Former teen dad finds joy in parenting
When he became a father at 16 years old, Mark Rodney did not imagine his son would have become his best friend.
Mark Rodney Jr is now 18 and is the only son among the senior Rodney’s four children. The father and son have been able to foster a great relationship after Rodney Sr learned that his own dad’s way of parenting is not suitable for this generation.
“There is a lot I get with my father that is not really relevant now, as they say, but the teaching is still there. My father was a strict person,” said the grandfather of two, recounting that he never challenged his father’s reproach as children nowadays often do.
However, living with his father and being a barrel child of his mother, who was in England at the time, he ended up leaving school at age 15.
“I got a letter from the school saying, based on my competency, I could go back, though I never got a report card because I would have left school from February, but me and my mom wasn’t in good standing,” recounted the former Kingston College student.
Unable to continue schooling on his own, he never went back, he told The Gleaner, adding that, to date, he has not settled his difference with his mother.
When his girlfriend, who was 19 at the time, told him that she was pregnant, Rodney said things immediately changed as he pivoted into a man.
“From that day till now, I haven’t stopped working. Hustle, hustle,” said the resident of Wilton Gardens, more commonly known as Rema, in the Corporate Area.
Although he has received support from relatives along the way, Rodney said he had to make major sacrifices.
“I wanted to go back to school, but I wasn’t able to until I was 33, where I went to do a four-month course at The University of the West Indies in social work,” he shared.
With the passion he has developed for parenting, especially in inner-city communities where fatherless, dysfunctional blended families and financial constraints have posed as major developmental and social strains, he has also received training as a parent mentor by National Parenting Support Commission and as a community parent trainer under the Citizen Security and Justice Programme.
Gift of ‘presence’
Despite all he has learned, Rodney acknowledged that there will always be something new in parenting, and oftentimes the parent becomes the student.
“There is always going to be that time when you feel like what you are doing is not enough … . It’s a full-time job; you are the first and forever teacher,” he said.
The best gift one can give a child as a parent is in one’s “presence and not the presents”, Rodney said, as one can be a good but not effective parent.
A firm believer in the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, Rodney said one of his main disappointments throughout his stint working in west and east Kingston is that parents do not get involved in other children’s lives. He believes such a culture of caring for other children would create a safety net for parents and children.
“We once had a group called the Fatherless Crew and they were creating havoc, wreaking havoc across Trench Town, and these guys took it upon themselves to become a menace to society,” he recalled.
As Father’s Day approaches, Rodney is yet to think about another form of celebration, basking in the excitement of making his engagement to his spouse official on his birthday, June 13.
This union has brought him six stepchildren, to whom he is excited to be a father figure.
A member of the Inner-city for Christ Ministries church in Arnett Gardens, Rodney describes himself as a Rastafarian and a Christian, and he believes that, while the Almighty is fathering everyone, He has been strategic in placing father figures as mortals need them in the flesh.
“The bishop, who is the head of the church, is a great father figure to me,” he shared, making his point.