A colleague at work recently told me about the adoption of his own two children. His son was adopted from an orphanage and the only male influence in his life had been an abusive one. For the first few months after adoption his son wouldn't even want to be in the same room with him. Only time and trust transformed this little boy's perception of who/what a father really is.
Although not to that extreme, our own experience with Isaiah learning to love his Papi has been somewhat challenging. At the full disclosure meeting, before we'd even met Isaiah, we were told "He doesn't really like men". Everyone around the table felt it would take Isaiah time to warm up to Ben. One individual told us, "I don't know how he'll react. He may be scared and run away. Just don't take it personally."
From birth Isaiah lived with a wonderful single foster mother. The concept of "Mommy" already existed, but what about a father? How do you show a two year old what a loving father is? I think it's quite telling that Isaiah chose to call Ben "Papi" right from the start. He had no clue what a "Daddy" was, but Papi made sense to him as one of the nurses Isaiah used to see in his foster home is Hispanic and called her husband "Papi".
To our relief, Isaiah didn't freak out when he met Ben for the first time. He was wary of both of us and mostly kept his distance. No crying or upset, just an uneasiness about who we were. I wonder what was going on inside that little head at the time. It must have been quite confusing.
Isaiah is still learning who his Papi is and the deep meaning of this relationship. Probably one of the most helpful things we have done to reinforce this relationship is to be affectionate in front of Isaiah. He may refuse to give Papi a hug or a kiss when asked, but I quickly and cheerfully chime in "I want one Papi!" After a few months of this Isaiah started to push through and say "No! My hug Papi!" and give a big cuddle.
At some point Isaiah started to ask for hugs and kisses from Ben. And more and more Isaiah seeks Ben out to help when he needs something or gets hurt. I
love watching this relationship grow. Even tonight, as Isaiah went down to sleep and I finished our nighttime prayer Ben said "Isaiah can pray too." I had no idea he'd taught Isaiah how to pray.
Undoubtedly, Father's have a big responsibility. Not just to love, lead, and provide for their families, but to be living breathing examples of our Heavenly Father. By learning to love and receive love from his Papi, Isaiah is also learning how to love and receive love from God. No words could ever express how much this fills my mommy heart with joy.