June 30, 2010

Don't Stop Your Fatherhood from Divorce

Continue being a father...

Sorry this blog is longer than usual, but
this is an important message to men
experiencing divorce and have children.

Men are taught not to cry, nor be soft and show
emotions. Keeping emotional status to a minimum,
to stay in control. What I share is a contradiction
of emotional and mental states, a contribution to
being a father to encourage divorced fathers.
Men that are fathers, grandfathers and stepfathers
are important to children and need to stay involved.

My son is 18 years old and a recent high school graduate,
who was born on January 7, 1992 is in college. You may
wonder why is this important:

The important part that as a father being divorced from
my children's mother since 1999, divorce did not keep me
from being involved in my children's life. I did not use
excuses about child support payments nor excuses that
they lived about an hour away and I had to go get
them every other weekend, split my summer vacation
with their mother.

Excuses are easy, but sacrifice is a challenge to the
commitment to a cause importantly being involved
with children. Enduring to do the right thing is not
always easy.

My reflections as a father, I watched my son at
orientation at FAMU allowed me the enlightenment of
why I nurtured, taught, prayed, and yes I fussed
and cussed at times to get my children to do what
they needed to do. I had to be proactive to know what
my children were doing at school even though I was
no longer in the home.

I suffered baby mama drama in the form of no
communication, not being offered school pictures, not
being invited to PTO/PTA meetings. Not being told
of school plays and events that the children were in.
I had to find out for myself, which I did and did attend
as much as I could. As a father I encouraged my children
to be productive and successful in school, working hard
to do for my children so I would never hear that I was a
deadbeat father, give ammunition to my children's mom
and her family to talk about me in any derogatory way,
they still did, but I taught my children to judge me by
my actions not their words. Even though I have and still
deal with baby mama drama it is worth it because my
son is in college, a high school graduate.

The divorce process is neither easy nor nice, some of
the most primal emotions rise to the surface, but men
should understand that it is not about who bests who,
who is the better parent. It is about what is best for
the children, if children are involved.
At times the process is unfair and it feels like a war,
but many divorcing parents do not always look at the
future and the preparation of their children for higher
education. I do not have all the answers, but do
encourage parents to make preparations for your children
to attend college or vocational school while they are young.
Trying to put aside your pain, accusations, anger and
demeaning behaviour to communicate with each
other that your child's academic success is important
will be almost impossible. The turbulence of the divorce
process can be demeaning as accusations whether valid
or invalid are discussed.
The best way to ensure collage attendance is to start
a college fund and deem a certain amount of money
going into the account by both parents. It does not have
to be the same amount from each, since the majority
of the time the man will be paying child support.
The mother must agree that a portion of the support
goes into a college fund. Not using this to get more
money, but to make sure that the children are provided for.
This I had to struggle through and know very well it is hard.
Many divorcing mothers want control over everything, but
communication and negotiation is the key.

Negotiating this while the children are young and starting
a fund is a necessity now because tuition prices are
continuously rising. The most affected are divorced
parents when they see their children want to go to
high education, but realize they do not have the money
and kick themselves in realizing they should have done
this when the child was young.
The accountability and responsibility aspect goes to both
parents to stay connected with their children's academic
strength and weaknesses. Fathers need to be visible in
the schools, to follow their child's academic growth.
Not leaving it up to the mother and blaming her for any
failures, nor should an uninvolved father try to take credit
for any successes of the child. The father is held
accountable because that is their child also. If a father
is not involved in elementary, middle and high school,
don't expect a graduation invitation when the time
comes around. I have witnessed this to many times
as a teacher. This makes the father look even lower
and will face more rejection from the child and family.

Helping to continue to raise children does have its
financial challenges. I have and continue to struggle
through financial hardship paying child support. I have
at times worked 4 jobs just to make ends meet. Working
to provide extra for when I have my children with me for
visitation. Learning that my children will love me regardless
of the money because they know that I love them and want
to spend quality time with them. Fathers understand it
is not the amount of money that you spend, but the
amount of time that you put in you and your
child's relationship. No one wins when parents are
competing with each other for a child's love. Focus on
the importance of being a good, responsible and involved
parent. I saw the fruits of my labour when my son enrolled
in college and I helped him accomplish this goal. My labour
was in traveling every other weekend as many divorced
dads do to pick up their children. Taking days off
from work to go and visit my son and daughter in
school. Talking to their teachers and eating lunch with
the class. Sending cards, letters, emails and texts,
showing my children that I love them instead of giving
lip service and not backing up my words with actions.
These are the things true fathers/real men do for their
children. Being present and connected, I did miss many
events, but my children understood that I was doing my
best and I kept the lines of communication open.

