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«Cambridge dads: in their own words Fall 2015 Introduction As part of a larger effort to support fathers in Cambridge, the fatherhood team at the ...»

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The Center for Families and the Agenda for

Children Literacy Initiative proudly present

Cambridge dads:

in their own words

Fall 2015


As part of a larger effort to support fathers in Cambridge, the fatherhood team at the Center

for Families and Agenda for Children Literacy Initiative set to find out what fatherhood

means to the dads who are living it.

Read the powerful words of over 50 Cambridge dads who shared their thoughts and

feelings. Common themes emerged even though the men all had diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Immerse yourself in this collection to hear the many voices of dedicated fathers in our community.

Learn more:

Cambridge Dads Twitter: @CambDads Facebook: /CambridgeDads Center for Families 70 Rindge Avenue, Cambridge MA 02140 617-349-6385 www.cambridgema.gov/DHSP/programsforfamilies/centerforfamilies Let’s Talk!

Agenda for Children Literacy Initiative Cambridge Public Health Department 119 Windsor St., Cambridge, MA 02139 617-665-3812 www.letstalkcambridge.org Cambridge dads: in their own words | 1 Cambridge dads: in their own words | 2 Contributors   Albert Pless p. 5 Jeff Walker p. 11   Anthony Cyrus p. 21 John Doucet p. 8   Aram Dotten p. 5 Joseph President p. 17   Byron Godfrey p. 6 Josh Foley p. 16   Charles Green p. 19 Leland Cheung p. 6   Chris Raftery p. 5 Luis Vasquez p. 9   Corey Dupree p. 5 Marc McGovern p. 10   Craig Kelley p. 7 Mike Laguerre p. 14   Damon Banks p. 16 Moise Elan p. 18   Dave Twombly p. 5 Radames p. 14   DeLance David p. 10 Randy Cartagena p. 14   Dennis Benzan p. 8 Richard Harding p. 19   Derek Arledge p. 25 Richard Rossi p. 10   Donald Down p. 12 Roy Armstrong p. 14   Enoch Johnson p. 13

–  –  –

I now don’t even remember what life was like without children! I thought I knew the meaning of life. Life was real simple until I became a father! A love greater than your own is how I sum it all up. I could go on for days, but I’ll leave it like this. They wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for me, but I am NOTHING without them!

–  –  –

I have worked for over twenty years and continue to work with troubled youths and teenagers, so I feel that I have always played a father figure role in some way or fashion to every youth that I have I encountered. It has always been my style to treat all young people that I have worked with as my very own children and it has always been very fulfilling.

As for the literal term of fatherhood, I have a step-daughter, I have a biological daughter and just recently I am fostering to adopt another daughter. I think I have and am experiencing a very wide array of fathering scenarios. I have and will continue to treat and love each and every one of these girls equally and wholeheartedly to the very end. It is my first job and responsibility to protect and provide for them, this is what fatherhood means to me!

–  –  –

How much of me will go?

How much of me will stay?

How much of me has grown with both of them?

How much of me will wither as they leave?

Not wither, but change.

I think of them and of me as I type this poem.

Of days past and days yet to come.

Of things to learn and share.

I type.

They are still in bed.

Lying in bed in a hotel, Two boys, 18 and 15.

My life, Not withering.

Changing and growing.

Two boys.

–  –  –

Fatherhood to me means having children for which we are ready to sacrifice for.

Fatherhood should not mean “neglect.” It should instead inspire one to spend time with a son or a daughter, and satisfy their needs to want to go to the park, the movies or a game.

Fatherhood is to pay attention to the kids’ needs in general. Fatherhood is to be a good father, exemplary, and a good listener. We cannot give it all, agree to all things our children want, but fatherhood is also to learn how to compromise.

–  –  –

My dad immediately became my role model. There was finally a man in the house I could study and love. He embraced my presence whether we were in the car going to his job, an amusement park, or at home just watching TV. There was hardly a moment where he wouldn’t make me laugh or smile.

I learned to return the embrace of making sure to make the most of each moment with my dad. Little did I know, these interactions molded me into being the person I am today. I have never wondered until writing this what I would have been like as a person if he never came to live with us when I was 5.

Now, as a father of two phenomenal, healthy boys of my own, and husband to one of the smartest and most beautiful people I have met… I get to give back what was given to me, and better yet, blessed to be in a position to provide even more to them than I ever had.

Looking at my own kids sometimes is like, “Wow, you guys are so lucky and don’t even know it. You think all of this is normal.” My early years as a dad weren’t the easiest, I was young, looking for education and a paycheck, but my wife and I made sure our newborn son never felt the ripple-effects of any of that. THAT’s being a parent.

Because of my own upbringing with a mom and a dad, I value that nugget of inspiration as the glue to keeping my family of four together for a very, very long time, because I know some people don’t get the opportunity to have both parents at home, which at one point before a miracle, was me.

Having a father was huge for me, being a dad is even better.

–  –  –

Being a father is special in helping and watching my child grow up, making sure she has nothing to worry about, helping her with homework, and school projects, and not letting anyone harm or hurt her. Being able to wake up and kiss her on the forehead and say everything is alright. Taking her to the park and playing for hours, but most of all making sure that she doesn’t have to worry, to make sure that she is the happiest person in the world and that she has everything.

–  –  –

For many years I had wished and hoped to become a parent.

As a gay man, for a decade in a long-term partnership, and for many years single, I explored the various ways I might make this dream come true. And when in my early 40's I came to accept this was most likely not going to happen, I became friends with the woman who became the mother of my children.

