A second chance for a single father

A second chance for a single father – Kevin Martin

Glenn Jeffers

THIS time, Kevin Martin realizes what he has. He realizes it every morning before he goes to work and every evening after he gets home. And he enjoys it. So does his 4-year-old son, Kameron. “This has given me a chance to step up to the plate,” says Martin, 46, an aeronautical engineer from Sylmar, Calif., “to be a parent.”

With Kameron, Martin has a second chance to be a father to his child. After being what he calls “a neglectful parent” to his first two children because of personal problems, Martin says he now has a chance to be a positive influence on a young life. Now clean and sober for more than eight years, Martin says it’s his job to provide a solid family life for his only son.

In addition to having sole custody of Kameron, Martin is also on the board of Responsible Single Fathers, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based national organization that advocates fathers’ rights. He also mentors at-risk children at his church, Calvary Baptist Church, in nearby Pacoima. But despite his busy schedule and other activities, Martin says Kameron comes first. “Kameron has given me the opportunity to make up for the things I lost in my other two daughters’ lives,” he says.

Martin decided to file for full custody of Kameron shortly after learning that his then-girlfriend was pregnant. The two met during recovery, began a relationship and had been together for three years before Kameron’s mother became pregnant. She agreed that Martin should be the child’s primary caretaker, Martin says. Two days after the child was born, Martin went to court and received full custody of his son.

Kameron’s mother is still in the boy’s life, Martin says, including calling Kameron on birthdays and holidays. The two parents are working to make Kameron’s mother a fixture in his life. But “from the day he was born to this time, he’s been with me,” Martin says. “He’s been in my household. He’s been with me.”

Raising Kameron on his own has been a responsibility Martin cherishes. But that wasn’t always the case. A divorced husband with two daughters from two separate women, Martin was absent from his other children’s lives, he admits. Though they live close to Martin in the Los Angeles area, they are now young adults, ages 23 and 16, and have little contact with their father. Both mothers remarried and moved on. Nowadays, Martin’s only connection with his daughters has been through his child support checks. “When I talk to them or see them, basically, I’m just their biological father,” he says.

A quality control supervisor for JMR Electronics in Chatsworth, Calif., Martin admits that raising a child by himself is overwhelming at times. Adjusting his life around Kameron’s day care and preschool schedule, and waking up early to get Kameron ready for school haven’t been easy. Potty-training was an unexpected challenge. But the adversity has also kept him focused on his other duties, Martin says, and has taught him how to improvise. Now, if Martin goes on a mentoring trip with his church, say to the museum or to a baseball game, he’ll bring Kameron with him.

It’s during these moments, Martin says, that he realizes the effect his actions have had on all his children. While his prior neglect soured his relationship with his daughters, his attention toward Kameron has enamored him in the eyes of the 4-year-old. It’s also changed Martin’s perspective on life; he has learned to slow down and enjoy each day, even the bad ones. “I learned to get on my knees and ask God for help because I feel I’m doing the right thing,” he says. “I used to run from those responsibilities, or I would manipulate or scam my way. But now I know I have God in my corner and other individuals I can go to.”

Support systems are crucial for single parents, especially single fathers, says Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood Initiative in Gaithersburg, Md. Because single fathers now play the added role of nurturer, a role normally assumed by the mother, they need people around them with expertise in that area. “Single fathers have a unique challenge,” Warren says. “It’s a more difficult challenge for single fathers because there isn’t much of a social infrastructure that supports them.”

Martin says his mother, Juanita Roberson-Acker, and his two sisters, Carol and Cheryl, have helped him raise Kameron. Whether it’s baby-sitting or the occasional trip to the popular Chuck E. Cheese, Roberson-Acker and the sisters provide a comforting presence for the 4-year-old.

“I’m used to wrestling with him,” Martin says. “And when he’s around my mother and my sisters, it seems he wants to cuddle more and wants to be held more, and I think that’s a more intimate side of their relationship that I just can’t provide.”

Roberson-Acker also says that she is proud of how her son is handling the responsibility of being a single parent. As a single mother of four, she knows the trials of parenthood, especially when children enter their teenage years. Though she worries if Martin realizes exactly what lies ahead, she’s also confident that his family will be there to help him handle those situations. “The girls are here for him, and I’m here to provide what I can for [Kevin],” she says. “Knowing what Kameron is up against [in the world], I’d like to see them stay this close so that Kameron knows that his father will always be there.”

Although he leaves the cuddling to the women, Martin plans to continue being there for his son. He says he doesn’t regret one minute of the last four years or the changes in his life after becoming a parent has forced him to make. If anything, he wants more time to spend with Kameron, more time to talk with his son, understand how to handle that emotional side.

Martin understands that he has received a second chance at being a parent. And this time, he says he wants to savor every experience with his son.

“I wish I could get just another hour that I could spend with him,” Martin says. “Every parent could take that hour to spend with their children. I just want him to grow and us to stay best friends, best buddies.”

COPYRIGHT 2003 Johnson Publishing Co.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group