Fatherhood, Rejection, and Staying

I love my son David.

He turns 2 at the end of this month, and he’s brought so much joy into our lives.  If you meet him, you’d understand.

I love my son David.

I love my son David

When I first learned we’d be having a son, I had so many hopes for him and for our relationship.  Having read so many books on fatherhood while constantly pondering the kind of man and father I longed to be, I was going to father the next great son (aka Jeremy Lin).  Just kidding, but sorta true.

Now that I’m two years in to the fatherhood journey, it’s been so unbelievably joyful for me.

However, it hasn’t been quite what I expected.

You see, David loves me, and I totally know that to be true.  He gets super excited when I come into his room every morning, and he squeals with delight when I come home each day.  He promptly gives hugs and kisses whenever I ask, and we eat breakfast together almost every day reciting memory verses, the Lord’s Prayer, and Toy Story.

But compared to my wife Tina, I am second.

It’s not even a close second, it’s a distant, unequivocal second.

I’m pretty sure if you were to ask David who he wants to play with, 10 times out of 10 he’ll say Tina (unless I’m given an ipad and Tina is left with a Calculus textbook then he might choose me 1 out of 10 times).

Tina is an unbelievable mom so it’s not surprising that this is the case, but I’d be lying if I said I expected this dynamic.

I thought I’d be my son’s hero and I had every intention of fulfilling his (or my) wish to be exactly that.

When given the choice, David would choose umma 10 out of 10 times.

When given the choice, David would choose umma 10 out of 10 times

But if given the choice between me and umma (Korean for mama), David would choose to be with umma and play with umma and read with umma and shoot baskets with umma 10 times out of 10.

The sting of this reality cut deep when David couldn’t really talk but his gestures were clear signs of preference.  But now that he can easily articulate his wishes with signs and words, the rejection pierces to another level.


I hate rejection.

Having often felt overlooked as the youngest in a family of four and marginalized as a smallish Korean-American growing up the pangs of rejection touches some of my most vulnerable wounds.

When triggered, these wounds can set off all sorts of reactions, ranging from overwhelming grief to hurt to anger.

I hate rejection.


To feel this way when it comes to my son hurts more than I thought it would, not so much because it’s different than other feelings but because it was so unexpected when I thought about fatherhood.

Of course I’d feel rejected by Tina some, and surely if I had a daughter there’d be things I wouldn’t understand and therefore feel out of place.

But my son?? Never would I have expected this.

The saddest part for me is my reaction to whenever the feelings of rejection come.  Every time he jumps out of my lap when he hears Tina wake up or every time he runs into her arms when he senses danger, a sensor inside my heart erupts with pain.

And that pain often leads me to a place I never thought I’d ever go with my son.

I leave the room.

I check email.

I watch TV.

I withdraw.

I work on something that I really don’t need to work on but “who cares because no one wants to be with me anyway.”


It takes everything in me (and really, something supernatural) to react a different way.

I can almost hear the conversation raging inside my head with one voice saying, “abandon him, he doesn’t want to be with you,” while the other counters, “stick with it, he may not want you but he needs you.”

Memories of my own wishes as a child re-emerge – longings to be heard and seen, and held, even though everyone thought I was okay on my own.

The battle goes back and forth, rumblings of self-talk zooming through neuropathways jostling for an upper hand.

I hope one day these battles will cease.  I pray to God that one day these battles will cease.


Until that time comes, I’ve resolved to keep walking back into the room where my son is usually bouncing around with his beloved mama speaking with an unbridled joy.  I kiss his forehead and whisper the words, “I love you, David.”

And off he runs back to umma.

And I stay.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us. 1 John 4


21 responses to “Fatherhood, Rejection, and Staying

  1. my partner-for-life E emailed this to me because she’s heard the same sentiments from me so often. thank you for writing, and believe me, i’m in the same place every day. at the same moment we’re thankful that mom is amazing, we are wounded. but they’re wounds He knows well and privileges us to experience. i’m so grateful you shared, and i’m with you.

  2. Wow. This is so beautifully written and such a reflection of the ways that parenthood is helping you walk more closely with Jesus, who stays with us no matter what else we choose.

