Dealing with the setbacks that come with divorce can be devastating for any family. Keeping a positive outlook on things can go a long way.
It was apparent when speaking with Bay Area mother Kiki Chatman, that she was going to do just that.
In our first-ever feminine perspective interview, we discussed family the importance of fatherhood and what she learned from her parents.
So first tell us about your childhood?
Okay. Well, my childhood wasn’t necessarily the ideal childhood. I’m from Vallejo, Ca and when I was about 10 years old my mother moved us to Richmond, Ca. Most of my life I have pretty much been in Richmond Ca. When my parents met each other, they got married instantly. They were both very young at the time, I think he was like 23, and she was like 21 years old.
It was just constant chaos from the minute that they met each other. As soon as they got married, they got a divorce, so I grew up in a single-parent home. I lived mostly with my mother. She had three daughters. We all have different fathers. My father was the only active father and he wasn’t even really active.
I saw him sporadically. My daddy was my world. I loved him. My mother never had anything good to say about him. He never had anything good to say about her. Regardless, I loved my daddy and then when he didn’t show up anymore, I started to believe some things that she had to say about him. It was just one of those things where you know if he’s that and she’s this, then what does that make me? I got to a place where regardless of what was happening I was you know, happy-go-lucky.
Now you mentioned when you were younger your father wasn’t that active in your life. Tell us a little bit about how that worked out?
I saw him every now and then. My daddy liked to party. He liked to drink a lot! The times when I actually did see my father, he would pick us up for the weekend. Even though my big sister wasn’t his biological daughter, she would come too. He always would end up dropping us off at my grandmother’s house. He would come back to get us when it was time for us to go home.
You talked briefly about your siblings. How many do you have total?
Yes, I have three sisters and two brothers. I’m the middle child of my mother children, I have a sister older than me and a sister younger than me. I’m my father’s oldest. I have two brothers from him and my other sister is his baby. We all have different mothers.
I’m sure everyone having different mothers was difficult. How is your relationship with your father today?
My relationship with my dad today is a lot better than it was when I was growing up. I think about time I turned 11 years old, I got my period. That’s when he started treating me different. Everything was like extremely abusive, regardless of what it was, it always something. Me and him at some point were psychically fighting.
I had this attitude of , “….so now you wanna you come around here and try to be a dad now. Where have you been all this time?” For him it was like “I’m your dad & you’re going to respect me”. I mean I didn’t have a good relationship with either of my parents growing up. I definitely felt a certain type of way about them both.
So, I think by the time that I turned 20, I was so mad; just always angry. I remember one day, me & my two boys were coming from the store. We had a race in the parking lot. Whoever got to the car first, won. And whoever came in last, stunk (laughs). So I snatched up one of them, then the other, so I can win the race.
I cheated to win, but they were cracking up laughing and my youngest son turns around to me and says “I like happy mommy” and that kind of hit me. I was like oh wow. Then my oldest he was like “I like happy mommy too”. That’s what it took for me to change my attitude from being angry all the time. I had to realize, my mother is over there living her life.
My daddy is over there living his life and I’m still mad. I have kids now it has to be different. It took for me to look at my mom as the woman she was, instead of looking at her as the mother I needed her to be. I had to stop looking at my dad as the father I wanted him to be but as the man that he was. That’s what I had to do to be able to understand them. Now because I changed my way of thinking, we do have a better relationship. My mother died almost 3 years ago, so he’s the only parent I have left. So it’s been a very big change between the two of us.
It’s funny that you mention that. I have kids myself and I’m noticing that as they get older and become men they began to understand more of what I went through being a young father. So, I completely relate to what you’re saying. How many kids do you have?
I have three kids. I have a 19-year-old son. I also have a 14-year-old son who will be 15 in December and then I have a 12-year-old daughter, and she will be 13 in October.
Overall how is your relationship with your kids?
