I Am a Real Dad: Thoughts About and Photos of Adoptive Dads and Their Children

I am her real dad collage 1It was 2004 when my husband, Doyle, had a dream he will never forget.

In the dream he saw a tiny little girl, about two, with hair the color of a blackbird’s wing and eyes the shape of watermelon seeds. She was sitting on the back of a tractor trailer, in a red shirt, waving at him and smiling.

It was one of those high-voltage, wake-you-up-like-a-shot, vivid-with-a-V kinds of dreams. At the time we were in the process of adopting a daughter from South Korea, but we had yet to get our referral letter with a picture of our girl, born on the second to last day of 2004.

He didn’t know then that this girl in his dream was THE girl, that two or three years later he would look his daughter in the face and remember with shocking clarity that she was the girl in his dream.

It was like God said, ‘Here she is, Daddy. She’s coming to you someday. She will be yours and she will be mine.”

I am her real dad #14

My rational, Baptist, feet-on-the-ground husband is always the one with the dreams like that, dreams of those coming from Heaven and living there now. (He also had a dream of my dad in Heaven, on his way to a donut shop, grinning, happy, and whole…)

Apparently, Doyle is not the only adoptive dad with such dreams. Luke, the daddy of Kai, Aria, Beckett and Carys, dreamed of his Ethiopian daughter before she came to him, says his wife, Janine:

“While we were waiting for our referral, Luke had a dream that Carys was born on June 24. The baby in the dream was exactly her! She wasn’t born until Sept 27th, but we passed court and she legally became our daughter on June 24 the following year!”

I am her real dad #16

Luke and Carys: “This was the first time they met. They were instantly in love with each other…like they had known each other from the beginning.”


God still speaks in dreams, like He did with Joseph in ancient days. Can I get a witness? 

Here’s what I think: Sometimes, God, the ultimate adopting Father, stirs the hearts of his chosen sons, the ones He has tapped to be a father to the (mostly) fatherless. He plants dreams in their hearts of the children He has chosen for them, before the sun, moon, and stars were circling their orbits. To me, God is saying something like this: 

“I am this little one’s forever Father, but for her time on earth, you will be her human father. You will be her real dad.”

“Real dad.”

Honest to goodness, people say this to me all the time.  “Your real dad…” Or “Phoebe’s real dad…”

It’s even less of a true use of the word “real” than when they say “real mom.” Most birth moms love their children, relinquished at birth or later, for a variety of reasons. But not all birth dads do. Not all birth dads even know about the children they fathered.

Now, I do know a few loving, caring birth fathers, but they are rare. One statistic I heard once said it all: Of the 2000-some reunions initiated by birth parents in a large Michigan county’s post-adoption services, only two of them were spurred by birth fathers. Two.

But I’m not here to bash birth fathers, some of whom may be keenly feeling the loss of their children this Father’s Day.

I want to celebrate REAL dads, in this case, adoptive dads. Other writers can put their keystrokes towards feting stepdads or just plain old Dad-dads, but I want to highlight the beauty and strength of adoptive dads.

Dad, mom and me 1968

Me and my real dad, Abe the Bookseller

One of the very finest adoptive dads from literature is one of my favorite characters, period. Matthew Cuthbert, of course, the painfully shy, stoic, humble potato farmer from Prince Edward Island who found himself surprised by grace, shocked by father-love, flabbergasted by Anne of Green Gables.

In my memoir, which braids my “orphan” story with that of my Korean girl’s and our mutual orphan friend, Anne with an E, I write about Matthew and other real dads who changed my life and the life of my girl.

“Anne, Phoebe and I–we are the lucky ones, loved by fathers who were not obliged by blood to care but did anyway.”

With that, please enjoy this gallery of photos of real dads, fathers who were not obliged by blood to care but did anyway. Each and every one is a picture of our adopting Heavenly Father, our Abba, who pronounces us His sons and daughters, for now and all time.

I am her real dad #1

Tom with Kelly (age 30), Isaac (age 16), Emily (age 25), Abby (age 15), Kristin (age 27)

I am her real dad #2

Bob and Asnaketch, a real life Anne of Green Gables, living in PEI!

I am her real dad #3

Troy and Cheyenne


I am her real dad #4

Doug and Ava with pals from Ava’s travel group to China.

I am her real dad #5

Doug and Ava and Hannah (from China)

I am her real dad #6

Ashanti and Ben. Ashanti says: “Adoption is the most amazing miracle; I dreamed of having a son just like him.”

