Towards the end of high school I was looking for a way to pay for college. One of the things I looked into was going into the army. I gave them a chance and listened to their recruiter, but after prayer and talking it over with my parents I decided against it. The next time the recruiter called I informed him of my choice. His response was kind of classic; he said, “When you start making decisions on your own and stop letting your mommy make them for you, give me a call.” I laughed off his attempt at belittling me. My dad asked what was so funny, so I told him the story. Before I knew what was happening my dad was in his car racing down the street headed for the recruiting depot. At the sound of the car’s gears mashing down the road, my mother came and asked what happened and I explained. She called the depot and warned them about the wall of fury coming their way. The depot’s commanding officer and another recruiter held off my dad from doing something he would one day regret.
My dad and I have never quite had the same language. His way of showing love and mine miss each other on a regular basis. Looking back on this story all I see is my dad saying, “Sean I love you, I am proud of you and I will protect you from those who seek to harm you.” He didn’t think, he acted. Now that I’m a dad myself I wonder what it takes to love on that level. The level where when my child is in harm’s way I act rather than think about acting. How do I become papa-bear?
It wasn’t until recently – a full year after Jamil joined our family – that I started to feel that deep resonance with him. For so much of the past year he felt like a bother, a task that needed to be completed. I don’t know if biological parents ever feel like this, but I’ve heard that it takes time to attach to an adopted child. It’s this strange switch though, this feeling of devotion to another – to my child – over the devotion to the task of raising him. Maybe it was the switch from foster-child to son that did it for me, maybe it was just time. Either way I think that one day, sooner than later, I will be able to act like my dad did when the recruiter tried to belittle me and that gives me great joy.
As I was watching “The Cosby Show” yesterday I was thinking about all of my references for what it means to be a good husband and father. My dad, my brother-in-law Alan, Cliff Huxtable, Pepere, Coach Eric Taylor and so many others. To these men (and their writers) I say thank you. I am a work in progress and you have helped to define the parameters for my goal.