February 17, 2011 was a regular day for many folks. But not for school counselor, Tim Suenkel. It was the day Tim met his adoptee son for the very first time, and instantly became his father. The meeting was arranged by social workers, and they met at a local Barnes and Noble store.
"The moment I met him," Tim said, "he opened his arms wide and said, 'You're my new best friend.'"
They had an overnight stay, and then the 3-year-old asked, "Are you my daddy?"
"I knew without any hesitation that the answer was most definitely, 'Yes!'" said Tim.
Tim, who came out at 19 to a very supportive family, lives in Vancouver, Canada, with his now 10-year-old son. Among their favorite activities to do together, they love to explore the great outdoors.
"My son is full of energy and has strong legs and can hike very long distances. We are lucky to live in the Pacific Northwest where we can hike, go to the beach, and spend a lot of time outdoors. Hiking is one of our favorite activities to do together."
We caught up with Tim and he shared what he loves most about being a dad, how his life has changed, and what he's learned along the way.
Tell us about your path to fatherhood. I was a foster-to-adopt parent. The moment I met my boy (at age 3) I instantly knew that I was his dad.
Tell us about any obstacles you faced on your path to fatherhood. Foster-to-Adoption does not go smoothly for most. I was very lucky however. I met my son in February 2011 and was able to adopt him in July 2011. This is unheard of. The stars were aligned and I will be forever grateful!
Was there a reason why the adoption process happened so quickly? I like to think that it was divine intervention. I know that our experience was much easier and more efficient than most people's experience with foster care.
How has your life changed since you became a father? My son has taught me what is truly important in life. He helps me to remember not to worry about the present or dwell in the past. He keeps me grounded in the present moment.
What have you learned from your child since you became a dad? I learned from him what is truly important in life. It is not the material goods that make us happy - it is relationships and making the most of every moment!
Is your family treated differently than others on account of your sexual orientation or gender identity? I am grateful to say that the answer to this is no.
How does your son feel about having a gay dad? He was so young when we adopted him that he had no idea it was an issue. As time went on classmates would bring it up that he has two dads. He has been coached how to handle those challenging times.
What words of advice do you have for other gay men considering pursuing your same path or parenthood? I would say that the path to parenthood is unique for all of us. Trust your instincts. If it feels right then go into it with all your heart. If it doesn't feel right - honor your intuition and find out why.
Where do you see your family 5-10 years in the future? My son is currently 10 and he tells me that he will be living with me his entire life. Although I am sure his plans will change when he gets older - I enjoy hearing his dreams for the future.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experiences creating or raising your family? Being a dad is the best thing that has ever happened to me.