Well my oldest son who is 19, we have a very close-knit relationship. I got pregnant him when I was seventeen and he’s been rocking with me ever since(laughs). With the other two, things are not the best. Actually, things are not good at all. Me and their dad got a divorce and our children got torn apart.
So do they live with their dad or do they live with you?
They live with their dad.
Do your kids have a good relationship with their father?
Our second son – he has literally always been about his dad. He treats his daddy like he can walk on water(laughs). He absolutely adores him and you know my baby girl, she’s pretty much always been a mommy and daddy’s girl. I think things got kind of hectic once everything came to a head when we split up. My oldest son and his Dad have never been okay.
Just recently, I saw my children for the first time in months. I saw them on Friday. I wanted to take them to get something to eat, but I couldn’t. Their dad is saying all these things about me to them. He’s pretty much brainwashed them. It’s got them to a point where they’re scared to even talk to me. It like he doesn’t want them to have anything to do with me. I told him that sometimes you have to step out of your own position just to see what’s really important.
How long were you guys in a relationship?
We were in a relationship for 17 years. All three of my children are with him.
Being that you and your ex-husband were in a relationship for such a long time. What did you learn from that experience?
(Laughs) I learned so much. One thing that I will say is that I definitely had to take a step back and hold myself accountable for the part that I played throughout my marriage. Everything wasn’t just his fault. One of the main things that I learned throughout all of this was that women determine love through their sense of security.
Men determine love through their sense of respect. Regardless of whatever happens, a man needs to be respected at all times; even when he’s wrong. There should always be some respect there. A woman needs to feel secure in every single aspect: physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially. The minute that he doesn’t have that respect anymore or he feels like he doesn’t get that respect anymore and when a woman has lost her sense of security, that’s when resentment sets in.
Okay, I completely understand what you’re saying that actually makes a lot of sense. It sounds like you have learned a lot. I have another question for you. How important do you think fatherhood is to our community?
I think that the father is extremely important. He’s a vital portion of what is brought to the household. I had someone in the house all the time and it’s a different type of chaos when both people are broken and that’s what it boils down to. We always think that if we had done things differently, it would be a different outcome.
But things happen the way they are supposed to. It may not be what you want it to be, but it’s happening for a reason. So, to me a dad is vital and when you don’t have that type of dynamic, that’s when things kind of become corrupt. Then that broken child has to find its own way.
It took for me to get to my mid-thirties, lose my mind, just to be able to go and find it and realize, I am worthy. I am lovable. I am all of those things, regardless of all that has happened. It’s extremely hard to be able to get there. Everything starts with both parents. The daughter gets her worth from her dad and the son gets his worth from his mom. Both parents are important. The foundation you built, even if it’s built on quicksand, it’s your foundation. That’s what sets the path for what is going to happen with your children.
I definitely feel what you’re saying. Loving yourself should always be at the top of our list of priorities. Another thing I wanted to go back to really quick. How did your relationship with your father shape your overall view of men?
It made me unable to trust a man. I was raised by an alpha female who told me, “….don’t ever depend on a man for shit! If you depend on him, he’s going to leave you in the cold. If you want something, get up and go out there and get it yourself.” The thing was, my daddy wasn’t really there, especially during the times when I needed him most.
And because of that, I had to figure things out on my own. I longed for love to the point where I had become clingy. I started having sex young. It was like whoever said that they loved me, was who I was going to be with. I was just broken. I was very broken and a lost soul.
So last question. If you could talk to a young woman who may have started off the way you did at 17 or 18 years old with having a child or even thinking about having a kid. What advice would you give her from a relationship standpoint?
I would say love yourself first. Don’t ever love anyone more than you love yourself. You are the backbone for that man and his energy works off of your energy. You’re the world to that child. That baby’s energy works off of your energy.
Whatever frequency you set off, it seeps into everyone around you. The first person that it hits is the baby inside of you. So with that, you have to understand that everything starts with you. If you are broken, you’re going to attract a broken person.
Alright Kiki, We appreciate you speaking with us today. Thank you very much for speaking with Melanated Fathers of America!!