Father's Day delight for an inspiring dad

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 05:00 31/08/2013
Jesse O’Brien
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ
FULL OF LOVE: Jesse O’Brien is a great dad to his three children Michael, 13, Joel, 7, and Carmel, 9, but shares his love to foster children as well. He’s looking forward to a special Father’s Day.

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Tears well up in Jesse O'Brien's eyes when he thinks of the weekend to come - tears of joy.

Tomorrow is Father's Day and, along with the spoils planned by his three children and wife, Mr O'Brien will be getting a special gift.

One of the children he once fostered is coming back for a visit.

"She still calls Jesse dad," his wife Cat said.

On a wall in the O'Brien house is a frame with eight faces, each one belonging to a child they had fostered.

Both parents came from families with foster siblings, so it was only natural for he and his wife to take the same path.

"We'd just watched too many news stories and sat there in tears, being upset by these little kids just with no hope in the setting they were in," Mr O'Brien said.

"Little baby Nia Glassie was the straw that broke the camel's back for us. We were like . . . we have to do something."

Mr and Mrs O'Brien were high school sweethearts. They married at 18 and Mrs O'Brien admits she never really saw him as a dad at that point, but when their eldest son Michael, now 13, was born, she knew he'd be great.

So what makes Mr O'Brien such a great dad?

Michael said it's because he cares about his kids and sticks up for them when they're having a tough time. Nine-year-old Carmel said he's funny, and little Joel, 7, said his dad is nice.

Humbled by the praise, Mr O'Brien said he reckoned being a dad was more about "being there".

"I guess that means an awful lot of things. It means emotionally, but also literally with time as well. I grew up from the age of five without a dad, so my whole childhood I was determined that when I was a dad, I would be there and I would be present and that I would work hard at it."

It takes something special to foster children as well, Mr O'Brien said it was about routine and consistency, but also a good dose of family.

"One size doesn't fit all but there's a certain something about being swept up in what is family," Mr O'Brien said.

Nothing quite says it like their house rules

"In this house we do real, we make mistakes, we say I'm sorry, we give second chances, we have grace, we give hugs, we have fun, we do loud really well, we are silly, we are family, we do love."

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