“When I was a child I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:11
No matter what age we are, I believe there is an inner boy or girl living on the inside of us. Reminding us to not take things, including ourselves so seriously at times. Also reminding us to laugh, play and even cry when those emotions are what we feel at any given moment. Children are experts at simply being who they are, they typically aren’t pretentious, arrogant or prideful. They play hard, laugh hard and when they are sad, they usually cry unapologetically.
As a dad of four children (including one inherited by marriage) , I have been blessed to experience the joys and pains of raising kids. My children have lived life like any other happy kid does, fun-loving, loud, quick tempered at times, typically selfish, yet with hearts of gold.
So what happens when that inner child controls the outer adult, the way one thinks, resolves conflict and works out complicated life issues? The answer – things usually do not end well and additional problems may be incurred that one may find difficult to comprehend. No matter hard he/she searches, the answers seem to allude the inner child seeker, like having a preference for cotton candy versus broccoli.
As I reflect on my life and consider my own inner child and the moments I’ve allowed him to dominate how I resolved conflict or interacted with complicated adult affairs, I recall a man who made decisions based on fear and anger primarily. Rarely did I take adequate time to really consider another perspective. It was all about my feelings and no one could change how I felt. It was the adult version of stomping and kicking when I failed to get my way. Who does that? The boy or girl (inside) who still has yet to become a mature adult, that’s who.
So how does one begin to authentically grow up and not only take responsibility for their actions, but own their yesterday’s, tomorrow’s and the rest of their lives? For me it was a combination of a few things, but one thing in particular. And it was not simply going to a good counselor, praying to God for direction or reading good books, although I believe each one of those are essential for growth and authentic change.
My transformation began to take place when the stubborn, self-righteous and occasionally insensitive man I was (and still working on) began to die. No one in particular told me he needed to die, however my current circumstances at the time spoke volumes to need of his demise. It’s kind of like a moment when you look back on life and finally see, with your heart and your mind, the causalities of your actions lying all about you.
It’s not a moment where I said, “I need to start doing better.” It’s a moment where I realized that I needed to start over. Like reset my life on how I thought, responded and interacted with myself and those around me. My life as it was, was being dominated by the inner child who was still seeking approval, fought hard to be understood and looked forward to being coddled by others. Looks and sounds pretty much like a kid to me.
So one day I woke up not too many years ago, and began my journey of transformation. Again, not a mission to just do better with the tools I had, but to become a new person and utilize tools that I would most likely be unfamiliar with (like self-soothing) yet finally open to. As I set out on this journey of change, with pure intent, God placed some tremendous people along my path who not only introduced some of these new tools and skills, but displayed them in such a beautifully humanistic way that it became life changing to understand, and incredibly humbling to witness in action.
In no way am I perfect today, nor do I always get things right. That inner child will always live inside of me, however he will no longer control how I engage as a grown man, but he will help me to keep things simple, laugh out loud and not take myself so seriously at times. For him I am grateful.
“Your mind will always believe everything you tell it. Feed it faith. Feed it truth. Feed it with love.” – Unknown
Today is Father’s Day and if you manage to find yourself celebrating this American tradition, you along with millions of others will take the time to honor the men in your lives that are called fathers. Whether biological, distant relatives, or simply great role models. Honestly, I try not to get too caught up with these type of man-made holidays, especially for my children, because as a kid it added so much unnecessary pressure on me to spend time on a purchase, versus spending the time honoring the one(s) that impacted my life in a meaningful way. So I choose to celebrate the day reflecting on those that made a difference in my life and pay less attention on what I can do for them.
Regardless of my personal stance with the “day”, I cannot help but to take a moment and reflect on what it means to me to be a father. With the insurmountable statistics that negate the positive influences that black fathers like me have in the world, today it is important to acknowledge those that still struggle, yet are trying to do the right thing.
I read something today that sparked a thought, and that was the many invisible accusers we have as men and fathers. Many of us have not done the right thing along our journey as men, (and some never will) but some of us bloom later in life and finally figure it out, and want to do what is right. And even though we are not always sure what “doing right” looks like, our hearts are pure and ripe for wholesome interactions with those we call family, especially for our children. One thing we must consider, is good intentions do not necessarily equate to a good outcome, so patience, good counsel and consistency is important during this time.
