How Not To Be a Deadbeat Dad
I became a father in 1991. The position didn’t come with instructions, an operations manual or a clue. The one thing I did right from the start was that I prayed to God to allow and help me be a good father. It made a difference. It is said by someone wise that “you have to do your own growing no matter how tall your father is.” I take that to mean, everyone and especially men take for granted the responsibility for raising their kids. It’s a full time job. It can’t be delegated and you have to be ready when needed.
This week, I want to share with you some thoughts about fatherhood because it is a struggle you won’t hear about on Sunday night or at the club. It is not understood by your mother, or your female friend. It is internal. It not from a place you proud to share. It is an unknown in our lives that each man that becomes a father is hit with and deals with differently. The best of us step up to it, embrace the challenges and overcome it.
My guest this week is a man that involved in that struggle and is going to give you some intimate details about child support, the court system and mindset.
I have a daughter that is now an adult, I helped raise since she was nine. I love her. She is an amazing woman. She was an adorable little girl. Now if she would only get married an move out, but that is another story.
My daughter was low maintenance. I learned about fatherhood after the birth of my son.
I used to think that after a boy hit puberty, he was pretty much done. I don’t anymore. There are so many questions that need to be answered that fathers miss out on the opportunity to reassure and to help with. Teens especially hit a rebellious time around driving age but still want to know what the boundaries are. The car for example, represents a freedom they never have. Remember how psyched you where about getting that car? It is more than a method of conveyance. It can allow them to push the envelope of what you have set forth. That is why kids, drink, speed, stay out late and do what you know drives you crazy. I do believe that if you don’t leave them at this time you can prevent them from hurting themselves with their freedom. As a parent you have to be ready and willing to explain the truth. Growing up is easy. Surviving is another thing.
This is dedicated to fathers and those seeking to understand what was/is missing. It’s never too late to turn around.
The day my son was born was a pivotal moment for me. I wanted to be more than just his biological father. I wanted to be an Action Figure.
I was not born on another planet with abilities far greater than those of mortal men. I don’t have super powers given to me by birth, the sun, magic, or mutating DNA. I grew up in the sixties and enjoyed the “Shoot’Em up movies”– westerns, police dramas and spy movies. In between the Civil Rights struggle and low income living, we got by. I was determined at a young age to do a couple of things. First I wanted to see the world and secondly have a family. I wanted to be the best father in the world. The one other folk’s kids wanted to hang around. I wanted to be knowledgeable, and accessible, cool and wise, in great shape and able to play with my kids as long as they were kids. I wanted to be everything a father was supposed to be. There was no book on fatherhood. There were no examples to emulate. Of all the friends I had, few had fathers that they bragged about. I was determined to be different for my kids. Even if it took superhuman effort.
I was told my natural father was my “uncle” until my grandmothers’ Freudian slip told me different. Daddy was the hardest working man I ever saw, he had two jobs and a half a dozen side projects that brought in money from time to time. Both of my “fathers” lived and partied hard. I was determined to not be like either of them with my child when it was born. I had lived in a world of fantasy as a kid. It was safer there than the real world. My “stepfather” and mother fought like prize fighters and furniture got moved out of place. Where I escaped to in my mind was a happier place. It was a place of honor, valor and heroics. The bad guys were really evil and gray was just a shadow or the background.
My love of watching westerns, police dramas and spy movies seemingly influenced my life as I enlisted in the US Marine Corps, out of high school and later became an employee of the federal government. I did a host of different things while inside, ranging from physical security to world changing operational stuff. It was through my travels, exploits and failures that I realized the life I was living was not conducive to longevity, or any of the dreams I had as a child.
It was late October and my wife was a week late from giving birth. I was having second thoughts about the whole thing and wondered if I was even capable of being the type of man necessary to raise a child and be a good husband. In my mind, I was a product of survival not proper upbringing. I had survived domestic violence, civil wars, bombings, terrorist attacks and international politics. I was a good government employee but a rogue warrior. I was good at my job and loyal to nothing except my country and God. It is the latter that I learned must be instilled into every heart if there is to be any humanity left after the world takes a bite out of your soul. To me, I was not father material despite how much I wanted to be. I had issues. I was afraid. How could I be successful as a parent when there were no templates, no examples, and no guidance to follow? Any man with a penis can be a father but it takes someone special to be a daddy. I come from a long line of absentee fathers.
