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Allow me to give you some context on my circumstances. I am on my 2nd marriage, numero dos, my first marriage gave me my reason for living, my 15 year old son, mi hijo. He lives with his mom, and spends weekends, alternating weeks, and most holidays with me. End context.
Earlier today I said goodbye to my son, and sent him back to his mom’s place in Brooklyn. They are taking a trip to Florida. I feel kind of lonely even though my wife is sleeping in the bedroom. All of these late nights have been spent with my son, and we started doing this new thing where we go running together at about 2am in the morning. Yes, it’s late, but we are both up late into the night anyway, so we may as well make use of the time wisely. The runs are great for us because they allow us a different kind of bonding, and we do a whole lot of talking and sharing during the runs. Also, it is good for our health, and the lord knows that my fat butt needs some running! My son drives me crazy, and I complain to him about this and that all of the time, but when he’s not around I sure do miss him. That’s my boy, you know?
This moment I’m having here with myself brings to light a much greater issue that we as Latinos face in this country. I was researching Latino divorce rates to present some facts and figures, and I found it intriguing that statistically our divorce rate is actually 2nd to Asians in this country. Various sources confirm that figure. Some of the data was slightly old, yet this type of information usually takes years to compile. Don’t believe me? Google it, you’ll see. As I was reading and researching this though, I realized that in order to get a divorce, you have to be married first. How many of our people actually get married? That variable being considered I concluded that this was not a good measure of data for this article. Perhaps we are better suited asking why according to the CDC over 50% of child birth among hispanics were by unmarried mothers?
Let’s move pass that and ask why are so many of us Latino men, and others alike not with our children? Be it due to divorce, separation, breaking up, or some other circumstances like prison, drugs, irresponsibility, and so on, many fathers are not with their children.
It’s a vicious cycle, I initially titled this post “I am my father’s son.” My father did my mom wrong, he was unfaithful, they fought plenty and ultimately he was gone from our home. My dad became a weekend warrior, now fast forward some decades later, and here we are, like father like son. I only hope the chain stops here. As a father, nothing broke my heart more, nothing stung and made me feel the great slap of regret in life, than that time when my son asked me “why don’t we live together?” Or when I had to drop my son off, say goodbye to him, and then walk away. Even now that he’s older, and we spend a lot more time together, it is still a heart wrenching feeling.
With each generation a family is supposed to improve. I did improve to a degree, yet I failed in others. I finished college, I got a great job, and though things got messed up at home, I am still a great father to my son. I am always present for his graduations, birthdays, and I take great care of him. But isn’t it a shame that in this society, people are surprised when a man says “I take care of my kids”. People have applauded me and said things like “Wow, you are a real man, you take care of your kids”. What do you mean? Isn’t that what a father is SUPPOSED to do?
I read this article on the library of congress (don’t ask me why I was reading an article on the library of congress) where men in prison were provided with free greeting cards to send to their mothers, and nearly every man participated in this program. Later that year, motivated by the turnout, the same thing was offered for fathers, nobody participated. Why do you think that is? Well, because daddy wasn’t around, most of those men didn’t know their fathers. Coming from poor neighborhoods, from single parent homes, the odds were stacked heavily against them. Is it surprising that they ended up in prison? There is a direct correlation between absentee fathers and juvenile delinquents. It is a sad reality in this urban culture, and in our Latino culture. I could tell you so many cases that I personally know of men who are not there for their kids, at all. It’s disgusting and sickening to me.
I can’t understand how a man can father a child and abandon them. Yes, I am divorced and I don’t live with my son. But my son knows me, he knows me as his dad. I am his protector, his friend, confidant, advisor, and financial provider. I share these roles with his mother, along with the role of authority when he gets a little uppity and needs to be checked. He seems to respect me more than he does anyone else, and that was earned with love, words and actions, never violence. We tend to rely on power and intimidation to get what we want as parents, but as a father, I have achieved my connection with my son through an open, honest relationship. Stern only when necessary, but regardless, mutual respect is always given. I respect my son, and he respects me, that respect further translates into a deeper connection and love for one another. My son and I have a very strong bond, one to rival many a parent that actually lives with their child. He’s starting to challenge me a little more now that he is older, but that is to be expected. It does not surprise me. Teenagers are gonna teen. Haha.
My message to my brothers out there is the following: be a father, if you have a child then simply be a father. If you create a beautiful little nene or nena, be there for them. The kids need a father. I understand that sometimes things don’t work out with a marriage, and I’m not questioning that. I know, I have been there. Your reasons are your reasons, but the kid is never at fault, and they should not suffer neglect or abandonment because you and the mother split up. What I am saying, is that regardless of what happens between you and your “baby mama”, you should be there as a father for your hijos.
I want my son to have a bright future, I want him to go to college, I want him to succeed! I want my son to improve on my achievements. He carries the torch for my familia, he is the next generation, the next improvement. What better way to put the odds in his favor than being there for him, giving him all the love and support that I can?
As a community what can we do, to not only improve this condition among Latinos, but for society as a whole? Please sound off in the comments with any suggestions you may have, or any views that you would like to contribute.
Growing Up Bronx