After a few years of friendship and sharing our lifelong mutual desire to parent - we began to discuss what it would look like to create a family together as friends. What it looked like was what we saw all around us - the possibility of our children having 2 loving parents who don't live together and are not in a romantic partnership. We also saw the opportunity to create a child-centric contract and to think through all the ways that we could preserve and protect our commitment to taking care of our children no matter what. We worked with a family lawyer and talked through and documented our plan to share the emotional, physical, and financial responsibility of raising our children. Then we got pregnant. And 3 years later got pregnant again. Now I wish it were a requirement that all parents figure out certain critical aspects of caring for their children while they are happily embarking on the lifelong commitment, instead of when they are dissolving a marriage or a relationship that is marred with hurt and pain and anger.

I quickly learned that fatherhood was more than the dream I had held my whole life. The reality was exhausting at times and full of worry when kids got sick or intersected with difficult challenges. The reality was also full of so much more magic, excitement, and joy then I ever could have imagined. I am almost every day awe-struck by the experience of being these young girls' father. Now 7 and 4 years old, my daughters are both completely different people from each other and from me. At the same time they are loving sisters who look out for each other - and I get to be part of teaching them that and how to work through conflict and difference. They care about their parents and their many aunts and cousins and extended family of friends and I get to help them appreciate the community they are part of and teach them about growing and building their own. I often tell my friends that my children are parenting me. But more accurately, I am sure that as I continue to learn to parent them, they are re-parenting me. As their father, I can't help what I was taught and what I learned along the way, but I can make choices about what I teach them. I can be an example of what I think is important and celebrate what is unique and special about who they are.

I think this story of fathering captures a lot of my experience. When my daughter was 3 I was able to go from a rented apartment to a condo that I bought through the City's first time home buyer program. Our (then) new home is a duplex and the bathroom is upstairs.

My daughter was afraid to go upstairs alone to the bathroom, even in the day time. The Cambridge dads: in their own words | 11 first couple of times she asked me to go upstairs with her I found myself telling her in a reassuring tone that there was nothing to be afraid of. Then I remembered being her age and being afraid to sleep in my bedroom which was at the opposite end of the house from my parents' bedroom. I remember my father telling me there was nothing to be afraid and sending me back to bed - but because I was afraid to tell him I was still afraid, I'd wait until my parents fell asleep and I'd sneak down the hall and lay on the floor at the foot of their bed hoping I'd wake up before they did in the morning. When I remembered that experience, I realized I could be a different father than my father was. I started going upstairs with my daughter and making it an adventure - "Oh good, I'll come with you," I'd say. "Let's get a book while we're there, or let's have a pillow fight when you're done." And then I would talk to her about how I used to (and sometimes still) get afraid. And I reminded her she can always tell me when she's afraid. Sure we talked about how there was nothing to be afraid of - but mostly we removed the judgment from having fear - so she could pass through feeling afraid when she was ready. She did get over her fear. But if she asked me today to go with her upstairs - I would in a heartbeat.

Fatherhood has taught me so much - yet the truth for me is that fatherhood scares me. But I keep doing it and doing well or figuring out what needs work and trying to do it better.

And the fears I conquer are almost always replaced by new fears I'll have to conquer - so as a family we figure out how to get to the other side. But a million times greater than the fear is the joy and the love. My first daughter turned 7 last week while we were on vacation and she spent her days swimming to raise money for a fundraiser in a community she loves.

Her little sister spent the week telling everyone she wanted to be just like her big sister.

And I spent the week covering them in sunscreen and thanking God for the gift of being their father.

–  –  –

Cambridge dads: in their own words | 12 What does fatherhood mean to you?

To be a father is the best gift in the world. When I look into my children’s eyes all I can see is the love. When I was growing up, I had no father to show me the joy of being a kid. I always said if I had kids they would never have to go through what I did. A father should always make their kids feel that they are the world. We hang out at the mall or go to the movies, we are always on the run. Being a father is Awesome.

–  –  –

It means tremendous joy. It means my little one will be looking up to me. This is an opportunity to share our family values and inspire him to be happy and a good element for our community/society.

–  –  –

Best feeling in the world. They give me a reason to come here and they keep me busy.

They push me to be a better man. I’m doing better than my father and am more involved.

–  –  –

Fatherhood means protecting my kids, providing for my kids financially, morally, whatever my kids need from me. It means being there to support them and teach them the right way to live, so they will be better human beings than I am, in whatever way I can and they need.

–  –  –

They are the air, and we become the air too. We circle the whole world and touch all its life;

a connection that would have seemed impossible moments before. I instinctively surrender all calculated thought and intention to a simple truth. We need nothing but each other.

My mind works desperately to cast this joy into reason, trying to trap the boundless echo of my heart’s new voice. I must fight to hold this feeling; to live it faithfully for my daughter and our family.

I hear my daughter cry and I begin to cry with her. I take another breath, as a father.

–  –  –

Cambridge dads: in their own words | 15 What does fatherhood mean to you?

A father is someone that never leaves their kids’ side. Always be there for them, always listening, caring, just letting them know you will always be there for them and provide love.

–  –  –

Fatherhood to me means everything. Most fathers give up early in their kid’s life or don’t get to see their kids due to certain situations. Watching my child grow is a blessing.

–  –  –

Cambridge dads: in their own words | 17 What does fatherhood mean to you?

Father Always be there for guidance To cherish every moment with my son (nothing like the present).

Hero through my son’s eyes Embrace life with joy Remain true to fatherhood.

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