Each child deserves a chance to not just survive but to thrive. More often than not we as parents fail to do all we can do personally for our children. We parent by proxy. Love is sacrificial. We hope that some coach, teacher, clergy or someone will do what we are not sure of doing. And as a result we fail. It has to be you.
It was one of the warmest Novembers I had remembered. I was sick of waiting for my baby to be born and finally told my wife to just page me when the contractions were coming. I figured by the time I got there from the secret base where I was training federal agents how to shoot, I would have cut down the wait time. A lot of thoughts were going on in my mind. I always wanted to be a great father, a daddy. Better than Cliff Huckstable (the Cosby Show), better than Mr. Cunningham (Happy Days), better than Mr. Cleaver (Leave it to Beaver), but I don’t see it. Like Popeye, “I yam what I yam.” Nine months ago, this didn’t seem so bad. I had just got married to my trusted friend. That alone was scary enough, she married me. Saw something in me, I have hid. Now I was becoming a parent. Damn. No instructional manual. I can’t blow up, shoot down or incinerate my fears. I have overcome IRA bombs, the Taliban, Communist Rebels in different continents but this was freaking me out. Luckily the ride home to civilization was long.
No page, no phone call. The baby hadn’t arrived yet and the munchkin was two weeks late. I guess he didn’t want to be born on Halloween and I don’t blame him. The house was dark when I pulled up in the driveway. It was close to eleven p.m., and I dropped my sidearm back in the safe, emptied my pockets (there was also extra ammo in there somewhere), dropped the clothes in the hamper and headed for the hot shower. Man that was looking good right about now. The steam cleared my head and washed a weeks worth of swamp dirt off me, and the smell of cordite. I better check my boots, before the Mrs. wakes up. Knowing me, I tracked dirt all the way in. The girl is cleaner than the drill instructors I used to have. The blue light from the television illuminates the bedroom and I easily crawl into a bed and next to the mother of my soon to be born son. Aaaaah. A bed can feel orgasmic when you have been away from home for awhile. Sleep came fast but two hours later I woke up with the phrase, “I think my water just broke.” I think I went into hyperspace because I got the Mrs. up and out in no time. We got to the hospital in no time because at 2 AM there isn’t much traffic. Hospitals are funny about baby deliveries. They don’t really care. What was a significant emotional event (S.E.E.), something I teach is routine to them. We got settled in a pod and stood there holding my wife’s hand until the sun rose as the monitors beeped and recording the rhythms of my son making his approach into the world. I felt like a horse and started to lose it when some little dwarf doctor with an anesthesia cart came in and asked my wife if she wanted an epidural. That is when they administer a needle in the woman’s spine to maker her more comfortable during child birth. I was asked to leave and was glad to comply. My knees were killing me. I was asleep on my feet. Felt like I was standing watch in a triage unit. Hospitals are interesting places. They are a city all their own. The coffee shop was the meeting place for couples, watchmen and people like me that had been on duty with family. The coffee was like mud but it went down like premium stuff because I needed it. By the time I got back upstairs the Mrs. was a different person. She was obviously feeling no pain and happier than when I brought her in this joint six hours ago. On the other side of the curtain, a man was screaming at the mother of his soon to be born child to the point where I thought he needed an attitude adjustment. I was a little cranky and beating down an a-hole might have cheered me up. The Mrs. saw my face and reached for my arm.
I was about to be a father in a few minutes I could tell. And the fear came back. My family tree is a shrub. My father was raised by his mother, and he basically hated his father. I had found out who my father was at the age of nine and though I thought he was the coolest brother on the planet we weren’t close. I saw him maybe once a year. How do you stop a generational curse? How do you do the right thing when my DNA said run? Before I could contemplate the universe, some mechanical monitor started to sound. Curtains flew open and a gang of pale green pajama wearing people and a few big ladies in multicolored cotton outfits pushed me out the way and snatched the Mrs. out the way. So much for all the time suffering through Lamaze class as the only husband in the joint and natural child birth. Something was wrong and the little ninja was in trouble. I was left standing there like a late mechanic of a NASCAR pit crew. Oh well, nothing left to do but sit down. Didn’t even know there was a television in the room till then. I found a remote and clicked on the TV. The a-hole on the other side of the curtain had left, his wife was obviously battered at least emotionally and this kid was in for a hell I knew too well.
