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Why Dads Matter

Last night I was picking up my daughter after work. She had been at my in-laws for a couple of days, spending time with grandparents who soak her up and cherish every moment with her. Olivia is an incredible 4 ½ year old, who makes me laugh every time she tries to “close” me on an idea she has, or something she wants to do. I guess it’s because she reminds me so much of myself.

I pulled up and heard her yelling, “Daddy…..we’re in the pool!” Normally, I’m always rushing, in a hurry to load up and head out, bags are usually packed, waiting by the front door. But for some reason, I told myself, “you should join them.” It was like I was being told to slow down and enjoy the moment. So, I walked to the back yard and said, “Hold on…I’m gonna put my trunks on.”

As I walked in the house, I heard Olivia shout, “Yahooooo !! Daddy’s gonna get in the pooooool!!”

I quickly changed and ran out…diving straight in. I joined my father-in-law, and my little girl, who had been in the pool for an hour. They have an above-ground pool, just deep enough for Olivia to walk around in, with water line up to her neck, and “Poppy” had been teaching her how to float on her back. She showed off a few new tricks and was just happy as could be.

Then, she began to show me her latest trick, riding a “floating noodle” like a horse. She pushed the noodle down, hoisted her leg over, lost control and rolled in the water upside down. She kicked her legs, trying to stand up, but was actually sideways. She panicked. I reached for her, stood her up, and helped her regain composure. “Relax…” I said. “You can’t take a breath when you’re underwater.

It dawned on me…she doesn’t know how to hold her breath and go underwater on her own. It made me think of the way I learned to swim, in the San Marcos River. My uncles would take us to the City Park, and we’d get in the shallow area and work our way to the deep end. Then, my uncle would throw a brick into the deep weeds and challenge us to find it.

We’d have to swim against the current, and dig through the weeds to find it, but when we did, we had bragging rights. But most importantly, we overcame our fear of water and became confident swimmers. I snapped back into the moment and said, “you know what Livie? I first learned how to swim underwater. It was easier for me, but first, you need to learn how to hold your breath underwater.”

She knows I would never lie to her, and she would jump off a building if I was there to catch her, so she considered it for a second. Then she realized she would be going underwater and started walking away, shaking her head. “No…I don’t want to do it,” she said. “C’mon Livie…you have to learn how to swim. Might as well do it now.”

She eased back to me. I pulled her in close and laid out the game plan. “First, we need to learn how to breathe in and hold our breath. I’m going to count to three, and then we’ll take a deep breath, and go underwater. Ready?”

I counted to three, we both took a deep breath and I pulled us down underwater. I was looking right at her, but her eyes were closed. We came up in a few seconds. “Yaaaweeeee!!! I did it!!” she cried out…wiping her eyes and clearing her hair from her face. “Yes you did…but your eyes were closed. We need to do it again, and this time, open your eyes…ok?” “OK,” she replied.

I counted down again, and we went under. It was amazing. There we were, face to face, looking at each other underwater. We came up, hi-fived and hugged. She did it, and I was there to teach her. Most importantly, grandpa was there to witness it. It was one of those memorable moments in life, and we all realized it and enjoyed the moment.

As we were all standing there, in the pool, she decided to go under on her own. When she came up I said, “Peezie!” (Piece of cake in our own unique language) “If you can do that on your own, then basically that means you can jump in without me there to catch you,” I suggested.

Without a thought, she started walking to the ladder, climbed up and jumped in. It was unbelievable. A few minutes earlier, she was panicking after rolling in the water, now, she’s jumping in, getting fully submerged and somewhat swimming out. I couldn’t have been happier. My little girl was empowered to swim. She overcame fear and became more confident in a matter of 30 minutes.

What did I learn? It’s a decision. You either decide to be a good father and teach your children, or you decide to neglect them and let someone else raise them for you. You either care, or you don’t. You either make time, or you don’t.

With so many single parent families, it’s no wonder our communities are deteriorating. If you’re a man who has children, and you’re not fulfilling your responsibilities by not supporting that child, then you are contributing to the downfall of America. If you think you’re too cool to be at home, raising your child, then you’re the problem with America. Because you don’t help, the mother of your child is forced to get on welfare and ask the government to fill in.

How wrong is it for a man to have sex with a woman, get the woman pregnant, then leave them to fend for themselves? It’s sad, and in the Hispanic community, it’s rampant. You see young pregnant girls everywhere, living at home, dropping out of school, trying to survive, and the father of their child is out at the club, getting drunk with his friends. How embarrassing for those of us Hispanics who work hard and invest our time in our children. They make us all look bad.

In the end, you only have so much time in a day, and our days are all numbered. One of the best contributions we can make to society is to raise children to have high standards and moral values. They don’t get there by themselves, and it’s hard to get there with a single parent. Be there for your kids…they need you. Be there, and relish in the joys of teaching them and building a trusting, loving relationship, one that will carry them after we’re gone.

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