by Doug Edwards
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Struggles and Successes

I have been privileged to share in the lives of a vast array of fathers and family men of very diverse backgrounds.  Dads, step-dads, big brothers, uncles and grandfathers are all included.  I have heard lots of their stories.  I have celebrated with the new father, hours after the birth of his first child.  I have swapped delivery room stories with a group of men who winced with painful expressions as they related, with passion and empathy, the labor pangs they shared with mom. 
Some men have only completed 7th grade, and some have completed college. 

I have shared the joy of fathers who contemplated the sheer wonder and mystery of a life as they gazed into the eyes of their newborn child.  I have been at a loss for words as dads struggled for a way to express their feelings of sorrow and powerlessness in the presence of the loss of an infant or fetus, their child. 
Some men are white, some Latino, and some are Black, some married and some not. 

I have witnessed the tender expressions of love between a father and his child as his 4 year-old handed her father a Certificate of Completion at a Fatherhood Development Program for a Head Start class.  I have seen grown men weep, recalling the unrelenting pain of abandonment that once again sweeps over them.  I have seen 14 year-old boys tremble with fear, not knowing how long it would take for their baby to be born. 
Some men know their dad and some do not. 

I have heard many men recite the day, date, and time their father walked out on the family.  I have seen them consumed with anger because of what it did to their mothers – including stress, poverty, drugs, and violence. 
Some men have no family connections, and some have large extended and wealthy families, and some are sitting in prison. 

With hope and tenderness they display ultrasound images of their unborn fetus. They’ve held photos of their child and with pride described memorable events they experienced together.  

Some have died violent deaths leaving their children fatherless and some have been reunified with their families.

Many, for the first time, shared their life-experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly. Stories changed over time as some became more trusting of the groups. Eyes opened wide, ears perked up, and the deep inner heartfelt expressions of truth were revealed. What a thrill to watch enlightenment overtake them. From cocky, fearful, secretive and untrusting, they became hopeful, committed, determined men ready to take their place as leaders and models and teachers for their children. I hear the stories of change from wives and mothers, teachers and caseworkers, but nothing compares to what I hear from the men themselves. A new sense of confidence and self-respect comes over them. Empowerment, courage and hope inspire them to move forward. They now realize that they can seize the small window of opportunity to set the course for their child’s success and that feels really good.

Some have joined the PTO, some have gone back to school to get a GED, and some have become members of their schools Policy Council.

My hope is that one day we can say that Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Waterbury and indeed all of Connecticut has nearly all of their children going to bed at night with a dad at home to experience that day-to-day, week-to-week and year-to-year impress of a present and engaged dad. And that moms and dads are working together (whether they are in a love relationship or not) to ensure the success of their children by creating a safe, warm, nurturing place for them to thrive. And that agencies, schools, and communities see dad as an asset and a necessary social and emotional resource to the life of the family. And that family men find a meaningful way to touch the lives of not only their children, but also the lives of others who may not have a fully functioning dad.

I love being a dad to my five children and a granddad to my nine grandchildren.