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This article will be the first of three to explore Jamaican men’s perspectives on fatherhood. The series aims to understand and explore how these three men make meaning from their experiences of fatherhood, and to share that with a wider audience.
Today’s interview is with Kristofferson Nunes. Kristofferson is a UWI graduate and a 27-year-old entrepreneur and a father of one. He lives in Kingston with his partner.
Margo: Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Kristofferson: I’m adaptable, patient and understanding. That’s it, in a nutshell. We all have complexities in ourselves, and I think we have a lot of different passions. For example, growing up, I wanted to be a pilot, then a doctor, then an architect; it was all over the place, but then I realized that’s me.
Margo: What do you like most about being a father?
Kristofferson: I like just seeing the world from his eye level, his perspective, and seeing things that he might fear that I overlook. His growth is very fascinating to me and that’s what I enjoy the most, you know, looking at how time really passes from a child’s perspective.
Margo: What has been the most challenging thing about being a father?
Kristofferson: I think the most challenging thing would be relaxing my ego because now I’m trying to help somebody. Your ego will try to protect you, your pride, and stuff. As males, we tend to have a huge ego but growing a young man or girl, a child; takes humility.
It takes selflessness, and that means putting my ego aside. And if you’re not self-aware, it will be challenging. I think most men’s challenge is not being self-aware. For me, it’s challenging in the sense that the world is fast-paced, but fatherhood shows me one side, how I’m supposed to take the world.
It’s really about slowing down in those moments where time is spent, not trying to get to the next and the next because those moments pass by so quickly. If you sit down and appreciate those moments, you realise that for a young child, their world is very slow.
I think for us as men, the challenge is finding balance. It’s a balance between what I know is good for his world like putting food on the table and having my own hobbies but not neglecting my responsibilities at home, the responsibilities that I have bestowed on myself.
Margo: What has been the biggest lesson(s) you’ve learnt about being a father?
Kristofferson: I think the biggest lesson is listening more, trying to listen more to what’s going on around me because I may not have all the answers. Listening brings so many insights because fatherhood is a journey.
For example, when you go to a new school, you listen to what the teacher says, try to get a feel of the land, feel the school, and listen to the conversations to find out where to go.
In the same breath, as a father, I listen to conversations from maybe families, friends, associates, or my immediate support groups.
I also know that at the end of the day, after I have listened, I make my choices based on whatever insights I want to choose. This is so that I’m not coming from a place of ignorance. I’m making a more informed decision on how I can move forward, make things better, and add to a different foundation than I had before.
Margo: How has your own childhood influenced your fathering?
Kristofferson: I had a family that sacrificed and worked hard to put food on the table. I appreciate and support it, and I’m grateful for something like that because it shows that self-sacrifice is monumental in relationships, whether it’s with your parents or in intimate relationships. So when I got older and went through the process, I was pulling from these various resources.
I pull resources from my uncle as a father figure or from a friend’s father or other guys I play a ball game with because you can get insights from anybody.
Especially as s father, it’s kind of unfair for anybody to put all the expectations on one person to teach everything because that person doesn’t know everything. Likewise, for mothers, too, it’s good to have a community to pull from different insights and get information.
For me, during childhood, it was just being myself and going into different circles with my friends and their fathers, or their uncles, or their male-dominant figures. I felt comfortable in those households, we shared stories, and I asked questions and it became a habit of being around them.
When I was in high school, my neighbour’s father took me to school every day from First Form to Fifth Form. Can you imagine from First Form to Fifth Form, every morning? I got to have conversations, picked up things, became familiar, and added to these conversations.
On the surface, it may seem like I was just getting a ride to school, but I learned a lot of things on a subconscious level. I learned about discipline, hard work and the sacrifices fathers made for their families.
Now that I am a father, I have to be aware of what I’m doing daily because my child will be emulating or modelling those things not because I’m telling him what to do but because I’m showing him how to be by my actions. You might think that you’re having random conversations, but they pick up what you’re saying, so when they pick up on bad habits and see them with them, it’s like you’re looking in the mirror.
Margo: What do you think is/are the biggest misconception(s) about Jamaican fathers and what about Jamaican fathers do you want people to know?
Kristofferson: I think that question itself is a troublemaker question, and I will tell you why. In Jamaica, there are pockets of people; that’s why we have the motto, “Out of Many, One People”. We have different cultures within different communities that operate in so many different ways.
On one end of the spectrum, there are pockets of absentee fathers who don’t do anything at all and on the other end, there are fathers who stay at home to take care of the baby and the family while the mother goes to work.
To paint the image that every Jamaican father is bad is unfair and a misrepresentation of what is happening because we have never done a census. We may know what the media carry based on buzzworthy news and their ability to pull drama and anguish from people. They can pull comments and engagement from the public because they want to sell papers, right?
The narrative should not be “You’re doing your job badly” but should instead be “These are some suggestions.” If you’re trying to chop down an old tree, why not grow a new tree that you know has better roots? It’s like restarting society in a sense; it does not make sense to train an old dog new tricks.
So, if the narrative is true that all Jamaican fathers are trash, the question is, why don’t we start a philosophy to make better fathers? What values are we transmitting to our kids? When they become parents, what results will we see in their kids?
For example, I see my neighbour playing with his son after work every day, looking at the stars with a telescope. I can imagine him using that interest for them to bond together.
Males have their egos and they do things that they don’t want credit for; fatherhood is one of those things. They wouldn’t seek out the chance to so say, “Hey, I want to do that interview,” someone might have to encourage them to share their story, similar to how you have approached me.
I think it boils down to connecting with different communities to find where those fathers are or finding the kids who are progressing and linking back to if they have fathers or not.
Margo: As a new father, have you felt like you needed support? If so, where do you turn to for that support?
Kristofferson: I think support found me initially. In the sense that other fathers extended the invitation to say, “We are fathers here; we know it’s going to be an interesting journey for you; we’ve done this.” So they reached out and extended their hand of advice, support, or thoughts.
With me being a new father, they felt that it was important to recruit me as they figured their support could help me be a better father for the boy or girl that I would be raising.
I think the support is there whether you know it or not. It could be in friends or family, or friends of the family. Sometimes we just need to put away our egos and not be afraid to ask for help.
Margo: Do you think fathers are getting the support they need or do we need to do more as a society to support fathers? If fathers need support, how can we do better as a society to support them?
Kristofferson: I think about the father’s support in my head as building a society. It’s not somebody building it for us. We build it as we go along. We have to navigate as is needed. Whatever you share, it can be used to build a man. For fathers, they need assistance to nurture.
We can create the environment to do what we want and any environment can have the infrastructure or framework that can be plugged into automatically. It’s similar to the “mommy and me” classes for women and the other resources that are available to a new mother like workshops, apps, websites, and blogs.
The question is, why hasn’t any father pushed that agenda as much? It could be so many factors at play; maybe fathers aren’t interested in that because we have learned certain values that pushed fathers to the household’s financial decisions.
Building up that support infrastructure can be done, for example, when a woman is pregnant and she goes for a doctor’s visit, medical professionals can approach an expectant father to offer resources and support. There are so many opportunities we just have to start it.
If you enjoyed this interview, stay tuned for the next two in this series. Thank you for stopping by and please share and let us think about how we can build up that father support infrastructure.