Now Or Never·Point of View

To you, my teenage daughter, on my days as a teenage parent

'I was teenager who wasn't at all prepared for the way you'd shift the momentum of my life. But look at us now. You're 16, and we made it through the pain and pressure of my being a young parent.'

'I never want to feel that inadequacy again,' says young father Kern Carter

Kern Carter and his teenage daughter, Kristashia. (Submitted by Kern Carter)
Listen9:28

Contributed by Kern Carter

I helped bring you into a world when I was not much older than you are right now. At 18, I was a teenager who wasn't at all prepared for the way you'd shift the momentum of my life. But look at us now. You're 16, and we made it through the pain and pressure of my being a young parent. And though most of the wounds have healed, some scars are still too tender to risk touching.

I still remember when you saw the view from your room in our new apartment. Your eyes lit up and you told me this is your home. In fact, it's our first home together. Just me and you. How crazy is that? It took me all these years to finally fulfil my idea of what it means to be a father.

When you were younger, I'd feel the shame of not being able to give you more.- Kern Carter

As you grew up, I didn't have enough money to buy you gifts on your birthday. I purposefully kept you away from my one bedroom apartment because I was embarrassed that you didn't have your own room. All these things, these physical things, was how I measured my worth.

You're only 16, but you and I have come so far. (Submitted by Kern Carter)

'I should've been able to give you all these things sooner'

But now, you've been to fashion camp in California. Now, you're taking trips to Paris and Rome with your classmates. Our life is so much different now, but some of that shame still creeps into my veins.

"It's too late," I think. I should've been able to give you all these things sooner. You should've gone to a Montessori school. It shouldn't have taken until you got to high school for me to get my act together.

The struggles of our early years feel like a burden.- Kern Carter

There I go again — dismissing the first 13 years of my parenting like I was somehow absent. Like my love for you was measured strictly in dollars and cents. Maybe that's why I paid for a year of private art classes. I never want to feel that inadequacy again.

But lately, that's how I feel. The struggles of our early years feel like a burden. Our apartment feels too small. We haven't taken enough vacations. And though so many times we've laughed till tears filled our eyes, I still wonder what's beneath your smile. I'm almost afraid to ask if you're happy. 

Look at how far we've come

What I should do is move on. Enjoy where we are and not dwell on how far we've come. I know I'm blessed to have the relationship that we do. You're daddy's girl, for sure... though you're much too cool to say those words. It's OK. I know how you feel. I'm slowly learning how you've felt. One day we'll both share our story without the shame or guilt I know is still present. Right now, we're exactly where we need to be.

'Our life is so much different now'. (Submitted by Kern Carter)

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