Today, one of the biggest challenges that fathers face is perhaps that the rules for being a dad are completely out of the window.
Bryce Stephens and Boaz Green
“We’re still redefining masculinity as a society. It’s a process that started in the 60’s and has gradually snowballed from there,” said James Cobb who blogs at “The Dream Recovery System,” which advocates for improved sleep.
For Bryce Stephens and Boaz Green of Washington, D.C., one of their biggest challenges in raising their five-year-old daughter, Nina, and their 18-month-old son, Gavi, was the transition to parenthood when their first child was born.
“Everything in my life changed and needed to be renegotiated,” Stephens said. “At the time, I had no appreciation for how hard the every-three-hour feeding cycle would be. The lack of sleep was draining.”
Stephens noted that he also needed to reset his own expectations for what he could accomplish on a daily basis, particularly at work.
“I needed to pull back. Other parents tell you that ‘everything changes,’ but I didn’t fully appreciate it until it happened to me,” Stephens said. “The other thing that has been hard is losing privacy and time alone. I enjoy being with my husband, children and people in general, but managing work, working relationships, and family life is often all-consuming. My husband and I do our best to support one another, but it is always a challenge to make time for one’s self.”
Another challenge for Stephens and Green is that the two are Caucasian yet their adopted children are African American.
“I want our children to have experiences and interactions that teach them to be empathic and respectful. I want my children to have experiences that help them understand themselves in constructive ways,” Stephens said.
“There is so much love, deep love, that comes with parenting. You feel it and give it to your children,” he said. “The love comes from everywhere; grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and strangers. The day-to-day responsibilities can be exhausting, but the love is always there.”
For Cobb, excelling at fatherhood requires a little introspection. He says dads mostly realize that they have to make their own rules and by adapting, they are more likely to have the right rules for just about any situation.
“To do that, ask yourself one question if you’re a man and you grew up without a father or a father who was mostly absent: What did you miss the most about his absence? Answer that question well and you have your key,” Cobb said. “Conversely, if you did have an active father or another man fulfilling the father role, it’s a great thing to ask others for feedback. Lots of people grew up without fathers and there are literally hundreds of reasons big and small why you’re better off with a father than you are without.”
The key is to love others as best as you can, according to Cobb.
“If you do that, you’ll be motivated to try to understand your children and their mom and bring your unique gifts to your relationships and remember that to be a good dad it doesn’t take expensive gifts or toys,” Cobb said. “Your presence is the greatest gift— something as simple as reading a bedtime story or a weekly phone call if you’re not around. Reach out, keep reaching out and never stop loving.”
De La Cruz family
Father’s Day has become a very special holiday for the De La Cruz family of DeKalb, Illinois. Their prayers were answered when their son, Ricky, received a life-saving heart transplant from an unknown donor and then experienced another miracle nearly two years later when Ricky received a kidney, and a second chance at life, from his dad.
Ricky De La Cruz was the firstborn baby for excited new parents, Dori and Lalo.
Ricky arrived in July 1998 and Dori remembers there were medical hurdles almost since the day he arrived.
Right after he was born the baby stopped breathing for several minutes and his organs started to shut down. The baby suffered damage to his brain and kidneys. The couple soon learned their precious baby boy had been born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), a rare congenital heart defect in which the left side of the heart is severely underdeveloped. Dori remembers numerous doctors’ appointments, lab visits and checkups throughout the first years of Ricky’s life.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates each year about 960 babies in the United States are born with HLHS, which equates to one out of every 4,344 U.S. babies born, according to a news release.
When Ricky was a teenager he was diagnosed with Protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), which is a gastrointestinal problem that is typically brought on by heart failure. Ricky’s PLE diagnosis was a flag for his medical team who immediately referred him to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago for further evaluation. In early 2016, the Lurie transplant team told Dori and Lalo that Ricky needed a life-saving heart transplant— and he needed it quickly.
During meetings with a transplant coordinator and a transplant social worker at Lurie, it was recommended the family research the Children’s Organ Transplant Association (COTA) as an avenue for fundraising to help with transplant-related expenses.
“The day we got the call that Ricky was going to get a new heart I fell to my knees and cried,” Dori said. “We were so thankful and grateful for this gift of life but also so sad to know someone had passed away for Ricky to be able to live with a new heart.”
Ricky’s heart transplant went well but his recovery was rocky. Post-transplant, his kidneys were further damaged and he had to be placed on dialysis for a portion of his inpatient recovery time. While his new heart was doing great, his kidneys could no longer keep up due to the previous damage they had suffered.
On January 29, 2018, Lalo gave a kidney and a second chance at life, to his firstborn son, Ricky. Thanks to COTA, an anonymous heart donor and his Dad Lalo, Ricky is stepping into adulthood. Dori and Lalo are thrilled he is now able to live on his own. At a recent medical appointment, they were told Ricky’s heart and his kidney are doing great.
For Dwight James, president of the Zeal Group, a company that assists businesses and business owners in reaching organizational goals, the biggest challenge of fatherhood is allowing his five children to make their own decisions.
“I keep in mind that my job as a parent is to teach my children how to think for themselves; and for me to behave accordingly,” said James, whose children are Joshua, 21; Jonathan, 20; Jasmine, 18; Justin, 17; and Jayden, 5.
With four of James’ five children being boys, he provides insight on the nuances of raising children according to their gender.
“Girls are much easier in the early years— they’re not as rough on the furniture,” he said.
“As they get older, they need to trust you enough to confide in you so that you can guide them as much as possible through very questionable situations. They never share everything but hopefully they’ll share enough.”
For Nick Kamboj, the CEO of Aston & James, LLC in Chicago, one of the challenges he faced is having had to fly 4,000 miles roundtrip from Chicago to Los Angeles just to spend weekends with his daughter. It’s a trip he has taken almost every weekend since 2012, when his daughter was just three-years-old.
“My daughter’s mother and I met on-line, married at a destination and then divorced bi-coastally. We never cohabitated, and since I have an aging mother in Chicago, I try to balance my responsibilities as a son and as a father,” Kamboj said. “It is challenging to do both well. However, if you ask my daughter or my aging mother how I am doing in both roles, they would state, that I am doing great— although at times, I feel that I can be doing better.”
Being a divorced father and away from his daughter two weeks at a time, is when she gets ill, Kamboj said.
“Although the common cold may seem minor, it is nothing to scoff at, it can be very challenging for my daughter’s mother who may need to take some time off work to take care of my daughter when she is ill,” Kamboj said.
Kamboj says he speaks regularly on the telephone with his daughter and he also video chats with her. Although that’s definitely not a substitute, he says it does provide some connection between him and his daughter.