Navigating the Challenges of Single and Co-parenting
“A single hand cannot nurse a child” -Swahili proverb. It truly takes a village to raise a child but who's to say what that village should look like? There are so many different types of parenting styles and family structures and they all have the same common denominator; loving, nurturing and protecting their children. Parents are coming to the conclusion that no matter what happens between them, their children are still made from love. I spoke to a number of millennial parents to learn more about the evolution of parenthood, and what values and principles they’re instilling in their children
Eric Stafford, 31 and single, is the father of seven-year-old Ethan. He is a Claims Examiner at Health Partners Plans, and an actor who recently appeared in the movie “Once Upon A Time in Philly” and is currently a part of the stage play “Married, Single & Everything in Between”. Eric is also a board member and public relations representative of the non-profit organization called Ordinary Heroes. He grew up in a large and close-knit family and is a member of the Holy Church of the Living God pastored by Chief Apostle Kirk Hinton. To call him a super dad would be an understatement.
What advice would you give others who want to have positive co-parenting relationship?
“To be honest the only advice I can give is to communicate on both sides. No matter the differences or how things might’ve happened to break off the relationship, communicating with your co-parent is for the child’s wellbeing. Your responsibility is to do what's best for the child and that starts with communications. I’m far from perfect and may lack in areas that his mother might be better at. You have to be willing and able to accept that role.”
What makes you mature quickly as a parent and an individual?
“Growing up, I watched TV shows like “The Cosby Show” and “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” where you would see Black men as the head of the household. That wasn’t my reality though; I was raised by my grandmother who has been the strength of my life since I could remember. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had male figures in my life such as uncles, cousins and some great men from the neighborhood who made sure I didn’t get lost or caught up in being a statistic.
“When my son was born, I was only 24 years old. It probably was the scariest time of my life because he was born at 29 weeks and spent multiple weeks in the ICU fighting for his life. The more days I spent with him there, the more I wanted to do right by him in any way possible. So from that moment I just moved more consciously, always trying to put myself in the best situation that he would be proud of. I pride myself on showing him the right ways of life; I have been through some stuff that I pray he doesn’t have to deal with in his lifetime and while I’m here I’m making it my responsibility to make sure that it doesn’t happen. Life gets harder everyday but he’s been my motivation to keep me going no matter the obstacles.”
What are some values and principles you would like to instill in your son?
“A few values I often talk to my son about are respect, honesty and listening. We talk about treating others how we would wanna be treated, not necessarily how they treat us. I try to get him to understand that everybody won’t be nice and that’s Ok. He’s so loving that it scares me sometimes because I don’t want people to take his kindness for weakness. Being honest goes a long way in life and in most cases it's more helpful than harmful. As far as listening, you can’t talk and listen at the same time. You learn more from listening and paying attention, than by talking and thinking you know it all.”
How do you protect your son mentally, physically and spiritually?
“Spiritually, I teach him to pray and encourage him to talk to God as much as possible. Being that he’s only seven, his first option isn’t to go to church; however, I take him with me so that he can have some understanding on his own.
“Physically, we play fight and I teach him how to hold his hands and spread his legs to support his balance. I also encourage him to defend himself if he’s ever attacked.
“As far as me protecting him Mentally, I talk with him, pray with him and for him. If we aren’t together, he calls me every day and as long as he hears my voice or sees my face, he has no worries because daddy will handle it.”
Lavva, 23 and Fr33sol 25, are Self-made career musicians and new parents who reside in the Overbrook region of Philadelphia, PA. "Our home consist of king, queen, and prince Waseer," said Lavva.
A screenshot from Lavva’s Instagram of her, Fr33sol and their son Waseer being nursed
Nowadays, there are more parents choosing to take a natural approach to birthing a child which is an indicator of how the parenting journey will be. “We had a home birth planned but that changed to a hospital birth. It was pretty traumatizing and we’re still healing from it.” Said Lavva whose water broke prematurely creating an emergency situation that took them to the hospital.
When asked what values and principles were they instilling in Waseer, they replied, “We are instilling self-love and self-sustainability as core values for our child to grow up on. Our son will be astute in health and wellness, spirituality, business, agriculture and art. He will have knowledge of self and his ancestral bloodline at an early age.”
Next, I spoke to Natasha, 30 and Jehuti Sun, 32, a newly wedded couple. The Sun’s household include their three children and Jehuti’s mother. Being a plant based vegan parents, they're passionate about teaching their children the fundamentals of taking care of the body.
Natasha, her oldest son, and Jehuti Sun her husband
“I am blessed to have three children, two by Natasha and myself and a bonus son my wife had prior to us connecting. I would say our family is definitely a blended family. We even have the inter-generational aspect as well,” said Jehuti Sun.
Many of the values and principles that father and husband, Jehuti Sun is instilling in their children stem from the African-centered upbringing he received. “A lot of my introduction to life came through Rites of passage….I was blessed with the Rite of Passage in high school. I attended Imhotep Charter high school,” said Jehuti Sun. With five years plus of experience facilitating and taking part in Rites of Passage for Young Black Men, he is instilling “Sankofa” in his children’s lives.
“The principles we would instill our children are, everything is connected, health is important and that it’s important to work together as a family,” said Natasha.
“As parents, we are always trying our best to protect our children from bad things while balancing peace of mind. “It’s a full-time job trying to protect children. You try to protect them from bad images in the media, negative mantras in music, and even from witnessing bad things when walking down the street; it’s not easy. I decided to stay home with our children to protect them. I feed them only what my husband and I cook. We also keep them off of the internet and we protect them from TV and music that we don’t approve of,” said Natasha
What does it mean to be a parent?
It means choosing to live a life fully knowing and honoring that there are children that depend on you. Taking on the role and responsibility of a parent is something worth celebrating no matter the structure of the family. Whether the parents’ relationship didn’t work out or was blessed with compatibility, friendship and companionship, the most important focus should always be the development, safety and overall well-being of the children involved.
FunTimes honors and encourages the mothers and fathers who are present, patient and pronounced in the lives of their children and, therefore, adding to the advancement of our people.