Cornell Johnson Says I have the responsibility to teach my son how to be a man and live by a code.

Name: Cornell Johnson : Germantown, MD | @mr_dantej

What does being a father mean to you?

Being a father is everything to me. It means the opportunity to teach someone you love, to groom them, to love them, to guide them, to support them, and equip them with the tools and skills to make them better, stronger, and more successful than you ever were. I was blessed with a son, and the privilege of raising a young king! Being a father is not only a privilege, but a responsibility. I have the responsibility to teach my son not only how to be a man and live by a code, but to also teach him how to love. I get to not just tell him, but show him how to lead with conviction. Show him and let him feel what unconditional love and support is. Being a father is not letting my son go through anything in life alone. Fatherhood is patient. Fatherhood is kind. Fatherhood is tough love. Fatherhood is supportive. Fatherhood is sacrifice. Fatherhood is leading by example. Fatherhood is a learning experience. Fatherhood is an opportunity. But most of all, fatherhood is: INTENTIONAL! Isaiah has given me so much purpose and joy, and for that I am forever grateful for this blessing I call, my son!

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Describe your experience with your father growing up and how that impacted you today.

When I was young my father taught me a lot of life lessons in very unconventional ways. He would test us and put us in situations that caused us to rely on ourselves. He would teach us to slick talk our way into (or out of) almost anything, and how to manipulate systems – this taught me to be resourceful and use every tool at my disposal to win or come out ahead. He would blindfold me while he drove around, then take the blindfold off and ask me where we were and how to get back – this taught me to always be aware of my surroundings and keep a mental log of where I am, how many turns we took, etc. He would make me keep $10 in my pocket (for the stick up kid) and the rest of my money somewhere else – this taught me to stay one step ahead and be prepared for anything. But those good lessons, came with rough ones too — ones that I had to unpack and unlearn as an adult. With him love was conditional, and I grew up relating his love to service, gestures, or labor. My father was not in my life “full-time” (7 days a week) which in my opinion shaped how I grew into becoming not just a man, but my own man.

What things did you take from your experience growing up into your own fatherhood journey?

When I became a father last year, I had to really look in the mirror and commit to the type of father I was going to be. Part of doing that was being honest with myself about lessons I learned from my father and being intentional with what I carried with me past this checkpoint, and what I couldn’t. I definitely wanted to bring with me the act of teaching my son life lessons about the real world. There are valuable skills I learned from my father about people, survival, and what it means to be a Black man in this world. My dad gave me SO much pride in not just being a man, but being a BLACK man! I can’t wait for my son to realize his magic powers as a young black man in this world. In an attempt to break some stereotypes of our community that I too fell into as a child, I don’t want to carry over my experiences not seeing or talking to my father everyday. My son will never second guess me, or wonder if he can trust me. I hope that I never give my son a reason to fear me or be scared to come to me about anything. So while these were negative experiences in my childhood, they will be used to 100% create positive, safe spaces for my son!

Have you had any obstacles on your fatherhood journey?

Does separation anxiety count? 🙂

What advice would you give others new on their fatherhood journey?

My advice here is really simple. Be intentional and be flexible! Don’t allow your child’s upbringing, life lessons, feelings, health, skillsets, or anything else be by chance or coincidence. Talk to other dad’s, read, listen, tap into resources available to you — and have a general plan. Clock in and spend genuine quality time with your kids…. EVERYDAY! Have fun with them everyday, and teach them everyday. EVERYDAY. Be intentional!

Be flexible – nothing always goes according to plan and fatherhood is no different. Having a plan and being intentional is important, but don’t be discouraged, upset, or angry when the plan has to change. Roll with the punches, keep a positive attitude, and remember who you’re doing this for and why!

If you could write a quick letter to your father, starting with “Dear Father,” what would you say?

Dear Father,

For many years as a child, I thought you were cool and funny because you were bold, outspoken, unconventional, and charismatic. I always wanted to bring my friends around you when I had the chance because I knew you’d do or say something funny. While you did teach me things (no question), as I got older I realized our relationship was more friendship than father/son. I needed more father. There were years that I resented you for not being what I wanted or needed. Then as I became a father myself, I was angry with you because I then knew how much you didn’t do and didn’t teach me as a man and a father. But as I pen this letter to you, I turn those feelings to gratitude and say: Thank You! Good or bad, right wrong or indifferent, I believe the lessons I learned and experiences I had will make me the best father possible to my beautiful, perfect son.


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