Growing up, I never really thought about being a dad. I was one of six boys with a Marine father and a tomboy mother. Our life revolved around sports, games, the great outdoors, and competition of any kind. Rarely did we discuss things like feelings, emotions, or relationships.
As I got older, I realized I wanted to marry someday, but I viewed parenthood with a dose of skepticism. I liked the idea of having children, but I wanted to control the details. If I were to be a father, then it would be on my own terms and according to my agenda. In short, I was willing to meet society’s expectation of having 2.1 children just as long as their little lives didn’t infringe too much on mine.
But God had other plans.Sean Martin is the father of 11 children – 9 of whom are adopted and were prenatally exposed to alcohol and other drugs. Click To Tweet
Today, I am the father of 11 children – 9 of whom are adopted and were prenatally exposed to alcohol and other drugs. Many of my children have other special needs as well, from spina bifida and cerebral palsy, to Down syndrome and autism. You name it, we probably have it in our family. So needless to say, my idea of controlling how and when I would be a father went out the window a long time ago.
And so did many of my expectations.
These were simple things like sitting down during the weekend to drink a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. The only time this happens is when I’m traveling for work. Another expectation was being able to play games together as a family. Some of my kids cannot play games, while others have a hard time with anything beyond “Go Fish” or “Uno.” I also expected that I’d be able to relax in the evenings. However, when you have 11 kids with the variety and magnitude of needs that we do, relaxation usually comes when the head hits the pillow… and that is usually interrupted as well.
I don’t share all of this with you to complain – quite the opposite. I share all of this to glorify God. My pre-fatherhood expectations were all about me, preserving my own comfort and pleasure. Ultimately, my expectations were selfish and self-focused. But parenting changed all that. When God called my wife and me to be parents, He asked us to put aside our wanton desires and put our children first.God ask us to put aside our wanton desires and put our children first. Click To Tweet
He’s asking the same thing of you.
You may look at my situation and think, He’s got 11 kids, many of them with special needs – and some severe. What does he know about my situation, where I’m struggling to parent just two children? How can he relate to my life? The truth is, the lessons I’ve learned about fatherhood are universal truths that can be applied to any father of any number of children.
Dads, we’ve got a big job before us. Our kids are looking to us to model a strong work ethic, reliance, and trustworthiness. But fatherhood is more than just “bringing home the bacon.” It also exemplifies meekness, humility, compassion, and empathy; virtues that are woefully absent from today’s self-centric society.
What are some practical ways we can model these virtues?
- When your child asks you to play a game or read a book with them, put aside the task at hand and do it.
- Involve them in chores around the house. Whether you have 1 child or 11 children, there’s always something that needs to be done.
- Even at the end of the day, when you’re exhausted and just want to fall into bed, be there for your kids. I guarantee your teens will want to have their deepest and most meaningful conversations at 11:00 p.m.
I don’t hold myself up as some paragon of fatherhood. But I will unashamedly point to the One who has proven Himself as the Good Father, steadfast and perfect. I struggle daily with my selfish tendencies; but as I have learned to die to myself, I rely more and more on God’s grace. And as I work to model God’s “strength… made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9), I have the blessing of watching my children grow and mature and become more like Jesus. That is an unexpected reward that my younger self never expected, and my older self has never deserved.
THanks for your witness, Sean. I read it at a moment of trepidation while I move closer to adoption placement of 2 boys with special needs, to join my first adoptive son with autism. From your words and the lessons of my son I know that while I could never… Read more »
I wish i had had that advice 40+ years ago, how true it is,
I had a son who lived only 2days. Born on July 22 and died on July 24. Had severe brain damage.Devastated we wondered why.Thot GOD felt we were not ready for parenthood. 4 years to the day of my son’s death we adopted twins (boy & girl). Boy is a… Read more »
Sean, Thanks for your message. I can appreciate your message as the father of five, four adopted and three with special needs. I volunteer at a pro-life pregnancy center, and over the past two years have been working to build a men’s program to inspire men to support their partners… Read more »
There are crowns in Heaven waiting to be received, but more importantly, there are 9 children that may not have had a chance to be loved and succeed in life, without your unselfishness and willing to take on a seemingly impossible task. But, with God, all things are possible! I… Read more »
Thank you, Sean ,for this testimony. I have seven children all born by my only wife Elizabeth. Parenting is both hard and interesting. By the grace of God they are all young men and women now. The greatest joy I have is that most of them are following the way… Read more »
I am grateful for your testimony, brother.
