Nominated by his son’s mother, Deka Dancil
By Ashley Kang
Q: What did it feel like when you first became a father?
A: It was emotional. When he was born, I was bawling. I felt all the emotions. I was nervous. I was scared. I was apprehensive. I was excited. But when he actually came, I was boohoo crying … just bawling, because it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever see. There is no way to really explain … seeing each other for the first time. I wish everyone can experience it.
Q: What can you share about your son?
A: He’s the greatest kid. He loves to be outside. He loves to run and swim. He loves “Sonic” and “Paw Patrol.” He’s very personable, a real people person. Everywhere we go, people seem to love him, and he loves everyone. My brother recently got married, and Max was the ring bearer. He was the life of the party. He was on the dance floor from the time the reception started until the time it ended. He mingled with everybody and was fully immersed in their family. It was really beautiful to see. He’s like my mini me; my best friend. I can’t even explain it. This is why I’m having such a hard time with him starting school. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself.
Q: How do you co-parent successfully?
A: It can be challenging. I try to be understanding and available. I look at it like this: We’re the only two people that came together to make this child, so it’s on us to give him the best life possible. Regardless of our situation, we have to make the best life for this child.
Q: What was your relationship like with your father?
A: I was around my son’s age when I first met my dad. He’d stop by for a while, mainly on weekends, but then when I was 11, he got married. Soon after that, I stopped seeing him and haven’t seen him since.
Q: How did that shape how you act as a father?
A: By him not being a dad, it taught me everything I needed to know about being a father. I really don’t take advice when it comes to being a parent because I know there’s no manual … there’s no set way. We’re all going to make mistakes, but there’s no correct way to do it. You have to grow and learn. A lot of it stems from who you are as a person. Your level of patience. There’s a lot of stuff you have to deal with before you have a child. So for me, how I saw my father act showed me everything that I didn’t want to do to my son. I remember being small and wanting my dad around for plays and stuff like that. Wanting him to come see me perform. Now, I don’t miss anything with my son. Last year, I drove him to preschool every day. I made his lunch. We always sit and eat breakfast together. I do his hair. (My limited relationship with my dad) just taught me to be there full time — 100%. I don’t want my son to ever need for anything.
Q: Do you have any special traditions with your son?
A: Two things. We go on vacations every summer. This summer, we went to Disney World; next, we’re going to Nintendo Land in Japan. That’s going to be hectic to work out, but I’m gonna get on it soon. Summer vacations is something I always look forward to. Then on my birthday, we always take photos. This is really special to me, and it’s just the best birthday present I can get — spending time with my son.
Q: There’s a commonly held stereotype that Black fathers are not involved. What do you see?
A: I think in the past, there was some truth to the stereotype, but now, from the people I have in my circle or family members, I see them all being excellent fathers. They make time for their kids and go above and beyond the call of duty. I feel like dads don’t really get a lot of credit. I think single mothers don’t get a lot of credit, and single fathers don’t even get mentioned. For example, when people see us at a park playing together, the looks we get … like it blows people’s minds. People are more excited because it’s a Black dad with his Black son, other than it is just a dad and son together.
Q: Any advice for first-time dads?
A. Be patient. Make sure you have yourself together first — mentally, spiritually and emotionally. If you’re not right with yourself, you cannot be a great father; it is impossible. Take your time, love yourself and love your child. If you can try to tap into your own childhood — those things you loved to do with your parent or the things you never got to do with your parent — then do those things with your child. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Like I said, there’s no manual. There’s parenting blogs and people that will suggest certain things. But at the end of the day, everybody’s different. What works for this person, may not work for you and vice versa. Just let them be a kid as long as they can because that’s important. What they experience in childhood has long-term effects. The better the childhood, the better they will be.
Ashley Kang is the director of The Stand