celebrating fathers and strengthening father engagement
young father describes journey from isolation to connection
Haji Shearer, Director of the Children’s Trust’s Fatherhood Initiative.
It’s my pleasure to introduce you to today’s guest speaker, Mr. Jamaul Miller.
Jamaul Miller, Graduate of the Children’s Trust’s Nurturing Fathers Program.
Hello everyone. My name is Jamaul Miller and I am a proud dad who shares joint physical custody of my six year old daughter, Jaya. My beautiful daughter.
I am also a graduate of the Nurturing Fathers program supported by the Children’s Trust.
Nurturing Fathers gave me the confidence to be the Father I always wanted to be. Not only did I learn how to be a Nurturing Father, but the father in me was nurtured. There are lots of parenting programs for mothers, but to find a program catered to Fathers was like finding a needle in a haystack.
Before Nurturing Fathers I was a young single dad who just wanted to be the best dad I could be. When I walked into my first session I felt like I stepped into a nonjudgement zone. Not because it was enforced, but because I was amongst other dads who shared the same passion for parenting as I do, and who also faced the same obstacles.
So before Nuturing Fathers, I felt isolated, like the odds were stacked against me – and there was this threatening sense that I just needed to just figure it out the best I can with little to no resources. I knew I wasn’t the first or the only man to face this and thought to myself – I need help. I need a support system. I need to stand on the shoulders of fathers that came before me.
In Nurturing Fathers, I learned some hard core facts that significantly impacted my self-image as a dad. For instance, did you know mothers and fathers have the same internal biological response to their child’s cry? Did you know that? (Laughs). I didn’t know that either. Externally we respond differently because by nature WE ARE different. But it does not mean we are any less concerned or protective as a parent.
So Nurturing Fathers taught me how to believe in myself as a father. It disproved all the naysayers that planted in my head, “You are genetically wired to never be good enough because you’re a man.”
I am a father. And I am a loving father. Nurturing Fathers nurtured that love and grew me into an empowered father. Now I feel I have a duty to empower other fathers who may have the same sense of inadequacy that I did. The sense of inadequacy that can bring a grown man to tears. The deep love for our children that we feel conflicts with the popular belief that young, black dads don’t care. We care. We care.
A friend of mine who is the epitome of a phenomenal single mother, told me, “Mothers don’t have all the answers, but what we do have is social and political support systems that ensure that we become the best mothers we can be.” And now, fathers have a program like Nurturing Fathers that can provide the same support to instill the same confidence in fathers.
Quick story! My 6 year old daughter tells me she has a boyfriend. She’s in kindergarten, okay! (Laughs). So internally I exploded. I completely overreacted in my head, like “What?! Who is this kid? Find his parents. What’s his name? We’re changing schools!” (Laughs). So a total overreaction.
But, to my daughter, I had on the parent poker face. Oh okay, so what’s his name? And I smiled, with a nice tone. The reason why I didn’t project that, because I have this idea where I want to have a relationship with my daughter where she tells me everything. So I have to develop that now. But I brought the issue to the group. What I intended to do by yelling was to get her attention. I was trying to teach her that this was a serious matter, and I feel strongly about it – boyfriends, you know? But when I learned the actual outcome, that it would lower her self-esteem, it would make her feel bad about herself, and it would completely close me off to her, I made a more informed decision to parent with my head and not my emotions. After talking it out with the fellas, I revisited the conversation with Jaya. And later that day, my baby told me “well, he’s my boyfriend, but he doesn’t know it yet.” (Laughs) So it was way more innocent than what I was thinking, right? (Laughs)
This whole interaction was important because I wanted Jaya to know that she can always come to me and that I will always listen to what she has to say, no matter what the topic was.
And now, the other parents at the birthday parties ask me for insight on what’s going on with their kids because they know I have the inside scoop!
So this is one example of how a little bit of information goes a long way. This one nugget of information changed my entire approach and I have Nurturing Fathers to thank for it.
Through the program, I went from being impulsive to more thoughtful. From being isolated to more connected. From being unaware to just more informed.
Nurturing Fathers reinforced all the positives that I have to offer to my daughter. And I no longer feel inferior or alone.
I would like to thank the Children’s Trust for supporting and believing in programs like the Nurturing Fathers, and me. And thank you all for being here today. Your support is critical to these programs. And I hope you all will continue to support and invest in fathers, our children, and our community. Thank you very much. (Applause).