The chair in the corner of the room felt good again. The television droned on the with the morning news. My eyelids began to close I am remembered how I got here. As sleep overcame me, I dreamed. The difference between a father and a daddy is love. Love conquers a multitude of sins. No greater love does a man have than to lay his life down for a friend. And though I spoke many languages but didn’t have love, I am just making noise. If I had the gift of prophesy and was super smart, and believed in God but not real love, I am nothing. Dern, where is this coming from? Love is sacrifice. Your wife is in trouble. That last thought snapped me awake. I got up and walked down the hall toward the delivery room. I was stopped by a nurse that said that they were performing an emergency “C-section” on my wife and they would call me when I could come in. That didn’t sound good. I returned to my chair in the corner of the little room I had been sitting in. I dozed again but was awaked by the sound of a loudspeaker right next to my ear. “MR. BLANCHARD, YOUR SON IS IN THE HALLWAY”. I looked up at the bright light that was reflecting the sunrise off the opposite side of the building into this wing of the hospital and mumbled aloud;
What is he doing in the hallway? My son? I have a son! Oh!
I jumped up and looked down the hall at a small Filipino nurse carrying what looked like a yardstick covered in baby blankets. Either the kid was long on the lady was short. My eyes betrayed me and I couldn’t focus as well as I wanted them too.
This is your son
She tried to hand him to me but I wouldn’t take him. I didn’t know how to hold a baby. Not a new one. Not one fresh out the oven. He was obviously delicate, pure, innocent, breathing his first breaths of air under a cocoon of clean sterilized cotton.
Mr. Blanchard, please take your son.
No ma’am. You just take him to where he has to go.
Don’t you want to hold him?
Yeah, but I don’t want to do something wrong.
We played this game for a few minutes where she offered up the bundle but I wouldn’t extend my arms out to take it as we walked into a nursery with a hundred other new people. She finally gave up and placed him in a see through bed and opened the blanket revealing a funny looking little child wearing a sky blue beanie. He had light colored eyes and a miniature version of my facial features.
What is his name?
Don’t know if it was sleep depravation, fatigue or a spiritual block but the grandiose name the Mrs. had talked about for nine months escaped the Read Access Memory of my brain.
His name is Kenneth, like his father.
Oh he is a junior then? No, he’ll be the second.
There was a joke in my family that I had just fallen into. I am a country boy at heart and my family comes from the rural south. We have probably ten juniors in my family. The nurse left me alone with the little blue hat wearing Smurf who stared at me with all the focus of a US Marine awaiting orders.
“Hey little dude. I guess you know I am your father. When I was born my father wasn’t with me. When he was born his father wasn’t with him. I am not a good man. Haven’t been the best husband to your mother but because of you I am going to try to be. I don’t know how to change your diapers, or do all the right stuff where you are concerned but I am going to try. I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, or where you are going to end up but I am going to make sure you get the best I can provide of my time, my attention. I am going to love you little dude, unconditionally. You got some rough genes in you. You have some tough genes in you. The Bible says something about never leaving you nor forsaking you. That’s my promise to you. Today, I stop a generational curse. You will be the first Blanchard male in my family that knows who, what and where his father is. Deal?”
A little hand reached up out his blanket and I extended my pinky finger to him. He grabbed a hold of it and held it a long time. And the contract was sealed and a daddy was born. There were many challenges that came afterward. Most of them were internal. I had to choose between pleasing myself temporarily or working to rebuild a home I almost destroyed. It required more energy than I thought. To deny yourself and put others first sounds easier than it is. You get no reward for doing the right thing. You get no pat on the back from your boys.
Baby seats don’t work on a motorcycle. A child seat doesn’t look cool in a Corvette.
I have learned it takes six weeks sometimes to change a habit or way of life. Each step is wrought with temptations to quit and go back to what you know. Love is sacrifice. It’s not all romantic music and warm and fuzzy feelings. Sacrifice sucks. Sometimes you have to give up, give in and change. It is not for the weak. It takes super human effort to deny yourself. It takes power you are not born with to not call the honey that dropped a phone number in your lap. It takes a faith not preached on television.
