Dawit turns 12 this weekend.
Eight years ago, we were purchasing tickets to fly to Ethiopia for the second time to take custody of him and make him a permanent part of our family.
In those eight years, there have been times when he made me think I was the Father of the Year and others where he made me question whether I am really capable of helping two boys become the men they should be.
Earlier this month, both of them made me think things were going pretty well. Blake helps me coach Dawit's indoor soccer team. I coached several of Blake's teams so he makes a great assistant. When I was out of town one weekend, Blake got his first head coaching experience. His brother scored a couple of goals and helped him stay undefeated as a head coach.
I was pretty proud of him for wanting to take on the responsibility and challenge by himself. I was more proud when I heard how well he handled the team.
The next week, when we were playing in the league championship, I could see a real difference in Blake on the bench. He didn't defer to me anymore. He didn't tell me what I should tell the team. He told them himself.
That crazy group of kids actually found a way to come from behind three times in one game and hold off a really good team to win the championship. It was one of the fun times of fatherhood.
Another fun time was after a soccer practice this year when I had all of my Father of the Year points erased. Dawit's foot hurt after he landed funny running during practice. He took off his shoe and sock when we got home and I pretended to be a doctor. That's when I saw it. His big toe had a huge lump on it. Something was terribly wrong. I called his mother into the room so she could inspect the damage.
She looked at me like I was crazy. That happens a lot, but during an injured child scenario, it is usually her that overreacts while I assume they really aren't hurt that badly. But this toe looked bad. That's when she reminded me of something I should have known but I swear I have never known.
On the very first paperwork we received when we started the adoption process, it was disclosed that Dawit had a slight deformity on his big toe. For eight years, I had no idea. I guess I'm not as detail-oriented as I thought.
Other times parenting Dawit aren't as fun and make me wonder if I have the right temperament for the job.
I get to take Dawit to school every day. It gives us some time to talk each day. It is rarely boring. This week, Dawit told me a story that pushed the limits of my patience.
Dawit was telling me a story about playing with some of his friends. He said while they were playing, one of the boys he has had issues with all year became upset with him.
"He got really mad and wanted to fight me," Dawit said. "All of his friends were telling him to fight me."
I asked Dawit what he did next.
"I just walked away," he said. "Then he said, 'Come on, n!**er!' when I was leaving."
Then Dawit looked at me and asked a tough question. "Isn't there a law against white people calling me that?"
It's really tough to explain the first amendment when you are mad.
I explained that there can't be a law like that, but decent people would never do that and that boy obviously has some people in his life affecting how he thinks and talks who aren't decent people.
I asked him why he didn't tell anyone at the school about it.
"They didn't hear him so they would just say it was both of our faults and I would get in trouble too," Dawit said. I guess he's been there before.
I've been there too and I was not prepared to handle it as well as Dawit was.
"Do you want me to call the school or (the boy's) dad and talk about this?" I asked.
Dawit just shrugged it off and offered some wise words. "Sometimes people say mean things. I don't worry about it."
Maybe if my kids can finish raising me in time, I can return the favor before they are out on their own.
My initial response was quick to anger. No one talks to my son like that. Dawit holds a much more Christlike view and one of my good friends on Twitter shared his thoughts on how Dawit handled it.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul said, "The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more." (Romans 5:20 CSB)
I know that verse. I have taught Sunday School lessons that included that verse. Thankfully, Dawit's action showed he understands how to live by that verse - even more than his father who should have known better.
I never wanted to have children, but I wouldn't trade Blake and Dawit for anything. One is almost 16. The other is turning 12. Graduation season reminds me every year how limited my time with them in our home really is.
They are both great kids. Hopefully, that is as much because of me as it is in spite of me.