Pocho

School of hard knocks

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I never imagined I would become the parent that I am today. I used to think that if I were to have a son, I would teach him how to hit a baseball and throw a football and leave the book-learning stuff to my wife, along with all the diaper changing. Besides, that’s what schools are for, right? The book-learning part, that is.

You may find it comforting to know that reality hit me square in the face about as hard as I’m sure you wanted to after reading my naïve and macho view of fatherhood just now. So what’s changed?

A lot.

First off, I actually had a child. I am now a father. Mijito was born just over a year ago (and yes, he is already learning how to play around with his little baseball and his little football). Suddenly, I realized that without my full participation as a parent, my own kid might not get the full attention he deserves in all aspects of life. 

It hit me that the statistics about Latino males not graduating from high school were pointing right at my son. 

I’ve always railed about the seemingly unchanging number of our youth that fail to graduate from high school each year. Numbers do not lie. It is estimated that about half of Latino males will ever don a cap and gown. Yet, we lie to ourselves every day when it comes to the future of our children – especially we men. 

We wouldn’t think twice about teaching our hijo how to fight if we knew someone was bullying him on the playground. We might even figure out ways to toughen him up, maybe wrestle with him, and make him eat more carne asada and extra helpings of nana’s frijoles. We might even enlist his tíos to ready our boy for that playground battle. That would help him teach that bully a lesson. 

But what we’re failing to realize is there is a more serious battle that too many of our niños are losing: the one in the classroom. Forget about the black eye — that will heal and even build his character.

So, what am I doing about it? I teach my little boy everything I possibly can, and he’s not even 2 years old yet. I even find myself teaching other little boys I run into wherever I go. They usually just stare blankly at me, probably wondering who the strange man is asking silly questions. Probably a good thing I don’t own a van!

And even though these kids may not have the answers, I’m sure they’ll remember the time someone engaged them about something more than just how far they can throw a football. 

And maybe one day, they’ll study hard to make their papas proud.

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