What we also need to recognize are the many voices in our heads that speak doubt, fear and promote insecurity. These are such big deals for us, even if we choose to not admit it. Our worst enemy lives inside our heads and reminds us of our past failures, poor decisions and inability to simply get it right, however for those of us that choose to not live in the past, we are seeking new revelations, new beginnings and pressing towards a new future that is not defined by who we were, once upon a time.
Contrary to popular belief, old things do and can pass away, but unfortunately many (included you and me) will not ever see the manifestations of what it looks like to live a different life if we fail to own this for ourselves. I mean like really different! Where authenticity has become a part of your new DNA and you will swear to your own hurt even if it means doing what is honorable and right.
The invisible accuser will always attempt to live in our heads. Accept that as a way of life. We have gave him much ammunition to tempt us, deceive us and get us off track, but once we connect with who we truly are we become a threat to those voices. It is in that place where are intentions need to align with are actions.
This in not the time to faint, but stand strong on the convictions of your spirit and soul. Walk in humility (strength in control) and live a life of integrity. This will pay dividends towards your future and current relationships.
I will never be perfect, but I am here. Living a life that will ultimately encourage a positive legacy despite my past, and what others have to say about who I was. My proof is in the current relationships I foster daily, for they speak volumes to who I am (versus who I use to be) like nothing ever will.
Everyday (thanks to my newness in Christ and choice to grow) I am getting better everyday and I defy the invisible accuser. I am more than my past as you are. Happy Father’s Day!
“We don’t remember days, we remember moments” – Cesare Pavese
So here I am sitting on my bed in New Orleans, Louisiana better known as Nawlings to the locals, writing my weekly post. It has been a long day or at least an early one of travel. We (Niala and I) were out the door at 4:50am this morning heading to the airport for a 6:30am flight out of Oakland, CA., with Xavier University in our focus. We have about one week to make a decision about college and I think this is the one, but of course Niala must be in agreement. So once we arrived around 2:30pm CDT, we checked in and immediately hit the streets to eat and check out the scene. This is my second trip here, but this one will be a different kind of special I’m almost certain.
As our children get older the moments we have together become less frequent and more special, so I intend to make the most of this day and a half with my young adult. Our first meal, we enjoyed some fresh oysters, gumbo, red beans and rice, just for starters. We’ll finish it off with Beignets at the famous Cafe Dumond later this evening, but right after our meal we took a stroll down Bourbon Street and saw, well if you know Bourbon Street you know what we saw. It was a bit of everything in all shades and colors. A fun time for sure. 🙂
Tomorrow we our scheduled to tour the college campus at 10:00am and see what it has to offer and of course to see how it fits with Nia’s personality and collegiate goals to become a pediatrician. I am very excited for her and being a part of this stage of her life. These are the types of moments that make any parent reflect on life and think of the many stages that our children go through. I’m proud and overjoyed that Nia has worked to afford herself the acceptance of several colleges. It is truly why we push our children so diligently to remain focused, keep the educational process in the forefront of their minds and to tirelessly work hard towards attaining their goals.
This is an amazing stage to be a part of. I cannot fathom not being a part of her life or any of the stages of my children’s lives for that matter. I see it as an honor, privilege and duty as a father. Those that miss out truly miss a moment in history that can never be recaptured, recreated or experienced again. Once it ‘s gone, it is gone forever. Therefore enjoy every stage and every moment as a blessing. The lives of our children unfolding is like watching a plant grow and eventually bloom. If we are not there to see it for ourselves, we miss something special, we miss something life altering, we miss the flower blooming at the greatest of moments.
As I sit here on the bed writing, I’m watching Nia work on homework for school. This is what she does and this is why she is where she is. If I sound like a proud father, you are correct. I am that guy and will say it loud!
Please do not miss your moments, for each one will carve out a type of tapestry in your history and theirs and when they complete the mission, you will be remembered for simply being there during the stage.
“Success isn’t just what you accomplish in your life, it’s about what you inspire others to do.” – Unknown
Having children will always be one of my most exciting, fulfilling and monumental moments that I will ever experience. It still feels like yesterday that I was having my firstborn (Niala). Well, okay her mother was having her and I was on the sidelines cheering her on, or at least trying to be a good coach. I can recall the very moment she poked her head into the world. I saw all the hair on her head first and there she was alive, healthy, kicking and screaming. It seems the screaming part lasted longer than I imagined, but I digress.
