Afro Daddy shares his advice on being a dad
Q and A with Terence Mentor – aka Afro Daddy
You and your wife are basically modern-day superheroes – rescuing babies, and giving them a loving home until they can find their forever family! How did you discover your superhero tendencies?
Well, hold on a moment – we are far from superheroes! We’re just a couple who had the capacity, ability, and time to care for babies in the short term! It started way back when my wife (then still my girlfriend) was in her last year of varsity; one of her friends was a social worker who had mentioned how difficult it was to find short-term care for vulnerable children, especially last-minute. We decided that, with the help of our families, we could care for one child for one month during our vacation, which is exactly what we did!
One of the first questions that comes to mind is, “How?!” How did you manage to juggle caring for a baby while living your ‘normal’ life? Did you only have one baby at a time? And what support did you get in the process?
Before we decided to start being safe-care parents (after we were married), we made sure that we had both of our families on board. They helped us with advice and a lot of babysitting! We also received amazing support from many members of our church who helped us in many ways, not least of which was financially – without which we wouldn’t have been able to look after any child!
What were you feeling when the very first baby was brought to your home? Have these feelings changed with each new baby that comes to you, or is it still like that first time?
It was a mix of fear and excitement. Excitement, because there was this brand-new person who we would get to meet and love; and fear, because of all the ways I thought I would screw up. And fear at the idea of losing sleep. Those feelings didn’t dissipate with the different babies!
Having cared for 14 babies over the years, you must have become a bit of a pro. What is the most important piece of advice or the very best tip you have, which you would like to share with all the expecting and new dads who are reading this?
The best piece of the advice I can give new or expectant dads is that they are not going to be super-dads – at least not at first. You will put a nappy on the wrong way (usually at 2 AM). You child will cry, no matter what you do. And you will get frustrated when you realise that this person who you love so much is unhappy and you can’t do anything about it.
Admit this to yourself: it is perfectly reasonable to feel your blood boil after trying to get your screaming child to sleep after three hours. This means that you are human. Once you’ve accepted that, take a deep breath, and realise what an amazing gift that screaming child actually is.
If that still doesn’t work, go for walk.
You and your wife decided to adopt one of the babies that came to your home. Tell us a little bit about that: what was different for you this time? Was the adoption process relatively straightforward? Would you recommend adoption to other people out there – and if so why? When would you not recommend adoption?
I think there were a couple of things that came together when we decided to adopt. Our work situation changed for the better and we were more mature as a couple. I can’t actually explain it – we just knew that this kid was supposed to fill a hole in our family that we didn’t know was there!
Adoption isn’t for everyone, but is something that everyone should consider! Our adoption process was amazingly smooth, so expecting a difficult adoption process really isn’t a reason not to do it.
One thing I can say is that you should NOT adopt if you’re doing it to save a baby. One of our friends said it perfectly:
“If you want to be a hero, buy a cape. If you want to be a parent, adopt.”
Adoption is there to fulfil a need for the family, not the child – this is actually quite critical later on. My boy is going to know that he is this amazing gift to us and that WE were the lucky ones.
Quite a tough decision for parents who adopt is how and when to tell their child that he or she is adopted. Have you decided how and when you will tell your son?
Firstly, my son looks absolutely NOTHING like me (luckily for him!), so there won’t be any secrets in that regard. We want to tell him his full story as soon as he can understand it, which is usually around about the time he asks us about it. Our social workers made it clear that they would NOT recommend us for adoption if we intended to hide our son’s story from him.
We agreed wholeheartedly, mainly because our boy’s story is exactly that: HIS story. It wouldn’t be right for us to keep it from him.
You’ve had a second addition to your family, so you have a full house now. Do you think you and your wife will still continue to take in more babies?
We decided to stop safety-parenting for the time being. The whole point of us doing it originally was to give newborns and infants the best care we could give them. It wouldn’t make sense to give our children less than that.
If someone who has read this is interested in caring for babies in the way you have, what should they do?
Firstly, check out what kind of support you have. It’s not impossible to do it alone, but I can imagine it must be seriously difficult if you do! Secondly, find adoption agencies and ask them what their processes are. This usually involves some interviews, home visits, and police clearances.
And for those who are considering adoption, what advice would you give them?
It’s hard! There’s no point in sugar-coating it. Adoption can be a legal, financial and, most importantly, an emotional minefield. But that is all worth it for that moment when you hold the newest addition to your family in your arms.
Keeping that in mind, find an adoption agency with which you feel comfortable and go to any and all training days they might have. These are really important for cementing the concept in your head.