A Jamaican Single Dad’s Reflection-A Father’s Day Special

(A true story. Names are changed to protect identity)

A tough decision

Lance migrated to Canada in early 1993. His heart was broken. He had to leave his only child, a four month old son named Michael. Michael was born in November 1992. “The opportunity presented itself and I thought I would be able to provide in a much better way for my son if I go off to seemingly greener pastures”, Lance says.

Lance and Michael’s mother were separated prior to their son being born. However, he says they were very civil towards each other and had a very good friendship, during her pregnancy. Stacy’s family was not pleased with the situation, and neither were they pleased with Lance. It was her family that encouraged her to make the choice of not continuing the intimate relationship with Lance. Stacey’s mother was pretty upset.

Lance was away in another parish working when Michael was born. He knew of Michael’s birth the day after he was born. There were no cell phones at that time, so he was not able to be alerted to Stacy’s time of labor and witness the birth of his firstborn. Lance offered to send Stacy to evening classes to achieve more O’Level and A’ Level subjects while he takes care of Michael. According to Lance, Stacy’s mother was resolute in the decision for Stacy not to ‘give the child away’. Lance says those words struck a chord of sadness for him because he did not consider Stacy giving the child away; after all, he was the child’s father. It was a hard pill to swallow. Needless to say, Stacy listened to her family and so the relationship was discontinued. He was still able to see his child as he wanted to be involved in Michael’s life. However, he had an opportunity to go to Canada to make a better life for himself, and ultimately his child. He decided to go.

He took his son

Lance was in Canada for two and a half years before he was able to go back home to see his son again. During that time, he worked hard and was able to send at least 80 percent of his paycheck home every month to Stacy to aid in the care of his son. He had opened a bank account for Michael and established Stacy’s mother as the proxy on the account. He would send the monies directly to Stacy or the grandmother for them to use in whatever capacity to provide the proper care for Michael. He would also purchase clothing, toys and other necessities and ship to Jamaica for his son. Lance was determined to provide the best for his son and to care for him in any way he can. He also called as often as he could, write letters and send pictures of himself, so Michael could know who his father was. Lance was finally able to make it home in 1995, which was 2 years after he first left for Canada. He was excited! He would be able to see his son. Will he know who I am? Will he recognize my voice? Lance was both nervous and excited because he realized his son would be 2 ½ years older than when he last saw him.

Lance did not like what he discovered. He was dismayed when he found out Michael was hospitalized due to drinking a dangerous household chemical. He also had scars and bruises on his little body, torn and tattered clothes and does not seem to be supervised or well taken care of. Lance was appalled at the living conditions. He did not make any fuss. But Lance was heartbroken. Lance quickly made the decision that he was going to take Michael with him to Canada. He left for Canada and immediately began working on processing the papers that would allow him to take his son into the country. The process was finalized in 1997. He was relieved when Stacy and family signed the papers also. He immediately flew to Jamaica and took his son with him to Canada in mid 1997.

Raising Michael

Lance says it was not easy being a single dad. He could not afford a babysitter, but Lance refused to allow his mother to take care of Michael. Lance’s mother and siblings were residing in Canada, but he refused to burden his mother with the care of his child. He insisted that his mother had raised all her children and it would be unfair for her to raise her children’s children. Michael came to Canada at the end of the school year, so he was not immediately enrolled in school. During the summer, Lance worked with the trucking company, as he was seeking to establish his own trucking business. He would pack Michael’s little lunch box and would take Michael as early as 4 am in the mornings to work with him. If it was cold, Lance would wrap him up in thick blankets and ensure that his truck is warm enough for Michael. Lance also cooked their meals most evenings when he got home from work. Michael went everywhere with Lance. He taught him how to ride a bicycle, how to have socially acceptable behaviors and most importantly, taught him to respect people. Sometimes he would leave Michael with his next door neighbor, an old woman, but she was not able to assist him in preparing him for his school years. Lance had to shoulder the responsibility and began teaching him his ABC’s.

In retrospect, Lance says it was tough, but he never really thought about how difficult it was, as he knew this was something he had to do. Michael was his responsibility. He knew it was going to be challenging raising Michael by himself, without Michael’s mother’s help. But he was comforted knowing that he could do a better job than Stacy was doing with Michael. He knew Michael would be supervised properly and would be eating nutritious meals.

My Mentor and Influence

Michael is now fifteen years old, and in the teenage years. Lance is grateful that he was able to raise him to make the right choices. He knew that Michael could be involved in drugs and make other socially incorrect choices, but he is grateful that so far he is heading in the right direction. His proudest moment was last year when he attended Michael’s graduation from Middle School. Michael wrote his dad a letter stating that ‘You are my mentor and influence. I want to be like you when I grow up’. When he thought of his decision to take Michael and raise him by himself, Lance says he would do it all over again in a heartbeat. He only would do things a little differently at times. He says it is still a challenge at every stage of his son’s growth, and he finds the teen years a little bit more difficult, but he knows they will make it.