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Why One Dad Is Best

There's a lot to be said for a single, steadfast presence

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"God intended for children to be raised by their biological parents."

Shrapnel swirling, the brazen claim felt both like an assault to my identity and a blow to my theology.

I'd been walking with a friend, during my early twenties, when he dropped this emotional bomb on me. Or maybe it's better to say that the pin to this particular grenade had been pulled in my heart decades earlier but that, in that moment, it exploded in my heart. Though my feet kept moving, the gears inside me ground to a halt. Shrapnel swirling, the brazen claim felt both like an assault to my identity and a blow to my theology.

"Ummm . . . what?" I asked, a bit stunned.

My friend knew that I'd been given up for adoption as an infant. And he also knew that I believed the positive story I had been told about my journey.

Throughout my childhood I'd been assured that my birth parents had relinquished me because they loved me. When my adoptive parents divorced when I was six, my new stepfather told me he loved me more than anyone else loved me. Desperate to believe that God had not failed me, and clinging to the hope that I was worth loving, I hadn't dared imagine that God might not have ordained my bumpy ride.

In childhood, when friends' jaws would drop after I detailed the colorful cavalcade of parents in my life—birth mom, birth father, adoptive mother, adoptive father, stepfather—I'd always assure them, "There are just a lot of people who love me."

In many respects it was true.

But I was now faced with the absurd possibility that the optimal number of fathers in a girl's life wasn't two or three.

What if, as my friend implied, it was actually one?

Too many fathers, and too few

Today approximately 43 percent of children are being raised in homes without fathers. Statistics about children being raised in fatherless homes overwhelmingly note the increased probability of behavioral problems, eating disorders, suicide, future divorce and other ominous ills.

And though many would agree that not having access to any father is problematic for a child, it had never occurred to me that being assigned more than one father might have its own challenges.

As we walked, I continued to chew on just how children end up with an abundance of fathers:

Like me, children get more than one dad when their birth parents aren't able to raise them, and they're adopted into a new family.

They end up with more than one dad when parents divorce and remarry other people.

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Margot Starbuck

Margot Starbuck, award-winning writer and speaker, is a graduate of Westmont College and Princeton Theological Seminary. A TCW regular contributor and columnist, Margot speaks regularly on discipleship, justice, and living love in the world God loves. Connect with Margot on Facebook, Twitter, or at

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From Issue:
Today's Christian Woman, 2014, July Week 3
Posted July 16, 2014

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Why One Dad Is Best