Patrick J. Patterson, MSW, MPH is a native of Columbia, South Carolina and was raised in Saxon Homes, formerly one of the roughest public housing projects in the city due to crime, drugs, and other issues that accompany these two common elements of impoverished neighborhoods.
Today, Patrick manages the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC), President Obama’s federally funded clearinghouse for the Responsible Fatherhood field nationally (www.fatherhood.gov). In this role, Patrick is responsible for providing leadership, training, and oversight to build infrastructure and the capacity of Federal and state government agencies, non-profit, faith, and community based organizations seeking to serve fathers and their families across the US.
Patrick earned his Bachelor of Social Work degree from Benedict College (Columbia, SC) and Master’s Degrees in Social Work and Public Health from the University of South Carolina. Patrick resides in Delaware with Sherani, his high school sweetheart and wife of 17 years and they are the proud parents of two beautiful little girls ages 8 and 6.
1) What has been the best part of fatherhood for you?
• To me the best part of fatherhood is spending time with my 2 daughters and my wife as a family. For my girls, I truly enjoy creating memories that are meaningful and can be long-lasting to them.
2) What is the most important lesson that you have learned since becoming a father?
The most important lesson that I have learned since becoming a father is a tough question because there are so many lessons. Immediately, these two key lessons come to mind:
• Time is what kids want and need . . not money or material things. My girls are 8 and 6. Every time they reflect on good memories, it always involved some time that we spent together not money.
• Secondly, I’d say that every child is different. I’ve learned firsthand that what works with one child, doesn’t necessarily work with another. From communication, to food likes/dislikes, to what they consider as fun, etc. This is what makes each child special.
3) What is the secret to being a good father to your children?
• To me the secret to being a good father is not so much a secret. Children want and need time. My biggest investment with my girls is spending time. I coach their basketball team. On Saturday’s, since they were little, we go to Dunkin Donuts to have breakfast. We go to the park . . we make kites, we draw, we race, we go to sporting events, we travel. All in effort to spend quality time. I have a strong relationship with both of my girls and I think it’s based on the fact that we spend so much time together. So, to answer the question… one of the big secrets to being a good father is spending quality time my girls.
4) What does Fatherhood mean to you?
Fatherhood to me means being:
• A good husband;
• Responsible with my funds and time;
• A consistent provider;
• Spiritual leader of my family;
• A disciplinarian;
• Role model of how a man treats a woman;
• teacher; and
• An example to name a few.
This is a good question, because as my kids age, I rotate and emphasize more or less of each of these roles depending on what my girls need from my wife and I.
5) What do you feel is the best piece of advice that you have ever given your children?
This is another good question. My kids are 8 and 6 respectively, but if I had to point to the best piece of advice that I’ve given them it is that:
• You are never alone. God is always there with you.
• They are to always love and support one another. My wife and I are both mindful that we won’t always be here with our girls and that they will need each other today and into the future. At times, they get it and it makes sense. At times they don’t quite understand why this is so important, especially when they get into their sibling disputes.
6) How does your parenting style differ from the style of your parents?
• My parenting style differs from my parents in a couple of different ways. My parents were great parents in my mind and both did the best and what they had to do while raising 3 sons and 1 daughter in South Carolina. My parents were both strong disciplinarians. They spanked first, and then asked questions later. As I’ve gotten older, I realize that they both did most of what they saw or experienced with their own parents to some degree.
• With me, I use talking a lot and alternate consequences besides spanking a little more. I try to equally be an enforcer and an encourager with my girls with everything from chores, hobbies, after school activities, etc. I really want to create an atmosphere that they respect both their mother and I, however will feel comfortable continuing to seek and want to talk to us as they get older.
7) If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing before you became a father what would you
• I would definitely tell myself to spend time preparing financially, mentally, and spiritually for taking care of the needs of both my wife and baby when they come home from the hospital. There will be considerable days that I have to prepare meals for my wife and baby at the same time once they get home from the hospital.
8) What piece of advice do you have for fathers who are not currently present in the lives of their children?
• For Dads not currently in the home, I would say that it takes a strong relationship with the mother to have a strong relationship with the children. If any non-resident Dad reads this, it’s critical that they get (if necessary) all of the support and assistance they need to to help both parents to have a strong relationship. The other piece of advice that I would give is make no promises to your wife/significant other and children.
9) What is the one moment since you became a father that has changed your life forever?
• The birth of both of my children has changed my life forever. To see both of them born, 8 and 6 years ago respectively, and to now see their development from infants to young girls blows my mind daily. It is a true blessing and has changed my life forever. It has also deepened my respect for single mothers as I think about what my wife and I both do every day together to make our house run smoothly.
10) What do you feel your legacy as a father will be?
My legacy as a father will be that I was:
• Hard working
• A good husband
• A good provider
• A protector
• Supportive and Committed to name a few
11) What famous African American history maker would you compare yourself to, and why?
I think I’d most be compared to George Washington Carver, the father of inventions. I chose him because of his creativity and love for helping human kind.