Being a Dad: An Underdog Story

Looking at the stars I wonder why we are here in life. It is the million dollar question that has people looking for answers. Sometimes we look for it in God, sometimes we look for it through money, through relationships. Some of us are fortunate enough to be born into families where there is a support system that is designed to help show us why we are in this life. This is why we see doctors become doctors, often it is because their parent was a doctor, this is not always true, but in most cases we could see this as being a reality. We even see this with people and their last names. For example, we will often see last names like Smith whose bloodlines follow back to their ancestors who made their living being a blacksmith.

I believe that we are put in our families for a reason. Our spirit knows who our parents are going to be. We pick these parents before we come in to this world and it helps shape and strengthen our spirit, it helps us become who we are. But, what about the people who are born with no parents? I mean, everyone has their biological parents, but there are people who are born into this world as orphans, or without mothers and fathers. Why are they here? Even more so, what about the people who are born into families that have all types of social emotional issues like drug abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence or neglect issues. What brought them into this world to choose a parent that they knew would not be around to show them the way of life?

We are born and shaped into who we are based on our experiences. This is why sometimes we will see people who come from traumatic backgrounds grow up and relive the same experiences. People who are sexually abused will sexually abuse. People who grew up with parents on drugs will become drug addicts and so on. This isn’t the case for all. Some of us decide that their lives will change and they face the odds and beat the demons that haunt their spirits.

This is the story of my experiences. Not everyone will relate, but I am a father of three and I made it my goal to raise my kids to be strong, independent children that will be able to face adversity. It was my goal as a father to raise my kids to make good decisions and follow their dreams and accomplish anything their hearts desire.

I wish I could say that I grew up in the suburbs in a house with a white picket fence where both of my parents had middle class jobs and were educated. The fact is I was born into a poor Mexican family whose backgrounds came from hardworking migrant working families. Their experiences brought them to CA working in the fields. In the 70’s and 80’s their kids were living in Northern California living the lifestyle of gangs. My mother and my father met in in the early 80’s dated and then my mom got pregnant at 19 years old.

My father was addicted to methamphetamine at a young age, got my mom pregnant and then decided to leave my mom alone to raise a young child. My mom a passive, shy teenager was forced to raise me at an early age while my dad, hooked on meth lived the drug life and abandoned us. My father at age 24 years old would eventually get busted with weapons and drugs charges in the early 90’s and face a third strike felony rule which would send him to prison for life.

As for my mother, it was her dream to raise a family. My mom wanted lots of kids and to have a big family to enjoy life with. She would eventually meet a young kid in the late 80’s by the name of Ricky. My mom, 22 years old at the time and Ricky was 16 had their first child in 1989, my little brother Gonzalo.

Ricky would be the closest thing I had to a father growing up, but it wasn’t all butterfly’s and roses. Ricky also had a substance abuse problem. Ricky was an alcoholic and would eventually get hooked on Crank and Methamphetamine as well. In the 90’s my childhood was full of drug abuse, physical abuse that I witnessed on my mother. I didn’t have a father and my mother stuck in her world became an alcoholic trying to cope with the man she loved and his problems that he brought to our family. I stayed with my grandmother most of the time and there I had cousins who also shared their experiences of trauma and sexual abuse.

This trauma would linger and my cousin would try and force himself on us as kids. I am not saying that my life was the hardest or worse thing imaginable. Growing up in the education world I see children who have lost both of their parents or who come from families that have experienced severe sexual violence in their lives and live in poverty and drug abuse. The reality is our experience shape who we are and our belief systems of what life should look like. I was blessed enough to realize that this was not what I wanted in life.
I grew up playing sport and used that as an escape. I wanted to escape my house, I didn’t want to be around my step-father who constantly was on drugs and dealing with the ups and downs of abuse caused trauma with my siblings and myself. I was depressed, often I would feel like I wasn’t good enough I didn’t have the support or nurturing system that I needed for survival. So I ate. Food gave me comfort, it reminded me of my grandma who loved me and showed her love by giving me food.

Still I had no identity. I didn’t know who I was. I had no father in my life. Who was I supposed to be? Should I have been like my father who would sell drugs and live a gang affiliated lifestyle and eventually end up in prison? Should I have joined a gang and lived the lifestyle to be accepted by the people that my family would be associated with? I didn’t know. I often followed people and was blessed enough to meet friends that would help me follow my passion and even more so, I was blessed to have good mentors and teachers/coaches. I fell in love with sports.

