Today I am proud that my son is a college junior — but one moment from his childhood will stay with me forever.
Recently, my son Colin completed his second year at La Salle University. It is an accomplishment he can be proud of — as can all the good people (male and female) who played a part in seeing this child through to young adulthood. That list includes parents, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches, doctors and a host of others. Navigating the many stages of development that make up the life of a young person is a long, hard process. I thank them all.
My son and I are very close. I spent the first three years of his life caring for him at home, working only part-time, while his mother returned to her full-time job. It was a non-traditional arrangement, but I loved it, and I believe my son is better off for it. In many ways, when he was a young child, he thought of me as Mom and Dad. I am glad that I was able to assume the role of an active, nurturing father. It is good for our children to see a well-rounded picture of what a man can be, and what a man can do.
Now, I am a case manager with a non-profit fatherhood program, helping other fathers to connect with their children in a meaningful way — as I was able to do. I told a story to one of my clients about a moment in my young son’s life that defines fatherhood for me.
It happened when Colin was about 3 years old. We were at a playground. He was not far off, seated on a swing, talking and laughing with a little blond-haired girl sitting on the swing next to him. A bigger kid came over and began bullying the small girl into giving him her swing. Very quickly, my tiny son jumped from his seat, grabbed her swing and — holding it away — refused to let the bigger kid have it, saying it still belonged to the small girl, who was now crying. For some strange reason, the older kid (glaring at my son) made the decision to back off.
When I saw what was happening, I did not interfere, although I was not too far away. I was so proud of my son I could have cried. I have no idea what made him do that, but he did the right thing, and my heart swelled. He understood what was fair and what was good.
Today I am proud that my son is a college junior — but that childhood moment, when he stood up for that little girl, will stay with me forever. I had hoped my son would be that kind of person. I was trying hard to pour myself into him, and the little fellow was “getting it,” although I could not remember ever specifically telling him to do what he did.
I want other fathers to have a chance to feel what I felt as I stood there watching my son. I want these fathers to know what it is like to pass on their unique legacy to their children.
That feeling, my friends, is what fatherhood is all about.
Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen.
L.T. Woody is a NewsWorks contributor. He will receive a 2013 Driving Fatherhood Excellence Award from the Maternity Care Coalition on June 17th.