For some reason after she was born I had to make a quick dash to our vehicle to get something, not sure what it was anymore, but upon my return her mom (my wife at the time) was rushed into emergency surgery. Our newborn had caused her to tear during the birthing process and she was bleeding internally. It was a scary time for us both and it took many years for her to fully recover from the blood loss, which caused congestive heart failure. So point being, Niala almost killed her mother during birth, literally. I promise there is a point to this story 🙂
When Niala was just four months inside her mother still, I had a dream about what gender she was. I was convinced that she was a girl because I believed that God had given me her name during a dream. It was as clear as day, but I was concerned her mother would not like the name, so I kept it to myself for a while. Then I begin to look at names and their meanings in a book. When I found her name I realized it indeed was a real name and actually had a profound meaning. It was kind of two-fold, because her full name means “destined for success”, and her short name (Nia), means “strong warrior”. It was confirmed after that, and she has certainly lived up to both names and then some. From day one she came out fighting, (hence the mom story at birth) and has never let up. And interestingly enough her mom always believed that Niala was a boy, even up into birth.
The first-born is always special and because I actually wanted a girl first, it made the entire experience of being a parent that more special. The first child inherently gets the best of your time as you are learning to adapt to the new lifestyle changes, which include learning when she wanted to eat, what cry means what, and the new appreciation for what a fifteen minute nap can do. I don’t think I have ever slept the same since I had children. You gotta love them. Anyway, back to my story…
As I have watched Nia grow and mature as our eldest and the older sibling of the group, something begin to take shape early on. I wondered what type of legacy she would leave on the earth and how I would impact that. Science says that children learn the most between birth and six years old. I was blessed that her mom was able to stay home for a significant part of her early years and instill values and skills that are important for healthy development and life preparation.
As Nia grew it became evident that she was very intelligent, friendly and a kind-hearted person. At her core she has not changed, at now eighteen years old. She tends to be the glue between her now childhood friends. It has been amazing to watch it all unfold.
As a parent there are so many things that I wish could have been different for her, but I realize there is a plan for her life and I am happy and content on who she is now as a young adult. We have both given her a foundation to pivot the rest of her life off of and we both expect to see great things in her future. As she approaches the last few months of high school with an average 3.90 GPA and several collegiate options, I am obviously a proud father, but it is more than the grades that I am proud of. It is her tenacious spirit to keep focused in the midst of her parents’ separation and ultimate divorce. It is the going between two homes and maintaining a positive attitude during the process. I know what it feels like, because I was there myself as a child, but I am proud that her mom and I have committed our lives to being the best divorced co-parents that ever existed. It certainly has made a tremendous difference in all of their lives.
One day more than eighteen years ago, my first child was born. Who knew what she would become? Who knew what she would face in life? Who knows the ultimate plan for her life? I can only trust God that it all has occurred for a reason greater than I can understand, and as time progresses He will use every story and experience for her good. But today in this season of my fatherhood, I realize that my roles must change as she embarks on now what will become the rest of her life, the beginning of her career and the legacy that she will ultimately pass down to her own children one day.
What legacy do you have in the making? Are you nurturing and cultivating it like a delicate flower? Are you taking care of it like it needs you, even when it begins to talk back? One thing I told Nia when she first transitioned into womanhood, was that as her father I will be the only man in her life that would be willing to give her the world, and expect nothing in return. That’s just a fact of life, so in other words the message was for her to know that I will always have her best interest in mind when I make decisions regarding her, even when she did not fully understand or necessarily agree with them.
It is often said that we typically give our flowers to our loved ones once they have passed away. Well as my eldest child begins to take larger steps into her future, I want her and the world to know how proud I am of her accomplishments, hard work and dedication towards her education, her commitment to excellence and most importantly for being a sweet human being that I am proud to call my daughter. Keep living up to your namesake. I love you always.
- “Every father should remember that one day his children will follow his example instead of his advice!” – Unknown
So I have been a parent for approximately eighteen years, with the last eight years as a singe father, until I recently married last month. The role of being a parent (mother or father) is certainly not an easy one, and becoming a single-father definitely added a new set of challenges for me as well as for my children, but I am thankful for my journey and I continue to learn and appreciate the experiences I have had and will have.
