I grew up with a very strict father. He was a hard worker, and spent weeks at a time away from home working up North. Somehow, I always felt as though he was there. I always felt his presence with every decision I made, even when I was out of his sight. I called it a "healthy fear". Before I attempted anything that he would look down upon, I would think to myself, "What will the repercussions of these actions be with Dad?" And then I'd -- hopefully! -- make the right decision.
I was always mad that I couldn't hang out with the cool kids whenever I wanted to. I remember asking, "Dad, can I....." but before the fourth word left my mouth, his response would typically be a firm "NO!" I mean, Dad -- come on, man! Couldn't you at least give me the satisfaction of an "Ask your mother" or something? Dang! Always "No, no, no."
I remember grumbling to myself back in the day. I couldn't talk back to my parents, like some of my other friends. That would only result in what every Jamaican child knows as licks -- a beating you would regret for quite some time.
I never felt abused, though. I couldn't understand why my Dad always said no to everything, but I did know that he loved me.
How I envied my friends! They lived with their mothers and often got to do whatever they wanted. They stayed out late for parties. They smoked weed or tried tings, as we called it in our neighbourhood. They got to wear all the nice gear, even though most of them were from poor homes. I, on the other hand, often begged and pleaded for the same gear and received a bootleg version or something different all together. Man...why did I have to have them as my parents?
Now, there are pros and cons that came with the healthy fear I had of my Dad. One of the cons was that when I was at an impressionable teenage stage, I felt my father's strictness broke my spirit at times. It also made me an easy target for jokes. What about me? What about my self-esteem? I didn't realize or even think about the things he had been through. I was only thinking about myself.
I was so self-centered that at times that I literally prayed for my parents to separate. Maybe, if they broke up, I could actually go out and do things! Maybe I could hang out with my friends a little later! Maybe I could try some tings without the fear of smelling like it and losing my ability to walk and breathe on my own as soon as my father would smell it!
They never did break up. I never really got to hang with my friends at that stage of life, either. I felt as though my life had been ruined.
To make a long story short, I grew up with a crew of five friends. We were all very tight. I moved away in 1997 to pursue music. The others remained in the same neighbourhood. Friend number one is now a methamphetamine abuser. Friend number two has been to rehab four times and still abuses various drugs. Friend number three just got out of jail for hurting his wife. Now, this is not solely due to not having fathers in their lives. There are many examples of fine mothers who raised incredible children.
This is an example of why my father said "NO!" so much. He saw things I had never seen before. He saw a potential in me, and opportunities for me that he never had. I was a reflection of him. I was his responsibility and he would not have his son tainted.
In 2000, I traveled and met family. I spoke to them about my father. They informed me of his life growing up. I never knew how hard he had it. It helped make so much sense of things I had experienced. It helped me realize that he only did the best he could.
Being a father doesn't come with a manual. It's all relative, I suppose. If he knew what I was actually going through as a result of his strictness, I don't think he would have handled things the same way. He was always there for me, though. I never wanted for anything and had the finest education because of the sacrifices my parents made.
That being said, there is not a feeling in the world that can touch watching you guys, my two sons, take your first breaths. It was a feeling of amazement and joy. It didn't weigh me down like it does some. The two of you have empowered me to do better. You have given me strength that I never knew I possessed. I now realize that it is no longer about me, it is all about you. My sole purpose is to do better than my father did for me.
This is not an easy goal. My father is a great man. My father loved -- and still loves -- me so much. He took care of me like he was supposed to. I am but a reflection of him, but I haven't completed my purpose yet. I have chosen to be aware of how I handle issues with you. I'm not sure that a healthy fear is what you need right now. In the future when you read this, if by chance you question why I am so mean, or why I say "No!" so much, understand that it's because I love you and I have a purpose. I am but a reflection of my father, and you are a reflection of me. I must complete my purpose, even if it means saying no.
You are my purpose.
Love and Guidance,
Born in Jamaica, raised in Canada and residing in Brooklyn, NY, Errol Henry, Jr. (E-Dot) is 1/2 of the critically acclaimed duo HERO along with Darp Malone. He's a Black Daddy, a husband, a son, and a brother who is very family-oriented. E-Dot was fortunate enough to be born to parents who gave him every opportunity to succeed in life. This is the reason that he feels compelled to return the favor by being a very involved, full-time father to his beautiful sons.