This interview is part of a series of stories we captured to commemorate 25 years of Young Parents ministry. It is a transcript of an interview we carried out between a current young dad in our program, Jordan McIntyre-Mars, and the ministry worker who supports him, Robert Gin. In this interview they talk about their connection and the difference it has made. Both men were vulnerable about their difficulties and how hard it is for men to support each other. We are thankful that they overcame that barrier in order to be open and honest with their stories – not wrapped up neat and tidy – for the reader’s understanding and benefit. May it increase your understanding and compassion for young dads, encourage you in your own story to celebrate and foster the divine connections in your life as well.

Q. What can you tell us about being a dad?

Jordan: I have three kids. My first is Aaliyaha, she’s 8 years old. She’s my girl, I love her so much and she’s been through everything with me. She’s my best friend, literally. I have a 3-year-old, that’s my son, Micah and I have my daughter who’s 6 months, her name is Mylah.

Mylah was born premature. She was in the hospital early at 29 weeks. She was only 2-3 lbs. It was really hard with her being in Sick Kids, a lot of travelling to see her and then her being released from the hospital so early. She had a lot of issues with her health at first – she had Norovirus, she couldn’t breathe properly, she couldn’t eat at all, her digestive system was really bad and she had a blood clot in her liver. Now she’s really healthy but down the path, she has to be checked on by the hospital. It’s so sad but I’ve always prayed for her and she’s good now.

I cried when I first became a Dad because I loved it a lot. But taking it on was different because I was only 15 so I really took it as a joke. Even though my partner at the time had a belly and everything, to me it was still a joke. I didn’t take it seriously. I was still doing what a 15-year-old would do, which was partying and doing stupid things.

Q. That’s how you treated it then, but it sounds like you’ve changed. What made the difference for you? How did you get out of that mode and into the Daddy mode that you’re in now?

J: It has evolved. I wasn’t always in Daddy mode. Even though I had my kids, I can’t lie, I was still getting into trouble and doing stupid things. I think it was my daughter who opened my eyes, to be honest. I don’t know how to explain it but something about her warms my heart and makes me want to change. At first, I was screwing up with her. I still got into trouble because I wasn’t really doing what I was supposed to do. But her getting older and her now speaking and her telling me that she loves me and she really cares for me, it showed me that I needed to change as a person. I’ve been through a lot and it’s been hard. I now live every day trying to do my best.

The easy part is just being there with my kids. Having my kids is fun and experiencing the love and doing things with them, like taking them out to the park, spending money on them or just experiencing time with them because that’s what they need, to know that I’m there and that I care for them. The only thing that’s hard is the stressful times – kids come with stress, like the crying, which is normal, but the really hard part is when you are not with the partner because co-parenting is very difficult.

Q. Do you mind sharing what’s hard about co-parenting?

J: Co-parenting goes both ways and it’s hard to get along with the person you’re with because, in a relationship, there’s always that one person who won’t move on. When you don’t move on, it causes problems in the co-parenting [relationship] because you are always putting your feelings before what’s important. Co-parenting is about being there for the child and your conversations should only be about the child. You shouldn’t be having conversations about the past or what we’ve been through. That’s when I feel like it’s really hard.

Q. Can you share an obstacle that you’ve overcome?

J: Over the past I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I wasn’t there for my children as much, putting myself and my feelings before them. I’ve been realizing what’s important in my life and it’s me and my family, it’s nobody else.

Q. How have you discovered that?

J: A lot of ways – going to jail, not having anybody there for me. Jail is not fun. My first charge was when I was 12 and it was so stupid. Two girls were beating up my sister and I literally ran and pushed them off her and I got charged for assault times two just for pushing two girls off my sister. Ever since that day my life went downhill. After that I just started getting stupid charges like hanging with friends when I wasn’t supposed to and when I got older, it started getting serious, thinking that I was cool and that I was a gang member when I’m not. When I turned 19, I had a gun charge. I never tell people about that because it was not fun. So I changed my life, told myself that’s not who I want to be. I really don’t, so I stay away from that now.

Q. How do you know what path to take?

J: It’s hard to explain. Everyone has a path to take and if you don’t go down that path, it becomes an obstacle, and you are going all over the place and you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m a spiritual person too and I believe in God and God has a path for everybody. You can detour your path but just know that everyone has the same path. It also has to do about age. The older I get, the wiser I get because I’ve been hitting reality lately and just know what I need to do.

