By Christopher L. Maith Sr.

Nobody knows when they are a young boy that being a father is one of the most rewarding and sometimes hurtful experiences you will ever have. Who’s job was it to tell me that? Who dropped the ball? Or was it strategic not to inform me and let me figure it out on my own? My mother told me “break the cycle” when I was a teenager, but I continued the cycle of having children at a young age by having two sons before I was 19. Break what cycle? 

Fatherhood produces some of the proudest moments. Some of these proud moments of fatherhood are births, first words, walking, the first day of school, graduations, first sports or dance competitions, proms, college, and marriage. These moments produce a feeling of accomplishment for fathers that they have helped their child/children achieve milestones and were there to witness every moment of them. Consequently, fatherhood failures produce deep wounds that only heal by creating an accomplished moment in your child’s life. Fatherhood failures are often an area of needed growth for fathers. Responding emotionally to a situation instead of being rational is an area for development. Not wanting to co-parent because you are placing your “adult” situations before your child’s needs and refusing to pause or set aside your dreams and aspirations to ensure your child gets all the attention they need while growing up. Why didn’t anybody tell me it would be this hard?

Fatherhood is an evolutionary process. Over the years, what is meant to break a teenage father provides strength to that father to endure the ups and downs of fatherhood. I like to think that my children helped me become a better father. Throughout this journey, they sometimes have been the ones delving out the “parenting” lessons to me. More often than not, the very hurtful times as a father taught me the most. Some of my lowest times as a dad became the greatest springboard for strengthening my relationship with my children.

I learned that I set an example of what a father looked like to children in my community when they started calling me “Unk.” Maybe I broke the cycle of kids not knowing what a dedicated Black father looks like? Evolution is a remarkable thing. From teenage father of two to husband and father of seven, God can indeed bless the later portions of your life.

Christopher L. Maith Sr., MSW, Social Work Ph.D. Candidate at Morgan State University School of Social Work (Husband, Father, and CEO of Community Bridge Builders LLC)

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