Name: Jabari Harris | City: Helsinki, Finland | @safaribari_1
What does being a father mean to you?
Growing up, I didn’t have the greatest understandings with my father, but he was present. My father did not talk much, but he showed his love and care by being a provider. He made sure me and my siblings had food, clothes, and all the tools we needed growing up to be successful. Even though my father battled his own personal issues and short comings as a man, he still stood by all of his children and supported us all the best way he knew how. He was a man of discipline and structure. He demanded perfection from us.
Sometimes I felt that my father was too hard on me or that he didn’t communicate his thoughts and feelings enough with me. I wish that we had talked more and built an understanding of each other when I was younger, but I do value the relationship we are building now. I’m thankful for all he has done for me, and I appreciate all he has invested into my life to help me become the man I am today.
What things did you take from your experience growing up into your own fatherhood journey?
Now that I am a father, I try to be a bit more sensitive towards my children’s feelings and also to be very verbal in expressing my love and care for them. I want my kids to be comfortable talking to me and building trust in me as their father, so that I can be able to help them when they are in need of a comforter and advisor.
Growing up, I was a bit afraid to talk to my father and I kept a lot of things inside. It made me grow up a bit angry, bitter, and emotionally unstable, because I wasn’t able to talk through some of the mental battles I was going through in my life with my dad. I felt like I needed to be tough and carry those burdens, when in reality, I needed to vent and have a shoulder to lean on.
Now that I have my own son, I am everyday telling him that its ok to to come to daddy and express himself. Its ok for a man to cry. Its ok to ask for help. Same applies for my daughters as well. I try to show them as much love and attention as possible, so they wont feel the need to find it in material things or people as I did. They will be able to love themselves and value who they are.
Have you had any obstacles on your fatherhood journey?
The biggest obstacle for me as a young father was moving abroad and having to give up my life as I knew it, to be present in my children’s life. I remember traveling 18 hours on a plane trip to Finland, with no job, no real savings, and no plan. It was hard being in a country where I did not speak the language and I had no family around.
Many times I felt alone, misunderstood, and depressed because I wanted to be a provider and I could not. Many nights I sat up and cried alone, wondering if my life would be that way for ever and if I had made a mistake. However, I made a promise to oldest child Francesca, that I would never abandon her, and that I would find away to take care of her and her mother.
Today, I have a great job, a home, a car, friends, and more stability than I had here 7 years ago. Most importantly, I am still present in my children’s life, and I have found my place in society. I am happy.
What advice would you give others new on their fatherhood journey?
If I could give any advice, it would be to never get too caught up in yourself and your own dreams and goals. Make sure that you always prioritize your family, and involve them in the things you are trying to achieve. Don’t be afraid to show your true emotions to your children. They need to learn how to express themselves, but also how to be supportive. They an learn all of those things simply by watching you. Lastly, remember that your children are always listening to and watching you. Try to be the best role model you can be for them. Do not let disagreements with your partners, dictate and effect how you love and care for your children. Always try to take the high road, even when its hard to do.
If you could write a quick letter to your father, starting with “Dear Father,” what would you say?
Thank you for the unconditional love and support you have shown me all 29 years of my life. As I am now a father to my own children, I understand that the role isn’t easy. I understand the countless effort that it takes a lot to raise a family and to be a man. I understand the sacrifice. I know its impossible to be perfect, but I thank you for being the best you could be for me, and giving me everything you could to ensure that I would grow up and be successful in life. I love you, and I thank you for being you.
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