Name: Byron a.k.a. Brotha2daknight
City: Indianpolis, IN
I find it weird that I’m being asked to write about myself as a father because I hardly feel qualified to do such a thing…but fuck it. As a 20 year old sophomore in college, I had no intention of being a father. But I wasn’t taking any precautions to prevent myself from being one either. I was irresponsible, I was immature, and I was unreliable. I still remember the phone call I received when my girlfriend at the time told me. It was winter 2003, and I was in my homeboy’s dorm room playing video games (like most young college males). She seemed almost happy to reveal the news to me. Joy was so far from the list of emotions I felt at that moment. I was scared. I didn’t know how to take care of myself properly, let alone being responsible for another life being here. Then there was the feeling of disappointment. I was off at school to better myself and make my family proud. I had to go home to break the news to my mother that I would not be transferring to Middle Tennessee State as planned. I was determined to figure it out though.
I remember requesting to take my finals two weeks early so I could make my way home early to start looking for a job. I remember so damn green and naïve. I remember searching through the classified ads looking for jobs and thinking to myself that all I needed was 10 dollars an hour and I’d be able to take care of us. That sounds so damn ridiculous now. I came home thinking that I’d be able to hit the ground running and get to work immediately. I was wrong. I received a petty theft charge in high school as a fresh 18 year old, and didn’t pay the restitution in time. My misdemeanor charge had become a felony. Finding full-time employment was going to be hard, but not impossible. I worked for several different temp to hire jobs but none of them seemed to last longer than a month. The pressure was becoming crippling and I was becoming frustrated. The due date was approaching and I had still yet to find a stable place of employment. There were plenty trips to Work One and Goodwill Industries, etc. looking for a place and nothing was coming to fruition. God came through in the clutch though. I was provided an opportunity to work for a construction company THE DAY that my son was born. I vowed then to never be unemployed as long as I could see fit. To this point, I’ve held true to that.
So here’s where the bullshit comes. My son is born. The moment I held him, I instantly knew that it was my job to protect and provide for him. Protection wasn’t the hard part. Provision was where I struggled. I had just received a job and though it didn’t pay what I wanted, it was decent enough for the bills. But the truth of the matter is that I was still selfish. I hadn’t developed the selflessness that seemed to be innate in his mother. I went from my mother’s house, to college, to being a parent. I was just about to be 21. I still wanted to smoke, drink, and club with my homies. I had aspirations of being a rapper so I still wanted to make that dream happen. Sunday through Thursday, I was home attempting to be a father but when Friday and Saturday I was out kicking it with the homies. Buying weed when I should’ve bought diapers, etc. With that type of behavior, the relationship with his mother was doomed. We separated after roughly 9 months. But I still had to be a father to my son meanwhile managing this failed relationship. Difficult tasks to say the least—especially as 20 and 21 year olds.
In the beginning, shit was rough. I’d see my son for a couple of hours in the morning while his mother worked. I COULDN’T WAIT for her to get off so I could drop him off and hit the streets. Fuck boy shit. I was definitely a fuck boy. I can admit it now. His mother wouldn’t allow overnight visits because she felt that I wasn’t responsible enough to take care of him how she saw fit. I didn’t give her much of a reason to either. We’d have to work our way toward that. But even though I wasn’t present as I should’ve been, I was present. The situation was eerily similar to one I’d seen growing up. I saw my father on the weekends too. It was a cycle repeating itself. Here’s another point where I felt like a disappointment. I felt like I had let my son down. Two days on the weekend and one day during the week was hardly any real time to form a bond with my son. During infancy, there’d be days where I’d pick him up and he’d cry for his mother the first 20-30 minutes that we’d be together. This created a resentment towards his mother on my part. “What is she doing to make him turn away from me?” The answer is so clear now being a full on adult but at the moment, it had to be someone else’s fault. It couldn’t have been mine. Fuck boy shit. But it was a process to bring me into the man I am today. Once I was able to look in the mirror, I was able to hold myself accountable for everything that I wasn’t.
If you’re a young father, I understand it’s frustrating when you get your time with your child and they scream for their mother the whole time. But here’s how you beat that: consistency. Build a routine with your kid, allowing them something to look forward to when seeing you. Picking and choosing when you’re going to spend time with them is not cool because it fucks with their normalcy. That sporadic in and out shit will not get you the results that you’re looking for. Even if you’ve got to use a third party for the exchange, do it. It will make the time with your child later that much more enjoyable.
The toddler stage was the best for me. But another challenge presented itself with me then. Money. During the toddler stage, I remember thinking if I didn’t have money to take him out and do things, that’s why he’d be crying whenever he’d come be with me. Not true. While I waiting until I could buy myself some furniture, my son and I had some of the best times sleeping on pallets in the floor. The truth is time spent with your kid is the most important thing about building that relationship. There’s not a dollar amount you can spend that will make up for time loss with them. Keep that in mind.
There is no such thing as the RIGHT way to raise your child. Parenthood is LITTERED with regrets but all you can do is your best.