By SHAWN FLUDD
Fathers provide insight, wisdom, direction, courage, and many other types of support to their children, so when children don’t have that in their lives, there is often something lacking. After becoming a teen father myself with no father or father figure in my life, it wasn’t until one of my teachers took time and invested in me that I saw being a father in a totally different light.
I was the average teenager. I enjoyed hanging out with my friends, going to school dances, hitting up the roller skating rink on Friday nights, and playing sports. Then at the young age of 15, I was told that I was going to become a father.
My emotions after I was told this may actually surprise you. I was excited! I felt like a man. I went home and told my mom and she said, “You better get a job and take care of this baby.” I still remember her words like it was yesterday… So I went out and got a part-time job after school. One day one of my male teachers pulled me aside and said, “What did your parents say about you having a baby?” I replied, “My mom said I better get a job.” He said, “What about your father?” and I told him, “I don’t know him.”
That teacher starting investing time in me. After my son was born, he took me shopping to get baby necessities that I didn’t think I needed, and that I didn’t even know existed. He later told me that he was worried for me because he realized that I had missed out on a lot not having my father around. He would later go on to become my mentor.
Over the few months after my first son was born, life got tougher. The time I used to spend with friends was spent taking care of my son. When my friends were graduating and going away to college, I was working and being a father. Being a father is tough, but being a teen father is outrageously tough! I realized that the feeling of excitement I had indeed should have been fear.
It was because of my mentor that I excelled and achieved great things. He was my father figure at this point in my life. He taught me how to drive, taught me how to dress for success, how to balance life as a young father, and showed me an example of what being a father meant.
- There are great things that happens when you decide to ‘step up’ in a child’s life, and the good news is that you don’t even have to be a person’s biological father to make a positive impact on them. A few things happen when you step up: That person you are helping has a better life, whether they are still in the womb or are 15 years old like I was. Because of you, they are better than they would have been.
- In the process, you learn about all of the things that you have things in you to give: information, advice, compassion, love. Things you never knew you had.
- You build that person’s confidence. There is nothing better than knowing someone cares about you and has your best interest at heart, whether they are family or not.
There is also some advice I’d like to share about mentoring, helping, and being a father or father figure, based on my experiences:
- If you are a teen father, get a mentor. Find a positive male influence that you see regularly and ask him “what advice could you give a teen father?” I assure you that if you are open to it, you will come across someone who genuinely wants to see you succeed.
- If you know a child that is fatherless or needs some positive direction, look for ways to make a positive impact in their life. You never know who that person is going to become because of you. I recently read a quote that said “The greatest contribution you make in this world may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” There could never be truer words and this doesn’t just apply to blood.
- Don’t turn your back on teen fathers because you think they are “irresponsible.” They have dreams and ambitions and can do great things. Reach out and help them.
- If you are a father or a father-to-be and have been teetering on the fence of being an involved parent, please consider taking the very unselfish steps that it takes to be there. Take note of the quote above and realize that whether you think you can make a positive difference or not, you can learn to. Your love alone can make a world of difference in your child’s life.
“The greatest contribution you make may not be something you do, but someone you raise.” Click To Tweet
My goal as a teen father, who grew up without a father, was to make sure my son knew I was there and that he could talk to me about anything anytime. I made the conscious decision and put in the effort to “step up.” His mom and I broke up before he was in the second grade so I made it a point to go to his school to have lunch with him, to engage with his friends, meet his teachers, attend PTA meetings, go to parent/teacher conferences, and everything else I could. It wasn’t always the place that was the most fun for me, but it was the most important…because I decided that he would be the number one thing in my life and never looked back.
Today, I’m a mentor that actively looks for ways to pour into young people. I co-founded a nonprofit organization that mentors youth in the Washington, D.C. area, and I am the founder of Bear & Boo Children’s Boutique which has a fund to help families in need. Everything I do involves youth and I must say that I’m grateful for the opportunity to give back.
I encourage all men and women readers to make that decision for yourselves today – step up even though it may not be easy, step up even if you might not think you’re the best person for it, step up to help a child who needs direction, and step up because it’s a great thing to influence the life of a child.
Shawn Fludd has been a parent since the young age of 16. He is currently in his thirties with a 19 year old, 3 year old, and a 1 year old and has learned something new with each child. He is also the founder of Bear & Boo Children’s Boutique , which sells trendy and affordable accessories for babies and toddlers.
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.