girl to feel safe and special, but all she could see was my scary dog. I didn’t know her full story, so I didn’t know why she was so afraid, but nothing I could do was going to help so I was ready to call the staff to find a new host family for her. I waited outside with everyone until my husband came home. And he said something along the lines of “let me try.”
We all followed him inside and when our dog greeted him, my husband said in a dramatically authoritative voice, “Go lay down.” Of course, our good ol’ puppy was confused but still was happy to get off her feet, so she went to her corner. And then he and this sweet little one spent the next hour cautiously approaching, learning about, and eventually petting the dog. For the next two weeks, my husband and this little girl were best buds. When he would get home from work, she would stop whatever she was doing and run up to him and they’d stick together until it was bedtime.
Guess what? My husband stopped thinking I was crazy. After one hosting, he knew that as a father, he had a unique place in this work of keeping families together.
Some of the families we serve have dads or other males who are playing an active role in raising their kids. And we also serve many families with single moms. These are strong, persevering, smart women who are protecting, providing, and caring for their families every single day. We want to take every opportunity, including this one, to honor them and call out their strengths.
Simultaneously, the reality is that the children haven’t really been able to see an involved dad in action. In those situations where there is not a dad available, being a host dad becomes a very interesting and delicate job. Dads have to be very observant and self-aware. Sometimes children are intimidated to see a male in the home. Sometimes children aren’t. Sometimes children run right up the dads and jump in his arms. Sometimes they sit across the room and just observe how he interacts with the other children in the home, trying to figure out if he can be trusted. Eventually, most of the kids figure out that dad is the fun one who will take them on the FAST wagon rides, the generous one who gives a second popsicle, the providing one who microwaves the best chicken nuggets, and the protective one who tames that monster of a dog and keeps her lying docile in her corner. And once a child figures out what healthy fathering looks like, when they see it modeled in the home they’re staying in, they won’t forget it.
Host dads, you are amazing. We see you doing the work and impacting kids lives. We know that many of you stepped into this work with some question marks around how it would impact your home, but now you’ve started to understand that God has a very unique and important role for you. We know that there is a fatherless crisis in this country. And we thank you for humbling yourself and by God’s grace, bravely confronting that crisis head-on and fathering more. You are just ordinary men who are saying “yes” to an extraordinary God.