Father’s Day is fast approaching, and as the world begins to shift from the pink of Mother’s Day to the blue of Father’s Day, we all begin to wonder, “How do we honor dads?” For me, the question carries so much weight because he doesn’t ask for things. He doesn’t want to leave the family to go do something that often. He more often than not wants some peace and quiet to play a video game and maybe a nice card and meal. It has never felt like enough. He is such an important piece of our family. If he is an hour later coming home than usual, the kids, even the ones that don’t tell time yet, can feel the lack. They know daddy is missing, and they act out accordingly. They know that their daddy is the most important man in their lives, and when he isn’t around, things go pear-shaped. Dads are often the men we model our ideas of manhood from. Our dad will dictate the kind of men we want to spend time around, even if just by knowing we want the opposite of what he is. 

Asking other dads what they want is often a fruitless endeavor. They feel like they are just doing their job, so they don’t need a lot of thanks. Or worse, they don’t see their impact on their kids since they work outside the house more. Even single dads who take on both the role of mom and dad don’t feel like they really deserve that much in the way of thanks. Or if they do, they feel selfish asking. With that in mind, I have made a list of the things that have or would have brought happy tears to my husband and others on Father’s Day as an adoptive dad.  The main thing is showing and honoring the man who doesn’t have to step up but does for the sake of a child he loves as his own.  Or maybe, just maybe, he’s a dad who doesn’t see his kid because he made the choice to place his child for adoption. Birth fathers aren’t discussed very often, but they need to make difficult decisions and can be considered selfish or self-centered either way they go. These men also deserve some recognition for the role they play, even if they are no longer involved in their child’s life. Here are some ways to honor fathers in the adoption community. 

1. Personalized Picture Frame 

All of my kids have made something like this, usually at preschool or Sunday school. Cheap little frames are transformed into works of art that Dad can proudly display on his wall or desk at work or home. I’ve seen several variations, some involving little stones glued around the frame saying “Dad, you rock” or something similar. This, along with a handwritten note and a promise of a meal at their favorite restaurant, is well received and is perfect for the papa of little ones. My husband has proudly displayed his in his office at work for years. As his collection grows, I assume he’ll eventually bring them home, but no, he just makes more room. He’s proud of his little people, and he loves displaying their photos and artwork for all to see. 

2. Personalized Bookmarks

My husband is a bookworm, so this worked like a charm. He has a special reminder of the children who love him every time he marks his page in a book he is reading. These can be anywhere from very inexpensive (construction paper, a school photo, and glue)  to custom printed designs on a photo website with a special phrase. Last Father’s Day, we ordered from a photo printing website and customized the sayings. My husband isn’t a crier, but he shed some tears over the sweet messages and little reminders of how loved he is by his people. We gave him a superhero shirt, a new Star Wars mug, a keychain, and the bookmarks; the bookmarks ended up being his favorite of the lot. 

3. Dinner With His Buddies

Just like moms, dads can suffer burnout from day-to-day living with kids. Unlike moms, dads don’t always think to plan nights out with people they care about. Work pressure, home pressure, and any other outside responsibilities can take it out of a guy. Arrange with a couple of men who your special dad loves to spend time with but struggles to find the time to do so. Set up the time, place, and event (just don’t tell him you set him up a play date. He might not like that. Ask how I know. Haha). While this takes some time to organize, it can be a tremendous blessing and can help him decompress from the stressors of life. This wasn’t a Father’s Day gift but was actually a birthday gift that took almost a year to arrange. He went off-roading with some of his best guy friends and had such an amazing time. Since it was a gift, he didn’t feel selfish taking the time away. Since it was arranged for him, he didn’t have the stress of planning. All in all, it was a great gift that he loved receiving. 

4. Massage

Dads love massages too. My husband is often as stressed as me for many of the same reasons. That stress can turn into muscle strain and stiffness if left unchecked. A good massage to loosen up his muscles and relax his body could be just the thing to make him feel loved and honored this Father’s Day. If that seems a little out of your price range, look up massage schools in your area. They often offer prices far below what your local spa offers, and the massages are just as good. One of the best massages I have ever had was at a massage school. 10/10 would recommend. 

