Continue being a father…
Men are taught not to cry, nor be soft and show emotions.
Keeping our emotional status to a minimum, to stay in control.
What I share is a contradiction of emotional and mental states
my contribution to being a father to encourage divorced fathers.
My son who is 18 years old and a recent high school graduate,
who was born on January 7, 1992 is in college. You may wonder
why is this important:
The important part that as a father being divorced from
my children’s mother since 1999, this did not keep me from being
involved in my children’s life. I did not use excuses about child
support payments nor excuses that they lived about an hour away
and I had to go get them every other weekend, split my summer
vacation with their mother.
Excuses are easy, but sacrifice is a challenge to the commitment
to a cause importantly being involved with your children. Enduring
to do the right thing is not always easy.
My reflections as a father as I watched my son doing orientation at
FAMU allowed me the enlightenment of why I nurtured, taught,
prayed, and yes I fussed and cussed at times to get my children to
do what they needed to do. I had to be proactive to know what my
children were doing at school even though I was no longer in the home.
I suffered baby mama drama in the form of no communication, not
being offered school pictures, not being invited to PTO/PTA meetings.
Not being told of school plays and events that the children were in.
I had to find out for myself, which I did and did attend as much as I could.
As a father I encouraged my children to be productive and successful
in school, working hard to do for my children so I would never hear that
I was a deadbeat father, give ammunition to my children’s mom and her
family to talk about me in any derogatory way, they still did, but I taught
my children to judge me by my actions not their words. Even though I
have and still deal with baby mama drama it is worth it because my son
is in college, a high school graduate.
The divorce process is neither easy nor nice, some of the most primal
emotions rise to the surface, but men should understand that it is not
about who bests who, who is the better parent. It is about what is best
for the children, if children are involved.
At times the process is unfair and it feels like a war, but many divorcing
parents do not always look at the future and the preparation of their children
for higher education. I do not have all the answers, but do encourage parents
to make preparations for your children to attend college or vocational school
while they are young. Trying to put aside your pain, accusations, anger and
demeaning behaviour to communicate with each other that your child’s academic
success is important will be almost impossible. The turbulence of the divorce
process can be demeaning as accusations whether valid or invalid are discussed.
The best way to ensure collage attendance is to start a college fund
and deem a certain amount of money going into the account by both parents.
It does not have to be the same amount from each, since the majority of the
time the man will be \paying child support. The mother must agree that a
portion of the support goes into a college fund. Not using this to get more
money, but to make sure that the children are provided for.
Negotiating this while the children are young and starting a fund is a
necessity now because tuition prices are continuously rising. The
most affected are divorced parents when they see their children want
to go to high education, but realize they do not have the money and kick
themselves in realizing they should have done this when the child was young.
The accountability and responsibility aspect goes to both parents to stay
connected with their children’s academic strength and weaknesses. Fathers
need to be visible in the schools, to follow their child’s academic growth.
Not leaving it up to the mother and blaming her for any failures, nor should
an uninvolved father try to take credit for any successes of the child. The
father is held accountable because that is their child also. If a father is not
involved in elementary, middle and high school, don’t expect a graduation
invitation when the time comes around. I have witnessed this to many
times as a teacher. This makes the father look even lower and will face
more rejection from the child and family.
Helping to continue to raise children does have its financial challenges.
I have and continue to struggle through financial hardship paying child
support. I have at times worked 3 jobs just to make ends meet. Working
to provide extra for when I have my children with me for visitation.
Learning that my children will love me regardless of the money because
they know that I love them and want to spend quality time with them.
Fathers understand it is not the amount of money that you spend, but
the amount of time that you put in you and your child’s relationship.
No one wins when parents are competing with each other for a child’s
love. Focus on the importance of being a good, responsible and involved
parent. I saw the fruits of my labour when my son enrolled in college and
I helped him accomplish this goal. My labour was in traveling every other
weekend as many divorced dads do to pick up their children. Taking days
off from work to go and visit my son and daughter in school. Talking to
their teachers and eating lunch with the class. Sending cards, letters,
emails and texts, showing my children that I love them instead of giving
lip service and not backing up my words with actions. These are the things
true fathers/real men do for their children.
It did not matter the unkind words that were spoken by my children’s
mother and grandmother about me to them. That helped motivate me to
be a better father. Men can be and are driven away by women because
the woman is angry, hurt and wants to get back at the man. These actions
in the long run hurt the children’s development when the mother denies
visitation even when support is being paid. The mother will talk badly
about the father and make unwarranted accusations to the male child
that they will be like their father. Even if untrue statements are made
mothers can destroy their young son’s mental security and confidence.
Encouraging destructive behaviour, enticing it, nurturing behaviour that
is anti social. The resulting behaviour from the child accumulates into
academic and social challenges that did not have to happen, but was
encouraged and taught to the male child because the mother was still
angry even after years of being divorced.
I have seen my children’s emotional state change because of harmful
words from their mother and grandmother, but I persevere through.
Words and actions have hurt my daughters and I relationship because
of what has been said and continue to be uttered, but I continue to pray
and still communicate to my daughter. One day I hope to re-establish a
loving and caring relationship with my daughter so I must continue to let
her know that I do love her and it is not always about money.
I saw the fruits of my labour when my son hugged me. I hugged him back
not wanting to let him go because of the years of his childhood rushing back
through my mind. I kissed him twice on his head trying not to be soft, not
wanting to embarrass him in at his new home away from home. I said
something similar to I Love You and proud of you, he replied I love you to..
As a father, of course I gave some last tidbits of words of wisdom; be careful,
be safe, and he replied OK dad…
As I turned to leave I had to fight the feelings to look back because I know I
would cry, but that did not work. As I walked back to my truck the tears
started streaming. Fathers do need to cry; it does not demean you or make
you weak. It just proves that you are a human being, a caring person, a parent
that loves their child. I realized my son, whom I carried in my arms when born,
read to, taught computers to, shared French fries with, mowed the lawn with,
taught how to drive. The little boy who was my traveling partner to the store or
conferences out of town. Who went with me to work and helped me in my
classroom. Whose hand I held when walking in the store, who I carried on my
shoulders. I remember talking about sex, drugs, and life in general.
The young man that I watched graduate from elementary school, middle school,
high school and now attending college. We shared ups and downs, and I did not
want to give up. I did not want to be another statistic of a deadbeat father so
I persevered. I say thank you God for allowing me the opportunity to be a father,
to shape and mold a young man to be a benefit to society not a menace or statistic
in the juvenile justice system. I know my son is not perfect, he has his flaws;
I rest in the knowledge that I taught him things that my dad did not teach me.
Put God first in everything, the value and importance of education, being respectful,
and honest. Do not let people take you for granted, do not allow people to use you
nor abuse you. To have values, morals that you can be and will be successful. To be
of service to you community and help others when you can. As I leave the campus
of FAMU I place my son in God’s hands and say a prayer….
To God Be The Glory…. I will be there at his college graduation.
God willing and the creek don’t rise.
Fathers press forward to be the best father that you can. To meet challenges head
on and overcome them. Do not give in to quitting or giving up, because the life you
give up on will be your children. Don’t allow others to put you down or talk negatively
to your children about you. Your children will not be children forever.
They will grow up and they will remember how involved you were, how you over
came and persevered. Your children, grandchildren and stepchildren will remember
who was there to help them. We as men no matter what color or culture must
understand if we can make a baby we have to continue to be responsible
to and for that baby.
Making no excuses……
Edited by Cheryl Williams
Graduate of Andrew Jackson High School 1979
Mother of Mario (graduate of SCSU ‘04)
Darryl (FAMU senior ’10)