A reflection on fatherhood

Q&A with adoptive fathers Alan and Carlos McMillian

The McMillian family.

This weekend is Father’s Day, an opportunity for families everywhere to pay tribute to the dads who love them.

In this Q&A, we hear from Alan and Carlos McMillian on what it means to be fathers of a 12-year-old son, Julian, whom they adopted from Arizona’s foster care system.

Alan and Carlos started their journey to fatherhood in 2015 by first opening their home to children in foster care, making the most of these short-term parenting opportunities. Wanting to grow their family permanently, they decided to volunteer at a Children’s Heart Gallery event in 2018.

The Children’s Heart Gallery is run by the Arizona Department of Child Safety in an effort to help children in foster care find their forever home when their birth parents’ rights are severed. There are more than 13,200 children (ages 0-18) in our state’s foster care system with more than 1,300 up for adoption. Unlike private adoption, adopting through the state costs little to no money and comes with additional assistance and resources for parents.

During the Children’s Heart Gallery event, the McMillians served as a guide for one special boy who captured their hearts. After months of team meetings, phone calls, and lots of nerves, they officially adopted their son — becoming forever fathers at last.

Alan, Julian and Carlos celebrating their adoption anniversary with an evening of family, friends and roller skating. 

What does being a father mean to you?

Alan: It’s about being there for your child. There to love, support, and keep them safe. There to share knowledge and experiences. There to equip them to be their very best person.

Carlos: Being a father means giving all the things that make me good and passing them on to my kiddo, with hopes he can be even a better person than me.

Did you always want to be a father?

Alan: After becoming involved in the foster/adoption program, there were many days when I thought fatherhood wouldn’t be possible. Trying to find a potential match and getting through the selection process takes time. There were several times when we expressed interest in a child and weren’t selected, but we hung in there and ultimately entered fatherhood two years ago.

Carlos: For sure. Growing up, I never saw other families that had two dads or two moms. Everything I was taught about family had both a mother and father figure. For a long time, I couldn’t see past that. Thankfully with support from friends and family, I did. 

Carlos and Julian on one of their many adventures together.

Was there ever a time you worried fatherhood wouldn’t be possible?

Alan: I have always looked forward to being a father, but in the back of my head, I felt the timing wasn’t right. Things finally aligned, and we jumped at the opportunity.

Carlos: I did, but ever since I was young, I had hopes of having my own family — complete with kids.

What do you wish others knew about fatherhood?

Alan: Being a father is a lot of hard work — especially if you’re doing it right! But it is very rewarding, and it makes my heart beat faster every time I hear him call me “Pops!”

Carlos: If you have the opportunity to become a father, just do it. Fatherhood can be tough, and I think, as a gay man, it has its own set of unique challenges as modern values of masculinity color so many things in life. As a gay parent, we constantly have to retell the narrative our son hears at school, sometimes about what family looks like or what dad and mom are supposed to look like. Fatherhood can be heartbreaking at times but also one of the best feelings in the world! I see myself and my husband as my son’s ultimate protector.

Food and family: Alan and Julian at dinner.

Is there anything special you do on Father’s Day? How do you like to celebrate?

Alan: Spending the day together has been great for me. My son is always excited for Father’s Day. He puts thought into what he wants to do for us, planning ahead to ensure he has Father’s Day cards and gifts. Last year he even cooked breakfast!

Carlos: We celebrate, of course, but are still in the process of establishing traditions. Father’s Day is a strange holiday for me because I don’t feel like I need to be celebrated as a Father. I feel like we are the lucky ones to have found our son. So, I like to think of Father’s Day as a “Family Day” where we celebrate each other!

What’s your favorite thing about being a dad?

Alan: I think the best thing about being a dad is having the opportunity to guide him through life, to share adventures and make memories.

Carlos: I love our family time when it’s all of us, but I also selfishly enjoy the one-on-one time he and I get to spend together — being able to show him new experiences and seeing him smile as he experiences the world.