As I venture through the journey of being a father of two young boys, I can’t help to be filled with doubts. The relationship with my father was almost non-existent and what little was there was violent, abusive and traumatic. It is sad to admit but the day he died I wasn’t sad or filled with regret, I was actually relieved.
My Mom did the best she could, and what she did was amazing. Most everything good about me as a person can be traced back to her teachings and examples. But as a Man and Father, I struggled to define my identity. Through my teen years, I studied the men around me in a constant search for a father figure.
My maternal grandfather Tito was my biggest influence. I learned from him how to be kind and welcoming to other, but also to speak my mind and defend my beliefs no matter what. From my uncle Candido, I learned how to always be willing to help others, even if it implies giving them the shirt off my back.
Others weren’t blood relatives but still taught me great lessons of what it meant to be a man. I remember being back from college during my first Christmas break and telling my grandparents neighbor Raul, everything I was learning and experiencing in college. He listened to me attentively until I was done boasting about all my new found knowledge. He looked at me, smiling and nodding and said. “That is incredible; I tell you, it doesn’t matter how much I think I know, the truth is that I don’t know anything.” As I processed the words and his kind smile, I learned what true humility was.
On another occasion, our dog, Piedrita, died getting stuck between our fence and the neighbor fence. My brother, Mom and I were distraught and could not bear the thought of removing the body. Our neighbor Edgardo undid his fence and removed our beloved pet, as we hid inside the house to avoid seeing what was going on. That day I learned that as a man sometimes you have to do hard things, even ugly things, for the sake of those who you love.
These and many other lessons slowly began to define my identity as a man. It has been a hard road and doubt still likes to creep its way in. When I had my first son, an urgency to figure out how to be a good father became all consuming. I have made many mistakes along the way but I would like to think that I am raising two good productive young men. I have also branched out into coaching sports and becoming a positive and stable influence for other kids.
Having survived what I lived and being lost for so long as a young man, I see a lot of myself in some of the kids I coach and meet. I can see the anger burning behind their eyes, their clenched jaws of trying to be a man while they are still a kid and that spark when they recognize in me what a man should be. I work every day to make sure my two boys never have to feel or experience any of the hell I went through as a child and teenager. I teach them all those lessons I had to search for from many kind men throughout my life. I make sure that they know right from wrong, have their priorities straight and always stand up for themselves and for what’s right. So far, even with my many blunders, they are two very kind and sweet young boys. But that is not enough.
Having been the lost boy for so long, it is my responsibility to help impart what little I know to this generation of lost boys. I promised myself I would break the cycle with my children and I know I will accomplish it. But I also need to help other kids break that cycle. For them is too late, as it was for me, but through coaching, being a good neighbor or just a carrying hand, I can try to make an impact in their life so they can hopefully break the cycle with their kids.
They say it takes a village, I say it takes a broken man; broken but determined, broken but stronger because of it; it takes a broken man to help counsel and guide the new generation of lost boys, so that one day they can be good men, good fathers and slowly but surely break the cycle.