Saturday, June 9, 2007

Tears, tears, and more tears

It’s not often I’m speechless, but as I write this, I don’t know that I’ll truly be able to capture the moment. Today, my middle son, Jacob, finished second in the Akron Local Soap Box Derby. He actually made it all the way to the championship and split two races with the eventual winner, Tyler Shoff. This was Jacob’s first real derby race, and to see him keep winning heat after heat today literally had both of us in tears.

What makes it special isn’t the fact that he came within a millisecond of forcing another finale for a chance to represent Akron in the All-American Derby, but rather it’s the fact that we cried together for the first time since I returned from Iraq. My deployment with the Ohio Army National Guard in 2003-04 hit Jake very hard. He was only five years old when I got called up, and with an older brother already getting extra support in school and a younger brother who was a baby needing attention, Jacob had a pretty tough time and often felt alone. I know the year-plus separation hit him harder and deeper than many probably realized, and I knew Jacob would be the first one to run to me when I got off the plane on my return American soil.

Since I’m also the middle of three sons, Jake and I share a special bond and understanding of one another. As he and I cried with each major success at Derby Downs today, we shared some father-son moments that I pray others also get to have one day. That feeling of doing something together (in this case, many hours in the garage with tools and a derby car) and then seeing it all come together in a magical afternoon.

If you’re a father with a son, always know how important your time is together. You can buy him toys or even a real car when he’s old enough. You can tell him “good job” on his game or grades. You can even brag about how smart or talented he is. But never forget it’s the time we spend with our boys that really helps them to develop into men. It’s the mentoring we show them in the quiet moments and not just the cheers from the stands.

Even if Jacob had lost very early in the race today, I’d still feel the same way about our special time together. However, it was those tears that opened my eyes to the real joy today of how fortunate he and I are to have each other.


Mike said...

Thanks for that Eric. I'm in my "second" life now...older and married again and we have a new son. I had four children in my previous marriage and I know I can do things better. This will help. Thanks again. Tell your son congratulations on the great racing.

Eric Mansfield said...

Mike, thanks for the comment. Is there nothing better than being a father? It's so overwhelming and yet so rewarding all at once. Best of luck with your new son. Give him your time as best you can and you'll both benefit.