I am her real dad #7

Brent and Hosea. Brent tenderly cares for Hosea’s multiple special needs on a daily basis. Now that’s real love!

I am her real dad #8

The Inions, recently National Geographics Travelers of the Year in 2014, adopted 4 of their ten children. Learn more about their globetrotting story at http://traveldeepandwide.com/

I am her real dad #10

Luke and Carys (Ethiopia)


I am her real dad #17

Danny and Karly. “They have such an incredible bond.”

I am her real dad 20

Brad and Andrew (what a gorgeous pic!)



I am her real dad 18

“My dad is the most wonderful man I know! He is kind, caring, and a good example of a faithful man. I am a daddy’s girl, and he will always and forever be my “real” dad! I know God had my life planned from the start, and that included giving me an amazing father!” –Kristin (Phoebe’s beloved 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Groom!)

How about some Real Grandpa shots? It wouldn’t be a proper Father’s Day tribute without those:

Dad and Phoebe

My dad and Phoebe, about a year before he died. During their short time together on this earth, my dad and Phoebe had a sweet and immediate connection. She was 20-months-old when he died, but in the next world they have lifetimes to get to know each other!

Growing up at Schulers

Grandpa George, our bonus father and Grandpa, a great blessing to us all!

I am her real dad #11

This is our first Father’s Day without Dad C, who died on November 16. Here he is literally six weeks before he died, when he could barely walk, having driven an hour to see his littlest granddaughter play in a volleyball tournament. Happy Father’s Day in Heaven, Dad. We miss you!

And, just because, here are my two best-loved onscreen adoptive dads (Matthew, of course, is from the book Anne of Green Gables, which every human being should read or reread! He’s also onscreen in several worthy adaptations. BTW, my “Who played it best” Matthew blog will come next week…), Matthew Cuthbert and Jack Pearson!

Matthew Cuthbert 1

“You’re my girl–my girl that I’m proud of…”

I am her real dad 19

“I love you as much as a human heart can love.” Jack, “This is Us.” (PS: Cannot WAIT to see Randall adopt his own child this next season, “only” three months away!

Well, I don’t know about you but I needed wads of Kleenex to write this blog and post all these photos of these wonderful, dear, loving, realest of the REAL dads. Happy Father’s Day to ALL the Real Dads!

I’d love to hear about your real dad. What did you love about him? What do you miss, if he’s not around anymore? 


  1. Maria says

    What a great post! I love adoption, reading about it and seeing how awesome it is and would love to consider it at some point.

  2. Amanda says

    ❤ I believe the title of “Dad” is synonymous with the usage of of the word respect. It is earned and received through actions, not something you’re entitled to . “Any man can be a father…” etc.

  3. Mori says

    Something is not quite right, can’t seem to be able to post. This short message is just a test to see if my other message has some issue that is preventing me from sending the comment.

    • Mori says

      Ah, I figured it out. It was the usage of double quotation marks ” Posting the message with those was just not working for some reason.
      These messages are now irrelevant and may be deleted. Sorry to disturb.

  4. Mori says

    Amazing and inspiring post Lorilee. I have nothing but respect for your life journey.

    I would like to take this chance to make a commentary about the mentioned definition of ‘real dad’ and how the notion is depicted in our culture by tv shows and movies.

    One particular situation is recurrent when adoption is part of some script. The adopted children find out later in life that their parents are not their birth parents. They ‘lied’ to them for their entire lives and now they must go seek their ‘real’ parents.

    I’ve often wondered about what it would be like for me if suddenly my parents told me I was adopted. What would change? What difference would this new information make? Those thoughts are my own and I don’t presume to tell anyone that their feelings are wrong or invalid. It would certainly be a surprising and troubling situation BUT I do completely disagree with how these movie plots try to erase years and years of life, of shared situations, of loving and caring moments between parents and their children, just by presenting this information ‘you’re adopted’.

    To me, a father and a mother have no relation with genetics. The word ‘real’ has no meaning and is not applicable. The people that raised you, and loved you, and cared for you, and worked hard to have you succeed in life, they are your parents. If mine ever told me I was adopted I would have zero interest in meeting a total stranger just because they gave me some dna. It’s such a foreign notion to me that some might care about said dna that it angers me a bit when I see it constantly shown on tv.
    And now, I leave you with the Meaning of life:

    Love your parents, love your children, love your friends…let’s have lots of love for everyone :)

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