A Father’s Purpose
Alia and my twin boys, Ryan and Adrian, follow me out to the parking lot after a hearty meal at a local seafood restaurant in Naples, Florida. The sun is scheduled to set in about twenty minutes, so we stroll to our rental car with the intent to head to the beach and watch the sunset, capping off our last day in Naples.
I feel my ankle give and twist as I stumble in the parking lot. I feel a burning sensation in my left big toe and glance down to find a pool of red blood collecting around my sandals. My toe had scraped along the blacktop and sliced open and as a result, blood pours out of my toe like water a faucet.
I’m not a fan of blood and seeing my own blood spilling onto the blacktop made feel a little woozy, so my wife, Alia, helps me to a nearby bench to administer first aid and decide if I need medical attention. I feel the cool sweat on my forehead as I attempt to gather myself. My eyes catch my son, Adrian, standing rigid a few feet away from me, his back facing me. He’s silent, not saying a word. He glances over at me and I see the concern in his eyes.
I scan the area and find my other son, Ryan, crying a few feet away. His fists clenched and pounding against his legs. He’s upset with the situation. It’s Ryan’s words that impact me the most. He looks at his mother, “Why did Daddy have to get hurt?” The tears stream down his face, “I wish it was me, not him!”
My heart sinks. “It’s okay, buddy, I’m fine.” I reach out to grab his hand.
The ride back to the hotel is quiet. I keep my foot propped on the dashboard. Alia stops by Walgreens to pick up some medical supplies to clean and dress my wound. We decide to bypass the emergency room and swing by an Urgent Care facility the next morning where I would get a tetanus shot, antibiotics, and some pain killers.
Adrian remains silent, but Ryan consoles me. “Daddy, when we get home, I will buy you a video game with my own money.” I look in the rear view mirror and smile back at him.
After the excitement subsides and we are safely back in the hotel room, I think about Ryan and Adrian’s reaction to my accident. Both reacted differently, but were greatly impacted by the sight of their dad getting hurt. It bothered me.
I didn’t like seeing the silent concern in Adrian’s eyes and the hopeless pleas from Ryan. It hurt my heart when Ryan wanted to take my place, but it got me thinking about my role in their lives and what I mean to them as their father.
Why would Ryan rather get hurt then me? I’m older and stronger than him, I can take it. Why did Adrian turn away from me and clam up the way he did? He is usually so talkative and vibrant. Then I put myself in their shoes and thought about times when I witnessed my own father in pain or when my dad was laid up from an illness and I began to wrap my mind around what my role is to my sons and what our relationship means to them.
I am their emotional foundation. Until they are old enough to stand on their own, they depend on me for emotional and intellectual stability. Witnessing me in pain and out of character as their father disrupted their stability, if only for a moment. I caught a glimpse of what their world looks like when their father is not strong enough to support them.
It takes me a long time to fall asleep in the hotel as I contemplate what it means to be a father to my two boys. What can I provide for them that has the most impact? I came up with four:
- Safety. I’m their safe place. At eight years old, my boys are beginning to spread their wings and are taking more risks in life, but they still need a safe place to go when they get hurt or are unsure of themselves.
- Stability. They need a stable center in their life. As they discover who they are and the world turns them upside down, they need a point of reference that is unchanging and a guide post to get them back on track.
- Strength. My boys draw their confidence and courage from me. They look to me for reassurance that they are good enough and worthy to live in their environment. They stand on my shoulders as they carve out a place in our society.
- Leadership. They require boundaries and an example on how to interact with others in our world. They look to me as their example of what it means to be a man and take their cues from me. Did Adrian clam up, because he learned that from me? Did Ryan learn to react with frustration from me? These are tough questions I must continue to ask myself when I observe my boys react to various situations.
It’s an awesome responsibility to mold young boys into men, to have two sets of young eyes watching my every move, memorizing my movements and learning how to live there life based on my example. In the end, I am their earthly father and I’m the only one in the entire world with that honor. I don’t take it lightly and will do my best to not let them down.
A week later, Adrian enters my office and stands quietly a few feet away. I look over at him and acknowledge his presence.
“How’s your toe, Dad?” He asks.
“As good as new, thanks for asking.” I respond.
“Good, I love you, Dad.” Adrian smiles and heads out of my office.
I appreciate him for checking up on me and then smile as I realize, that is what I would have done.