Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6 KJV
I awoke that morning to find Lee, my husband, dressed for work, standing at the foot of our bed. He stared at me and our newborn son David, who nestled against my bosom, sleeping soundly.
“What?” I croaked, puzzled at the strange emotions chasing across his features.
“He looks like you,” he said, then left.
I wondered what transpired in that male brain of his.
A year earlier, with two lovely daughters, Lee and I had decided to try once more for a boy. After a difficult pregnancy, Leland David Harvey, Jr. emerged on March 17 of that year. And despite a record two dozen red roses immediately appearing in my hospital room, Lee was unusually quiet. This was a new frontier to him. I’d had nine months to acclimate to another testosterone-creature. Lee was doing it cold turkey.
Was Lee jealous? I mean, I suddenly was madly in love with another guy.
Daughters Pam, six, and Angie, four, joined me in the maternal thing, hovering and cooing, fetching diapers and constantly helping.
Lee’s peculiar reaction baffled me. Oh he was proud of his son, but I suspected that after three females monopolizing the Harvey household for so long, he simply didn’t know what to do with this small masculine specimen whose square, solid frame was so different from round, soft, feminine contours so familiar to us.
Then, when the squalling seemed no different than that of the first offspring, Lee soon relaxed and resumed the at-ease genderless aspect of parenting. It was months later, when son David’s hair grew down over his ears and began to curl, that Lee’s brow began to furrow.
“Don’t even think about it,” I snarled, then back-pedaled to charm. “Indulge me,
please? Let him be a baby for a little while longer.” Lee remained poker-faced as he
Then, one day when David was crawling about, I heard a bzzzzzing from the direction of the den. I rushed from the kitchen, curious. Lee, a good barber, knelt on the floor with electric clippers, smoothly eliminating blonde curls from a befuddled David’s head. Lee had ambushed when David pulled himself up to stand and tether himself to the sofa. Surprised, David remained motionless, mouth agape, as the golden mound on the floor grew.
My baby vanished before my eyes. A little boy emerged, with ears, neck and all the rest of the guy stuff.
My world turned cloudy.
“How could you?” I demanded of Lee, near tears.
Untouched by my rare show of emotion, Lee dusted David. “What a handsome boy,” he crooned and scooped him up to go show him off to the neighbors.
The message was clear: Lee had laid claim to his son.
I straightened my spine and set my chin. I would weather this direction of life.
During toddler years, feminine influence on son David neutralized when Dad firmly explained to him the distinction between the term panties and under shorts. He taught David guy things, like riding a bike, fishing, golf and how to “protect mom.” Like when adolescent David opted to play football quarterback position, Mom was conveniently not invited to the opening game. Afterward, Dad and pale-faced son didn’t mention that David had had the wind knocked from him in that first event.
Then there was the golf course incident. Young David had quietly walked up behind his father as Senior Harvey drew back his golf club and swung. Thwaaaak! Knocked senseless, the boy recovered, with Mom none the wiser. Not for years.
In high school, under Lee’s tutelage, David worked an afternoon job. During the summer months, he arose at four a.m. to bake biscuits at Bojangles. A perfectionist, he soon gained the reputation as “the best” when it came to fluffy biscuits. One day, his Uncle Bob saw his flour-pasty nephew – a double for the Pillsbury Dough Boy if ever there was one – come in from work and quipped, “So you’re now rolling in dough, huh, David?”
I soon grew accustomed to those softly rumbled father-son powwows, catching drifts of financial advice and work ethics. Lee was often a tough task-master with his son. And at times, I thought it unfair since he was not quite so stern with the girls.
“David needs it more, honey. Trust me,” he replied when I broached the subject. Still, I worried that he pushed the boy a bit more than necessary. Yet, as years flew past, the camaraderie between those two deepened like nothing I’ve seen before or since. And it was increasingly apparent that David thrived under his father’s care.
Slowly, I did learn to trust Lee.
At fifteen, David began on-job training in our family-owned hair salon. Lee signed for his first car, a silver 280Z. It was the most pampered, shiny vehicle in the universe. With his salon salary, David made the payments and furnished his gas. No handouts from Dad.
And then, weeks later, David called. “Mom, I just had an auto accident.”
“Are you okay?” I screeched.
“Yeh . . . I’m okay, Mom. But my car.” His young voice grew hoarse and guttural. “It’s hurt bad.” I learned that on his way to show friends his new car, an excited David had turned in front of another car topping a steep hill. His 280Z was totaled. I realized that this was my son’s first encounter with serious loss. I knew, too, that he would simply have to walk through it. There was no magic pill for instant cure, only trust in God’s redemptive grace would eventually restore him.
Several weeks of grief ensued, during which the father-son huddles intensified, permeated by rumbles of solace and sympathy and plans to find another car.
David began to mature overnight. A reflection of his father’s wisdom shimmered from blue eyes. And when he began dating, he turned more and more to his dad’s counsel on guy things. Did I feel left out?
Never. I felt sooo blessed to have married such a godly, wise man, one who was a marvelous father.
Now, married with four lovely children of his own, David still unabashedly adores his father. “I wish I had Dad’s strength and drive,” he said recently.
I smiled. “You have your own strengths and drive. I’ve noticed what a wonderful dad you are to your three daughters and son. And I’ve also noticed a warm camaraderie between you and little Trey,” I added, my pride obvious.
David’s face-splitting grin brought back memories of the little guy tagging along after Daddy. He winked at me, “I had the best teacher.”
Emily Sue Harvey is the author of six novels, Song of Renewal, Unto These Hills, Homefires, Space, Cocoon, and Twilight Time, all published by The Story Plant. The e-book versions of Song of Renewal and Twilight Time are available at the special price of $2.99 for the entire month of October 2017.