Thanks, Dad! Father's Day for modern families
Whether we have a biological father, we're adopted, fostered, or just have someone to look up to, that male role model has an immense influence.
Sunday 19 June 2011
'He's really kind and sweet, and we play football together'
Adelino Mauluka, 11, from Southampton, regards his maternal uncle Milton as a father-figure. His mother, Urginia, a photojournalist from Zimbabwe, was arrested by the Mugabe regime and came to Britain with her two children, Adelino and Katelyn. His father remained behind.
"I spend a lot of time with my uncles – I have three of them. I see them every holiday and most weekends, even now that I've moved from London to Southampton. My uncle Milton is the one I see the most. He's really nice and kind and sweet. We like to watch and play football together. My two other uncles are also really nice. I go to their house and I play with my cousins there. I support Manchester United and they support Arsenal, so we cheer for different teams."
'I'm really grateful for the inspiration he has given me'
Matthew Blanchett, 17, from Perth was fostered by Marco and his wife at the age of eight, but will leave their home for the first time this summer to go to college.
"I'm getting him a rock CD for Father's Day because this is the thing over which we've bonded the most. We listen to Jimi Hendrix, the Doors and the Sex Pistols. When I moved in with the family, I was eight and it was extremely hard to adjust because I had never had a male figure in my life. Now I would describe our relationship as pretty much perfect. He's really helpful and gives me advice on life and money. There are lots of other foster kids in the house as well as his son, and he cares for all of us the same. I'm nervous about moving out because I won't have his guidance. He's completely changed my life, and I'm really grateful for the inspiration he has given me."
'It's fun to have two dads as they let me do anything I want'
In 2006 Rhys, 10, and his brother Connor, 7, were adopted by David and Paul Long, who were the first same-sex couple in west Wales to apply for adoption.
"I've bought two cards for Father's Day. But I haven't written anything on them yet. I love to watch movies with my dads. It's fun to have two dads as they let me do anything I want, but sometimes they make me clean my room. I think we are going camping this summer. I've done it before. It's fun because you don't sleep a lot and don't go to school."
'Mick was laid back to the point of sleeping – it's always been a family joke'
Dame Kelly Holmes, 41, is a retired athlete. She was born to a Jamaican father and British mother. At the time of her birth, Dame Kelly's mother married Michael Norris, whom she regards as her father. In her autobiography she wrote:
"Mick gradually just became part of our lives. He was a painter and decorator, a slim, quiet guy with wide long sideburns that were in then. He was laid back to the point of sleeping – it's always been a family joke. I can picture him in his cowboy boots and a loud, patterned cowboy shirt singing 'Viva Espana' at the top of his voice. He took me on as if I was his own. I respect him so much for that and all that he has done for me."
'I hope I live up to his standards on not bearing grudges'
Mark Stibbe, 50, was adopted along with his twin sister Claire in 1960 by Philip Stibbe, a teacher, now deceased. Mark is the founder and leader of the Father's House, a Christian charity dedicated to supporting people who are fatherless.
"My father was a remarkable man. He studied English literature under CS Lewis, who dined fairly regularly with him. He was a Japanese prisoner of war for two and a half years, but was never bitter about it. I hope I live up to his standards on not bearing grudges. I remember he made us read a short story about a British soldier who forgave his Japanese oppressor. Dad was saying: 'Please don't grow up with racial prejudice.' At the end of his life, he got Parkinson's disease and lost his mobility. I still imagine him, standing before hundreds of people, when he was headmaster of Norwich School and talking to the kids he was releasing into the world."
'My granddad was also my father and my best friend'
Andy Uzzell, 42, from Chelmsford, Essex, works for the charity 4Children, supporting fathers with help in parenting matters. His grandfather – Don Uzzell – was his father figure after his father became absent in his life.
"My parents split up when I was six. My mum did a fantastic job working full time bringing us up, but as a lad you need male input – which is where my granddad came in. He was pretty much everything to me: he was my father, my grandfather and my best friend. The most valuable lesson Don ever taught me was once when he came over in the afternoon to cut our lawn. I'd always come home from school and make him a cup of tea. We used to sit there and talk about everything. And one day he just opened up and told me everything about his experiences in the Second World War. He had never mentioned it before. It's moments like that, when you look at someone and think differently of them."
'He's inspired me and taught me not to give up'
Darren Rowbotham, 37, from Hartlepool, was fostered by Ernie and his wife for six years from the age of 10 with his younger brother. Darren and Ernie remain close. Darren and his wife Julie are waiting approval to become foster carers themselves.
"I lived in children's homes for several years after my brother and I were put into care by our parents. It was supposedly short term, but it dragged on. When we finally moved to Ernie's place, Ernie gave us a routine and a bit of discipline that we really needed after those years in homes with lots of other kids. We still talk regularly and I went to visit him recently in hospital. I still see my biological father as well, but Ernie knows he is the person that I look up to the most. He is an intelligent person, and he always told me I could do anything, even when I thought I couldn't. He's inspired me throughout my whole life, and he's taught me never to give up."
'Dad wanted everything for his children that he never had'
Andrew Barton, 44, is a celebrity hairdresser who owns a salon in Covent Garden. He grew up in Barnsley with his adoptive parents. His father, Alan Barton, was a miner turned factory manager.
"We lost Dad many years ago, when I was 16, so we spent a lot of our childhood without our father. He managed to get himself out of the pits long before all the closures. He was a real provider as a father and wanted everything for his children that he had never had. Apart from his job as a full-time factory manager, he also drove a bus to make ends meet. I've taken Dad's work ethic – I'm a working-class bloke who's done very well for himself. I don't know what Dad would have felt about me becoming a hairdresser, though. He was a man's man, who liked the working men's clubs."
'I remember the smell of petrol on his hand as he ran it over my ear'
The comedian and author Rhona Cameron, 45, was born in Dundee and adopted as a baby by William and Jean Campbell. William died aged 55 in 1979 – a pivotal year for Ms Cameron, who later used the year as the title of her book.
"Losing my father has been the most significant loss of my life. I am very much a product of my father's influence and I was very much a 'daddy's girl'. He was a panel beater and mechanic. He was a union man, and very old fashioned. One of my most vivid memories of him was him coming home late when he finished his shift, and sitting on the edge of my bed stroking my head. I remember the smell of the petrol from his motorbike on his hand as he ran it over my ear and it used to remind me of the noises of the sea. It would make me go to sleep. That moment of tenderness for that short period of my life was probably the moment I've felt the most connected to anyone in my life."
'He's an amazing man, a walking encyclopedia'
Jackie Kay, the novelist and poet, 49, was born to a Scottish mother and Nigerian father but adopted as a baby by John and Helen Kay. She grew up in the Bishopbriggs, Glasgow.
"My dad was self-taught, left school at 14 and later trained as a draughtsman, but for most of my childhood he worked for the Communist Party. He was an industrial organiser so I remember going on marches. He's an amazing man, my dad. He's like a walking encyclopedia. He would think Father's Day was commercial rubbish though. I only started doing Father's Day recently. I sent him a card saying 'Life doesn't come with an instruction book, that's what fathers are for'."
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