As a sociology major at the University of California, Berkeley, I studied multiple concepts of society. Although I was studying a softer science, I learned that the well-known physics law “every action has a reaction” is true in relation to societal cause and effect.
The area of research most resonant for me was the culture of poverty. I familiarized myself with various and sometimes conflicting ideologies about poverty that covered multiple facets including factors believed to contribute to and perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Of these, “family unity”–meaning families that share strong emotional, financial and cultural ties–was a focal point.
Just as it is a focal point in debates about the culture of poverty, family unity is also a pivotal piece of my life. My fourteen years within the foster care system inherently altered my family’s unit. With my family consisting of a drug-addicted and alcoholic mother and an often incarcerated and subsequently absent father, undeniably, the level of family unity didn’t parallel the cohesiveness of the standard nuclear family. However, separated from all but one of my siblings while in care, a then precarious unity worsened to a family with increasingly faint relations.
Fast-forwarding to June 2014, upon finding out that I would soon shoulder the title of father, I began to ponder just what this role held. I recall hearing that “a baby is going to come with a lot of responsibility,” and constantly being asked the proverbial “Are you ready/scared?” Giving a clichéd answer, I’d respond, “Yes, I’m ready,” or “I think I’ll be all right.”
Admittedly I was more nervous than scared. I wasn’t really afraid of the increased responsibility, having lived on my own and managing to work two jobs while being a full-time student. I thought of myself as a pretty responsible person.
The underlying reason for my nervousness was determining what it meant to be a parent.
Although my parents did not leave footprints on the path I wished to trek as a parent, they did leave an impression. Like the age old adage says, “There are two sides to every coin.” To gain knowledge about what it means to be a good parent, I looked at those I felt were the epitome of loving parents as well as my own. My parents providing me with the example of what I didn’t want to be helped me shape myself into the parent I am today.
As a parent, I know that there will be monsters in the closet I will soon have to vanquish, tears I will continue to wipe away, and dozens of piggyback rides I will give out. I am also aware that there will be scars I can’t fix with a kiss, but what I will always remember is the importance of family, and whether intentional or unintentional, how the parent I choose to be will influence the person my son will become.