Congrats, Sean! I see what our Father has made on you. I would like to know about your wife! And, if you want to tell, why you two had only two children of your own.– My husband and me have seven of our own. Never thought of adoption unless we… Read more »
My wife is an amazing woman who has sacrificed even more than me. She gave up ambitions and freedoms as well to be the woman God has called her to be. God moved us to adopt before we were ever married, and we also wanted to have biological children. And… Read more »
So wonderful to know that there are men that are willing to be active fathers. Too many single mom’s raising children. I pray constantly for God to raise up men that will follow His leadership and take responsibility for the formation of our future generations. God bless you Sean for… Read more »
Thank you for sharing, Sean.
God has walked with you. Stay the course and we appreciate the note and Godly modeling as a parent.
Thank you. I will share this with my Care Net Pregnancy Center dad’s. Some are married but most not.
The holy Spirit is with you Sean.
Sean, God bless your heart! ….
Your childrens are blessed to have you as their father.
Thank you for letting our good, good Father God shine through your life as a dad! I love this and will definitely be passing it on.
Thank you, Marie. Great to hear from you. Hope you are well.
Thank you, Mr. Martin. Your families story has given me strength and perspective in my own journey through fatherhood. May the Lord our God continue to bless and keep you and your family.
Praise be to God!
Yes Sean many male & females can not see the beauty of parenthood, grandparenting and great grand parenting. Pleasures that money can never buy. A great granny of 12, granny of 12 and mother of 5. When my husband asked me to marry him I said under one condition. If… Read more »
So lovely, thank you!
What a powerful testimony. This model applies to the life of a believer. We are to die to self and serve others.
Thank you for sharing such an inspirational story.
WoW, WoW, WoW. I have 1 kid with special needs, and at times I feel like walking away. Now reading your story, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. 11 kids, = FULL TIME WORK. God is good. There bless to have you as a father and also you to… Read more »
I will definitely pass this on to every father I know!! Also, too all the future fathers!!!
PS. Remember, before going forward, always LOOK UP!!
Mr. Martin, You Sir are Gods Gift to these Children ! You Sir are what Life is about, these children needed exactly what God had planned. They are innocent victims of such horrid addictions. The world would be So blessed to have more Human Angels like you and your Wife.… Read more »
These children are God’s gift to me! He used them to save me from myself. I am blessed.
Sean. I am almost 64 and and thank Our Lord for parents like you and your wife. My dad and mom raised us the best they could and taught us to pray every day after our evening meal. The loved us just like Jesus. Our lord hears many prayers just… Read more »
What a great story! I think it can resonate with every parent out there struggling with the same selfish desires. But we must have a kingdom-minded perspective, which changes everything about how we raise our children. What an incredible story of God’s grace! Very encouraging! Thanks for sharing your story.
Danielle, thank you for your encouraging words. We really must have a kingdom minded perspective about everything. Of course I fail at this all the time, but by God’s grace, we move forward, seeking to glorify Him in all we do.
A kingdom minded perspective ! There’s the reason for this way of life. God bless !
Dear Sean! Thank you for your sharing . Tears rolled down my eyes as i read your story and i saw a glimps of the Face of Our Father in Heaven in yours . May you and your family be blessed for ever and all those who read your story… Read more »
Mary, thank you for your kind words. We certainly are blessed and I do pray that what God is doing in our family will inspire others toward Him.
Thanks for your wonderful testimony of what a father really is called to be….God bless you and your family!!! We need more men like you!!
WOW you are an amazing Father. I have 2 children and with my 14 year old she can be a challenge. Reading your story will help me be more patient and attentive to her needs
I don’t know how amazing I am, but I try to be faithful. We also have challenges with our children, but they know they are loved by their parents, and more importantly, by their Heavenly Father.
Wish to God my children’s father had been that kind of father. Although he was a school administrator, he lacked a lot as a father. Of, course, he did not put God as head of his life. He’s gone now. I thought I was doing better. But not much, as… Read more »
Ms. Althouse, so sorry to hear of your pain and pray you grandchildren will grow up to know the Lord and walk in His ways.
Enjoyed your article! Parenting is tough stuff, but so rewarding.
