Today’s post comes courtesy of GCP Dad Michael Mayfield, who lives in North Carolina and has two college-aged children.
I never envisioned myself married to an incredible woman and having two amazing children. It seemed like too much responsibility. Seems so even now – so much to teach and instill. Too many mistakes were made, and maybe that’s why I lost the incredible woman. Fortunately, the four of us have managed to love and support each other over these twenty-four years.
After the divorce, it always made sense to stay where my children were. I would never have wanted them to say, “He wasn’t there.”
I recently asked my college aged son what he remembers about my impact upon his upbringing and he said,“Your presence was definitely felt. You were there.”
My biological father wasn’t a presence in my upbringing. I never had an issue with this because my mother and stepfather did a great job with my siblings and me. I don’t know what I missed from not knowing my father any better, but I believed that I had experienced enough of a paternal presence to be a good father to my children.
For parent/teacher meetings, award ceremonies, Spelling Bees, recitals, “24 Math” competitions, and awards, I was there.
In the seventh grade, my son took the SAT, and scored higher than I ever did in high school. At the year-end awards assembly, fifty-two middle school students were recognized by their teachers as “Most Promising.” In a school with a nearly thirty percent minority population, only four of the “Most Promising” were children of color. Though he was a great and dynamic student, never missed a day of school and played on several teams, my son was not among the four.
A few awards later, the principal walked onto the stage to announce that six students had brought honor to Guilford County, North Carolina for ranking among the top two percent in the nation on the SATs. And one of those students attended this school.
He called my son to the stage.
The message that this assembly sent to children of color in the auditorium was disheartening, but the message that it sent to his perplexed White classmates and their parents was just as bad, if not worse. The middle school teachers didn’t see the promise in my child nor many other children of color. My son, whom the principal just identified as one of the highest achieving students in the county and the country, was not considered to be among the “Most Promising” by his teachers.
It was a teachable moment and I was there.
For bumps, bruises, practices and games, I was there.
In ninth grade, my son broke his leg in a freak accident while he was warming up for his second high school basketball game. I took the crestfallen ‘baller’ to the car after he discovered his season was over. For a few moments, I was “Daddy.” Not “Dad” – “Daddy.” He remembers that I was there (and that I slammed his finger in the car door as we went to get the declarative x-ray, but that’s another story).
Prior to his freshman year of college, my son spent six weeks in the Alaskan Wilderness for Leadership Development. With no cell or electronic contact, he was roughing it. We did not speak to him for most of his sojourn. Then, one morning at 2 a.m., when his mom and sister were fast asleep I got THE CALL. Excited and unguarded, he joyfully told me about his adventure. It was a vulnerable and reachable moment. He reached out for me. I was there.
And I wouldn’t have missed any of it for the world.
There are always things that I wished I had done better or differently. There are things that my son and daughter may want to approach differently than I have. But I’ve tried to be an accessible model and to teach them what I’ve learned in life.
Most importantly, I have always committed to being there. And I always will.
Michael Mayfield’s son Brandon is a Morehead-Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His daughter Lauren is a sophomore at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.