I don’t know a good parent who hasn’t had a moment of doubt about his or her parenting skills. For most of us, every day is a new opportunity to do better. I get a chance to apologize for snapping when I’m having a bad day, to fix a more nutritional meal after putting too many processed foods on one plate (it can happen) and even to ask for forgiveness and turn some things around. Every parent is not as fortunate though. There are some moms and dads who are incarcerated and would cherish the opportunity to have another chance to get it right.
A woman in Richmond, Va., has started a wonderful program for dads in prison and their daughters. Angela Patton runs Camp Diva, a non-profit group aimed at empowering young girls.
She recently held a father/daughter dance after hearing one of the girl’s concerns about having a father in jail. According to the news story, the young girl wanted to attend an event where she could dance with her father, and Angela Patton made it happen.
The dads were provided with suits, ties and dress shoes and the girls in bright dresses were escorted to them through the steel mechanical doors.
I can’t imagine having been physically separated from my dad as a little girl. Just knowing that he was coming home every night and was never much farther than a hug away and watching the way he treated my mom, my sister and me, certainly shaped the kind of girl I was and the woman I became. No situation is perfect, but there is study after study supporting the importance of male role models in the lives of girls. When girls go from a fatherless home into a romantic or sexual relationship with boys or men, they are more likely to have the wrong expectations about the roles of all men in their lives. Girls need to have at least one relationship with one male who loves them unconditionally with no physical interest. In homes headed by single moms, this male could be an older brother, an uncle or a grandfather.
So, even if the fathers of the daughters who participated in the dance don’t have constant contact, limited positive interaction can go a long way.
The dads who are locked up are mostly in their 20s and 30s and are serving time on drug and gun charges. Many will get a second chance to be a positive part of their daughters’ lives and hopefully are even more adamant about it now that the seed has been planted with the dance.
Said one dad, “I thought I needed material things to make my daughter happy, when what I needed was right in front of my face.”
If you’re a dad or a mom who may be letting work, money, or a bad relationship with an ex get in the way of bonding with your child, think about these fathers who would give anything to have a chance to make things right. And if you’re the person impeding your child’s contact with his or her father, this is the day to let that go. You just might be the link to giving them both the most important love they will ever know.
If you’re physically near your children, think about this story and what you would do or say if for some reason you had to be away from them for an extended period of time. Say those words to them or write the words down. Every year I write a letter to my sons on their birthdays to let them know how special they are because I don’t ever want them to have a doubt about what they mean to me. Kids need to know that as parents, we realize that we aren’t perfect. If we ask them to forgive us, they’ll be much more likely to be honest about the mistakes they make. I’ve gotten my share of “I’m sorry” notes and hugs and I cherish each one.
We all fall short and we all should be grateful when we get a second chance.