As any parent knows, there is no handbook on how to become a good parent, (although there are many tools that exists now that did not years ago) and the role becomes even more difficult when you find yourself fulfilling the role alone, even if it is only 50% of the time. While most children from divorced families still end up living with their mothers the majority of the time, there are those situations where the fathers will have more time, equal time or close to it with their children, as I did.
So I would like to take a moment to share what I have learned, what I would repeat or what I would never do again or advise for other single-fathers. Like anything that requires hard work, there is no magic formula or list of ten ways to make your life better as a single-parent, but there is help and I would like to pay it forward, because I have certainly received some great support while on my journey as a dad.
My list is not necessarily in order of importance, but honestly the ones that came to my mind first. Perhaps that does mean some are more significant than others, but each have their place of priority, which will differ for each family.
- Divorcing, separating or splitting from your kid’s mother does not mean that you divorced your child – In other words don’t abandon your children because you have unresolved issues with their mother. I understand that some women can make this an almost impossible scenario, but do all that you can to keep the relationship with your child in tact. Remember the children are the real victims of divorce. They did not ask for you two to divorce nor get married in the first place, so if and when things don’t work out between you two, remind them that they matter by remaining involved in their lives on a regular basis.
- Seek for positive ways to work out any differences you have with your ex spouse and keep the children as the focal point, not your emotions – Although my ex and I could not save our marriage, we did make a conscious choice to keep our children first. This was/is a sacrifice, but it certainly provided a stable environment for our kids. It is all too easy to continue with the fighting after splitting up, but at what point do both parties become the adults in the situation and give their children a sense of stability? Too many times I have seen and heard fathers degrade their ex spouses in the presence of their children. Men, this is the worst thing you can do, and the quickest way for your child to begin to have feelings of resentment towards you! (It works both ways honestly) There will never be a “good enough” excuse that justifies this action, so steer away from it, even if the information is true. As your child matures, he or she will be able to see and form opinions on their own.
- If at all possible, remain geographically close to your children – I never wanted to be a weekend father, so from the beginning we knew we would have some form of joint custody. After our divorce, the kid’s mom and I have always lived in the same community, and although it was a part of our divorce decree to do so, I believe we both understood the importance of staying close regardless. Again, this is what it looks like to put your children first. Yes, I would prefer to live closer to my job. It would be much easier for my commute and improve my quality of life, but at the expense of sharing my life with my kids on the weekends only was not an option for me. It was important for me to see my kids during the week when real life was happening to them. I wanted to be there to pray with them at night when they went to bed, or help them solve problems that occurred at school in real-time, not wait to hear about it on the weekend.
- If and when you start to date, do not introduce them to every woman you become close to – This is a given for women, but it should apply to men as well. Some say 4-6 months, others say one year. Whatever you decide, the point is whomever they meet, you should plan for this person to be around awhile, and worthy enough for them to meet. Of course things happen, but again when we place our children first, this should work itself out to their benefit, not yours.
- If you make more money, expect to pay more and quit questioning what she does with it – I know this one may seem like the most unfair part of getting divorced when children are involved, but it is what it is, and the sooner we men can accept it, the better off things will become for us. The idea of family support or child support is to make the one that makes less to become more whole. The kid’s way of life should not be financially great with one parent and dismal with the other. (Remember, this is not what it looks like to keep your children first) So as you write-out your monthly check, payable to your ex, quit wondering what she does with the money. Whether she is purchasing the latest Nike’s, paying the rent or making ends meet, overall it is still for the benefit of your children. Even if she is doing the wrong things with the money, our trying to control it or bring into question will only create more issues. Now if your kids our wearing holey shoes and she is dressed to the nine, than that is another matter altogether.
- Never take for granted how important you are as a father – We only have so much time to shape the lives of our children, and even less when divorced. It is actually shorter than we think and we only get once chance to do it, so make it count. I will never forget the tools my father gave me as a boy. To this day they are meaningful and have helped to position me in life for the better. What gifts do you have to dispense to your children? What stories and examples are waiting to be shared with them to help them become better human beings? No one can ever take the place of a good mother, but fathers are significant and when we choose to neglect are responsibilities society suffers greatly.
I will never forget the day I moved out of the house we lived in together. I will never forget the day I moved into an apartment and started my life over. It was a very sad day for everyone. I will never wish that pain on anyone, so if you can work out your marriage, do it. If not, keep your children first by being their father, a man they can count on, trust and take pride in calling you daddy.
