By Anthony Simms
My whole life changed with a call from my girlfriend Keke claiming to be late on her monthly cycle. I didn’t think anything of it until a few weeks later when I received a call from her mother telling me that my girlfriend was pregnant. It was the scariest experience of my life. I put myself in a hole as I was only a junior in high school with no job, and only the hope of a future football career. The first week after receiving the news my life felt like a dream. My parents forced me to quit football, which had an enormous impact of my life. They also pushed me to get a job to earn money to support the baby. Later that same week my girlfriend moved to South Carolina and within a few months she had my daughter Iyana. I felt guilty because I was not there to help her through the pregnancy.
After a few months of wondering when I was going to see my baby, the time finally came. Keke and Iyana walked through my front door during our Thanksgiving feast, and it was like God came walking through the door. My family’s eyes lit up with excitement as everyone came running to the car seat that was holding Iyana. After all the excitement, a few days passed, and I felt the weight of reality begin to knock on my door. Many things were running through my mind. I didn’t know how to be a parent because I was just a kid myself, but I knew I had to suck it up and be a father. My parents played a crucial role in my journey to becoming a parent, and they taught me many of the things I needed to know about parenting. Despite their efforts, there were somethings they couldn’t teach me and that I would have to learn on my own.
Being a teenage parent I was often judged, criticized, and belittled by people who did not know my struggles. Most people will never understand the stress of being a parent, full-time student in high school while playing football, and working all at the same time. It was very time consuming, and I spent many hours away from my daughter. In the beginning, it was a constant blur. I would wake up at different hours of the night because of her constant crying, so I would be exhausted by the time I woke up and went to school. I fell asleep in class and fell behind on work. After school. I would play football, and all the nonstop running and drilling was exhausting. Every day it was the same thing repeatedly. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that it would all help shape our future. On the weekends, with no school or sports, I would spend the day in the blistering sun cutting trees to get money for food and diapers.
Now that I am far away from my daughter, going to school is the worst. The challenges of being a student-athlete, and parent, are hard. Emotionally it takes a huge toll on my heart since I am so far away. My daughter constantly calls me on my phone to talk, and each day she talks more clearly It is like I am watching her grow up on a screen. I am not there to make her smile when she is feeling down or even kiss her goodnight. It brings fear to me that one day when I get home she might not even know who I am. I constantly tell myself that I am doing it because in the long run my daughter will have her father with her every day without needing anything. I live my life for a purpose, and it is to take care of my daughter, and give her the best life possible. Through hard work, sweat, and tears I know we will be together again forever facing our struggles as a family with no fears.
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