Lots of fathers participate in Parenting Now! We honor them this month by sharing these words of strength and love from one of “our” Parenting Now! dads.
A lot of things come with instructions. Sometimes there are maps and blueprints on how to do this or that. Not so when it comes to parenting and how to be a dad. Furthermore, for dads and dads-in-waiting, there needs to be a lifetime of training and familiarization with how to grow up to be a father.
The meaning of being a dad varies among all of us, but what are the basics for me? To be comfortable saying to my baby girl “I love you — Te quiero, mi vida.” To allow my inner voice to scream at me with full lungs, “What the bananas are you doing on the floor playing with toys?” To have a constant fight with society’s expectations of me as an individual and one whom was not ever guided by a father or influenced by anyone who was a father figure. To want to break the chain of difficulties in parenting and initiate my very own family full of love. To be OK having an identity of a loving father and one that is getting stronger and wiser and enjoying every moment with my baby girl. That is what it is like for me to be a dad.
I was one of 10 children and most often neglected in my surroundings and challenged by my circumstances at an early age. I set out with a dream of having a family some day. The only problem was that I was very afraid of having a family and children and what it would take.
Being a daddy is not easy; having organizations like Parenting Now! makes it a lot easier. In my experience, the organization truly gives you a wonderful, calming and soothing way to get through the day. The agency offers a way to connect with other parents, other dads. They let you know you are not alone, a welcomed and unexpected discovery, while allowing you to assert your own role as a dad. All of that was the key to embracing my role and an identity that I created from bits and pieces.
Those bits and pieces I picked according to my comfort level so I could look beyond a day to the years down the road.
Parenting Now! gives parents confidence. In my case, the organization let me know that it is OK to play, to brush my daughter’s hair in public, to go shopping for a dress for my little one, to lift my beautiful ballerina up in the air or to be the guest of honor for tea in the living room. This is my new happiness.
There also are moments that require you to recall special bonding times to get you through the day. My preemie-girl was six weeks early with tubes and machines. She held my ring finger as I walked beside her as she was being carried to the NIC unit, or neonatal intensive care unit, where she was in a room full of similar newborns. Then we had some bonding time where a tiny newborn’s first contact with her parents is through skin contact, called Kangaroo time. That bonding cures all the sleepless nights, skipped meals, questions marks and insecurities of parenting. At least at the time.
That was just the beginning. Many other first times came, one by one — different activities, silliness, dancing with her, holding her, fixing “it” and putting your magic to it. Then one day came her first words, “Papa.” I was hooked for the next round.
To my friends searching or asking themselves whether it is OK to do those things — why yes! If you don’t, you’ll miss out on a lot. There are no instructions and no one way to be a dad — it is work and there are many pearls of wisdom to learn, but from my corner, you get to be a man, a dad, a prince, a hero, a play buddy, a shoulder to sleep on and someone that your child calls Papa. Believe me, it is all worth it.
Juan Carlos Valle, of Eugene, is president-elect of City Club of Eugene, former chair of the Police Commission and founding president of LULAC of Lane County. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit offering groups and workshops so that all children are raised by nurturing, skilled parents. Contact Parenting Now! at www.parentingnow.org, on social media and at 541-484-5316.