“It’s easier to raise strong children than to fix broken men.” – Newark Mayor, Corey Booker
So I am a father of three. Two girls and a man-child in the middle. Almost eighteen, fifteen and about eleven are their respective ages. My oldest daughter will graduate this year and leave the nest for college next year. This will leave Kadin, my son as the oldest in the house once Niala is off to pursue her collegiate career. This structure was similar to my own childhood experience. I have three siblings, all girls. Tammy is the oldest, although at times I felt like the oldest, even if it was only in my head. I have always believed that the difference between raising a girl versus a boy was fairly black and white; complex versus simple. This has been my belief all my life, and although I do still believe this is true, Kadin has seemed to create an extra set of challenges for me as a father. Not in a bad sense necessarily just different. So as I ponder about what I have exemplified as a man to him, I get excited and sad at the same time. I think about all the good examples and conversations we have had, but then there is the not so good things. Like two divorces, brokenness, failure, unanswered questions and just a host of things that I can easily see as falling short of the mark of being a great father. Honestly, I know Kadin will do well in life, but I understand more and more as life moves forward that it’s not so black and white like I first suggested. So as my only son matures into manhood, I recently thought about what more could I pass down to him as a father. What other ways could I ensure his future will be solid, fulfilling and well-rounded?
Like a light it came to me just a few nights ago. As we spent our regular one on one time together, I struck up a conversation about being a good man and what it means and looks like to him. I asked him his opinion and thought about a way to capture this moment and memorialize it forever. So here is what we came up with.
Everyday for the next several months, Kadin will either text me (when he’s with his mom) or tell me personally one characteristic of a good man everyday. We will do this until I decide we don’t anymore. Once his list is essentially saturated, I will have him select the top ten (with a discussion and explanation). I will then frame the list and hang it in his room; both homes, so that he could always remember what is important to him regarding this topic.
Some of you may ask, “how is this subject matter relevant to this blog? If you did, I am glad that you asked.
One of the hardest things about divorce is the splitting of the children. None of it was their fault, although studies show that many kids place blame on themselves. I still remember that day back on June 27, 2008 when I left the home. I moved into a two bedroom apartment, and my main focus was to purchase a couch, a television and cable and so we could all try to have a positive memory of the night I left the home, that we knew as our normal family. It’s not that watching a movie was somehow going to cure the ails of our then broken hearts, but it brought us together in a way that was positive and memorable. It was a sad day and I can still recall the deep guilt I felt for the breakup of our family. That said, I remained committed to my children as their father and although the sacrifices were great, every one of them were worth the money or time it required during the time.
As I learned to cope and overcome from the many trials of being a single-father, my children were (and remain) my number one priority. Raising a son has simply brought new things for me to contemplate. Even though I established a mentor program years ago for single-mothers with sons, successfully mentored my own young men and read endless books on the plight and struggles of young black males specifically, it is still different when it comes to raising your own man-child.
I find myself asking questions like, “Am I giving him enough to be a strong and productive man one day, Is he confident enough, Can he discern danger or people who don’t have his best interest?” So many things that flow through my brain. And not that my daughters lives aren’t equally important, it’s just raising a man is simply different. Considering the disproportionate high school drop out rate, life expectancy, college acceptance and overwhelming violence that invades the lives of young black males, I have this pressing desire to keep him on task with a different set of tools.
Is this tool the cure-all? Obviously not, but it certainly will not hinder the many choices he will be faced with as he grows closer to becoming a man. One of the indirect benefits of doing this is the commitment required from him to submit a word to me everyday and simultaneously I have the opportunity to tap into what is important to my son. He needs to dig and search within himself to determine what is important to him. Since they come from within himself, it will be easier for him to own them and adhere to what they look like being lived out.
So as we came to the 6th evening, I know that beyond a shadow of a doubt what the essential attributes of good man are to my man-child. They are as follows:
Day 1 – Someone that believes in himself.
Day 2 – A follower of God.
Day 3 – Someone who strives for greatness.
Day 4 – A leader.
Day 5 – Someone courageous.
Day 6 – Someone responsible.
I am certainly blessed to have such a son that will take the time to engage in such an activity with me. We will both grow closer and become better men for it. I’ll keep you posted once the list is completed. If you have any ideas to share on things you have done with your children, please do so.