FATHERHOOD

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to become a dad some day. The idea of being a dad appealed to me in a big way. If, or when it did happen, it would no doubt be one of the biggest highlights of my life. For those who have been reading my blog entries you know that I spent nearly 29 years in prison for a crime that I did not commit. You would also know that I was incarcerated at the age of sixteen, an age in which I knew nothing about serious relationships, let alone being a father. In prison, dreams can quickly turn into nightmares but my dream of becoming a dad never died because I would not let it. Believe it or not, there are many examples that I drew from during my incarceration. For example, conversations with inmates who were parenting children from inside prison. Some would think that attempting to raise a child from prison is far different than raising a child in the real world. People would be surprised to learn that some inmates are actually raising their children from prison. My only point in mentioning this was to say that even in the most unusual of places, there is no excuse not to ever be in your child’s life. I learned from conversations with inmates what it was like raising children from prison, before prison, and after prison. It sounds crazy to think that raising children from prison is possible but I saw it. Let me be clear that I wanted to be a dad for far more important reasons than watching inmates interact with their children in a prison visiting room.

When I first met Valerie nearly a year ago, I never thought that she and I would have a child together. I will never forget the moment when she first broke the wonderful news to me. I mean, my reaction to the news was normal as far as I was concerned but Valerie did not quite see it that way. She was hurt and disappointed because she expected a more animated response from me. Sensing that she was hurt, I attempted to assure her that I was fine and that I was happy with the news of having a baby. Honestly, I was stunned by the news that I would be a dad, even though this is something that I wanted to be. Aside from her initial reaction, Valerie was amazing in terms of the way she dealt with my reaction. She does not mention it anymore, but that does not nothing to quell my guilt. I felt guilty but I did not intend to hurt her nor was I unhappy about becoming a father. Here is what I know – Valerie is an amazing mom and I have every confidence that she will be an amazing mom to our daughter.

I am determined not to be one of those dads who pretends to be a dad when I’m around family and friends, while not living up to the responsibilities and expectations that I have set for myself. I will be there for my little lady no matter what. I have seen all too often growing up in Brooklyn NY, where fathers were missing from the children’s lives, for one reason, or another. The fact is that there were not enough role models in my neighborhood that kids could latch on to. I have seen from my own dad how not to treat the mother of your children. Regardless of the differences Valerie and I will have, I will not shirk my responsibility with my daughter. It’s funny, I have spent more than half my life in prison, never having the opportunity to experience what true freedom and liberty feels like; now I will never get that opportunity to experience that because this little girl will demand certain things from me that I will have to provide, most notably my time and attention.

I would be lying if I did admit there is some fear involved with my impending fatherhood, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Many have said to me that it is normal to have this feeling. I said to Valerie and my mom that I would have to be sitting down when I hold her for the first time. A part of me is nervous that Valerie’s two other children would be uncomfortable with the attention she gives to the baby. That said, knowing Valerie the way that I do, I think she will figure out a way to manage her time between the children.

Valerie and I recently went to a parenting class, which for me was amazing. When I first mentioned the parenting class to my mom, her typical old fashioned response was that I didn’t need a class and the best experience that I could ever get would be hands-on. In her way of timing, there is no better teacher than experience itself. Nevertheless, I liked the class and what it offered. Valerie was familiar with most of the teaching methods and examples used by the instructor, but even Valerie learned quite a few things. I think about the first time I feed her. The ¬†first time I burp her. The first time I wash her. The first time I change her diapers, probably with nervous hands. A lot of firsts. Perhaps, I am a bit paranoid, even though Valerie and my mom assures me that I will be fine, but only time will tell.

Yes. This is certainly an exciting time for me and I am very much looking forward to this wonderful blessing. My mom is like the oracle. She’s predicting that the baby will come before the due date of May 26. Whether my mom is right or not really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that our daughter is healthy and that I be the best father that I can be.

6 thoughts on “FATHERHOOD

  1. Congratulations, David!!!!

    I am ecstatic to hear the news of your dream of fatherhood coming to fruition. I cannot wait to read stories of you and your new family! :)

    May God bless you all.

    -Gina

  2. David and Valerie,

    I watch the Netflix documentary and felt compelled to research how you are doing. I found this site and read each entry. I cried with happiness when I read you met Valerie and her children. Knowing you now have a daughter together to add to this family is so heart healing after the pain I felt for you and all the injustice you have experienced.

    I want to tell you both the impact your story has immediately had on me personally. I had a very abusive and rough childhood. I have always worked to not let that hold me back or become a crutch to excuse not doing my best or being my best. I have risen above it and taken my life in such a great direction.
    This year, I have been involved in two massive layoffs. Things have been so difficult. I divorced my husband due to issues he came back from war with that he and I were not able to work through. Our son has been heartbroken but my promise to be sure my child was safe and experienced a healthy family had to be first. The anger my husband brought back is something he tries to medicate with alcohol and it was developing into aggressive behavior. I divorced him while still being very much in love and I still do my best to be their for him and keep the relationship he and my son have happy and positive. I have been able to keep our heads above water financially but the layoffs were a blow to me. I keep a smile on my face with everyone and say all the right things but inside I feel like I am caught in a current and can’t keep my head above water long enough to breath before another wave takes me over.

    Basically privately feeling sorry for myself and letting that take over. After watching your documentary I cried so hard, I have not cried for years. I had to be the strong one. You have inspired me to look at all the blessing I have, the choices I have, the strength I have, the faith I lost and the opportunities I am wasting. You have changed me.

    I have redone my resume, started a journal with goals in the front and daily targets for me to meet to achieve my goal. I just enrolled for classes to further my education and set up counseling sessions for me and my son to later include his dad.

    I felt it important to share with you both the impact you have had on me. I was not in prison behind walls but had built one for myself. How foolish right?

    My son and I are taking walks, I am looking at the world and really taking in what is around me. We started working at a local food bank once a week. I am starting to step outside my self inflicted self involved emotional prison and living again.

    I have several interviews lined up and feel I can walk in with a new happier more optimistic outlook. I am worth it, my son deserves it and life is to precious to let slip away for things that have happened. I have been spending all my time looking back through a small review window when the windshield of my life right in front of me is so much bigger and full of so much more hope and opportunity.

    Your story changed my life. I will add you and Valerie to my families prayer each day. That God continue to bless you as you being so open and loving as a family has blessed so many of us. Never doubt your experience and life has meaning.

    With my gratitude and love,

    Renee

    • Dear Renee,
      A response like this one–even if it were the only one–makes the whole experience worth it for everyone involved.
      Best wishes to you; may your life continue in a positive direction.
      Ken Klonsky

  3. Congratulations, David! It is wonderful that you are able to live your dream. Your daughter is lucky to have a dad who can teach her to find the positives in bad situations, and to never give up. You will do great.

  4. Congradulations on all your accomplishments and to fatherhood!!! You deserve nothing but great things. You are an inspirational man. Thank you so much for giving sharing your life with myself and the rest of the world.

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