As my wife and I careen into the last few weeks of her pregnancy and prepare for life with our new little girl, it’s beginning to dawn on me just how bad a job I’ve been doing as a parent for our first daughter. Four, almost five, years into the game, and I’m finally coming to grips with the fact that, as a dad, I’m not very good at my job sometimes.
So, in the spirit of clearing the slate for this new life to come, I feel like I owe it to my eldest to confess my sins and seek something like forgiveness for being a s—tty, although involved, dad. So, in the spirit of Usher Raymond, these are my parental confessions (although imagine me as DMX on the cover of Flesh of My Flesh), laying myself bare for your judgment.
I’ve exploited my child’s illiteracy for my own gain. Throughout my life, I’ve had to use a variety of ruses as tools to get my way, get what I want or get out of a jam. Most of the time, when I had to run game, I was dealing with adults with some modicum of education who required a lot of thought to pull off a con. Then God gifted me with this little person, who came into this world knowing essentially nothing. But most importantly, this lil bama doesn’t quite know how to read yet.
Man, is that liberating. Driving down the street and you see a sign for a fast-food place she recognizes? I tell her that the sign says it’s closed and she just can’t read it. At the store and she’s getting ready to get her Ezell on for some cookies or some chips? Flip that bag over and tell her, “Oh no, these say they’re spoiled,” then keep on truckin’.
And then there’s my favorite move: when she pulls out that long-ass bedtime story to try to prolong the magic and keep from going to sleep (bruh, there’s this book that’s called Grandfather Gandhi that’s like the goddamn Odyssey for children), I skip pages and make up a new story on the spot. What’s she gonna do; stop you? She can’t read, and I know the jig is gonna be up any day now, so I might as well get it in while I can.
I’m pretty sure I’m gonna pay for this when she gets a neck tattoo that I’m forced to read for the rest of my life. I’m sorry.
When I’m in the car with my kid, I listen to unedited versions of albums. This, for me, is a matter of principle. As a person who has grown up on and with hip-hop as the pre-eminent musical form, I feel like there’s a value to the integrity of the music as a whole song. That means production, sampling and lyrics. There’s a profundity in the profanity in Ready to Die, and if you were to edit Straight Outta Compton, it would lose its worth.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m in the car with my shorty listening to some trap s—t or blasting “No Limit Soldiers” on the way to school every morning (I wait to drive off for that). But when we listen to the classics like Aquemini or Things Fall Apart or Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, we’re gonna listen to those albums the way nature intended. With the cusswords. Yeah, I’m probably spending more time stepping over the lyrics telling my kid, “Don’t say ‘muthaf—ka’ at school,” but it’s for the art, man.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to turn out for the worse when, at some point, she has both the classroom and street vernacular available to tell me why I can’t see my grandkids. I’m sorry.
I told my daughter that an ex-girlfriend was a witch. True story: A few months ago I bumped into an ex at Whole Foods. When she walked away, my daughter asked who she was and I just blurted out, “She’s a witch and she’s probably here to get ingredients for a stew made of children.”
The thing is, if you know this woman, I may or may not be stretching the truth. Jussayin’.
I’m pretty sure this is gonna be a problem when my daughter figures out all my shortcomings like my ex did. I’m sorry.
I’ve given my child to a stranger to take her to the bathroom. Aiight, this is one that my wife still hasn’t forgiven me for, but bear with me.
Me and the fellas went to a sports bar to watch football and took the kids with us because fatherhood. My daughter, as kids are wont to do, decided that she had to pee, and since this was a sports bar, they had no family restroom and the men’s room looked like what would happen if a Little Caesars pizza and a bottle of E&J had a love child gestated in a vagrant’s innards. It was nasty and I was at a loss. That was until a kindly white lady came along and asked me if I needed help and offered to take her to the ladies’ room for me. It was like a miracle. It was awesome.
Then I told my wife and she got mad. Like, this woman might have stolen the kid. First off, I was standing by the door the whole time, and secondly, I was raised on ’80s television where rich white people adopting little black kids was presented as a viable path for personal advancement, so it might’ve been a comeup.
I’m guessing that I’m gonna regret this when my daughter is the only woman at Spelman to pledge Zeta Tau Alpha. I’m sorry.
Whenever my daughter talks about Jesus, I tell her that he’s black. I actually don’t feel bad about this one.
Santa’s black, too. I’m not sorry.
Sometimes I pretend to be asleep to get her to stop talking. Living with a 4-year-old is like living with the cops. From the moment my feet hit the floor to the moment I drop her off at school and again when I come home at night, I’m peppered with all manner of questions about every-f—king-thing.
“What’s your favorite color?” (for the sixth time in 30 minutes).
“What’s your favorite holiday?” (on Thanksgiving, which you’ve announced as your favorite holiday).
“What’s that guy’s name?” (pointing to a random person on the corner).
“What does Jesus smell like?” (actual question).
Every so often I just lean my head back, close my eyes, and imagine those halcyon days when my house was quiet and empty and being drunk at 11 a.m. was a good start. After about five or six loud fake snores, she gets bored and starts to play quietly by herself.
I’m pretty sure this is gonna bite me in the ass when I’m actually trying to impart some real wisdom and she trusts a YouTube clip for career advice over me. I’m sorry.
Most of the time, I’m totally winging this s—t. I’m not even gonna lie; since the day they put that first baby girl in my arms, I’ve been out here in the world just making this s—t up as I go. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have my own father around all the time as a role model, or maybe it’s because I’ve created this unattainable standard of parenthood for myself, or maybe, just maybe, none of us really know what we’re doing and we’re just raising another generation of kids to be just as jacked up as we are. Who knows?
What I do know is that, throughout time and the history of humans on Earth, somehow and some way, we’ve been able to master both the act of procreation (the fun part) and then accept the awesome responsibility of progeny (the work), so we gonna be aiight.
I’m pretty sure I’ll have a whole new list of screwups and apologies four years from now with this second one, so I’m just gonna say I’m sorry now to a child I haven’t met and hope she can forgive me for all of my imperfections as easily as I can accept her for the perfect creation she’ll be.
Corey Richardson, originally from Newport News, Va., is currently living in Chicago with his wife and daughter. Ad guy at work, dad guy in life and whiskey enthusiast, he spends his time crafting words, telling bedtime stories and working hard at becoming the legend he is in his own mind.