What I was sure about was the fact that it wasn't fair for me to complain about the lack of substance from the girls I was casually dating, without me being willing to commit myself to a girl. This girl caught my eye from the moment I saw her and the more we talked, the more I admired her. However, there was one thing that seriously tested my commitment and made me instantly back-pedal: her 4 year old son, Raul.
I'm one of the few guys among my friends without a kid and I spend more time preaching the importance of "wrapping it up" than an after school special on safe sex. I have a career and travel plans. I have the ability to leave whenever I want to wherever I want. Why would I give that up?
If I was going to commit, I too had to sacrifice. Or so I thought, because so far none of it has felt like a sacrifice. This 4 year old boy and his beautiful mother have taught me more about love and family in 5 months than I would have ever imagined. The mother has not once pressured me into anything. She's gotten this far on her own. Her confidence and ability to be a strong, independent, single mother is one of her most attractive traits. The son is hilarious, adorable, and at times misbehaved, like any 4 year old would be.
Her son, Raul, lights up every time he sees me and the feeling is mutual. Watching him learn things that I teach him and his dedication to doing things on his own is amazing. Sometimes he asks about his dad, who lives in Puerto Rico and video chats with him every now and then. Often, I stop and wonder how a man could give up, run away, separate himself (Call it what you want) from a son or daughter. I feel like I am robbing his father of these amazing moments until I realize he gave them up willingly.
To Raul, his dad is still his dad. Though the man he calls dad does little in the way of being a father, I would never cloud his judgment of who the man is. These are things that he will learn on his own. For anyone to teach him to hate his father would be unforgivable. His mother agrees to the same. Regardless, it's clearly unfair that Raul has such a high regard for the illusion that is his father when in fact it is the mother has given up so much to raise him.
Now, I don't know what the future holds - no one does. Someday, Raul might get tired of me telling him what's best for him and tell me "You're not my father! You can't tell me what to do!". I have known his mother for approximately 7 months now and though everything is great, the future is never promised between us. The level of uncertainty and responsibility is scary. However, the appreciation and love that the boy shows me is priceless. It truly makes me feel pity for any man who steps out on their son or daughter.
I am not writing as a self-righteous chant of how I stepped up to do what another guy failed to do. I write this to let people know that even though new experiences can be scary, especially when they come packaged with commitment - they can be the most rewarding of experiences. I want the single mothers out there to know that their struggle is appreciated and understood. I want the guys who "breed" to actually step up and be a man. An innocent life shouldn't go through life feeling like they are lacking something or someone, because their father made a bad choice.
Most importantly, I want everyone to know that your past doesn't determine your future. Just because a woman is a single mother doesn't mean she is "damaged goods" and just because you had a shitty father doesn't give you the excuse to be one as well. A great quote from one of my favorite movies explains it best:
"I don't want to be a product of my environment, I want my environment to be a product of me"
-Frank Costelo (The Departed)
If you were like me and were blessed with a good father, then why would you deprive yourself of the ability to provide the same to another child? A father has nothing to do with the sperm donation a man makes! It is entirely about the love, discipline, education, and character that he instills in the life of a child. If you set in motion the changes that you want to see in the world, I promise you that the momentum will surprise you.