Hi Sean my name is Tommy. I’m 54 and I have 8 kids. 5 boys and 3 girl. 2 years ago my wife had Jennie our eighth child and my wife dead 2 day later. All I know is with out Gods help I would not make it. God bless… Read more »
Mr. DeLaune, I cannot imagine losing my wife, and pray that the Lord exceed your every need as you seek to raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I pray your children get all the care they need and learn to seek the Lord and trust… Read more »
God Bless you young man! God sure gave you a challenge in life as each child is different even if they have no special needs! We had 4 daughters and they are as different as night and day and we love them all with their families. We very close to… Read more »
Ms. Kastens, I am so sorry to hear of your daughters challenges, but grateful that she is well cared for.
Love your story and believe it is true. Sadly too many children grow up with absent fathers, either mentally or physically. And so boys are not taught how to be good fathers (and husbands), and girls are not taught by their fathers how they should be treated by boys, and… Read more »
Sean, as a father of seven, my wife of nearly 27 years and I can relate to some of your story and have to agree that God is great and faithful even in the midst of the joys, challenges and occasional chaos of larger family life! We didn’t set off… Read more »
Tom, we didn’t set off thinking our family would look like it does either, but we trust God to build our family and this is where He has taken us. It has been an amazing ride that I would never change. He works All Things to make us more like… Read more »
Go Daddy! What a marvelous example you set, not only for your family but for all of us. God is truly good.
Sean, you’re the man! I grew up with an alcoholic father. I was one of five and he was a hard working professional. More than once he almost lost his practice. More than once he tried to quit drinking. More than once he and my Mom were separated. All five… Read more »
As I read your comment I just thought, never give up! It’s never too late. Even for fathers who feel like failures, and sometimes I do, don’t give up. You never know the impact you are having and as you learn, grown and become more like Christ your positive impact… Read more »
Great history ! God ❤ blessed and continues blessing all of you !
God bless you and your wife for opening yourselves to Gods work. Your story is inspiring and wonderful.
He has blessed us, far more than we have blessed anyone else.
I read your story and even though I am a mother, some of the principles in your story can be applied to my situation. Thank you so much!
Great article for all parents – both father’s & mothers.
All I can say is God Bless You!!! Fatherhood is so maligned these days. I had a good father and I still at age 71 remember his words of wisdom, his sense of humor , and his generosity toward anyone that had a need and handled it without any publicity… Read more »
Thank you, Ms. Owens. I strive to be the man God created me to be. I fail often, but by His grace get up and try again. I pray my children speak of me the way you speak of your father when they are 71.
I just wish more fathers have your attitude . May TheLord continue to bless your family!
Thanks. All males appreciate your story and your sacrifices.
Wow! Spot on!
These are the kinds of stories the younger generation needs to hear—- self sacrifice and servanthood –expressed in practical ways, where the real you is exposed to the reality of the Gospel!
Passing on to my married sons.
Thank you, Del. I appreciate your kind words.
That was beautiful! Thank you. May God, Our Father, continue to bless you and your beautiful, loving family!
Wow Sean…so spot-on and truly inspiring! Thank you for sharing His Will through Our Father.
I found this very interesting. Do not have my own kids. (children). Baby sat many times, when working in the hospital was always happy when they assigned me the children’s ward. Also working with the newborn’s. Loved it so much.
In my case, I read Jim Dodson’s books on fathering, I engaged myself with my three children’s activities, prayed with them, verbalized I loved them, hugged them and feel that I did the correct actions. I was in the military and away from my family for three or four one… Read more »
I am so sorry for the pain you have gone through and pray for reconciliation in your family.
My ex did some of the same. It took several yrs to begin to have a relationship with my two daughters. Keep letting them hear from you, live a Godly life and continue to pray. Since my divorce I remarried a wonderful Godly woman, have 5 wonderful grandchildren and have… Read more »
Eric, I will be praying for you. I was also married to an abuser and ended up divorced. He turned my children against me as well, exactly as he promised he would if I ever left him (one of many threats.) I know the pain of having the people you… Read more »
Brief but an “Eye Opener” not only with Dads but for Moms as well. A food for thought for all of us… Parents as well as grandparents…
Great witness by Sean Martin
Your family is definitely blessed with lots of love and God’s true blessing. God is good and always there for us.
Wonderful! God bless you and your family.