A father’s process on gratitude is much like life… always changing.
I am the proud father of two sons, Christian (nearing age 15) and Morgan (nearing age 11). The testosterone levels in our house are at an all-time high. Looking back, I would call my fatherhood experience thus far as “failing to success”. As a young father, my biggest fear was “messing it up”. When they were babies, I was afraid I would break them. When they were toddlers, I feared I could not teach them. With teenagers, I wonder if I might just strangle them. (Joke…mostly) But there is some truth to the changing emotions, attention span, and partial maturity that a father must face. It’s a time of constant contradictions. At times their confidence is soaring through a short-sided teenage perspective. In an instant they are questioning their self-worth through an equally short-sided teenage eye.
I try to remember my own teen years to stay grounded with my boys. Man, I was a mess. My sons are far more self-actualized than I was at their age. They understand giving, though if given the option would prefer to play video games all day. (They don’t have the option). They are polite, or as my mother would say, “they have home-training”. They are respectful to women and those who look and think differently from themselves. They are best friends. They fight often, but the love is genuine.
I am nearly 9 months into what I call my “Furious Styles” phase of fatherhood. In the movie “Boyz n the Hood”, actor Lawrence Fishburne plays the role of Jason “Furious” Styles, a wide-awoke Black man and divorced dad. The son Tre’, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., is giving his mother fits. Mom sends Tre’ to live with his dad to pour manhood into the young man at a critical coming of age time. Though my wife and I are happily married, we too are in a season of necessary change. I sold my business after 12 years and went back to school to receive an advanced degree in Social Entrepreneurship. Simultaneously, my wife founded the social change organization Project Say Something and established a child enrichment program. I was now the primary caregiver to my “boyz”.
There are some days that I wonder if I can pull this off. I have moved way out my comfort zone, and the boys know it. But I always try to teach them that, “ where you are is different from where you will be, if you are putting in the work”. So we help each other. I encourage them to have accountability, and therefore I must also be more accountable. I demand them to be self-starters, so I can’t demand any less for myself. I demand them to be humble in their mistakes… man, fatherhood is tough. But the rewards are priceless. Instead of Pokémon and Power Rangers, we now talk about grooming, “liking” girls, and what a gentleman is. We discuss bravery, compassion, and goal setting. We talk about God, Black history, and world culture. We watch sports and give each other updates. They play soccer and know I am their most rabid fan. After each game, we all discuss what was done well and what they think could be done better. We try to celebrate the academic successes and figure out what must be corrected on less than expected results. (Disclaimer: I still must set boundaries and enforce consequences regardless of teenage hair growth.)
What am I grateful for? I am beginning to see the glimpse of the men they will become and know that I am purposefully a part of that. Am I a perfect father? Lord, no. I live my life testing a simple rule that has yet to fail me: If I care enough to keep trying, eventually I will get it more right than wrong. Both of my boys are unique to me in every way. I get to see this and get them to celebrate it in themselves. I love them and tell them verbally every day. My schedule is beginning to tighten as I complete my degree program. I now wake up at 4:30am to add a few hours to my day and be “present” when I am with them. Our new business ventures are growing in a way that only faith could have predicted. But the lesson is learned. I must always invest in the things I hold important; my family needs me and I need my family. I remain in gratitude that experience and the father(s) in my life have taught me this lesson.
Taurus just shifted. He sold his insurance business and is now pursuing his soul’s purpose as a grant writer and Community Outreach activist. He is also pursuing an advanced degree in Social Entrepreneurship. Taurus is a volunteer for CASA, advocating for foster children, and an engaged husband and father.