With it being so close to Father's Day, it was almost as if my spirit called for me to do this. Or perhaps because Grandpa is so heavy on my mind. Maybe a little bit of both.
I had gotten prepared earlier in the week to send him something and then had to remind myself he wasn't around anymore; then my heart got very heavy.
I want to thank Grandpa for being there for me. He served as a blueprint as the type of man I want as a part of my life, whether in friendship or in love.
So I dedicate this to him; I dedicate this to all the men who are currently performing this blueprint.
I hope, if there are any who aren't, that I, through my own experience, help. I will not apologize for the delivery, only for the stinging. But perhaps the sting is what is needed for those who are dormant to get into action. Don't talk about it; be about it.
The Father Blueprint
My biological father wasn't around. He made one attempt to get involved in my life around my freshman year of college. I gave him an opportunity to explain his side of the story, to jump in from that point forward and build. The letter I sent to him got returned; when he said he would come and see me, I waited for him, and he never showed.
I did not miss out because I had a wonderful grandfather who stepped in. Not everyone has that blessing. At times, I don't think men fully grasp what their constant contribution means to a child. I am not talking about solely financial. I am talking about TRULY being there.
Due to my experiences, I want to share some things I believe men who have children should be doing. Some you may agree with; some you may not. I'm stressing these are my experiences.
- If you have a tumultuous relationship with your ex, please don't let that interfere with getting to know your child. Too many men hold on to this as a deterrent and think the child, as he/she gets older, will accept it. If you have to go through the courts, which may get costly in some instances, to get even a few moments with your child, it is worth the effort. Arrange to have drop off at a neutral spot so you don't have to deal with the ex, if things are that bad. You'd rather be seen in your child's eyes as being “willing to fight and deal with the aggravation because you loved him/her enough” as opposed to “mommy made it too hard on him and he just gave up”.
- If you don't like your baby's mama, please don't diss her around your child. You chose her; the child didn't have a choice.
- If you are with someone who brings out the worst in you (aka yelling, cursing, fighting), it's best to eliminate that element. Your child doesn't need to see it, be exposed to it, or learn that's the right way to handle conflict.
- If you are with someone who you are “just having fun with”, don't bring that person around your child. I know you are grown, but you have to be aware of what message you are sending, particularly if the child is primarily in your care.
- If you are not involved with baby's mother, but both of you are in relationships, there should be a meeting of the minds with all four of you, only if it seems like the people both of you are involved with are serious material. Too many people start relationships and don't fully think of the impact it has on children. Make sure that no one is stepping on the other's toes, especially if all parties are highly active in the children's lives. If there is animosity, children do sense it; the last thing you need is a lot of “he said, she said” coming from your children's mouths. You don't have to like each other, but try to be civil.
- Providing support is much more than a paycheck, cash out of one's pocket, or child support. If you don't want to be there, you may have to prepare for that one day when your child comes looking for you and asking “why”; you have to be prepared to be honest because nine times out of ten, Mom has already told her side of the story. And it may not be a very pretty one. If you didn't want children, you should have taken more precaution; it's not just all on the woman; it takes two to tango.
- For those guys who want back in your child's lives after being absent, don't say you want in and then backtrack. My dad pulled this number, and it breeds more animosity to promise to be consistent and then don't do it. I had some level of respect for him in the past. I had accepted he didn't want to be a part of my life; at the time, he didn't act any different. Then, he said he felt bad about missing out and wanted back in, but he didn't follow through. So now I have no respect for him because he lied and stood me up. No explanation, no apologies.
- For those who are in relationships with your baby's mother, you both have to be on the same page when it comes to the development of your child. That includes discipline. It is not good for one to be super strict and the other to be super relaxed. There has to be a middle. The child shouldn't have the option to go to the other parent because he/she knows there will be a yes from that one.
- For the guys who are around, you have to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually engaged in the building of the foundation for your child. I know there is pressure on you to bring in the ends to justify the means, and for those doing it, I applaud you. However, what happens once you come home after a hard day of work? If the answers you come up with don't involve at least doing an activity with your child, then it shows a lack of engagement.
- Look for ways to interact with your child. It doesn't have to be anything major or cost a lot of money. Research for low cost or free fun. Reading to your child is free. Helping the child with his/her homework is free. Spending time outdoors=free. A lot of activities, especially outside, are opportunities to teach your child. Mowing the yard, riding a bike, digging holes for a garden, washing the car...you are killing two birds with one stone—spending time with your child and the child is learning something.
- Talk to your child. If your child asks you a question (and there will be awkward questions asked), answer it. Even if you have to take time to think about it, tell the child. But don't leave it unanswered because if you don't answer it, I guarantee he/she will find other means to get the information. Do not let the TV, Internet, video games teach things you should be doing. If the child wants to use the Internet as a reference or reinforcement, that's one thing. I'm not trying to disrespect technology, but in some instances, some children get so involved in it, their ability to properly interact socially can get interrupted. Plus, not everything on the Internet is from a reliable source.
- Share your religious/spiritual views with your children. If you are a church goer, take your children with you. It goes towards development. Once your child becomes an adult, then he/she can decide or research more about religion and which one to be a part of, if any.
- Develop the blueprint on how you're going to talk to your child about the tough things— safe sex, diseases, pregnancy, drugs, relationships, violence, etc. as far in advance as possible. Don't just say “don't do it”; explain why (because he/she will ask). If you've gone through the experience, be candid enough to share; it will make more of an impact than you know. You never know when your child will ask. The world isn't the same as it was when you were growing up; in many ways it has become more dangerous. You have to teach your child to protect him/herself in the environment, no matter if you are in the suburbs or the cities.
- Start early in showing your child how to be financially responsible. I say as soon as he/she knows the basic add, subtract, multiply, and divide. School fund raiser's, lemonade stand, seeing you strategize on paying the bills, even one's allowance=teachable moment. Show the value of money and how far it goes, so he/she can appreciate it later in life.
- Follow up on what your child is being taught in schools. I was blessed with teachers who were passionate about whatever they taught and took lots of time after school to help kids when they needed it. There are too many stories about teachers who can't wait until 3:15 rolls around so they can rush out of the classroom quicker than the kids. After school programs and tutoring are getting slashed, so if the child doesn't understand right then, there's not as much help available. In some cases. teachers aren't allowed to deviate from the curriculum or have to focus on getting scores up for standardized tests so the school can get state money, and they can get raises. Also, you have some teachers where teaching wasn't their first choice, so some may lack the passion and commitment. Then, unfortunately, you have teachers who are interested in kids but for the wrong things. Keep your eyes and ears open.
- Know your child's social network. Find out who their friends and associates are. That way, you can tell who is being a good influence and who's not; you can attempt to cut off trouble before it arrives at the doorstep.
- Be aware of the grownups who are around your child. Yes, unfortunately, this includes family. There is a difference between healthy interest and unhealthy interest. We were all born with instinct; trust that to know the difference. Pay attention to how you child acts; what your child says. Question it; if something bad is happening, do not turn a blind eye. In my (African-American) culture, some tend to adopt the view, “If I didn't see it, it didn't happen.” Quite a few are carrying around what I deem “private pain”--abuse that either wasn't spoken about or it was spoken about but no one believed it. Not saying there aren't instances where this type of thing is lied about; if that is the case, there's something deeper going on if a child has to lie about something like that to get attention. Again, just be aware.
- Always express your love for your child, through words and actions. Remember to say “I love you." Love is more than feeling; it is action; make sure the actions and the words match.
Have a glorious day and a wonderful upcoming Father's Day.