Lately, the importance of mentorship has been on my mind. From the perspective of a father, what things do you think you can do at home to reduce the risk of your child going down the wrong path?
A good father teaches a boy how to be a man. How to work hard, respect people and treat women. The pressures of society start getting real from around 13 years of age onwards. This is when kids go to secondary school and are exposed to so many more people, environments and cultures. This is the point where a stable family at home is essential to keeping children on the right path. The voice of the parents at home needs to be stronger than the voices on the streets. For a young man, this needs to be from their father. Don’t get me wrong, mothers can do a great job but when young men start growing up, that male presence becomes extremely important in teaching them how to be a man, instilling values and dishing out the discipline. When the family is broken, not only is the father not around but the mother then has to work twice as hard just to be a mother. She’ll need to work more hours and divide her time between various responsibilities which means there is less parental support for young people at home. When this happens in an environment that is rife with negativity, most of the time it only ends up going one way.
I can use my own story as an example. I grew up in a fairly nice neighbourhood and went to a pretty good school. But being a young black man who was curious and just discovering the pleasures of life, it was inevitable that I would get involved with the wrong people somewhere down the line. I was generally a good kid but society pressures to be seen as ‘cool’ and living in London, an environment where trouble ultimately finds you even if you are not looking for it, means situations arise that could go either way. I’ve had multiple situations that I’ve been in where things could have got deep. The usual things that young boys get up to (I won’t snitch on myself lol) but every time I had a real pivotal decision to make, I always thought about the repercussions, not necessarily from the law, but from my dad and family at home.
Luckily for me (although I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time) I had a very strong and stable family at home and a father who absolutely lay down the law in the house and instilled certain values in me. This meant that I thought twice when making decisions on the road. I was accountable, and sometimes even scared, of my dad and this made me not want to go too far into things that would get me in trouble at home. The funny thing is that if you met my dad now he’s one of the most mild-mannered and calm people you will ever meet. But trust me, he was that uncle to my friends and cousins that you did not want to get on the wrong side of! My dad got the right balance of allowing me to be free to experience life and make my own mistakes while always being there in the background holding me to account, setting boundaries and teaching me right from wrong. I am EXTREMELY lucky to have had a stable family at home, it’s allowed me to be grow into the man I am today and ultimately kept me out of the trouble that I definitely would have got into without that support.
How do you suggest men deal with sleep deprivation that comes with early parenting?
Hmmm! If I could solve this problem I’d be a very rich man lol. There are some practical things both parents can do like sleeping when baby sleeps, taking turns with night duties and accepting any help from family. But ultimately it all comes down to your mindset. You are going to be tired, especially in those early months but it’s all about embracing the moment and seeing the blessing in everything. Having a positive frame of mind and appreciating the life you have just bought into the world is the best thing you can do.
In your experience in what ways do women change upon having children?
Wow, this is a hard one! I better make sure I don’t get in trouble over this one, I can just see the potential @’s on twitter! No but really, every women is different so I wouldn’t want to generalise. I would rather talk about how relationships change after having children. In the early stages lots of couples argue a lot, even ones that were perfectly fine before! You are both so tired and trying to adapt to this new way of life. There’s also sometimes some resentment from either parent who feels they have the tougher deal and are doing more work than the other. The main piece of advice I give to new parents is too both put your partner first. As long as you are both being 100% selfless and sacrificing your needs for your partner’s wellbeing and happiness then you’ll be ok. It’s a partnership and you are in it together. After the first year or so things tend to come to some sort of normality and hopefully you’ll be able to relax a (little) bit!
Describe the feeling of seeing your child for the first time as a father? What are your honest first thoughts?
It’s hard to describe really. If you’re lucky enough to actually see and experience the birth you’ll probably just be amazed and overwhelmed at the whole thing to be honest. Everyone will have a different experience and I think a lot of it will be to do with the circumstances of the birth. There is a theory that a baby looks like there dad when they are born so it helps the dad form a bond with them, it stems from the animal world where it happens to stop the father eating their own child! I know that for a lot of fathers, the love grows over time whereas mothers find it easier to have that instant connection right from the beginning.
As a black father how do you have the talk about racism with your child or at least plan to? The importance of making them aware of the existence of prejudice whilst at the same time ensuring they don’t ever see it as a limitation. Talks on success and having to work ten times harder do you think they are still necessary now?
I want to be able to instill a strong sense of self-worth into my children. My wife has such a strong sense of her value that I’m confident that together we can help our children to have self-esteem and know who they are and how people should treat them. This is a hard one as parents can’t always control the environment they are in but we can try and mould them so they can control how the environment effects them. A strong sense of self and self-value means you are ambitious, demand a certain standard from people and know when you don’t have to put up with something. Self-worth is strength and I think that’s the best way to teach a child that they can achieve anything in life.
The power of positive affirmations in parenting. So DJ Khaled has recently become a first time father and from time to time I see videos of him speaking positivity into his child’s life float across the internet? Would this be an approach you think is important for fathers to do?
I think it’s important in any aspect of life. Sometimes we don’t appreciate the power of our words but I’m a big believer that the universe will move to shape around us and the energy we put out into the world is the same energy we will get back. That being said I’m also a big believer in practical application and planning. One thing that I sometimes battle with about the Church is the lack of focus on action. Prayer is good and needed but I believe God only helps those that helps themselves. So in relation to parenting, yes I think positive affirmations are important but it’s also necessary to have real tangible plans for how to help your child reach their potential. I’m a big believer in letting children try lots of different things and really encouraging them to pursue something when they enjoy it and they are good at it.
Interview with Elliott Rae.
Twitter & Instagram: @MFFOnline_