Reflections of a Divorced GCP Dad: On Being There

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.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Reflections of a Divorced GCP Dad: On Being There

  1. ginaparkercollins

    Thank you for giving voice to black fathers. My father was there too despite the divorce. Ted was there for everything, Even holiday dinners with my mother’s new husband! What a difference his beung there made in our lives. He has sinced passed away, I miss him terribly! But, have nothing but incredible memories.
    While listening to WBAI’s playback of Michele Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, she urged us not to believe the hype that black fathers are not there for their children-incarcerated or otherwise. On the contrary, statistics show that they try more than any other group to be there for their children. Again, thanks for edifying that.

  2. I am blessed to have quite a few “being there” dads in my life – uncles, husband, father-in-law, and my own dad who never left us even when the going got rough between him and mom. I am inspired by your story and your desire, willingness, and commitment to “be there” for your children no matter what, as well as your dedication to providing leadership and a safe space for spiritual and emotional growth for your entire family, including the kids’ mom. My husband is also an example of a strong Black man who is committed to “being there” for his kids – one stepson, one biological daughter, and one foster-daughter. Some days it takes more than a notion, but I know from experience that no matter what the perception, Black men want to be there for their children. As a woman, I am proud of you, and as a Black woman, I am extremely proud of you. Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. A Dutton

    GREAT! I grew up in a loving home with both parents but my Father worked so many jobs to support us that I rarely saw him at a time when he wasn’t either coming or going to work. It took many years to realize that he didn’t miss my games and other achievements because he didn’t love me, but because he did. I admire your devotion to your children and only wish there were many more Dads like you.

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