By DERRICK BARNES
In 2005, immediately after my family and I were fortunate enough to survive and escape the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, we found ourselves in Kansas City, MO. We landed a rental home a small two-bedroom bungalow. I was so grateful to have my little tribe together in one piece, I made a promise to my wife to eventually buy a big, beautiful new home, and maybe, just maybe, add on to the fam. Well, in ’06, we introduced Barnes brother 3.0, Silas Nathaniel. But we were still residents of the two-bedroom bungalow. It was a quaint, vintage house with wooden floors, stained glass windows over the fireplace, and more than a century of character.
The main caveat connected to the new home was that my wife would have to have her own, big, spacious bathroom. In the bungalow, there was one itty-bitty bathroom. It was the size of a port-o-potty with a tub. That small. To avoid banging our elbows against the wall, we had to step out into the hallway to flush the toilet. We had to crack the window in order to brush our teeth. I’m lying. There was no window. The worst part was that now, Tink had to share ˜The John’ with four, count’em, four men. (Well, one big man and three little guys, but I’m sure she grouped us all together. Their aiming skills were horrendous!) So in ’08, we bought our very first home and mama had a big bathroom, with all the trimmings.
So when that promise came to fruition, she came back to the proverbial “well” and put in her bid to continue to add on to the tribe. She convinced me somehow. I told her I’m getting too old for this. I told her that we must have lost our damn minds because we’ve been making babies for 10 years now. Something has to give. And it did. The universe gave us Nnamdi Thelonius. This past June, the Mighty-Mighty-Mighty Barnes brothers added one more Mighty to their title. We welcomed our fourth son to the world and I couldn’t be happier.
My wife tells me that I said this about all of the brothers, but he is undoubtedly the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen (for the fourth time). His deep, dark-brown eyes are mesmerizing. His hair is a full, soft meadow of charcoal curls a coif of nappy perfection. He shares the same chocolate complexion as Silas, but he reminds me so much of Solomon. His skin puts silk to a pitiful, defenseless shame; his elbows, knees and feet are the meaning of supple. And occasionally, after a month and some change, he smiles at me. They say it’s involuntary, but I don’t think so. Our bond was forged long before he arrived. Or maybe he’s just mimicking the smile that just won’t leave my lips. He’s so perfect.
I feel like the richest man on the planet. To have fallen in love so many times is remarkable. Don’t get me wrong, some nights he’s fussy and we don’t get any sleep. At first his little cries were cute and reminded me of that melodious, sweet yell that Frankie Beverley belts out at the 1:49 mark on the album version of Joy and Pain. But by six weeks, little Nnamdi’s cries sound like Edith Bunker and one of the Chipmunks mutated into a ball of “wake-yo-ass-up-at-3 AM-and-walk“with-me-for-no-apparent-reason.” But it’s cool. This time is so fleeting. It gets better. Besides, I haven’t had any good sleep since we brought home Ezra, our 10-year-old.
To officially welcome this little guy to the family, I had a loooong talk with God and penned a prayer to Nnamdi, just as I have for all of the brothers. This wonderful medium that we call MyBrownBaby didn’t exist when the other three Barnes brothers were born, so if I may, I’d like to share with you, THE LAST (at least from these loins) “Welcome To the World” conversation I’ll have with the most high a prayer for my beautiful, beautiful baby Nnamdi (Nigerian for ˜my father is alive’):
Thank you for this responsibility, this mission, for this moment in time.
Thank you for assigning me to this most important role for the fourth time.
Thank you for this beautiful brown boy.
I come to you to pray for his health, and safety, and that you give Tinka and I, as his guardians, everything we might need to give Nnamdi Thelonius so that he may grow prosperous.
Show him love and happiness so that he knows what it feels like, looks like.
Let us show him patience, compassion for others, faith, courage, and strength.
And to keep it real, God, those are a lot of the things that I still need work on as a man, as a father, as a husband. Keep me faithful, work on my humility, and whatever you, do allow me to continue to dream BIG for this little brother, just as I have for the other Barnes brothers. Keep my expectations high; realistic yet astronomical.
He won’t be a baby for long, they never are. But please, Creator, while I have this limited amount of time to influence him in a positive way, please help me to engage in some type of activity, on a daily basis, to prepare not only Nnamdi, but his brothers as well, to leave our home, and go out into the world and become a “difference maker.”
I know I won’t be there on his first big job interview like I will for the first day of kindergarten. I can’t be an innocent bystander when he performs his first surgical procedure, or lay down plans for a new city hall in Chicago, or even in the courtroom attempts to clear the name of an innocent man. I won’t be there when he gets his first kiss, falls in love for the first time, falls out of love for the tenth time. I hope to be there when he experiences his first heartbreak, to offer an ounce of solace to help him get over that inevitable emotional setback that he probably could have avoided if he would have just listened to me in the first place but he won’t.
If he calls me from London, or Madrid, or Los Angeles, regardless of the time of day, I will wake up and talk to him about anything or nothing at all. When he’s afraid to make that jump, take that role, take that risk, do the unthinkable, please give me what I need to remind him that he is a Barnes brother, that you said that he is destined for greatness, and no matter the outcome, a million triumphs or one great big epic disappointment, there will always be a place on this planet where he will find love and support. And that will never change.
I want to dance at his wedding, be around to give him advice with his children, and only offer advice in regards to his wife when he ask for it.
It might be too early to concern you with these things, but at the blazing, warp-speed pace that life seems to be moving, he’ll have a mustache, a quiz in pre-calculus, a speeding ticket, full-ride scholarship letters from SEC football power house colleges, and humongous dreams of his own in no time. I know this. But even then even then no matter how far you take him, no matter how much he grows, no matter how much it may seem like he won’t need me or his mother as much, I’ll always be able to look him straight in his eyes, deep in his eternally beautiful soul and see my baby.
Nnamdi Theloinus. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of his story.
Derrick D’wayne Barnes is the author of eight children and young adult books, including the literary middle school masterpiece, “We Could Be Brothers.” He’s given his insights about fatherhood on GreatDad.com, has been featured on NorthParan.com, and is an incredible role model for brown babies everywhere. He lives in Kansas City, MO, with his wife and their four sons. Read more about him on DerrickBarnes.com.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.