First Father’s Day In 12 Years | Chris Warren

First Father's Day In 12 Years | Chris Warren 1

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First Father’s Day

What does it mean to be a father?

Noah has written at length about his relationship with his father, and what his passing meant to him, his family. I often think about how much my own dad means to me. And what he meant to me over 12 years of prison.

I know one thing unequivocally: without my parents, my prison experience would have been drastically different. They were a safety net financially, emotionally, spiritually… the lighthouse in a really crappy white squall with no masts and sails and just an eternity of choppy seas ahead. Without that light, I may have lost hope.

Which refocuses me after the last two months at home in Sacramento. What about my boys?

We just spent our first father’s day together in 12 years. The last time we did that they were 1 and 2 years old. This year Chris turns 14 and Denny is about to turn 13.

And as much as my father was there for me, I was not there for my boys. Being a prison dad is tough….but not for me. Tough for them. For me… was absenteeism. Absenteeism is, it is in essence, easy for the absent person because it requires no work. It might have been emotionally crappy but  I did not have to discipline them, pay for food, take care of rent, take them to school, to doctor’s appointments, stay up late at night and go to all of their practices.

All of that work I left for someone else when I decided to become a criminal.

So for years the only fathering I did was on 15-minute phone calls and through letters, which isn’t fathering at all. It barely being present. In fact, it’s not even being present.

It is simply trying to prevent irrelevance. 

So this father’s day, as we had the bbq going, and the music, and the kids in the pool, and the adults glued to their cell phones and ipads….I thought….what have I done; and I am so happy to be here now, at this moment.

For me and my father, prison visits extended a relationship we had well in hand. I was disrespectful as a teenager but during my bid, I worked into my mid 30’s and my dad and I fell into a natural friendship that I am grateful for.

For me and my boys, they don’t remember life with me, not in prison. There is no relationship to “rebuild”, to “re-establish”. This father’s day, it was not my “first father’s day in 12 years”…

It was my first father’s day. 

But it wasn’t their first father’s day. They had experienced fathers day after father’s day with fill-ins. Uncles. Boyfriends of their mother. Grandpas. With a “father” – in title only – in this prison facility, or that prison camp, or in this county jail. 

And on this day, my first father’s day, there was no resentment….no overt residuals….it felt….new. Something entirely different and freshly created. When I think of the word blessing I think about this day, this Father’s Day of 2020. 

Since I’ve been out it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses with them. I’ve had to do some of the work. Disciplining. Dealing with lying, crying, anger in situations because things aren’t fair, child support, bills. The work that comes with the title of “father”. But then, the bbq, the music, the pool….the moments that I called Fathers Day 2020.

Three generations of Warren men, spending time with family, doing life together. 

As I reflect back on Father’s Day, and I think about current struggles, with school closures, COVID, co-parenting, and the path forward I remind myself: this….this is a blessing. If it is work, it is good work.

And the pool splashes. The sun shines. Chris drags his brother underwater. I laugh and God is good. 

I guess I will wait till later to tell them I took their PlayStation away for three weeks…..

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