Jeff Milbourne: Walking Through Faith
Too often, we hear stories of fathers who have left their families behind and went on to start new lives for themselves, not caring what happened to those they left behind. Many of us know the pain of growing up without a father and never hearing the words, ďI love you,Ē come from their lips. But not every man who is not living under the same roof as his children is a deadbeat father. There are fathers out there who are fighting for the right to be in the lives of their children. Here are the stories of two men Ė fathers Ė who fought and are still fighting for the right to have a relationship with their children. They are walking and working through faith.
Average Girl Magazine: You were 20 years old when the mother of your first child, Genovia, passed away. How did you feel knowing that you were going to have to raise her by yourself?
Jeff Milbourne: It was overwhelmingÖat times, initially. But I had a strong family foundation that helped me, so I knew that anything was possible if I just believed and wanted to do it. Most young men think itís too much for them, and they donít know how to go about raising a child on their own. But I knew that I had my sisters and my mother and they were gonna help me get through. And I didnít want anyone else raising my kid anyway. I felt that it was important for me to raise her because I didnít trust anyone else to do it. The women in my family were there to help me as surrogate mothers.
AVG: What are some of the challenges of raising a daughter? What are some of the values you want to instill in your daughter?
JM: The most important thing I could say is itís important not to be promiscuous when raising a daughter because she is gonna marry the kind of man that you are. Itís also important to not bring too many people around your child. You want to give your child all of the attention in the younger years. They need most of your attention. Iíve been celibate for four years now and part of that is because my attention belongs to my children right now. Itís important for me to be 100% in tune with my children and give them the time and attention that they need.
There is no running in the streets all day and all night long. Thereís no going out with the fellas all the time. I do have a life and I do do those sorts of things from time to time, but right now I am focused on raising my children. And raising a daughter, you have to watch what you do and what kind of people you bring into your daughterís life Ďcause itís a reflection of you (the people that you are around).
AVG: You have a son now (you lost your youngest son last year) from your first marriage and that didnít work out, so now you are a single father of two children and you are now raising a son and a daughter. What are some values you want to instill in your son?
JM: A big part of having my son to raise was losing the other son to gun violence. A role model is the most important thing for young men - especially young minority men - to have. They need to have a strong role model in another man of color in their life and I feel like being that for my son, is a blessing. I am happy that God gave me my children. He put these children in my care which means he thinks an awful lot of me, and I am trying to own up to that, but itís hard.
I just want my son to have what so many other young black me donít have and thatís a loving father. Not just a father, but a loving father, so that they can learn how to love. So many black men out there have no compassion Ďcause they were never shown any. They were never taught how to love. They were never taught how to show their feelings. My dad probably told me that he loved me once in my whole life and IĎm 32. But I share that word with my son quite a bit because I want him to hear that. So, thatís a big part of raising my son. Thatís the benefit of having a father in his life.
AVG: Do you think sometimes the court systems is harder on single fathers then single mothers in terms of getting access to your children and then getting resources for them once you have custody of them?
JM: Well, they are so used to seeing deadbeat dads come in there that they have an attitude. Itís difficult for minority men. I see so many black men [and other men of color] that have given up fighting for their children or donít see them as much as they want to Ďcause the court and the babyís mother have got it to a point where he has to literally pay to see his child. And if he doesnít have the finances, he canít see the child. And thatís a shame because you know money isnít everything that goes into raising a child. I know so many men that want to see their kids so bad, but the court has got them strapped down because they didnít have all of the money to pay their child support or where in the rears, so their visitations were cut and theyíre looked at as deadbeat dads. Therefore, the mother has 100% custody and she does what she wants. They just make it very hard. Yes, there are a lot of black men [and men in general] who donít try as hard as they should, but in most cases, these fathers are being made to feel like they have to pay to see their children.
AVG: Whatís your advice for young men now who are fighting the court systems to see and have a relationship with their children?
JM: Keep praying and keep fighting. Donít give up. If you love your child, you will never give up on them. You will get what you want; you will get that relationship with your child. God will give that to you. You just have to prove to God that you are worthy and no one else.
~Rebekah L. Pierce
Copyright © 2007, Average Girl, The Magazine. All rights reserved