(Note: I’m posting this on Father’s Day. As my gift to myself, it’s shorter than usual [not really—it just turned out that way]. Happy Belated to all the fathers out there, gay, single, adoptive, and otherwise!)

One thing I’ve learned about parenthood, is that pretty much daily you can count on your kids to do something that completes this sentence: They will __________ your heart.

Break, melt, warm, burst, fill, flood, wound … you name it. If there’s any way your heart can be impacted positively or negatively, your kids will find a way to do it.

Sometimes in multiple ways, in the same sentence.

One day early in our time together, I lit into Mark pretty badly. As you might expect if you’ve been reading these posts for awhile, I can’t even remember what he did. What I do remember is that I threw everything I had from the “bad parent discipline” book at him: yelling, screaming, probably an insult or two, maybe even some snide put-downs/name-calling.

I am very grown up at all times.

After my tirade, I stormed upstairs, leaving him curled on his bed a huddled, crying mess. Keep in mind, he couldn’t have been more the 6, 7 at the time.

A few minutes later, he appeared in the kitchen. I didn’t know what to expect when I saw him: Our first (but certainly not last) “I hate you!”? Something (preferably a stuffed animal) thrown at my head? A kick?

Whatever it was, I certainly didn’t expect this:

“Can I have a hug?”

A hug. Asking for a hug from the lunatic who just raged at, spewed at, belittled you not five minutes ago. I learned so much in that moment about both my son’s capacity for love and our bond (as my heart was breaking—melting—ballooning), and I have used it as a reference point ever since.

One of the ongoing messages of adoptive parent recruiting and training is, “You don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be good enough.” Even at my worst, Mark made a point to let me I was good enough … and I am eternally grateful for the lesson.

Next: Trayvon Martin

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