A couple of days ago I wrote about being my own worst enemy. I was in a dark place because of bad decisions made that I will forever regret. Despite all my faults, being a bad father was never one of them. I’m not looking for praise or have any delusions of being the best father in the history of life. Like any father, I’ve made mistakes and I wish I could have done some things better. I have come to believe that as long as you put the needs of your children before your own, and love them for who they are and not who you want them to be, it’s enough to get you in the Good Dads Club. Yet for a lot of fathers that is easier said than done sometimes…even for me.
I have three kids; a 14-year old daughter, a 12-year old son, and another 10-year old daughter. We live apart because I moved away temporarily for work. I’m in D.C. and they still live in Europe with my wife. I didn’t want to take them out of the great schools they attended for fear that if we couldn’t afford to live in a nice neighborhood, their quality of education would suffer (this is a topic for another day). Technology allows me to video chat with them everyday, and because of the time difference, I use my lunch break to talk to them. I may sound like a stand-up guy, but in reality I was being this duplicitous superhero; Super Dad by day, and Captain Asshole Husband by night. I put my selfish needs first, and now I’m at risk of having video chat as my permanent means of daily communication with my children.
Lucky for me I married a woman who is beautiful inside and out. She has not let her disappointment and anger with me impact my relationship with the children. I woke up to beautiful Happy Father’s Day messages from my children, and even one from her. I’ve burned my Captain Asshole cape, and now all I can do is hope for the best. However I have learned a valuable lesson in fatherhood from this ordeal. When you’re in a marriage or partnership, being a good husband is a part of being a good father. As a husband you are an example to your sons and daughters on how they should treat their partners, and how they should be treated by their partners. A solid relationship with your partner also creates the stable environment needed for your children to thrive. I’m not saying this can’t be achieved even if you’re not in a relationship with the mother of your children. If you are though, you have to actively demonstrate the value of that relationship, so your children have an example of how to value their future relationships.
This revelation of mine isn’t groundbreaking, and it seems so obvious. Yet it’s hard to know what right looks like when you’ve never seen it. This is especially important for black fathers, #BlackDadsMatter(too). So many of us, including myself, grow up in households without a father being a constant presence in our lives. Not to make excuses, but we can’t ignore the impact this has on our ability to have healthy relationships with women. The great tree of racism may have been chopped down during the Civil Rights Movement, but those roots still run deep. Gaining the awareness of how to be in a relationship and how to be a father, goes a long way in destroying the root of black male absenteeism. When I know better then I can teach my son to do better. That knowledge trickles down to future generations until the root is finally dead, and other roots are corrupted and can start to die off as well.
It probably seems like I just went off on a tangent, but this is a part of my fatherhood journey. I’m fortunate enough to have three beautiful and healthy children, a wife who loves me despite my worst qualities, and an aptitude for self-assessment. Add in a desire for change, and I just make it to my destination…a life surrounded by family, and full of love and content. My past may have shaped my present, but my future is still mine to mold. Happy Father’s Day fellas!
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