    Also, having “parented” two much younger siblings I can tell you that your relationship with David will continue to evolve. At two years of age no one beats mom – NO ONE. But, the good news is that there are many more years to come and many opportunities for David to see how you always STAY. Such love always bears fruit.

  3. I read this post hearing you say each word! Always appreciate your transparency and vulnerability, Drew.

    I always knew that rejection would play a huge part in my future, but unfortunately the future is always now and unfortunately I find myself being affected in ways I never imagined. Through all of this, God is slowly teaching me too.

    Ugh anyway. Yep. Miss you.

  4. i have so much to say that i may have to reblog your post (i don’t think i know the proper way though on WordPress). funny that i see your name and this post about fatherhood on my Newsfeed today bc 1) just yesterday i mentioned you as in how you deliberately try to be opposite of your own dad in many ways while i seem to follow in my dad’s footsteps in the areas i don’t want to and 2) ahhh, i’ll just write about it soon (i hope). i’ve been experiencing the flip side of this, Drew, now that M is three years old, talking about “ONLY DADDY!” because his devoted Daddy started taking over the entire bedtime routine months ago. i almost started wailing and cursing in Korean like, “eenomoo jjahsheek muhrah guhressuh! WHO CARRIED YOU FOR NEARLY 39 WEEKS? WHOSE TEAT WERE YOU ON FOR 13 MONTHS!?”…when i really wanted to just tie the white Korean bandana around my head and writhe around on a heated stone floor, mourning the loss of affection of my firstborn. thanks for sharing this especially because kevin laughed at me for taking a toddler so seriously. hope to reblog it soon and write more on this topic. you wrote it so well too, smartypants! p.s. i thought the mangneh typically gets showered with attention!? but maybe by then, esp with all four boys, your folks were so dang tired? awww…i hear you (though firstborns rule! go stephen and jihee and kevin – haha – couldn’t resist).

  5. Thank you so much for sharing. I really appreciated this post. I think of it similar to when we are young we don’t know we need God or Jesus and we keep running away, but one day, our hearts will soften and open and realize that we needed Him all along.

  6. Thanks for sharing Drew, appreciate your vulnerability. I can definitely relate to how having a son is different than how I pictured it would be. Our little guy just turned 3, hanging on for dear life.

  7. we love you guys and miss you! grateful for you, eric and sara

  8. Amazing read. Thank you for your vulnerability! This was great for two reasons 1) I actually read the entire post haha 2) As I want to be a father soon, I saw this happening with other friends that were new fathers and wondered if it would happen to me. This will help me prep emotionally. Thanks again!!

    • thanks man and yeah, it was totally unexpected for me! people do say the tide turns as boys grow older, but it’s brought to light many of my own personal issues.

  9. Thanks for your honesty. I’m a dad of two young boys. Don’t worry! It ebbs and flows, I believe there will be different periods in his life where he will cling to you more.

  10. thanks for the comment!

  11. found this post randomly on Facebook. 🙂

    i am so excited for you and everything God is doing through you and your family with the church plant! (i tried to read little snippets of your blog while my three little munchkins napped.)

    you know what i envy? the way my kids greet my husband when he comes home from work or travel. i am at home with all three all day, every day. and yes, they prefer me. (for now.) but man, are they crazy about him. i never get the same reaction when i leave and come back to them. 😉 i know without a doubt you and your wife are both amazing parents to your sweet little boy. there will come a day when you will no longer be rejected! 🙂

    • thanks jane! and wow, congrats on the family! i can’t imagine having three but i give immediate props to those young moms and dads who do. hope all is well!

  12. Drew – Thanks for sharing with vulnerability and transparency. In our age of “social media guru experts” whose lives are a never-ending stream of Instagrammed-awesomeness, it is not only refreshing – but absolutely necessary – to have leaders like you reflect on what’s actually happening at the heart level. This inspires me that, yes, I can know myself and, yes, through God’s grace become the man of God who He dreams of me becoming.

    Hang in there. For the first several months of my daughter’s life, when I (and not Mommy) would hold her, she would scream and cry to the point where other people would be all, “Everything ok?” to which I would respond, “Scram!” 🙂

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