I’m no one’s father
It was the early ‘90s and my girlfriend was late. Really late. I tried to play it off like I wasn’t concerned but inside I was at DEFCON 1. Inside, my hair was on fire and I was racing across the ceiling screaming and panicking. Was I about to become the cliché I dreaded the most, the young black unwed baby daddy? Oh hell no. Outwardly, we talked about having a baby and raising it (do you call it an it?) while inside I was checking plane schedules.
When she broke the news that she’d finally gotten her period, I literally danced a jig in my living room, throwing my arms up like I’d scored a game-winning touchdown. My elation didn’t exactly go over well with my girlfriend. We would eventually split over her desire to have children (coupled with her inability to be monogamous. )
I’ve never wanted to have children. I’ve never had the desire to perpetuate my seed, leaving descendants to validate my time spent on this small planet. The thought of being a proud papa playing catch with my son or Barbies with my daughter never enticed me. I’d come from a large family of five boys but the urge to create my own large brood just never took. The idea of falling in love, getting married and raising a family was something I never thought possible growing up.
Perhaps this is why I’ve had a preference for older women (and women who’ve had their tubes tied). When I was 17 I was seeing a woman who was 34. Weddings and babies were far from her thoughts as they were mine.
In many ways my upbringing with a father, mother and four brothers was “normal,” if anyone’s upbringing is normal. Boy Scouts, church, school, kickball, camping trips, amusement parks, swimming, barbecues and family vacations. But there have been demons that have plagued me into adulthood that I tried to combat with food, drugs and alcohol. I thank God I had no children to walk that rocky path with me. For me to have had a child would’ve seen me become a hypervigilant, overprotective father determined to keep the world from happening to my son or daughter.
Plus, your time is no longer your own once you have kids. Every equation has to start with the child’s best interest first and that’s how it should be. I admire parents who put their children first and would move heaven and earth for them. But I also admire the people who know enough to not have kids if they’re not prepared to make that sacrifice.
But now I, the guy who never wanted to have children, have two beautiful grandkids, Lauryn, 17 (who I’ve known since she was 5 months) and Kawika, 9. I’ve taken them to movies, to parks, libraries and have helped them with their homework with them, spoiled them and disciplined them when they’ve been in my care. I’ve laughed with them, made crazy YouTube videos with them, comforted them and helped educate them. But I’m not close to being their dad. They have a father who has supported the kids in whatever they chose to do and has worked his tail off in dangerous locations like Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan in order to give them a comfortable life. No, they have parents and that’s not my role.
My life is infinitely richer because those kids are in it. And I understand why people have children. I can see my friends’ pride at their kids graduating this June. I see their joy when their children do well at school and on the job. I see the hard work it is to raise well-adjusted kids in a world that often undermines their efforts. I see the sacrifice of parents trying to do their best to make ends meet so their children don’t suffer. And I’ve seen the anguish of those who have lost their children, the most devastating blow a parent could suffer.
To the men who’ve fathered children and have kept their commitment to raising them and loving them, this day of appreciation is well deserved. I still think I made the right decision by not bringing children into this world that I didn’t want. There are too many sad situations like that.
So no, I’m no one’s dad. I’ve never going to know what it’s like to be in the delivery room or to give my daughter away at her wedding. There’s no mug or T-shirt proclaiming me as the world’s best dad. No gift-wrapped neckties. But I do have brilliant nephews, wonderful nieces, two awesome grandkids, a beautifully spirited stepdaughter and a woman that loves me. That’s more than enough for me.