Mind and Body

A letter to my children

Angel Taveras, the former Mayor of Providence, writes a letter to his three children about what it means to him to be a father

Photo courtesy of Angel Taveras

A portrait of the Taveras family.

By Angel Taveras
Posted 6/10/19
Angel Taveras writes a letter to his three children about what being a father means to him.
What kinds of supports are needed to help moms and dads become better parents? How important is the sense of family, of belonging, to promoting a sense of well being in children? What is the role of face-to-face conversation, of talking in person, in the educational development of children?
Telling stories is a human construct, the way we connect the past to the future, because our own personal history is the most valuable possession we have. Sharing stories is an important part of the parenting process, even if it involves sharing a sense of the world where not everything is OK, or where mistakes have been made, with a sense of humility. The other part of the bargain is being to able to listen and to hear what children are trying to tell you, as their parents.

PROVIDENCE – “You will never know love until you have a child, and you will never know fear until you have a child.” When these wise words were uttered to me years ago, I did not understand them. Then I had you and became a father. Suddenly, I fully understood the meaning of those words.

Farah Rose, hearing your heartbeat for the first time took my breath away. I felt love and fear simultaneously – love for you and your limitless potential, and fear of whether I was ready for the awesome responsibility of fatherhood.

When I met you on New Year’s Eve, I was afraid to drop you. In fact, the midwife took you from me to introduce you to mommy. When I was told I could take you back to our room [as they finished taking care of mommy], I was startled and thought to myself: Take you alone? Isn’t someone going to walk with me? Again, fear and love simultaneously.

Our pediatrician smiled during our first visit and told us that she could always tell the first-time parents by how long it took to undress the baby. On a later visit, they administered your first shots and then asked me if I was OK.

Sebastian, when you joined us several years later, I felt a little better prepared. We didn’t rush to the doctor for everything. I will admit that I love my daughter so much I was not sure how I would handle a new little boy. Would I have enough love to give? Yes, I do. I also have a lot more that I worry about.

Belle, by the time you came, Mom and I almost felt like pros. We did, however, switch to a zone defense because we found that – with the arrival of this new, baby girl – we were now outnumbered. With my three children, I see three distinct personalities with wide ranging traits. My responsibility as a father is to prepare you for the world and make your journey a little easier than mine.

Learning from watching

I know that you learn from watching your mom and me. So, I try to model the behavior that I want to teach you. Mommy is the boss and everyone, including daddy, listens to her. Our group hugs are to remind you that you are loved unconditionally and we are a family forever. We have magic words, please and thank you, because being polite and appreciative are important. I treat your grandparents the way I hope you will treat us one day.

When you see something that is wrong, you have to do what you can to change it. That’s why I traveled to the U.S./Mexico border to help parents who were separated from their children.

We adopt a family every Christmas at Children’s Friend & Service to honor the same woman who told me about the love and fear of parenthood.

I also want you to recognize: to whom much is given [like you], much is expected.

I know that I share my biases with you; I have taught you to be Red Sox fans and that the Yankees are villains, like Romeo in PJ Masks.

The love I feel for you is deeper than anything I have ever felt. It motivates me every day to work as hard as I can so that I can take care of you and your mom. You make me want to be the best person I can be. The fear I feel is constant. Fear of you getting hurt – though I know it’s inevitable that you will fall, as we all do. My fear of not preparing you well enough for the future. Love and fear, all the time.

Humble and kind
I hope you will remember the lyrics from Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind”:

When you get where you’re going/
Don’t forget turn back ‘round, help the next one in line/
Always stay humble and kind.

If you do that, I will know I was a good father.


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