“Sweetie…what do you want for breakfast? Pancakes or a hardboiled egg?”
“I want cereal!”
“Pancakes it is…come down it’s ready…”
That’s a typical exchange between my 6-year-old daughter and me on a Saturday morning. It exemplifies my role as a father; the father I want to be, the father I’m perceived as and the father I am. I belong to a new generation of Latino men who have taken their roles of being dads very seriously. Many of us grew up without the support of our fathers or are healing from the emotional and sometimes physical scars they left behind.
I did not see positive male role models in my immediate household growing up. So before getting married I had to figure out what type of husband and father I wanted to be because I had no blueprint. My father, for the most part, abandoned me. My stepfather was abusive. Unfortunately, my situation was not unique. My friends and peers growing up all had similar stories. Our fathers belong to a lost generation of men who did not care to take ownership of their family responsibilities. My friends and I, we were on our own. Over time, many of us were lost to crime, delinquency or drugs. Others followed in their father’s footsteps, having children without the intention of taking responsibility for them. I knew what I didn’t want to be and maybe that was a lesson in itself, but I also wanted to make sure that I knew what I did want to be and it is that exercise that I continue to explore.
I want to be a father that breaks stereotypes of what “dad’s do” and what “mom’s do” especially as a Latino dad. On Saturdays, I’m the first one up and my two daughters see me cooking and that’s the norm in my house, especially when I have the time to do it. It is important to me to show that cooking isn’t just for women. Because when my girls have mates, I don’t want them to pick guys who think a woman’s role is limited to the kitchen.
I want to be perceived as a father who listens. Growing up Latino, I often got a sense that adults believed kids were to be seen and not heard. Even now, I know adults who view children as amusement — toys to be tickled or bothered or forced to perform cute tricks. I want to be seen as a dad who thinks of my children as important, who is interested in their daily lives.