Q. How did you get connected to Young Parents?

J: I think it was one of my dad friends that referred the group to me. I don’t remember exactly how because I’ve been doing this for a while now. I like this program because I like to share my story because I’ve been through a lot and not a lot of dads are in my situation so I want to tell them how it is.

Q. How did you connect with Rob?

J: I connected with Rob because I was in the dad’s program for a little bit. After that, Rob and I just connected and been talking a lot. Rob’s been very helpful. He’s been there for me, supporting me through hard times, been there listening when I needed to talk to him and it actually really helps me a lot.

Q. What was your first impression of Rob?

J: When I first joined the Dad’s group and met Rob, my first impression was, “Yeah, whatever, he doesn’t have kids and he probably doesn’t care.” But as soon as I started building my relationship with Rob, I could see that he really does care. He’s not just there for the program, he’s actually there to help everyone and to connect. If I’m going through something, I can send him a text and he’s there for me unlike other people in my life.

I like the one-to-one because I like to talk to Robert and be real with him and show him a bit more of me. Like I’ve cried with him and showed my feelings. I’m not that open, but Rob got me to open up because I felt comfortable with him. But at the same time, I do like the groups because I like to hear the other dads’ opinions and to tell them what I’ve been through too.

I’ve been building my relationship with Rob and it’s actually been helping me. If I’m going through something, I can send him a text and he’s there for me unlike other people in my life. He’s always there for me and I really appreciate that, he gives up his own time for someone else. When he’s on holiday, he still messages me when he doesn’t have to. I have never seen someone so caring. I know people who don’t respond after hours, they will wait till the next day but Rob’s not like that because he has a heart.  One thing about Robert is that when I speak to him and tell him how I feel, he really cares, he’s really responsive and I feel the connection unlike with other people. When he responds in a good way, it comforts me in a real way. He also gives me good advice. When Rob said about the Dads not being that open – I’m not that open either but Rob got me to open up because I felt so comfortable with him.

Q. How has connecting with Rob helped support you in your Dad journey?

J: It really has helped me out because I’ve gotten to meet other dads and also getting knowledge from Rob, I’ve taken it all in because it’s been really useful. Something about me is that I like to learn every day and if it’s something new, I want to learn about it. So it’s been really helpful and I want to stay connected.

Q. What would you want people to know about you, if they’re meeting you for the first time?

J: I want people to know that I’m a good person and not to judge me by my appearance which is different because people always judge a book by its cover. I don’t like that but that is how it is with people in society. I just want people to know that I’m a good person and a good dad and I’m always trying to be better. I’m not going down any bad route because I don’t have time for that.

I’m also a caring person and I have an open heart. I’m willing to do anything for anybody, especially for my family or friends. I’m a lovable person but at the same time, I do bottle up things when it does hurt because I have been through a lot.

Q. Rob, how long have you been working for Young Parents and how did you get connected to this program?

Rob: I’ve been with Young Parents for 7 or 8 years. I was with Youth Unlimited since 2004 and started working with street-involved youth. Then I resigned from Youth Unlimited and became a Children’s Pastor for three years and somehow through that, it inspired something in me relating to my childhood. Growing up as a young child, my dad was an alcoholic and I remember thinking that no kid deserves that life or anything related. So from being a Children’s Pastor, I went back to working with children on the street. And I then asked God what else do you want me to do? When the opportunity came up at Young Parents for someone to work with the dads and I thought maybe that is where I can help dads so that their kids can have a thriving life, even in the midst of a stressful and challenging life.

What have been the joyful parts and harder parts of ministry?

R. The harder parts have been the outreach part of ministry. It’s hard to find dads who are open and want support in some way. I think it’s partly about being a guy and us not wanting to ask for help right away. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but it does make it harder for those who want to give you help – for those two worlds to connect. It’s like a guy who doesn’t want to ask for help and a guy who wants to give help – they’re not really finding each other and so that connection can’t happen

The highlight of ministry has been the few dads that I’ve worked with closely and getting to hear their stories and, more than that, getting to be invited into their stories, that they trust me enough to share a little part of their life which means a lot to me. That means that there is a connection going on and God is working in that connection. Even when it’s over a coffee or a breakfast, it’s a simple thing but it becomes a beautiful moment of connection

Q. What was your first impression of Jordan?

R: My first impression of Jordan was that he was hard to read and it was hard for him to read me. We were trying to figure things out and that’s why it was up and down at first. One thing that was very obvious was that he loved his kids and he wanted to do as much as he could for them.

