Single dad Dr. Torrance Stephens on raising a pre-teen girl

Torrance and Chianti Stephens (Courtesy)
Torrance and Chianti Stephens (Courtesy)

Why did you decide to rear your daughter alone?
It’s not like buying a car. It wasn’t a decision. I’m her father. It is what defines manhood. It is a joy and responsibility that men take on.

How have you coached your child about life?
Well, we go to the library everyday. I talk to her about the history of being a Black person in America and the importance of reading all you can, being kind, never backing down, and ignoring words and what people say. I teach her like my son “someone has to be number one, may as well be you” and “money is to make … not to spend.”

I teach her what my parents and grandparents taught me and what I taught my son. I tell her that all lives should be respected and that we must live with the choices we make. Lastly, never consider yourself a victim. Victims have no control. Sure, there are things you can’t control around you, but you can control your life decisions.

What principles have you applied in managing the relationship between her mother and raising your daughter?
First, I always remind her that her mother loves her, unconditionally, everyday, and just because she doesn’t see you as much as you would like doesn’t mean she doesn’t love her. I tell her this everyday. I never say a bad word about her mother because without her I would not have my little angel. And I do know her mother loves her, so that’s all I can say.

How have your friends created a support network for you as a single father?
They have been awesome. They help me in all sorts of ways. Most of my family is in Memphis so between my son, godparents and friends, they help tremendously. Just a few weeks ago, I had to get her hair done for a special event. I had one day, and one of my best friends’ wife took her to the beauty shop. I can do it but some experiences I think a girl should experience with a woman. And this is just one example.

What “do and don’t” can you suggest to young fathers who are raising young girls?
I suggest you treat them like people first and girls second. Yes, acknowledge they are girls but promote their intellectual curiosity and human nature as people first. And be a parent as opposed to a father. Gender roles are important but not that important. Their happiness is paramount. For example, I frequently allow my daughter to paint my toenails and even give me facials. If she smiles, likes it, and wants to and it makes her happy, it makes me happy, too.

How have you developed a communication system with your daughter?
I can’t describe it. I mean, she has been with me pratically everyday of her life since she was born. It is natural, like any parent, nothing special. I respect her but at the same time remind her that I am responsible for her and not her for me (although sometimes she think she is responsible for me) and our communication has grown from this perspective.

How do you and your daughter address issues that come as she has grown more independent?
Well, I’m old school. I don’t negotiate with children. She just reached age 11 and she is starting to carry a purse everywhere. She is dabbling in make-up. I honestly hate it, not the purse, but the make-up part. Girls mature too fast for me.

What is your prayer for you and your daughter?
That she will never go without and that she will grow to be better than me in all respects.

Name two moments that you hold dear that you use to stay motivated.
Really I can say, each time she looks at me and smiles and says, “Daddy is one for sure “- which is all the time, and the way she looks at me right before she goses to sleep and says, “Night-night, daddy. I love you.” I say, “Extra peaches,” and she says, “Extra peaches” and smiles off to sleep. I can’t put it in words.

The responsibility of raising a child alone is … very challenging. Although I raised my son as a single dad, it was a lot easier because he was a boy. Even though this is my second child, raising a girl is the same but it requires much more, way more detail. You have to have a balance between not raising her too rough and not raising her too delicate.

My daughter gives me … additional reasons to smile

Dear child: I love being your father because … there is no greater gift than you.

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