Fatherhood by Jared

 

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For Father’s day, I interviewed a dad who brings a modern view on father’s role, who opens up about his relationship with his dads and who is not afraid to say that a dad’s role in a child’s life should be no different than mom’s, to raise children who can be the most solid to thrive for future generations. Hope you enjoy this one, I certainly got chills!

1) Tell me a little bit about yourself, your story?

I was born right here in Fort Myers, Florida. I am the oldest of three children at 26 years old. My brother is 23 years old, and my sister is 21 years old. My mom and dad divorced when I was 7 years old, then my dad moved back to his homeland (The Cayman Islands in the Caribbean Sea) one year later. From that time, I was raised by my stepfather, who my mom married when I was 8 years old. My childhood was a pretty typical suburban 90’s kid experience. My family’s economic situation changed from lower middle class to upper middle class when my mom remarried, because her new husband was a doctor. Anyway, I went to high school in Fort Myers at Evangelical Christian School, then I went away to Florida State University and earned a degree in Creative Writing. Before I left Tallahassee, I met Giselle, who I will finally be marrying next month! We’re so excited!!! Now, I am going back to school at FGCU for my Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy.

2) Tell me about your journey to becoming a father?

I became a proud father in January of 2016. It was the best thing that ever happened to me! However, it wasn’t exactly a fairytale story. Giselle’s pregnancy was unexpected, and we had only been a couple for a year. We were both very serious about our relationship and we loved each other, but we were on the brink of a major transition; I was about to move to Orlando and attend the graduate school of my dreams, and before we knew about the baby, Giselle had to decide whether to move her whole life to join me there. Deciding to continue the pregnancy was the bravest thing either of us has ever done, but surprisingly, it wasn’t a difficult decision. So there we were, excited and terrified out of our minds, moving to a new and unfamiliar city with a bun in the oven and starting an unprecedented chapter in our lives.

3) What is the hardest thing about fatherhood?

I think the hardest thing about fatherhood is constantly pushing yourself above the myths our culture tells us about dads, like the following examples: Dads shouldn’t be too emotional with their children; Dads should be the primary breadwinners; Dads don’t have to change diapers; It’s natural for dads to be less involved than moms; When dads are alone with their infants, they’re “babysitting.” None of these should have ever been true, and nowadays none of them are true anymore. Two weeks after AJ was born, I lost my stepfather, and the following six months saw me drop out of graduate school and enter a long spell of unemployment; it was one of the hardest seasons I’ve been through. It did, however, mean that Giselle and I both got to stay at home with AJ for the first six months of his life; as a result, he has an equally strong attachment to both of us. It has truly been an enormous blessing. I have always changed diapers, helped with breastfeeding, put him to sleep, stayed home with him by myself, and bathed him from day one and I would do it all over again. It’s a damn shame that America has such pathetic allowances for maternity leave, and it’s another damn shame that paternity leave is considered a luxury. If both were mandated for a minimum of 6 weeks, I truly believe the next generation of children would be healthier, happier, stronger, and smarter.

4) What is the most amazing thing about fatherhood?

The most amazing thing about being a dad is all the firsts, but not just the obvious ones we all talk about. Of course, first steps, words, and so on are breathtaking moments you’ll never forget, but there are so many little milestones to slow down and appreciate! For example, I’ve been PUMPED all week to take AJ to his first movie in the movie theater!!! We’re taking him to see Incredibles 2 (we might be more excited than he is), so we prepped him by watching The Incredibles last week and we’ve been talking it up all week. One thing I’ve really noticed is that you can’t fake love and attention, which is all our little ones really need day after day; they are so skilled at detecting when your mind is somewhere else. But the more you pour into them, the more they give back, and AJ is constantly amazing me with his giant heart and openness to every person he meets. Watching him interact with others might be the coolest part.

5) How has being a father changed your outlook on life?

It changed everything. I didn’t see the world clearly until I became a father. I know everyone is different in this regard, but I was pretty absorbed in my own world. Becoming a dad shocked me into reality. Having a helpless child in my home who was totally dependent on me really pushed me to up my game; I stretched my patience, endurance, empathy, love, and humility. Of course, it’s an ongoing process to this day; child development seems to be designed just right to continue pushing you past your new limits if you want to keep up and raise a great kid. It certainly makes life more interesting and exciting and… messier… much messier. You learn to tolerate a certain amount of chaos, sometimes even to welcome it. But full disclosure, it’s not always pretty; a lot of times you must drag yourself through a personal valley and forgive yourself before you can climb to the next peak.

6) What was the relationship with your father like?

My relationship with my father has really improved a lot since I became a dad. I mean, there has always been so much love between us; for all the things my dad wasn’t, he was always affectionate and supportive. I think the wonder and sheer pleasure I feel when I look at my son is something I learned from my dad. We have more of a best friends’ relationship most of the time, but he’s also stepped up as the father figure during uncountable key moments of my life. Also, he’s the one person (after Giselle) I can go to when I need to talk about something important; I feel like I can be totally transparent with him and he won’t judge me. Usually, he has a sage insight or two to share with me. He still lives in the Cayman Islands, and I miss him a lot – every day. My stepdad was an excellent secondary father figure to me. Just like my dad, he was full of love and zeal for life, but he expressed it in totally different ways. I am so blessed to have had both great men in my life; between their differences and their overlapping similarities, my role model coverage was like a solid Venn diagram covering all the areas I needed.

7) How would you define a father’s role at home?

I think a father’s role at home shouldn’t look much different from a mother’s role. Let me clarify: besides breastfeeding (obviously), I don’t think gender should factor into the question of parenting roles. A lot of families have one parent who stays at home and one parent who works full-time; their roles, by necessity, are going to be different. Also, we all have different personalities and communication styles. For example, I have a highly nurturing and energetic personality, so I am a natural for certain activities that are stereotypically considered a “mother’s” role. Do I care? No! Nobody is going to stop me from making the most of every moment with my son – he’s already growing up too fast.

8) What is your vision purpose for your child/children?

My goal is to be the best role model I can for AJ. I want to continue teaching him love and kindness, curiosity and diligence, humility and perseverance. I may have dreams of specific things I’d like him to accomplish, and it would be fun if they happened, but in truth, they don’t matter much to me. I will be totally satisfied if I can teach him to stay on the path of love and righteousness, to be fully present in all he does, and to keep a grateful heart. (And to cheer for the Seminoles on gameday!)

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