I’ve seen two character growths in Jordan. One is his growth in his relationships with his baby moms. I’ve seen that as he has persevered through the co-parenting challenges, he has grown more patient with them and his kids. The other is that, he has also grown more patient and forgiving with himself.

Q. How has Jordan inspired you, Rob?

R: With me not being a dad, Jordan, you’ve inspired me because you’ve placed so much value on your kids. Despite what’s going on, you press on. You love your kids and you give thanks for your kids and that inspires me in my own relationships, to keep pressing on, in spite of any challenges and even if they don’t love you back. I see that as well with your baby moms even though it’s frustrating. And his tattoos inspire me as well.

Rob & Jordan sit together. Rob smiles at Jordan as he shows some of his tattoos

Q. I am curious about how it has been to be in a program that talks about God and connects your journey to what God is doing in your life?

Jordan: I have God in my life and I love God so much. Me being in jail was where I found God the most. I realized that sometimes being in some situation is not the worst but it’s actually for the better. When I was in jail recently for a while, it really taught me who I was and I learned so much. The pastor told me that God put me there for a reason because if you hadn’t been there, you wouldn’t have learned so much and come out and know so much and be a better person. I was in there for a wrongful accusation and I got out because I could prove myself. God is really there and I believe that He listens always but He doesn’t react to every little you say. If I’m praying and I’m asking Him to do something, He’s not going to do if it’s not the right time and I have to be patient with God. I’ve learned so much when it comes to God and how He works because He works in mysterious ways.

How have you discovered that God works in your life?

J: God was there for my daughter when she was in the hospital. Every single day I was crying and telling my Pastor what was going on and all he was saying was to pray and pray and pray. He prayed for me at the church. She’s so healthy now but I almost lost her. God was there for me. With what my daughter has been through, she shouldn’t have been alive because she’s been through a lot and she’s a miracle baby. My daughter’s heart stopped beating for a couple of seconds but they got her back and that was hard. I saw my daughter’s heart rate go from 100 and something, all the way down to zero and they were shaking my daughter and she wasn’t responsive and I didn’t know what to do. Whenever I brought her to the hospital, they thought it was my fault.

They discriminate against you because of how you look and where you live and it’s hard. I don’t like how the world judges you because when I took my daughter to the doctor the other day, the receptionist asked me, “What is this? Week on, week off?” and I was so upset because I have my daughter full-time and you shouldn’t dare to ask me that question in front of her. It’s ridiculous but I just live and accept it because this is the reality that I have to always prove myself. You just have to cope with every little thing and try to do your best.

If 15-year-old you could see you now, what would he think of you?

J: I was scared then and I’m still scared now because it’s so hard to be a Dad without support. I’ve just learned to accept it. I feel like it’s easier for mothers because if they struggle, they have support. Like Rob said, Dads don’t want to ask for help and that’s why there’s no support for dads available. I didn’t get a license at 16 because I had my daughter at 15 and I had to put priorities before that and I had to put her first and only now I’m starting to do things that I wanted to do and so I’m a late bloomer with some things. I know that I’ve matured a lot since being 15 and that I’ve let some things go but its hard and I’m still scared about the future and what it holds for me.

What do you hope your kids know about you in this time of your life?

J: I hope my kids know that Daddy tried…that I really tried with them.

What advice would you give to other younger dads?

J: I would tell every young guy to, well, don’t become a dad when you’re young – finish high school first at least and do something with your life. Enjoy your teenage life because life hits you fast and having a child so young will derail you off your path. Even you do end up having a child – respect your child and respect their mother and if that doesn’t work, then try to respect the situation. Being angry doesn’t work and it’s hard but respect is key.

What would you say to those Dads who don’t want support?

J: Well, those guys need to open their hearts and look in the mirror because everyone needs help in some way, even if it’s just to have someone to talk to. And at the end of the day, it’s not only about you, it’s about your children too. As a Dad, I realized that I had to better myself in order to be good for them.