It did not matter the unkind words that were spoken
by my children's mother and grandmother about me to
them. That helped motivate me to be a better father.
Men can be and are driven away by women because the
woman is angry, hurt and wants to get back at the man.
These actions in the long run hurt the children's development
when the mother denies visitation even when support is
being paid. The mother will talk badly about the father
and make unwarranted accusations to the male child that
they will be like their father. Even if untrue statements
are made mothers can destroy their young son's
mental security and confidence. Encouraging destructive
behaviour, enticing it, nurturing behaviour that is antisocial.
The resulting behaviour from the child accumulates into
academic and social challenges that did not have to happen,
but was encouraged and taught to the male child
because the mother was still angry even after years of
being divorced. As the saying goes heard that and see the
results in my teaching of young males, both black and white.
Dads may deserver a cussing because of mistakes and choices,
but the children should not have to hear about it from their

I have seen my children's emotional state change because
of harmful words from their mother and grandmother, but
I persevere through. Words and actions have hurt my daughters
and I relationship because of what has been said and continue
to be uttered, but I continue to pray and still communicate to
my daughter.
One day I hope to re-establish a loving and caring relationship
with my daughter so I must continue to let her
know that I do love her and it is not always about money.

I saw the fruits of my labour when my son hugged me during
college orientation. I hugged him back not wanting to let him
go because of the years of his childhood rushing back through
my mind. I kissed him twice on his head trying not to be soft,
not wanting to embarrass him in at his new home away from
home. I said something similar to I Love You and proud of you,
he replied I love you to.. As a father, of course I gave some
last tidbits of words of wisdom; be careful, be safe, and he
replied OK dad...

As I turned to leave I had to fight the feelings to look
back because I know I would cry, but that did not work.
As I walked back to my truck the tears started streaming.
Fathers do need to cry; it does not demean you or make
you weak. It just proves that you are a human being, a caring
person, a parent that loves their child. I realized my
son, whom I carried in my arms when born, read to, taught
computers to, shared French fries with, mowed the lawn with,
taught how to drive. The little boy who was my traveling
partner to the store or conferences out of town. Who went
with me to work and helped me in my classroom. Whose
hand I held when walking in the store, who I carried on
my shoulders. I remember talking about sex, drugs, and
life in general and the looks I got from him.
The young man that I watched graduate from elementary
school, middle school, high school and now attending
college. We shared ups and downs, and I did not want to
give up. I did not want to be another statistic of a deadbeat
father so I persevered.

I say thank you God for allowing me the opportunity to
be a father. I'am not perfect, at times I messed up and had to
ask forgiveness.. I had the chance to shape and mold
a young man to be a benefit to society not a menace or
statistic in the juvenile justice system. I know my son is not
perfect, he has his flaws; I rest in the knowledge that
I taught him things that my dad did not teach me.
Put God first in everything, the value and importance of
education, being respectful, and honest. Do not let people
take you for granted, do not allow people to use you nor
abuse you. To have values, morals that you can be and
will be successful. To be of service to you community and help
others when you can.

As I leave the campus of FAMU I place my son in God's hands
and say a prayer.... To God Be The Glory.... I will be there
at his college graduation. God willing and the creek don't rise.

Fathers press forward to be the best father that you can.
To meet challenges head on and overcome them. Do not
give in to quitting or giving up, because the life you give
up on will be your children. Don't allow others
to put you down or talk negatively to your children
about you. Don't give people this ammunition, if you wronged
their mother in any way apologize for your mistakes and do
better. I did. It was not easy, but when I did it my spirit
was at peace. Your children will not be children forever.
They will grow up and they will remember how involved
you were, how you over came and persevered.
Your children will remember who was
there to help them. We as men no matter what color
or culture must understand if we can make a baby we
have to continue to be responsible to and for that baby.
Making no excuses......

Edited by Cheryl Williams
Graduate of Andrew Jackson High School 1979
Mother of Mario (graduate of SCSU '04)
Darryl (FAMU senior '10)
Nicholas (FSCJ)
Single mother with a purpose and a plan.

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