Sports was my new identity. I would play because it kept me away from my life at home. The problem was that I wasn’t good enough to play at a collegiate level and I constantly felt like there were no role models in my family to give me that extra push. Coming to realize this was even more depressing as I would feel like I didn’t have the support from my family to help me succeed in life.

When sports were over after high school I was lost. I had no reason to work out anymore so I ate. I got fat and I kept eating to numb the pain. I knew I wouldn’t grow up to be like my dad who was in prison and my mom who was stuck in this domestically abusive relationship. I was lost and confused of what I wanted in life until I met my now wife Natalie.

Natalie and I met at the junior college I started attending and we hit it off. After three months of dating. Natalie became pregnant with my first child, Arianna. This changed me. It gave me purpose. I grew up in a life where I needed a father figure to show me the way. To show me how to be. I didn’t have that and when I found out Natalie was pregnant I decided that I would never be like my father who abandoned me or my step father who was a drug addict.

This really is an underdog story because I could have left Natalie. I could have decided to become a gangster or abuse drugs. I decided from that day on I would be the father I never had growing up. I quit school and got a job and made enough money to provide my own place to live. Nine months later I remember becoming a dad for the first time in my life.

I was scared, pacing back and forth. Natalie had been in labor for a day an a half. One of the scariest moments of my life came in the delivery room. Natalie was ready to have the baby and the doctor said that the babies heart rate was low because the imbecilic cord was wrapped around her neck. Natalie pushed and groaned as I stare at her vagina. I see the head crowning and look over at the the doctor. He looks at me and says, “look at all this hair, what do you think it is going to be?” Confused I thought to myself, I don’t know dude just deliver this kids.

On the final push, the baby plops out into the arms of the doctor and nurses. It reminded me and alien with tentacles, but there wasn’t a cry. I saw a little human baby with their face blue as the doctors rushed. I looked at Natalie in fear about to tear up. There was no crying. Natalie looked at me and asked, “Where is my baby?” There was no cry, as the doctors and nurses rushed her to the table all I heard were suctions of air and fluid.
“Is she going to make it?” I thought to myself.

Maybe 2 minutes later I heard a sound that caused a sigh of relief and tears to flow down my cheeks like sweat from a hard workout. Arianna laid out a cry.

I looked at Natalie and Natalie looked back at me. Our baby was born. Arianna Nevaeh Galicia is what I named her. I was now a dad. At 20 years old I had my first child. I was happy to hear her little cry and I got to hold her for the first time. I was a dad and would be for the rest of my life.
I didn’t mean for this story to start off so depressing. The experience I gained in my life told me that I couldn’t do what I wanted. The story told me that I wasn’t good enough and that I would never find someone strong enough to love me. The truth is I did find someone strong enough to love me and now I would have the experience of being able to raise a human soul.

I often wonder why Arianna chose Natalie and I to be our parents. We both came from a lifestyle far from perfect. As Arianna’s spirit looked around for the perfect parents. She decided to choose Natalie and I. Maybe Arianna needed someone strong to show her how to live life in a hard world. Arianna is the strongest kid I know. She is brave, now 15 she works hard, plays softball competitively and accomplishes anything she set her mind too. Sure she has her demons like everyone else. She even has some of the demons that have faced me as a child growing up.

Being a father has been a blessing and I would lie to tell you that it has been an easy journey. Three kids later and I will always remember Arianna. She changed me. She molded me to be the man I am today. I knew I would never be like my dad and I knew that I didn’t have to live the life my mom or dad chose, full of abuse. I would be lying if I said I live this perfect life. Natalie and I have had our share of disagreements as a parent.

The first 7 years of Arianna’s life I worked and had good paying jobs. I didn’t feel complete. As a child it was my dream to become a teacher and a coach. In 2012 I was laid off from work and decided to go back to school. So I did. I went back got my bachelors degree from Sacramento State University and just completed my Masters Degree in Special Education. All this while being a working professional, a husband, an educator, but most importantly being a dad.

The moral of this story is to be strong. I hope that someone who has grown up without a father in their life or someone who has experienced trauma or hurt or someone who has a low self-esteem or feelings of depression would read this and know that there is hope in their life. You are loved and you have a purpose. Being a parent is a blessing and being a father is the best job in the world. I wake up daily and see how smart, athletic and determined my kids are in life. I also see where they need to grow.

Being a dad has shown me to never give up and to raise my kids how I want to raise them I broke the curse and now Arianna, Louie and AJ could feel the love that I didn’t receive growing up. They could grow up without the feeling of being alone, or abandoned, or not confident enough to be who they want to be. They are my children and I am their dad. I am their leader their strength and their rock. Unconditionally and Forever.