Becoming a parent is NEVER easy. Becoming a parent when you are still A KID is downright life altering. Teen parents have two options – step up to the plate, or run like the wind. If you're like Albert, you step up to the plate with a prayer in your heart, understanding that the journey you are about to embark on could make or break you. In Albert's case, he's allowed fatherhood to make an amazing man out of him. As he is now raising his own teenager, he is imparting some of that wisdom learned on his own son. And doing so with a spoonful of grace, a dash of humility, and the good book by his side.
Name: Albert Northrup
Occupation: Law Clerk
Age of child: 16
What were some of your first thoughts when you found out you were going to be a father?
I was scared at first. I was only 18 years old when I learned that I would be a father. I was still a kid myself and I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t feel confident that I could raise a kid and didn’t think that I would make a good father.
What was the first thing that went through your mind the first time you saw your son? What were some of the emotions you experienced?
The moment my son was born, my fatherly instinct kicked in. I was elated when he was born. I couldn’t stop smiling and I kept saying “That’s MY son.” I couldn’t believe that I had a part in creating someone so beautiful. The first time I held him in my arms I told him that I will always be there for him. My father passed away when I was only 8 so I grew up most of my life without my dad. I wanted to make sure that my son always had his dad around.
Is parenting a teenage son anything like what you thought it would be? Are you the “cool dad” you expected to be when you were younger, or more of a disciplinarian?
Parenting a teenage son is certainly difficult. I would say that I am a good combination of the “cool dad” and disciplinarian. I am younger than most parents with 16 year old kids, so I am able to stay active with him and his friends. We go out and play soccer together, play paintball, workout, and stay active together. His friends are always over at the house. We regularly play practical jokes on each other and have a good time. However, he knows that I lay down the law when I need to. His schoolwork comes first. If he is slacking off or not doing what he is supposed to do, there are consequences. There are rules in the house and he is expected to follow those rules, which are very reasonable. When he doesn’t follow the rules, he knows that there are consequences to pay. However, I have been known to lay down the law a little more than I should. I do expect a lot out of my son, sometimes too much. That is only because I know that he is capable of doing great things.
What has been the biggest shock or surprise for you about parenting a teenager?
Teenagers today know far more about adult things than they should.
Obviously the world is so different now from when we were in high school. What is the one thing you worry about the most when it comes to raising a son?
I worry about the company he keeps. There are so many kids who just are not being raised right. I don’t want to see him get involved with the wrong crowd.
Are there key elements involved in raising a boy to be a MAN? What are they?
There are several key elements involved in raising a boy to be a man. If asked, most people would say that the opposite of masculinity is femininity. However, this is not true. The opposite of masculinity is childishness. Not to get too religious, but the Apostle Paul taught in his first letter to the Corinthians that when he became a man, he put away childish things. I teach my son to put away the childish behavior. Children are very naturally selfish people and rightfully so. Children think of themselves before others because they only need to take care of themselves. Toddlers become possessive over their toys because it is in their inherent nature to be possessive and think of only themselves. They need to be taught how to share with others. When a boys becomes a man, he needs to put the needs of others first. The sign of a TRUE MAN is that he will look out for the interests of other people before his own needs. There are plenty of grown children who look out for their own needs first. While they may be over the age of 18, they are still boys, children, and they have not grown up to be men.
Secondly, part of being a man is taking responsibility for one’s own actions. I teach my son that he is responsible for what he does. No one can make you do anything. If he gets a bad grade on a test because he didn’t study, then he needs to own up to it. If he gets in trouble with a friend because of something he did, it is his own fault. He cannot blame his friend for his actions. I teach him to own up to his mistakes, accept responsibility, and then make amends for the mistake to ensure it does not happen again. Real men will own up to their mistakes and accept responsibility for them. We do not pass the blame on to other people. I try to lead by example. No one is infallible. When I make a mistake or do wrong by my son, I own up to it, accept responsibility, and ask for forgiveness. I teach my son to do the same. I tell him that I will hold him accountable for his actions and I expect him to hold me accountable as well.
As kids grow, they tend to assert their independence and pull away from their parents. How do you maintain the bond that you share with your son?
I try to show interest in things my son finds important even if they are unimportant to me. This goes a long way in maintaining the bond that we share. We already share a lot of the same interests such as sports, food and music. Lately, he has been very interested in parkour - you know, doing flips and jumping off buildings. While I may still be pretty young, it’s a little much for me. However, I take an interest in his interest; I just want to make sure that he stays safe.
What does the word “fatherhood” mean to you?
Fatherhood means always being there for my son through good times and bad. It means being supportive of his goals and dreams while guiding him down the right path. Fatherhood is being a mentor, counselor, listener, corrector of mistakes, a shoulder to cry on, and someone my son can ALWAYS depend on.
Lastly, what are your hopes and dreams for your son as he grows into a man?
My hope and dream is for my son to grow up to be a REAL MAN. I hope that he will grow up to put others first. I have a strong faith in God and I hope that my son grows up to share this faith. I hope that when he has a family of his own, he will cherish his family. As a real man, I expect him to love his wife as Christ loves the church, which includes serving his wife, as an equal partner, just as Christ served the church, and not expecting her to be subservient to him. I hope that he will be willing to make sacrifices for his family and put their needs above his own. I hope that if he has a son, he will guide, direct, and teach him to be a real man. If he has a daughter, I hope that he will be her protector, her knight in shining armor, and teach her self-respect. Finally, I hope that he goes to college, gets a degree, has a successful career, and becomes the mighty man of God that I know he is destined to be.