It is a near-universal truth of parenting that little children love to dress like their parents. For Father’s Day this year, my son begged me to buy him and my husband matching shorts and a shirt, and of course I obliged. I let my son choose the outfit, and after a long debate he carefully selected a fairly eye-shattering combination of lime green shorts and blue and orange shirts for both of them. I winced, but agreed.
My son was so very proud when his dad opened up the gift and said how much he loved the outfit. My husband never batted an eye about the colors — he immediately went and put on the shorts and shirt. He and my son dressed as “twins” for the day, and I can’t remember the last time my son was so happy.
I was ready to hand my husband the Father of the Year award for his unflinching embrace of 8-year-old fashion. And then I read about Josh Marshall and his 8-year-old son Gabriel.
According to Buzzfeed, Gabriel has a rare form of cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma — a malignant brain tumor. He was diagnosed last year, and had surgery to remove the majority of his tumor. Although some of the tumor remains in his brain, his health is now stable, and thank goodness for that.
While the surgery was a success, it came with one big no-fun side-effect: Gabriel has a large scar on the side of his head. And as he recently confessed to his dad Josh, the scar made him feel like a “monster.”
When I read that, I thought my heart would break.
Gabriel’s dad apparently thought the same thing, and he decided to do something to help his son feel better about his appearance. Something pretty amazing, as a matter of fact: he got a tattoo to match his son’s scar. According to Josh, “I told my son if people wanted to stare, they could stare at both of us.”
What? Oh, I’m not crying. I’m not crying. OK, I am totally crying, because that’s just about the most outstanding dad move I’ve ever heard of.
And a lot of people agree with me. This year, Josh and Gabriel entered and — to the surprise of no one — won the St. Baldrick’s Foundation #BestBaldDad competition, which takes photo submissions from dads (and uncles, grandfathers, cousins, etc.) who have shaved their heads in honor of a child who has cancer. According to St. Baldrick’s social media manager, this was the first time they’d received an entry where “the dad went above and beyond shaving his head in solidarity with his child and got a tattoo to build his son’s self confidence.”
“Above and beyond” sums it up pretty nicely.
Gabriel loves his dad’s tattoo and says it makes them “twins.” As the mom of an 8-year-old boy, I have a small idea how much those twin scars must mean to him. Josh Marshall’s gesture epitomizes how much love parents have for their children, and just how far we would go to lessen their pain and fear. Josh Marshall is doing parenting right. So to him, I send a belated Happy Father’s Day, along with a ton of respect and admiration.