As a foster dad, I had always looked at the younger kids expecting that to be the children coming into my home. Never in my life did I think I would be fostering teenagers. Teenagers are miniature adults with their own thoughts on who they already are and experiences already under their belt. So I always figured taking in younger children would make more sense. However, Anthony walking into my life has changed that idea on fostering teenagers, and teenagers in general! Anthony needed a dad. He needed someone to look up to, someone to teach him life lessons that he never had the chance to learn at a younger age. He has always had that missing piece in his life- a father. I wish I could have experienced life with Anthony when he was younger. It makes me sad to think about all of the first experiences I missed out on with him. Until today. It’s hard to put into words how I was feeling while watching Anthony get ready for his first homecoming dance. I was full of excitement to experience this first with him, but also a part of me was sad to see how grown up he is. As parents, it’s our job to prepare our kids the best we can for the world. Teaching them, loving them, and then finally letting them go fly on their own. I think a part of me is sad because I’m witnessing this happen with Anthony sooner than I would like.
The greatest joy in this world is to watch our children grow, learn, and blossom into themselves. But it's also a time where we as parents go through many mixed emotions watching our children grow up. It's hard to sit back and let them go when we want to know every detail! I was so excited for Anthony that I couldn't help but ask a million questions. Who did you dance with? Do you have a crush on someone? What was the dance like? All of these questions we ask because we truly wish we could experience those moments with them. But being a teenager means becoming a new independent version of yourself. And I am so grateful that I get to watch Anthony morph into a beautiful, caring young man who truly loves food more than anything, Ha!
Homecoming dances are a time to put your best outfit on and show the world what you got! It's also a time to bust a move or in the famous words of Skyler, "He's gonna shake that up"! Never experiencing a Homecoming dance myself, I wanted to take a peek in and see what it was all about. The kids were having a great time eating food and hanging out. Anthony quickly made me leave so he could experience this himself, but I'm happy I got to see them having fun!
Watching Anthony go from being timid, not too sure about people, and not trusting many- to now going with a group of friends to a Homecoming dance made me so happy. He's been thinking about the dance for a while now and put a lot of thought into his outfit. Although the only information, I could get out of him- because you know teens like their privacy! Was- "We danced, sat down, and ate some food." It's so fun to see teenagers grow, and I'm happy I can be a mentor to help them feel safe and watch them enjoy life. Watching Anthony turn into a man and hitting these milestones has me feeling all the feels. I can't wait for many more firsts with him! And I will never stop being nosy and asking him all the questions, not only because I'm curious and excited for him, but I want him to know that I care about all the events in his life, no matter how small.
It's been a dream come true watching my children settle into this new life with me. The freedom to be who they are and feel accepted is a big part of what brings me joy as a dad. It's the simple things in life that make us feel whole and watching Anthony experience his first Homecoming dance has done nothing but fill my heart with pride.
Do you remember your child's first dance? What were some thoughts and emotions going through your head when you were watching them get ready? I can't wait to hear other parents' stories on this.
Writer Samantha Jordan contributed to this essay.
Related TODAY story: Meet the foster dad opening his home to kids during the pandemic
Related TODAY video:
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.