I can't believe he said it, but I'm glad he did.
As a father, I have often been proud of my boys and how they handle themselves in difficult situations. There have been other times when all I can do is shake my head and try to laugh it off.
I had a situation at church recently where both of those scenarios were true.
One of my friends from church greeted my family and told Dawit he liked reading about him in the newspaper.
"Your dad is really proud of you," he said.
Dawit's answer made me cringe.
"I get that a lot," Dawit said with an ornery smile.
Everyone laughed, but I couldn't believe he said it. During the service, my mind kept drifting back to that statement and the more I thought about it, the less I cringed.
I'm glad he gets that a lot.
I'm glad he feels the pride I have in him. It wasn't always true, but we've come a long way in the seven fastest years in the history of the world. The Ethiopian calendar has 13 months. After adopting our favorite Ethiopian, we haven't needed a calendar because the years seem like they are measured with a stopwatch.
Seven years ago, we were packing to head to Ethiopia for the second trip in six months to take custody of a cute little four-year old.
After we did, he immediately bonded with my wife. Dawit's birth mother had loved him very much and she did all she could for him. Pneumonia and malnourishment were threatening his life and she did the only thing she could to save his life.
But Dawit never had a father figure so our relationship took more work to find a comfort level.
He liked me. He loved the fact that I played soccer with him and shared my gum with him, but it took time for him to forge the same kind of relationship with me that he developed with my wife in minutes.
The first year or so was tough on Dawit. The language barrier made it hard for him to really understand what was going on. For more than a year, he had been uprooted every few months. Nothing was permanent and we never could convince him that our family was his family forever.
We caused him emotional trauma trying to have fun several times because we didn't think about how deep his fear of losing his spot in the family was or how easily it might be triggered.
We were planning to go to a fly-in at a local airport because we thought he would enjoy riding in a plane and watching them fly around - especially the stunt planes.
We didn't consider that his only experience with planes was flying far from home to live in a new house. He thought he was being shipped off again.
When we started to leave, he was in tears saying, "No momma. No airplane. Please!"
It was awful.
There were a lot of tears as we explained to him that there would never be another airplane to take him away from us.
Because of early experiences like this, we started over explaining events to him before we went so that he knew what to expect.
Seven years later, we still walk him through what to expect before we go somewhere. It still helps him feel more comfortable.
So much has changed since he became a part of the family, but I think the biggest change has been the relationship he has with me.
Blake and I have always been close. Blake was my sidekick. He shot video during high school sporting events. I coached his teams, and he even chased storms with me.
Dawit and I had to work to develop a relationship. Dawit and Blake are very different in ways and very similar in other ways. They are both great young men who care about other people and show it.
I always joke that we have Hamlet living in our house. Shakespeare's character tried to determine if he was a man of thought or a man of action.
I have one of each. Blake is a thinker who processes every situation carefully. Dawit is mover. He is the kid who jumps in the pool to see if it is cold. He's never cautious.
I've always known how proud I am of both boys and Blake never struggled to figure out how I felt about him.
Because a father figure was new to Dawit, it took some time for him to learn what our relationship would be. So on a Sunday morning when he hears someone say that I am proud of him, maybe it isn't so bad that he says, "I get that a lot."
I have worked hard to make sure he got that a lot.
I'm glad he feels it.
Now he can enjoy everything without worrying. He knows we'll always be here for him.
That's the best Father's Day present I can get.
Maybe they'll learn to say it a little more appropriately, but when one of my sons hears someone say how much their dad loves them and how proud I am of them, I want them to at least think, "I get that a lot."