When I realized I was loved by my brand new father, that I didn’t have to worry about being left again, I learned I wanted to become a strong man with a family of my own one day.
As a young boy your father is a mighty super hero who knows everything and can do all things. You rely on him for everything. He teaches you what he knows and he makes you feel strong. My brother, sister and I were cared for by an angel of a grandmother while our biological parents struggled with addictions to crack cocaine. It was a difficult period of time and it was our normal; we were used to having no men around. We were the men, but we had no idea what “man” meant other than we were supposed to grow into one. As a young boy I didn’t have one of those super hero fathers until I was around 11 years old when my brother, sister and I were taken in by my aunt and her husband.
That transition was pretty easy because I had spent a lot of time there playing video games with my cousin so I was fairly comfortable. I hadn’t yet made the distinction between life without a father and life with one, but that realization would soon come. With the new life came structure, discipline and a sense of safety I never experienced. I was happy with my new life, but I still hadn’t learned to trust my new dad. He wasn’t like the men I was used to. He had a wife! What was that? He cooked. He built things, helped us with homework. He talked kindly to us. I adjusted to the schedules, the chores and going to church every Sunday because I had to. I adjusted to the rules of the house, but I hadn’t adjusted to having a man around consistently directing my path. I just didn’t want to lose my safe place, and I never felt like I needed him because I feared silently that it was only temporary, he would be gone at any moment. My situation was surreal.
It wasn’t until my fourteenth birthday that it became real to me that he was committed to being a dad to a boy who wasn’t his own. Like any boy at age 14, I got a girlfriend and it just so happened that my birthday falls on the fifteenth of February. I asked my new dad to let me go visit my girlfriend who was staying fairly close by for Valentine’s Day, and that I would come home that night. I believe my curfew was 10pm, but I never made it home because we fell asleep watching movies and I guess he did too. I was awakened to knocks on the door and it dawned on me that I wasn’t at home, then I knew I was in trouble. I had to get home so I bolted to the door prepared to Houdini my way past whomever it was that was outside of it, but it was my uncle! I was paralyzed with fear, but something amazing happened that day. The first words he said to me were, “Are you okay? You fell asleep didn’t you?” I just nodded yes, and he took me home. On the way home, he never yelled, never threatened me with punishment. I think he saw that I knew I’d made a mistake and he understood.
That moment changed everything for me. It was then I realized I was loved and cared for and that I didn’t have to worry about being left again. It was then I realized what a man was and that I wanted to be one myself. I wanted to be a dad one day, too, a husband, and a phenomenal leader just like him, because nothing felt better than knowing I had someone to follow that would come to find me if I lost my way. From then on, I watched him and learned all that I could about being a man. I’m still learning. I think about what he’d say when I’m making some of the decisions I make. I hear his voice when I’m doing something I know is not right. I treat people the way he treated me, without judgement and with love. I can think of so many moments where I needed a dad, but I needed him most when I finally decided to learn how to be a man.
Photo credit: Getty Images