In the movies, superheroes often have personal issues that folks seem to overlook. Batman was warped by revenge. Superman was an illegal alien. All the X-Men had birth defects to overcome. Bruce Banner has an anger management issue. Spiderman has a problem with self esteem. Any man that honors his marriage vows, and loves his wife as he loves himself is operating under the “supernatural”. The man that spends quality time with his child to teach and inspire is far superior to other mere mortals. Narcissism, infidelity, and immaturity plague the planet. Being strong enough to lead a household is not taught, respected or seen often. Being mature enough to withstand the trend to seek pleasure by any means necessary and instead seek the best for your baby can be as tough as bending steel with your bare hands. It’s easier to get laid that to get a sandwich. Show me a brother with the courage to braid his daughter’s hair, and I’ll show you tough. Show me a man that will willingly shop for her clothes and I’ll show you strength. Show me a man that will lead by example with his wife until that woman trusts, and esteems him and you’ll see a real man.
It’s currently cool to look effeminate, act like a buffoon, or portray yourself as a pimp. All three of these characteristics support a weak man. Clowns belong in a circus not in a family. Pimps by definition, prostitute and take advantage of others. In the animal kingdom, mosquitoes, maggots, leeches and other life draining organisms fit into this category too. One of the many differences between an animal and a man is that a man can learn from the mistakes of others. Too many of us, prefer to be beast instead of men. Sometimes you have to ask yourself why that is–if you can discern that something is wrong that is.
Real strength is developing into the man you were born to be. Since we are not immortal, you have a limited amount of time to achieve personal success, and make an impact on the world before you leave out of here. Each of us was born with a gift or a talent that is unique to us. That is why you were born. Too many of us go to our graves with that unachieved gift lying in there with us. There are no biological accidents. I don’t care what you have been told or believe. A man unsure of his purpose has no focus and no real power. A shotgun has a large blast and can be quiet destructive but the impact it can make doesn’t go very far. A laser beam on the other hand, is a focused beam of energy that can cut through steel, carry information, sound and travels at the speed of light across miles. What is your focus?
When I was a kid, my father’s generation believed that as long as he provided financially for his family he was fulfilling his duty as a father and husband. We now know that money is never enough. Your circumstances can hinder you but they don’t have to stop you. All superheroes have a problem.
If you ever walked into a prison and got a chance to talk to a few of the brothers on lock down, you’ll find that hardly any of them have positive words to say about their fathers. Why is that? Where was their focus? Are you looking backwards or going forward? Did you sell out to a lie that where you are in life is all there is for you? Every brother has a hustle. Is yours too small sighted? You may be too close to Kryponite.
Superheroes exist today. They don’t wear capes, a mask or have to change their outfits to go into action. I was determined to be a super hero for my family. I was going to be an action figure for my son.
My son grew up at the normal speed of life. He overcame the normal stuff that scares a parent. He outgrew the colic and I eventually adjusted to the schedule. I learned to hold, feed, bathe, clean and care for him. I learned there are no written rules, no warranties and no returns. I was there when he was able to lift his head, turn over, crawl, stand up, say his first words, and walk. The challenges came soon after.
Every super-hero has a bad guy, a nemesis or an adversary. It seems that the stronger the good that there is equivocally an evil entity. DC Comics’ character Batman ™ has a plethora of antagonists. One of the most infamous of them is called the Joker ™ . My arch-villain is closer to a Superman villain named Bizzarro™. This character was a distorted image of the Man of Steel ™ from an alternate universe. The enemy was me. I am my own worse enemy. My struggle is to fight the dark side of my own personality.
The dark side is appealing. It is comfortable. There are more people on the dark side. Trying to find the good is harder every day. Trying to take the high road and just do the right thing sounds easier than it is to do. An evening call from a telemarketer will make a usually honest person lie. A spouse that you have vowed to love, honor and cherish can get on your last nerve. Family and church members can be some of the nastiest, laziest, and most trifling people in your life. There are some nice people on the dark side. The bum on the street corner will share with you a swig of his brown bag covered beverage without inquiring about your financial or social status, or voting record. Sex is easier to get now than a ham and cheese sandwich. Folks are just giving it away.
