Well, after all of these years, and after all of the conversations I’ve had with myself in which I tried to justify the things that I have seen & the stories that I have read, it finally happened. Honestly, I figured it was only a matter of time, but I never thought it would hit me as strongly as it did. See, everything changed for me a couple of nights ago when I was holding Naomi and having our nightly conversation about how she needs to learn to say “Daddy” as her first word.
For whatever reason, she finds this conversation highly entertaining. It always begins with her watching me slowly sound out the two syllables that I know are going have me doing a full lap around the outside of the house whenever they exit her lips for the first time. After listening to me for a few seconds, she’s at a place now where you can actually see her trying to say something back. She stretches her neck forward, purses her lips, opens her mouth and releases some crazy baby-babble that never sounds anything like what I just pronounced. Then she just starts laughing like this is some kind of game to her, smh. Now, this foolishness can literally go on for up to 30 minutes at a time as her Daddy is pretty persistent when he gets an idea in his head…but, unfortunately for me, she takes after her father and is just a persistent in her enjoyment of tricking me to believe she’s going to give me what I’m begging for! Lol.
Anyway, it was during one of these conversations that she took a breath and released some extended stream of utter nonsense that left her completely breathless & left me in tears from laughing so hard. To make it even funnier, apparently, the look on my face while I was laughing was just as hilarious to her and she started laughing as well.
It was in that very moment that it happened. Maybe it was the way her smile touched every part of her face, or how her laugh momentarily shook her entire body, or possibly it was just the simple fact that we both found each other completely hilarious at the exact same time. But, in that moment I saw a very real piece of myself being reflected back at me… through her. And in my mind I heard the Bible verse in Genesis in which God says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.”
With this experience, I completely went to another level in my respect for who God is as a heavenly Father, and along with that, gained an entirely new understanding on why He cannot stop Himself from chasing after our hearts the way that He does.
However, it was also at that exact same time that I lost all respect for any man who can look into a face that he helped create and not be willing to dedicate his entire life to being an active participant in that child’s existence. I will repeat that in a slightly different way: If you are a father, and you are not doing everything within your power to make sure that your child has everything he/she needs to be successful in life (which includes you), all of my respect for you as a person…poof…gone.
Now, I want to put a disclaimer here as there are some bogus women in the world who think that keeping a child from his/her father is the best way to get back at him for whatever happened between the two of them. If this is you, then you can kick rocks, too, because you are just as guilty. And if you are the father who is wrongfully being kept from your child, then I pray that God intervenes and provides a space for the reconciliation that would be needed for you to begin seeing your child. I say this because every child needs both of their parents…even if those two parents feel they don’t need each other.
“Every child needs both of their parents…
even if those two parents feel they don’t need each other.”
I look around and see so many incredible women raising children on their own, and I want you to know that you have my utmost respect. You are to be commended and celebrated for the things that you sacrifice daily, and for the difficulty you face that most people will never fully understand. I say this because I was in a conversation with my sister, Tookie, and she began educating me on just how difficult things are when there is only one parent in the house.
She talked about things like having to leave my nephew RJ in his car-seat on the floor in the bathroom while she took showers, and about how there was no such things as just running into a store when she just needed a couple of items. She expressed the frustration she faced of having to work a 3rd shift full-time job while also trying to be the mother that he needed during the day. She explained how difficult it was for her knowing that she had to find somewhere for him to stay each night that she had to go to work. About how there is no real down time as there is always another need, another bill, another appointment, another task to get done. She even talked about how that stress can build and begin affecting a mother’s patience, and impair her ability to maintain relationships with friends & family as she constantly tries to balance her responsibilities as a parent against her own personal need for space & time to just be.
Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love my sister…and while listening, my heart broke for her. I realized just how blessed Sonia & I are to have each other, and just how blessed Naomi is to have both of us helping each other take care of her. Now, I can’t sit here and act as if I’m the perfect husband, because I know that I’m not, and I’m sure Sonia could give you a list of things that she would love to see me do more of…but, in spite of any short-comings I may have, I can honestly say that I’m right here in the fight with her.
When she needs to take a shower, she can, because I’m here. When she needs to run to the store for a couple of items, she can, because I’m here. When she wants to stay in the bed for an extra hour, or catch a quick nap because she is simply tired, she can, because I’m here. When something needs to be fixed in the house, I take care of it, because I’m here. When her car needs gas, or when something on it breaks down, I take care of it, because I’m here. When the grass needs mowing, I take care of it, because I’m here. When groceries need to be brought in the house, I take care of it, because I’m here. When dog poop needs to be picked up in the yard, I take care of it, because I’m here.
So, when Sonia or Naomi need someone to laugh, or vent with, I can be that person, because I’m here. When stress builds and either of them need a shoulder to cry on, I can be that person, because I’m here. And when either one of them need someone to eliminate drama, set clear boundaries around them, & bring instant consequences to anyone who crosses those lines, I have been & will continue to be that person, because as long as I’m breathing I will be here.
This is my promise, as I have decided that this is the kind of father I will be. My daughter will know my voice. She will recognize my laugh from across the room. I will be the first person who takes her out on a date and the first man to express to her how beautiful she is & tell her that I love her. I will do everything in my power to make her feel special & understand the anointing that she has on her life. I will encourage her to chase her dreams, and will move heaven and earth to eliminate any obstacles that would stand in her way. I will be her #1 cheerleader and her fiercest defender at the same time.
And when the day comes that I take my last breath, I will not leave her with the responsibility of taking on a new debt for my burial, but instead will leave her with an inheritance that will allow her to continue living even better than before. As even in my death, I will provide one last gift that will remind her, “Daddy was thinking about you.”
I pray that this blog touches you, and if you’re already a great parent, then I want to encourage you to continue being that. But, if you are a father (or mother) who knows that you haven’t been leaving it all on the field, then I am pleading that you make a change today. The reality is that every kid wants to have a relationship with their dad, and it is never too late to decide what kind of father you want to be for your child. So, look into that reflection of yourself in his/her eyes and promise to be an incredible one starting right now.