Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Single Dad

On November 27, 2007 my son Khary Halsey was born. This date is a milestone to a great transition in my life. At the time of his birth his mother and I were a couple. Both young parents in our early 20's, we embraced the idea of parenthood and raising him together. Unfortunately we weren't able to stay in the relationship and provide Khary with a two parent household, so we decided to go our separate ways a year and a half after Khary was born.

Prior to the breakup my son and I already developed a deep bond. When it was time for the breakup he obviously gravitated towards me, which put me in a position to demand that I have my son more days out the week than her. I loved my son and I living under the same roof and seeing my son wake up every morning. I was unable to accept a typical "see your child on the weekend" scenario or let her be the sole provider to my child. I needed to have a positive impact on my son's life. There are a lot of factors that affect me and my drive to be an effective father. Besides the obvious natural bond to your child and father wanting a small version of him. I grew up in a household without a father and I would never want Khary to experience or miss certain things that I may have. I couldn't imagine growing up without my mother, so it wasn't my goal to keep Khary from his mother either. We agreed on an arrangement where I would have him four to five days out of the seven day week.

Gaining this great responsibility seemed effortless. The joy you gain from the interaction with your child and helping them develop, far out-weighted the sacrifices needed to be made. In fact I didn't consider them sacrifices. Putting my child to sleep held far more value to me then being able to go out to the night club. Maybe I'm boring; maybe I had him at the right time in my life. Some of the things people say you miss out on when you have a kid is overrated, meanwhile some of the things you experience as a parent  is once in a lifetime.

As a father, sometimes I do notice I get extra attention or "kudos" for doing something I should be doing. I also find that I am under scrutiny by the watchful eye of women passing by, not sure if this guy knows what to do with a kid. I can understand both, given the stereotype that young men don't raise their children or provide much guidance. Even in the stereotypical two family household the role of the man is mainly the financial provider and occasional disciplinarian when needed, but that's it. We are rarely seen as the party working on the in-between, changing diapers, waking up in the middle of the night, cooking dinner, offering simple conversation or other interactions. What's ironic is most of my male friends that have children take care of their kids to the same extent. I even think some of the praise I receive is undeserved. I have a son and I just have to brush his hair. I have male friends that have little girls, and had to learn how to do girls hair and get them ready before work. I'm sure this takes more time and effort.

Even though I am proud of the fact I play an active role in my kid’s life, I also understand that I must set a higher standard for my son. So he will know to not only be a father to his child but make sound decisions in life so he can build his family with a solid partner. Even though I didn't necessarily have my child with the best partner, she did acknowledge my influence on my child and was humble enough to let me have him most of the time without debate. There are a lot of men who are just as compassionate as I am in raising their kids. Unfortunately, not all of them have the same opportunity. Kids are often used as collateral in relationships that suffer bitter break-ups. Other than the child, men usually suffer the most. I've heard of guys not knowing the laws regarding custody and losing contact with their children because the mother moved without telling the father where his child was moved to. I know there are men that pay child support, but don't get a chance to see their kids because of the mother’s decision. I have a friend whose child lives with him four days out of the week and still has to pay child support, even though he is supporting his child most of the time. Regardless of the effort men put forth to adhere to the demands of their child's mother or demands of the law, he will always be labeled as a dead beat. If he pays his child support and follows the scheduled visitation, you can still recite the cliché line of "money isn't everything" and question his parenting. The mother of the child would go through life complaining about doing everything by her own. Nobody will question the fact that she may have it that way by choice.

All these scenarios are very unfortunate and could happen to anybody, well any man. A mother that has a job and college education is considered a "shoe-in" in regards to keeping sole custody of her child. A man with that same background would have to plea his case for joint- custody. Even though my son's mother and I had an arrangement, I still felt the need to take her to court for joint custody. Even though things were working out at the time, you never know how things may change in the future and I did not want it to be possible that my son didn't know where his father was. Fortunately on the scheduled date of the hearing I had his mother complete a notarized letter stating how often I had my son and suggesting that things should stay this way. The judge saw that we came into the courtroom on the "same page" and let us stick to our arrangement. I was very fortunate, not all men are educated on how to get custody of their child, and not all men are willing to take their child's mother to court for custody. Even though some of these things are true it is not a fair reason as to why a man can't raise his kid. Being uneducated in family court shouldn't be the reason why a man doesn't have access to his children. I am not saying the dead beat dad is a myth that doesn't exist. I'm saying not every child that grew up without his father had to.

By Randel Halsey

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