What advice would you give to your younger self, the men are asked. When you were a very young father, in your teens or early twenties, what would you have wanted to know about fatherhood and the many responsibilities and emotions that come with it?
“One of the things I go by as I’ve been fathering is the ‘Daddy Look Principle’,” answers Darnyle Wharton, speaking excitedly into a webcam. “Every time they ask you to look at something, I look. No matter what it is, even though I’ve probably seen it a thousand times, I still look because they need that acceptance to know that daddy is present with me, daddy is here with me, daddy is watching me. Whatever I’m doing, daddy’s going to be here to see it.”
The charming video, featuring a half dozen Baltimore fathers, was created by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs as part of its work with the Map 2 Success program, a Baltimore City Health Department initiative that provides support and assistance to Baltimore parents aged 24 and younger.
“Contrary to the narrative that Black dads are absent, the reality is that Black dads are very much present and engaged in their children’s lives,” says CCP’s Apral Smith, who worked on the videos.
The video idea came out of a hackathon for young dads held by CCP earlier this year designed to help other young dads navigate the demands of new fatherhood while navigating the steps to adulthood themselves.
At first, the plan was to create a scripted series, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to pivot. Instead, this first video is a DIY affair, with the more experienced fathers recording themselves at home. It’s a response to a desire expressed by the young dads at the hackathon for more mentoring from men who have been through what they are experiencing.
“This models that even good dads have missteps along the way and that the most important thing is to learn from those and try to move forward,” says Tina Suliman, who heads the program for CCP. “This work has been driven by the audience we are trying to reach and the more experienced dads were very excited to support those whose shoes they have been in.”
The video is appearing on B’more for Healthy Babies’ social media channels, especially Instagram where the young dads are most likely to be found. Meanwhile, more videos are planned to reach this group.
CCP is the communication partner for both B’more for Healthy Babies and Map 2 Success, which is implemented through community hubs throughout the city and is funded by the Maryland Department of Health through the federal Pregnancy Assistance Fund.
In the meantime, the first video contains some real parenting pearls.
Meldon Dickens’ advice is simple – and very important: “Patience is something as a father you just have to learn.”
And Michael Gordon’s: “Just stay committed and try your best, always try. Because at the end of the day, at least you can say you tried.”