When I was growing up, I’ve always had a love for babies, especially the ones with big, chubby cheeks. They were so full of love, joy and happiness and it seemed like nothing could take that away from them. I enjoyed taking the time to understand certain behavior patterns for example when they needed a change, when they were hungry, or simply when they wanted to play. They were harmless and wanted nothing more than to be loved, kind of like me. At the time, I knew that I loved sharing a moment or two with the adorable babies in my family, but I by no means was ready to be a father.
When I was 12, my niece Atiyana was born and I enjoyed watching her grow. 6 years later my nephew Milton was born and he looked a bit like me. I was 17 and had just moved in with my eldest brother Milton and his family, so I got to spend a lot of time with my baby nephew. I would dress him up, take him places and tell people that he was my son. When I would leave the house to go to school, “Little Milton” would cry his eyes out and then go to the window so that I could see and hear him crying from outside.
I knew that one day I would make a good dad, but I by no means was ready to take that step. I was young, still wet behind the ears and quite frankly was a baby myself. And besides, my focus was on basketball. Ok let’s be honest, my focus was also on women too, but basketball was my main focus. I had to stay focused on my goals because I wanted to play college ball and I didn’t want to pay for it.
After winning the state championship two years in a row (2001-2002) at Saint Anthony high school, I graduated and went back to Texas to be amongst my immediate family members and friends. I attended Texas Wesleyan University, continued to play basketball and met lots of wonderful new people. I was the new kid from New York on campus and I loved the attention. I also met two of my best friends while at college and they were just as popular. We partied, drank, fraternized and needless to say, I was by no means ready to be a father.
For the first time in my life, I was away from my parents, away from my siblings and away from anyone who was emotionally connected to me. I felt so FREE and I didn’t want to give up that freedom anytime soon. New curfew, no limits, no rules! I had my little dorm room, my unlimited meal bucks, and was surrounded by women who were also on a “freedom high” and wanted to enjoy it just like me. The on campus college life was like heaven!
During the holidays, I would go back to New York to visit family and friends, and one year my cousin hosted a Christmas party and invited his friends to join. I arrived, single and ready to mingle, rang the doorbell and when the door opened, there she stood. All I could hear in my head was Biggie Smalls saying “I see some ladies tonight who should be havin’ my baby… Baby!”. I was 21, and she was 26, and I’ve always been into older women because they seemed to be more mature and more established than the women my age. Furthermore, a more seasoned woman would have higher expectations of me and that gave me more motivation to work harder to maintain the relationship with them. Even with that said, and at age 21, I was by no means ready to be in a relationship, let alone a father.
Finally, I was old enough to drink “responsibly” or at least legally, I could get into clubs without a fake I.D. and older women would respect me as an and official adult (so I thought). I felt like I had finally become a man and would enjoy it for a little bit. I was in a relationship during the latter part of my freshmen year of college, but this would be my longest relationship ever. We did the long distance thing, she would come visit me in Texas and I would come visit her in NJ. The distance, plus the time we spent apart made the relationship that much more intriguing.
One day as I’m hanging out with my two best friends, I get a yahoo instant message asking me to accept a file. It was a picture from my then girlfriend showing me a positive pregnancy test. I didn’t know how to feel or how to react at that moment; I was a junior in college, never married, no kids, no felonies, and making a name for myself with my photography business. I responded cheerfully to let her know that I’m happy about the results, but on the inside I was nervous about the results. On moment, I thought to myself, “Alright!!! I’m about to be a father” then the next I thought “WOAH!!! I’m about to be a father?”
My whole life up until now was all about me, Me, ME! Maybe this was exactly what I needed to get me out of selfish mode and start living for a greater purpose. I didn’t have a house, a car, or steady cash flow to raise this child with, but what I came to realize was, being a father isn’t about “presents” it’s about presence. No matter how much you shower your child with money and gifts, what your child will value the most is that you’re there. Your child wants you to be there when you’re rich and when you’re poor, when you’re up and when you’re down. They only care about the opportunity to have a relationship with you.
A positive, long-lasting relationship with anyone will require some discomfort, it will require an investment and it will require great sacrifice. I was in my final year at Texas Wesleyan University and I had just gotten back from summer vacation with my then pregnant girlfriend. I had registered for all of my classes, gotten comfortable in my apartment and then I get “the call”. It was 10 o’clock at night, I had just gotten in from an event and she said, “I can’t wait any longer, this baby is coming. You have to come back now!”.
At that moment, I thought I was going to become another statistic, another black college dropout making babies. I refused to accept that and told her “I’m on the next flight back home”. I had to withdraw from school, and enroll in a local NJ college for a semester, but it was all worth it because I got to spend the first 5 months of my son’s life with him instead of away from him. The next semester I transferred back to Texas Wesleyan University where I graduated along side of my two best friends and my son and his mother were both there to witness it.
There’s already enough pressure being young, black and finishing college, and one of my fears was letting everyone down. When I graduated high school, I had to accept the fact that I had to move on and do something different. I may not have all the necessary funds, knowledge or skills to make it through college, but I could certainly acquire these things as I went along. I looked at fatherhood the same way; I could learn how to excel at my new life simply by taking one step at a time and progressing. Failure simply means that you’ve given up on succeeding, so the only way to not be a good father is if you stop trying.
In life, not everything will go according to planned; sometimes you have to make adjustments based on your circumstances. We are made for this, built to rise to any occasion and not simply survive in it, but also overcome it. When that baby comes, you will be a father whether you accept that title or not, and your child well forever look to you to be their dad. Having a child just might be the push you need to be responsible, to work harder, to love more and care about others. Instead of shying away from this great responsibility, embrace it and watch how much value it adds to your life.
It will give you a greater sense of purpose knowing that you’re not stretching your mind trying to think of your next big idea simply for your own benefit, you’re doing it to create a better life for your family. You’ll take pride in eating healthier and taking better care of your body now because you want to live long enough to watch your child grow up and have kids of their own. Your maturity level will shine through when you’d much rather have movie night at home with the family on Saturday then party until Sunday with your boys. And wait until your child learns to walk, talk and further express their feelings, you’ll be just as in love with them as they are with you. Caring for others and being responsible builds character and will do wonders for your life as a man.
Preparing for fatherhood is about being emotionally available enough to give love and receive it. No child asks to be born into this world, they were all brought here, and it’s your responsibility to raise the children you make. Children need emotional support as well as financial support so be prepared emotionally and financially to provide. Furthermore, your duties as a parent don’t discontinue after a break-up; your duties as a father carry on for life. Even if you and the child’s mother aren’t together anymore, you should always be together in spirit for the sake of the child.
Your health is important and will have a huge impact on the level by which you are able to interact with your child. Your child will be young and full of life and will want you to engage and interact with them physically and emotionally. They will want to ride on your shoulders, have you spin them around, race them for miles, and the play fighting never gets old. Being in great physical shape will not only do wonders for your life, but it will also add tremendous value to the lives of your children.
Use discernment when choosing someone to have a child with because having a child is a life-long commitment. Make your best effort to have children with someone you love and can tolerate. The happier you are about your choice, the better you will treat yourself, the mother and the child. Peace of mind is the most important thing to have, especially in the home; it sets the tone by which you interact with others outside of the home. Be the best man you can be and you’ll attract the best woman, have the best relationship, and raise the best child. Be prepared!
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