Tag Archives: manic depression

Guest Post: Father’s Day as a Married Man

Kimathi

This is truly a year of firsts for me and for my beloved family. My name is Kimathi Thompson. My wife Melissa, also known as Meli, and I are coming up on our first wedding anniversary this July. We went on our first family vacation to the beach a few weeks back with both of our boys. (In the past they’ve all gone with her girlfriends and another of my oldest son’s friends.) I stay back because my work schedule usually doesn’t permit me to be away for a number of days consecutively. My biological son, Journey, (almost 2 ½ years old), Meli and I have been to the beach a couple of times without my oldest son, Jyson (9 years old), because he was away visiting his biological father.

As I write this, we are all in Columbia, SC attending Meli’s father’s family reunion. This is not only a first for me and the boys, but also for Meli. Family reunions are very few and far between for many families, including ours. (The last time Meli’s dad’s family had a reunion was 30 years ago until this weekend!) Meli never attended that reunion because she was living with her mother (now deceased from cancer 27 years) in New York at the time. We are actually pretty excited to get to meet everyone and learn more about her dad’s side of the family.  It will be fun seeing the boys meet and interact with all of their cousins and great aunts and uncles for the first time.

This will actually be the first Father’s Day that I recognize Meli’s dad as my dad as well. During the goodbye part of a recent phone conversation with her dad, Meli told me he said that he loved me too, after telling her he loved her and the boys.  Needless to say, that was a first as well!  It really touched my heart to hear that he said that. Yesterday I bought him a Father’s Day card and I will give it to him the day before Father’s Day at the family reunion. We are going to head back home Saturday night to get ready for the week and relax at home as a family on Father’s Day.  It will be one of the rare days that we all get to be together without a ton of activities or me having to work.

The picture of all of us is from the first wedding that we all attended together. It was the first time Journey ever wore a tuxedo as he was the ring bearer! He was so cute and handsome and grown looking all at the same time. I was, and am, so proud to be his father (as well as Jyson’s) and I am so blessed to be received so well by Jyson as a father figure—despite the fact that he has a very good relationship with his biological father (Jise). I have never been in a relationship with the unique dynamics of sharing the role of fatherhood with someone else, being that I just had my first biological son not too long ago. However, it really helps that Jise and I actually get along rather well. When he comes down from NY to visit Jyson, he stays at our house. Jise actually loves Journey as if he was his, and it is all very confusing for anyone outside of our family. But the fact is, there is absolutely no animosity or jealousy to be found. Jise and I communicate openly about the raising of Jyson and his development as best as anyone could imagine. I know this may be hard for some to understand, but it’s critical we all get along for our boys.

Of all of the aforementioned firsts, one of the most memorable mile markers in my life is the fact that this year is my first Father’s Day as a married man.  I am so blessed to have such a beautiful, smart, and loving wife with whom I can share my marriage and boys. All of the experiences that have recently been firsts for me have been due to the fact that I am now finally married, and my wife challenges me to explore and experience things that I’m sure I would not do on my own.  Getting married to someone whom I will share the rest of my life with and raise a family with has been a lifelong dream of mine that has now finally come true!  Something that I realized while writing this blog is that all of the firsts that were mentioned would not have happened if I wasn’t married. I’m a sentimental guy, and I now have the family that I have always wanted to help me create and share sentimental memories.

To me, marriage brings a sense of permanence and dedication to the table that is only a concept if you aren’t actually in a marriage where both people have that mutual intent. As a married father, the challenges are big, but they require me to grow and stand for things that I would normally run from if I weren’t married.  Some men aren’t ready for all of the challenges, and I think the difference for me is that I rely on prayer and my faith in Yahweh to get me through the most challenging times. I also grew up with a dedicated mother and a father.

That is, up until my mother’s illness spiraled. When my mother committed suicide from bi-polar/manic depression (I was 15), for a time it felt like my dad and I were all each other had. Although my grandparents were helping out a great deal behind the scenes, my father and I were adrift, together. That has always stuck with me, and if nothing else, has fueled me to be there for Meli and the boys. What I’m trying to say is that my father’s presence in my life was magnified that much more once my mother passed.

I want my boys to grow up with the same example and sense of love of family and dedication as I grew up with. There was always a feeling of stability that came with my family because the family unit was intact up to the point where my mother died. Even after she passed, my grandparents really stepped up to give me a sense of stability that I eventually grew to know I could always turn to.  That’s not to say that they were always there to bail me out of some tough situations that I created for myself, but I always knew where to go to find love, and I always had people to answer to when I was doing wrong. That’s important when a child or young adult goes running amuck, like I once did. It always brought the reality of things back to the forefront of my life and made me realize that in order to have the family that I always wanted, I had to get myself back on track.

