Before actually becoming a father, I always thought that I’d be the super strict disciplinarian type like James Evans in Good Times. Butt whoopings would be handed out like hand wipes at a BBQ restaurant and my kid would be raised the old-school way, just like how I came up.
The spare the rod, spoil the child mentality seemed like the only way to go in my book. It was totally reasonable for a child to be seen and not heard and like many of my peers, I’d cheer with vengeful glee whenever a kid was getting their behind worn out by a parent on a World Star Hip Hop video.
Then I actually became a father and everything changed.
While I still believe in discipline, my views changed on how to administer punishment for breaking the house rules. I’m more conscious of how my kid perceives the concept of consequences. More now than ever, I stop to think about whether or not my child understands why he’s being punished as opposed to getting in trouble for making Daddy angry. I do my best to let him know that I correct him out of love even though he may not fully understand it right now.
That’s just one way I’ve evolved into the father I am today. Another is sillier, but rings true for way more dads than I thought. Milestones have a bigger emotional impact because as a kid gets older, you realize how fast time actually flies. In no time, the infant that was puking on your shoulder yesterday is walking next to you shopping for school supplies.
Yup, I’ve become an emotional guy. The thought of my son graduating from Kindergarten brings me to near tears and I’m absolutely positive that when he finishes high school and college I’ll be rocking the Fantasia Barrino cry-face through the entire program.
When my son was an infant, I started an email account for him. At first, it was so I could get his name before someone else did but now, it’s become a warehouse for wisdom. I send occasional emails to the account of lessons I’ve learned along with advice about some of life’s trials and how to deal with them.
After the death of my own dad, I often wish that I could ask him questions about manhood, fatherhood and adulthood. Since I know that I can’t be here for my son forever, I figure that I can at least give him a little more knowledge than I had growing up. Maybe the emails will answer most of his questions, but it’s for certain that he’ll always have words of encouragement from someone who has his best interests at heart.
And, like many dads before me, I’ve become more appreciative of the simpler pleasures of family life, like having quiet time (every now and then) and seeing the rest of the clan be happy.
A few months ago, I was stressed out and my son was channelling all the insanity of being a typical toddler. I escaped to use the bathroom and was immediately followed. While seething over not even being use the bathroom in peace, my little guy stood next to me and started using it too.
After we were done, he looked up at me and said, “Daddy, I’m proud of you.” I cried like a newborn inside – until he tried to bounce out without washing his hands. I guess you’ve got to take the good with the not-so-good but I wouldn’t give it up for the world.
Larry Hester is a Brooklyn-born writer who’s written for Vibe, BET.com, The Source, Complex and more. He now resides in Newark, New Jersey with his wife and son. He welcomes any parenting advice or encouragement. Check him out on Facebook and Twitter @almostcooldad.
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