Why family is about commitment, not convention

 
 
 

Jonathan Kaplan seemed to have it all. A legend in the rugby world, he has participated in the most international matches as a referee, overseen 107 Super Rugby games, 70 Test matches, and 161 Currie Cup games, and was the only person to have been awarded South African Referee of the Year for four years in a row. But something was missing. With each passing year, Kaplan’s paternal clock was ticking. He had always longed to be a father. So when he found himself still unmarried at the age of 47, he made the decision to pursue fatherhood – even though it would mean going alone.

“I used to think there were specific steps I needed to take. Settling down, finding a wife,” Kaplan says. “And for whatever reason it hadn’t happened for me.” Rather than waiting for things to fall into place, Kaplan chose surrogacy. The process involved undergoing medical and psychological testing to ensure he was fit to be a father, followed by the search for a donor and a surrogate, as well as months finalising the legal aspects. It didn’t deter him. “You can’t focus on your disappointments,” Kaplan says. “You’ve got to focus on your goal, and my goal was to have a son or daughter.” A few months shy of Kaplan’s fiftieth birthday, Baby Kaleb was born.

Early this year, Kaplan co-wrote the book, Winging It, to document his journey raising his two-year-old son alone. “I felt there wasn’t enough knowledge around this situation which I think a lot of single straight men find themselves in, but are not brave enough to take the next step,” he says. As a renowned international referee, Kaplan was respected for his decisions on the field. Today, his choices as a single dad are inspiring South African men. While there are many ways to start a family, it’s care and commitment, rather than convention, that make you a father.