Today we have a special interview from a father of nearly 40 years to share about his experience. Please meet Isaiah. Isaiah has 4 adult children who all reside in the Chicagoland area. A sibling of 5, Isaiah was born and raised in the city of Chicago. From the age of 5 years old, Isaiah was raised in a single parent household by his mother. His father was absent for most of his life and has since passed away. In my time interviewing him, I would describe Isaiah as a soft spoken, African American male who loves God, loves his wife, and loves his children.
What was it like to find out you and your wife were pregnant?
Downstairs at Merchandise Mart, my wife showed me a picture of my TWO children. That’s when I found out that we would be parents. I remember I went back upstairs and told my coworkers that we would be having twins. My initial emotion was excitement!
What fears, worries, or anxieties did you experience at the thought of being a father?
Closer to term we thought about needing to move, spell of sickness with my wife also worried me. Being in the delivery room when my kids were born…that was neat…that’s when a lot of it becomes real, when you see new life being delivered and um getting to hold my children for the first time. That (being in the delivery room) was a neat experience because I got to sit with my wife and hold her hand.
How would you describe your transformation to being a father?
In a way it was kind of a continuation (between husband to father), I kind of saw it all the same. When my kids were little, I tried to be available as much as I could be. A lot of nights that we (wife and I) shared diaper changing duties and formula.
What about your personality shifted?
Changing from being single and having lots of time with friends to shifting from being father and not being around as much with your friends, that was different. But I knew it was something that I needed to do…thinking about my background, my dad wasn’t around after the age of 5, I knew that I wanted to be available for my kids.
What does Father’s day mean to you?
I guess because it’s not the big deal that Mother’s Day is (he laughs). I’m happy to hear from my children on that day, I’m happy they call…and when we get to spend time together. The older you get the more you are aware that things will end..at least ending here (on earth) I should say. I can’t complain with the ways my children have turned out, ya know that they all grew into mature adults and that they love Jesus and that they’re all trying to follow God in the best way that they know how. And a lot of that credit goes to the Lord and their mom. I’m very grateful to be their dad at this juncture.
When I was younger, Father’s day may have been more difficult (without my dad). But now, I don’t tend to think about missing my dad, because at that particular point in my life my mom became such a focal point. I’ve had a lot of other experiences along the way that were father type figures. I tend to think about that more…guys like that who stayed the course…at least it seemed like it…that even when it was easy or hard that they were faithful. That they were able to build into me and encourage me (is what I remember).
How do you experience grief/loss of your father? Does it get easier?
God is a God of comfort. In ways that I can’t, He can help you go through in that time, in that time of grief and sorrow. If there’s someone that you trust that you can go and talk to to hash those griefs out I would recommend doing that. If you’re really depressed or despondent there are people that you can talk to, especially if you aren’t in a faith community/context. There are plenty of counselors, good books and websites that weren’t available when I was a teenager that you can take advantage of.
If there’s grief because your relationship with your dad wasn’t so great, know that there’s forgiveness. Even if you can’t go to that person can ask for forgiveness if there’s a part that you played in their falling out. If not, you still forgive them anyways for not helping to raise you. Because we all have things that we haven’t done, that we should’ve done. That’s part of being human, unfortunately.
What is something that you wished someone would have told you about being a father when you first had us?
“Once you have kids it will change your life…” you sorta kinda say yes (I get that), but you really don’t have a clue of what it’s going to be like. If I could’ve listened more carefully it may have been helpful to help me help my wife more. There were things that I just didn’t understand and then I found out.
What has changed about your fatherhoodness throughout the years?
It’s changed me in the sense that, as I’ve gotten older I’ve discovered you never stop being a dad umm maybe that’s one of those things that I wish someone had told me. That your kids don’t stop…if they are the right type of kids…they don’t stop needing your advice, needing your encouragement. That’s probably what’s different than when I was growing up when father’s could still be seen but not heard. If they were doing things right, or even if they were mistreating their wives. What’s happening now with dad’s is a good thing.
What are your cultural/racial and spiritual beliefs that influence your parenting/father approach?
Knowing the Lord is certainly been a big part of how I’ve tried to parent. I think racially/culturally when African American men get married, most men go in with the best of intentions of wanting to be faithful and do right not only by the wife and any children that the Lord gives them. The way that I grew up, I was still at the age where the majority of men that you saw were men who really did try to do right by their family. But everyone that came in my path said that you “want to do right by your wife and certainly by your kids because that’s the way that God intended it to be.
Discipline in love part was important to me. During the times when I would discipline, I tried to make sure that I communicated love to my children after lowering the boom. That’s always been important to me. In Hebrews, it says the Lord disciplines those He loves. Just as we would discipline our children, God will discipline us as we were trying to raise our children.
Spending time with my children, reading the Bible to them, praying with them, having those good conversations like the one conversation about what a certain 4 letter word meant. My dad never got to be as involved with us as I wanted to be involved with my kids. I’m grateful to have that opportunity still.
Talk about being a father to daughters, sons, and especially black men.
For daughters: I remember how pretty you were when you got home. As you’ve grown to still have tender moments with both of you and when we are all together it’s kind of neat. I know that you need different things from us. To the extent that I can sense what you need I want to try to be available to you, knowing that I’m not going to meet every need that you had. I think it’s still special…girls are girls and guys are guys..I follow more of a traditional approach.
For sons: I’m happy for the sensitive sides that they both have. And also the toughness and persistence that they get from their mom…I think that they get more from their mom than their willing to admit..Their mom believes what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong..she has a strong sense of justice and righteousness that I think that they both emulate in their walk with the Lord.
Black men: We didn’t want being forced to be in a gang (like I experienced),that to be a part of their experience, it was one of the reasons why we moved into the suburbs. I remember walking down mainstreet while people yelled racial slurs at us. Certain things that may have been missed from the black experience in living in the suburbs, but we felt that was the right decision to make for us. Not everyone is called to stay in the city to be a trailblazer, you can go to the suburbs and be a trailblazer.
What would you say to someone who is longing to be a father?
I was thinking about that question. If you really want to be a father, you need to pray a lot, even before um, before you get married. But as you and your wife would walk through that, wanting to be parents trust the Lord with all your heart and um..continue to cultivate what it means to be a godly man or godly woman. And if the Lord blesses you with kids that’s wonderful, if not there are other avenues to have kids…adoption..if that’s what He wants..be open and willing to go that route. If God doesn’t open that door, than He’s got something special for you…there’s a lot of hurting people in the world who still need love, still need hope. You can still be a part of people’s lives, still make an impact. I know that God doesn’t call everybody to being parents. If that’s not the case for whoever I’m talking to, be faithful, trust God. God is your father, and He can help you to be a father like to help you to be to a world that needs men and women who can be a father like.
Written by therapist Pamela Larkin