All of that being said, the sacrifices of raising my boys are well worth it!  Truthfully, they are investments that I am making in their future and in Meli’s and mine as well. Jyson sees our sacrifices and soon, Journey will begin to as well. My hopes and prayers are that I am passing on and instilling in them, the same foundation of love, dedication, and stability that I grew up knowing and drawing from when I need inspiration. This first Father’s Day as a married man signifies the beginning of my dreams come true. Now I have so many more awesome experiences and firsts to come, due to the fact that I am a happily married man and a proud father of two beautiful young men!

Striking a Balance

It’s a delicate balancing act, especially as a single mom, to simultaneously take care of yourself and also be present and focused on your children. The two goals constantly come in conflict with one another—and yet experts often advise us to do one, or the other, or both, with little instructions on how to do so. For instance, earlier in the week, when working on a Lifechangers article for Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers show, I interviewed Rebecca E. Eberlin, Ph.D., a family psychologist who runs “Navigating Divorce For Your Children” workshops at the UCLA Commons in Santa Monica, Calif. She insisted, and I tend to agree, that when parents are in the process of getting a divorce, they need to focus 100% of their choices on how they will affect their kids. In fact, she listed focusing on yourself and not on your children as one of the top 5 mistakes that most divorcing parents make. After speaking with her for an hour, I could see her point completely.

Taking Care of Yourself

Photo by Jennifer Suarez

On the flip side, are you (like me) sometimes frustrated when someone says: “you need to take care of yourself”?

If you’re a single mom—especially those of us with small children, full-time care of those children, and little family support—the idea of taking a spa day seems nearly impossible. But taking care of yourself means very different things to different people. One of my favorite bloggers, Tracie Louise, eloquently explained some of the ways she takes care of herself in her latest post “Being Selfish”.

I know that I can’t always afford to get manicures, facials, massages, or go on shopping sprees, for instance. I do know, however, that it’s possible to squeeze in time during the week to go on a run (even if it requires a three-year-old in the stroller); take a bath (hopefully without a baby, but trust me, he’s snuck in before!); meditate; write; or take a community yoga class. Another selfish thing for me is to ignore the dinner mess and mounds of laundry and snuggle with my boys while watching a favorite show.

I think the biggest goal for me, and perhaps for some of you too, is to strike that delicate balance—when the pendulum finally rests at the center—between focussing on my children and their needs and exploring my own and having a bit of fun. During the first year of my separation I may have used the excuse of focussing on my kids to hibernate. Granted, my youngest was still a baby, but the only time I spent out was either pushing the stroller while he slept; cheering on the oldest on the soccer field; volunteering in the classroom; or writing an article at a coffee shop. It was quite hard for me to reach out to others, take exercise classes, or even sleep well—as I slept with the baby each night. I put on a good face, but I was literally getting by, moment by moment. Almost two years later, I try to ensure that I continue to cheer my oldest on at concerts or at soccer games; volunteer once a week at school; work; exercise; meditate; and find time for fun with the special person in my life. The effort is well worth it.

If you are where I was in my first year of separation—where you can barely muster up energy to do anything for yourself—I dare you to write down five things you’d like to incorporate into your life with a roadmap to make them happen. Even if it’s just sleeping in once a month. If this is too easy, I dare you to go even further: write down one thing you can do every day just for you. You’d be surprised how you can sneak some “me-time” in—even when you don’t have sitters or you have too much work piling on. Yesterday, with the baby sick at home, I thought it would be impossible to exercise or meditate. Well, a snuffly nose makes sleeping sitting up easier, so I put the little guy in the stroller and took off for an hour run while he slept soundly. In the evening, as the boys were watching a show after dinner, I snuck to my room and meditated for five minutes. I let myself focus on gratitude and putting a negative person’s actions and judgmental words out of my life. When the boys came down to find me, I was able to be present with them and even laughed when the youngest spilled juice on the floor. So, what I’m trying to say—in my characteristically verbose way—taking time out for yourself helps you spend more quality time with your kiddos. It’s hard to snap at the little ones after you mediate isn’t it?

(And, since I know how very different clinical depression is from mere exhaustion or sadness, please know that it’s not always possible to take care of yourself or pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Some of your friends and family members may not understand and can be creating more pressure for you. Read this information from the Mayo Clinic for information. If you think you are slipping into a clinical depression, please call your doctor. Here’s another article with online resources to help. )

For the rest of us…there are no more excuses. I’m adding one more item to my weekly for-me wish list. How about you?