5. Fishing/Hiking/Biking trip

Along the same lines as a meal out with friends, sometimes dads need a day or two away doing something they love. My husband has gone on several foster/adoptive dad retreats that were the absolute best thing. They did all sorts of things like camping, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding. He had a blast and came back refreshed and ready to dad again. I loved that he was able to go away and come back transformed by something as simple as time out of the house with people he cares about. I recharge in nature, too, so I completely understand and am totally on board to do it again for him when he needs it. 

6. Yes Day

Arrange a day where you and the kids respond with a happy “yes” to every request he asks (within reason). This is, of course, a twist on the “yes day” for kids phenomenon on the internet. Dad can certainly benefit from enthusiastic helpers. My husband has often remarked about how happy he would be if everyone in the family would cooperate when he needed them to. Make sure the kids know they are expected to participate and need to have a good attitude. This could be fun to arrange as a random thing he isn’t expecting and allows him to figure out what is happening. I think, if we can, saying yes to simple requests is often in our best interests anyway (as far as maintaining friendship), but being super intentional about it for a day could really up the ante. 

7. Handwritten Notes

Even if the dad in your life isn’t touchy-feely, this still might work for him. Have each kid write a few reasons why they are thankful that he is their dad. Obviously, little ones will need some help with this. Then you write why you are grateful that he is the dad. All dads deserve some kind of recognition, and I think adoptive dads especially do because they intentionally chose to parent a child they would not have had to. Moms do this too, but often it can feel like a more natural process for them to do so.  Either way, this gift can allow dad to know that he is honored, respected, and loved by the people in his life that he sacrifices so much for without ever being acknowledged. This can certainly be a way to honor fathers in the adoption community.

8. Home-cooked Meal

Yes, a meal out at a restaurant can be amazing, but so can a meal at home prepared with love. Find out what your dad’s favorite dishes are and prepare a meal of his favorite things. If little hands are involved, let them help by making place settings with construction paper and glue while you prep the hard stuff. Let dad take a nap or go out to do something fun while you get the meal ready if you can. 

9. Have His Car Detailed

Ok, this can cost some money, but I know my husband would really appreciate it, and I’m planning on having it done for him soon. Dads, even if they aren’t car guys, can sometimes be embarrassed driving the family car. It can be shameful to have a Capri Sun pouch blow out when they drop a kid off at the school drop-off line or risk a garbage tornado when they open the windows to catch a breeze on the highway. As the mom, I’ve just accepted this as life and cleaned up as I can. My husband is caught off guard twice a week when he drives our van to church and kid activities on the weekend. 

You can even do this yourself if you have some time, soap, a garden hose, and a shop vac. It will be time-consuming but take all the seats out that you can (especially car seats/boosters) and vacuum everything up. Use carpet scrubber to get rid of gross spots and magic erasers to clean up kid artwork from the ceiling. Windex mirrors, windows inside and out, wipe all surfaces, vacuum, Febreze the carpets and seats, de-stick all the parts the kids destroyed with juice, and wash the outside. Then towel dry. Voila. You’ve detailed his car. If you’re not too exhausted, you can give yours the same treatment and enjoy it for half a day until the kids sit in it and wreck it again. 

10. Do His Least Favorite Chore for a Week

Is there a chore the dad in your life detests? Washing windows, taking out the trash, cleaning the toilet? For at least one week, make a point of taking care of it for him without making a big deal about it. I can’t imagine how overjoyed I would be if I found the socks matched and put away without asking anyone else to do it. It might make my whole month. Truly. If he doesn’t do daily chores but is in charge of yard work, hire a team to do “his job” that week; someone to mow, weed, hedge trim, clean gutters, etc. It will take something off his plate that he was maybe silently feeling overwhelmed by but didn’t want to bother anyone else with. 

I’m sure there are 100 other things a person could do to show honor and love to the fathers in the adoption community on Father’s Day.  Birth dads might not benefit from all of these, but I imagine they would like to be the recipient of most of them. I can’t think of a person I know who doesn’t like having one less chore to think about or one more memento of how important they are to someone else. 

Dads are often the mortar that holds everything together. They deserve honor year round but especially on the one day a year set aside to thank them for everything they do. I hope you have been inspired to honor the special dad in your life, and I hope you have a happy Father’s Day if you’re a dad. 

Are you ready to pursue adoption? Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to connect with compassionate, nonjudgmental adoption specialists who can help you get started on the journey of a lifetime.

Christina Gochnauer is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places” in her church and community.