“Son, I’m proud of you.
I will never forget the day I heard those words come out of my dad’s mouth.
As a teenager and a young man, I couldn’t tell if my dad loved me or not. He did, but I was too caught up on me to realize it — even at obvious times. I used to think I wasn’t good enough and had failed him as his child. I wasn’t the star athlete nor did I excel in school. I didn’t want to work or have the work ethic he did and it seemed like all he wanted me to do was work. All he asked me to do, I didn’t do so there was quite a bit of punishment going around. So basically, I had issues.
Years passed and as I grew older I began to view my dad in a different light and our relationship changed a lot because I wasn’t blinded by my own haughtiness.
July 17, 1999. Theresa and I married. That day I became a husband and a father to her child from a previous marriage, our sweetie Briana. I was around Briana since birth but not actively involved until Theresa and I jumped the broom. Briana was a self-sufficient young lady and still is to this day. I only remembered the harder side of my dad’s rearing of me and thought that was how I should raise our daughter. Not a good idea.
Since I couldn’t see the love my dad was giving, I didn’t know how to give love to my daughter properly. Over time I got better but for quite sometime you wouldn’t see a “#1 Dad” cup anywhere in the house. I knew I loved her. She’s my heart. But I didn’t know how to express that to her for comfort and safety. As time went on and I realized my errors, I became overly loving. Not a good idea.
All the while, Theresa and I wanted to have a child together. That was a serious emotional rollercoaster and even though I really wanted a biological child of my own, the thoughts of how unsure I was, still, in dealing with Briana had me terrified about possibilities of messing up a life because of my ineptness at fatherhood.
Theresa and I never conceived but my relationship with Briana evolved for the better over the years and I’m able to show her the love I feel, but overall I still questioned my value as a father.
I AM SON … I AM DAD
January 6, 2010. The day my life turned in a very unexpected direction. I was introduced to my two-day-old godson Jo Jo. I had no problem being a silent, non-active godparent. I knew Theresa would do enough for the both of us. That was my cover story, but the real story was I had not gotten past being terrified of misleading a life because of my ineptness.
I don’t know what it was or how it happened, but when Jo Jo was given to me to hold as he was crying, something changed. I changed.
He stopped crying and we had a moment, and in that moment a bond was made. It seemed as if he approved of me, though I think the smirk I was given was from a bit of gas. The ineptness I felt was gone, but I was nervous as all because I didn’t know what this bond was going to produce. Yet overall, I felt …well, I felt good.
Jo Jo is 2 years old now and we are two peas in a pod. He has spoiled me more than I him and while I thought Theresa would be the most active, I’m running circles around her.
My mother always tells me that as a child I would follow my dad around imitating whatever he was doing. These memories I couldn’t recall, partially because I was younger then, but many because these memories got lost in the fog of my misunderstanding of how my dad was parenting me. Funny part of all this is that as I watch Jo Jo grow up, I feel and see familiarity of what my mom has always shared about me and dad. What were just stories are becoming reality. The good times I had with my dad at a young age are coming to the forefront because I see what we had in what Jo Jo and I have.
I was surprised when my dad told me he was proud. But in dealing with Jo Jo, I’m finding, as a dad, he has always been proud.
I’m a son who grew up to be a dad. A dad striving to encourage, love, correct and impart all God has for those He has trusted me with. Best job in the world!
About the author
Darren W. Carter, an organizer for our Cleveland Dads Group, owns Carter’s BBQ with his wife, Theresa. A version of this first appeared on DarrenWCarter.com.
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