Being a Native Father

Becoming a parent is life changing. When my first child was born, I remember feeling comfortable, for the first time, holding a baby in my arms, and thinking, "now I truly understand what love is." Yet, it took me years to transform that understanding of love into solid changes in my behaviors, so that I could be there fully for my son and his mother. Not unlike many other young Native men of my generation, my own upbringing was rough and along the way I built an invisible wall around me that emotion could scarcely penetrate, in either direction. I was sensitive to what was happening around me, but had a hard time to express my feelings and an even harder time receiving positive attention and love from people. In this situation it is easy to constantly come up with excuses to not be fully present as a father and partner with those we love. It is even more challenging when it becomes apparent that we have personal and emotional issues that need to be addressed. It is really tough for us men to acknowledge our shortcomings and work to change our behaviors. In reality, this is just a part of growing up and maturing for both partners in a long term relationship. There are many escapes, some more intense and potentially harmful than others, when we are running from maturing as people and fulfilling family responsibilities. Some like to keep themselves so busy, that there is no time to focus on personal growth and family. Others turn to alcohol or drugs to escape feelings or dynamics that they do not want to face. In general, we are very priviledged as men in todays society, so we have to be careful not to take advantage of it in a
way that gives us an escape from growing up. Over the years, I had three more children and had to face myself, remind myself, time and again that I am trying my best to demonstrate through practice a commitment to family. There is a lot of forgiveness, humility, and patience that is needed along this path. We all make mistakes and all need some space from time to time, but lets learn from the mistakes and utilize the space to reflect, heal, and grow. Many of the solutions to our societies challenges rest in our ability to bring unhealthy ways of being to an end on the personal and family levels. Blessings to you and yours.