Being a father has got to be the most rewarding thing a man could ever experience. I was 24 when my son Ethan was born and I had one year left of college. I was attending Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, TX for my final semester while my son and his mother lived in New Jersey. Back then, yahoo messenger was very popular and we both had webcams so that we could see each other. He was only a few months old and didn’t do much, but at the same time, everything he did fascinated me.
This was a new experience for me and I was enjoying it. I probably drove his mother crazy because I wanted to witness EVERYTHING! I remember the first time he was able to sit up in his high chair and eat baby food, his mom used her phone to record a video of it and send it to me. It was so funny to me because as she fed him, it was as if his mouth never closed, he was always looking for his next bite. I couldn’t wait to see him again, hold him, hug him, kiss him and just spend quality time with him.
Her family and friends were a huge blessing; they came through with so many baby items and diapers for our son to last us at least a year. Lord knows we needed it; she was on maternity leave and I was just a student not knowing what my next move was. I was a little afraid, but I’ve never been a coward or one to run away from my responsibilities. Like everything else, I was going to figure this thing out and make it work. One thing I was certain about was that I was excited about being a Dad.
I would brag to my best friends about all the things I would teach my son, what he would be when he grew up, and how he would look just like me and they would laugh. I was a proud dad if you had ever seen one. I couldn’t wait until he was old enough to talk so that we could politic together. I couldn’t wait for him to be able to walk and run so that we could race together. I looked forward to teaching him how to ride a bike because that’s the type of thing a father does with his son.
For the moment, I was enjoying simply watching him grow up. I was in love with this kid; he had the biggest and brightest eyes, just like I did when I was a baby. He had the fattest cheeks in the world and I couldn’t stop kissing and squeezing them. Once he learned how to crawl, I knew how to get him to come to me; all I had to do was show him food. Oh yes, he loved to snack, just like his father, and enjoyed every bit of his company.
The first few months of a newborn’s life, doctors warn not to allow the child to sleep in the same bed with the parents. It’s been said to be dangerous, as the parent could roll over on the child and smother him/her. That warning should’ve been given to the babies too. When he finally was big enough to sleep outside of his crib, he would somehow find his way to my face, and fall asleep right on my face. I would wake up and can’t see a thing, nostrils covered up, and by the grace of God he left me room to breathe out of my mouth.
Initially, I would wake up alarmed, but over time I had gotten used to it and would just wake up with a smile. I knew it was my son simply trying to get closer to his dad. It was a very warm feeling to wake up to someone who loves you that much and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. As I start to wake up and move, he would do the same, and the next thing you know, we’re smiling and playing with one another. Then the next phase was finding something to eat; typical “men” I know. Lol
I pity those men who walk out on their children, because they are truly missing out their blessing. It may be scary to take on such a huge responsibility, but such is life. It’s not easy for the mother of your child to raise a son/daughter, and it will be that much more difficult without you. Not only does it impact their lives financially, but also emotionally and psychologically. These few memories that I’ve shared about my relationship with my son are priceless. These are precious times that I can share, and so can my son.
Unfortunately for many children and many fathers, they don’t have positive, uplifting memories to reflect on because they didn’t create any. It doesn’t take a lot for you to build a relationship with your child and build a legacy, but it does require you to be there. Being there means that you are actively involved, attentive and aware of what’s going on with your child. Not only that, but also you are participating in the activities with your child.
Throughout the week, my son is at school for most of the day, and I am at work, so when the weekends come, I make it happen to not do any work and focus on spending quality time with my son. The work that I do can be very demanding and my son can also be very demanding. When I’m working, I want to give my clients my full and undivided attention, and when I’m writing I need to be focused. When I’m with my son, I need to make sure that he’s safe, fed and entertained. It’s kind of hard to talk on the phone with a client and make sure that my son is playing “rock, paper, scissors” with integrity.
To make sure that my son gets my full and undivided attention, I simply give it to him. No phone calls about work on the weekend, no emails, texts, nothing! We’re too busy at church, at the park, bike riding, at home wrestling and having a good time with one another. He’s had a long and tiring week at school, I’ve had a long and tiring week at work, so now it’s time for us boys to just chill. When we go to the park, I encourage him to play with the other kids, because he’s not going to wear me out. Lol But when he wants me to get involved, I gladly oblige.
Sometimes when I go to the park with my son, I see other parents constantly texting, constantly on the phone and not at all engaged with their child. All the while, the child is begging for their attention, “Look at me Daddy” as he replies “I’m looking” while still texting. I think to myself “Poor kid”. Our kids look up to us, so you can look forward to them constantly trying to win your approval. They may ask you a thousand times to look at them as they prepare to do the most ordinary cartwheel in the world, but it’s not about the cartwheel, it’s about your attention. They want you to pay attention to them and spend quality time with them.
If a child can know the difference between spending quality time and just being around each other, you should too. You’ve been a child before, and you know firsthand what it was like to feel neglected, we all have. You’ve lived longer, so you should have more resources to provide a variety of ways to engage as a family. You don’t have to wait on the mother of the child to brainstorm ideas, sometimes it’s good to simply connect one on one with your child. This gives you the opportunity to show your creativity and value as a father.
It’s easy to join a gym and stick your kid in child watch for 2-3 hours, but don’t forget to make time to spend together. Sending them off to summer camp is great; it builds character and helps them become more sociable, but also figure out ways to create summer adventures together. There’s nothing to sending your child to spend the weekend over a friends house, but try hosting a sleepover of your own for your kid. The idea is to figure out ways to actually engage with your child as opposed to simply keeping them busy. Every child wants to have a hands on parents who is present and also active in their activities.
After a certain age, your child simply will stop asking you to be a part of their lives and inwardly they’ll wish you would just be there. That’s what a father does, he is there for his child because it’s his child. He marks his calendar when his child tells him about a performance coming up at school. He cheers him/her on as they do their best on and off the court, field or stage. He encourages his child to partake in extracurricular activities and practices with him/her at home.
It doesn’t take much to receive credit for being a father, but you have to play a significant role in a child’s life to be considered a dad. Your child may not remember every toy you bought them, but they will remember all the time you spent with them. They will carry these family values with them when they have their first child, and hopefully it will trickle down to their grandchildren. By spending quality time with your child, you build their character; boost their esteem and their confidence. Spend quality time with your child; they need you now more than ever.
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