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Keeping that light on in my son’s eyes

Updated: April 8, 2013 7:42AM

I was staring into my son’s brown eyes, proud of his accomplishment, and yet offering my critique of his performance during sparring for his black belt in taekwondo.

That’s when I noticed a certain darkening in his eyes that moments earlier had shone like the sun on polished chrome. I suddenly caught myself and thought, “Man, are you stupid? What are you doing?”

I have vowed never to become one of those parents who vicariously lives through their children, especially where sports are concerned — the kind who morph into barking criticizers who can make a kid feel real small.

My calling as father is to lay my hands on my son — on my children — to look into their eyes and to speak life and promise, to uplift. To teach, to encourage, to properly correct, to build, to bless, to affirm.

And although I wasn’t speaking harshly to my boy after his recent successful black-belt test, I think he sensed in my voice disappointment. But the truth is he has been nothing except a joy since I first laid eyes on his 22-inch frame, his spidery fingers and his slick brown hair, tearfully watching him enter this world nearly 11 years ago this month.

I remember how as an infant I sang while cradling him. Days after his birth, I also remember saying to my wife, “He can’t be my son . . .”

“Huh, what do you mean?” she asked, her eyebrows raised.

“Because I can’t imagine that I could have such a perfect son.”

A son without a single blemish on his body — beautiful. In time, he has become a gentleman, a comic, caring, giving, thoughtful, an A student and even a charmer.

And as much as I believe that some of this is due to how he came to us, I realize that it’s also because of his mother’s shaping and mine. And I am certain that the man he will become depends on our molding — and that as a father, my craftsmanship is especially critical.

It is an awesome task, one I do not take lightly, even as I consider my faults and shortcomings while attempting to raise a better man. I also can’t help but think about so many other boys, especially black boys, growing up without fathers.

They are fathers who are an absence in their little boys’ lives more than a presence. Men without whose voices, guiding hand, love and adoration, their sons are left potentially to try and find the path to manhood without any semblance of paternal guidance.

In my eyes, the streets are filled with boys who don’t — who won’t — find that path. With boys who fill their longing for a father figure in gangs. Boys who have come to believe the lie that being a man means being a brute or a gangster or a thug. Boys who carry guns. Boys who kill.

Boys who biologically grow into adult maleness but who never fully inherit or embrace manhood.

I could provide an assortment of sordid statistics. But there is only one number that really matters: That for every son born into this world, there should be a responsible father to help guide him to responsible manhood. A father to speak life and promise. A father to adore him.

For so many boys, there’s still time. And even for some wayward fathers, also time to get it right.

I hugged my son. I told him how very proud I am of him and that I love him deeply.

And I watched the light return to his brown eyes.

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