The battle to maintain your integrity and core values is not reinforced by any medium, few friends nor family. It is easier to get out of a relationship than to fix your credit. There is no applause when you turn down the advances of a young woman that drops her cell phone number in your lap. There is no ticker tape parade for you putting up crap at work or successfully escaping real life desperate housewives or invitations by brothers on the down low. It’s not all sex, sometimes its financial, sometimes its food. It is so easy to eat a quart of ice cream, super-size your fast food and not work out. It is easy to just sit in front of the big screen high definition television and lose your definition. As your waist line grows, so does your resolve.
Our heroes fall every day. People held in high esteem fall prey to their own predilection for vice. I found out that I am not the Man of Steel, and that my force field had a hole in it. I am blessed however to have chosen the right wife that allowed me to recover from my failure. During the middle years of my son’s childhood I ran into trouble. I lost my way. I made some mistakes in my quest to start a business. I made mistakes with the family finances. I made mistakes in the relationship with my wife. I jeopardized everything. Being a good parent and a loving person is a waning skill. If you don’t practice either, selfishness will take over. Berserkers and kamikazes have a purpose but you don’t want that mindset in your household. A selfish person is toxic in a relationship, family church or organization. I was tired of being dependable, dependent, and responsible. I wanted “me time”. I wanted to break promises and covenants but I survived my trials by the love of my wife. Since then, I have learned a lot about love. It is sacrifice. Love is, and has to be the power behind all and why you do things. Your love for others has to be greater than your love of self or it’s a nonsequitur.
It was during this time that I launched my firearms training business and ultimately became known as the “black man with a gun.” After garnering the financial support of a relative that was signed onto a professional football team, I was able to publish my book and soon after create the action figure seen on the cover of this book. Both actions fulfilled a desire. The first provided me with tangible evidence that I could write. It also gave me a product to sell which according to all the business models I was following was necessary for any speaker. The action figure was a bonus. During a conversation at one of my public speaking events, I told the story of my desire to replace the Power Rangers and comic book figures my soon clutched with his father. This would mean a man that would have to live up to the image of a super hero. I found the company that could make action figures and had a half dozen created. I sold them and thought about creating a story line to accompany the figure but never got around to it. It was tough enough just being a good father, and husband. It is easy to do the wrong thing. It’s all a matter of choice. I was blessed with a second chance.
My test will be and was different than your is and will be. Our life is a series of these tests. They will either grow you or destroy you. We are all in the same place no matter where you are in life. We are either just coming out of a struggle, currently in one, or headed toward one. How you handle it matters.
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.- James 1:14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
So how does a super hero survive? A super-hero survives by remembering that he is not alone. His actions, your actions perhaps affect others. I survived because I remembered someone was counting on me. Someone believed in me. You have to realize that you are not alone even if you are a single parent. To survive you must be transparent. You cannot be helped if no one knows you are hurting and you wait too late for help to matter. You must do nothing you have to hide. Nothing today can be truly hidden. Computer forensics can uncover all your internet activity. Private investigators, good ones and wanna-bees can discover your entire past. No one can keep a secret. You will sleep better when you have no secrets to protect. Keep it simple stupid (KISS). The world which is growing darker everyday will not oppose your activity unless you seek to be different. You will get no fanfare, just do the right thing. To be a super hero for my son, I have to first conquer myself. I have to man up and not do everything I can do legally, mentally and physically. And most of the time that requires supernatural effort.
in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, …-Titus 2:7 NASB
Nobody is perfect. No one is born with the perfect parents or the perfect environment. You have no choice how you got here. What you do have is a choice on how you live. You can do it moaning, groaning, hating, sleeping, denying, lying, stealing, offending, blending or a half a dozen others verbs. Even not doing anything is a choice.
Next up on the Kenn Blanchard Show podcast, Corey R. (name withheld until I gain permission to post) To talk about some of his struggles and lessons learned.
Thank you for reading, hearing and sharing this podcast episode.Rev. Kenn Blanchard is a professional speaker, writer, podcaster, and digital influencer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook He is the founder of Blanchard.Media and the GunPodcastNetwork.com