Fatherhood | Jesse & Noah Bergland

Fatherhood (Pre-Prison)

My daughter was born on February 16th, 2011, and I was there for the birth, physically anyway. But, mentally, I was somewhere else, wrapping up a life of crime and putting the finishing touches on my indictment, Operation Noah’s Ark, which was coming in May of 2012.

However, it didn’t take me that long to come around. Finally, in November of 2011, I had enough and moved from Minneapolis to live with my daughter at her grandparent’s house in East Grand Forks, MN. I got a job and stayed there for a while, but once the indictment came, I lost that job and moved back to my hometown, Roseau, MN.

I was a father for those 22 months until I went to prison.

Fatherhood | Noah Bergland

So what did I learn about fatherhood in 22 months? First, I will never again watch a baby being born. Second, I know what it’s like to get pooped and peed on because I changed a lot of diapers. Third, I learned not to throw diapers in the kitchen trash, and I know what a Diaper Jeanie smells like after a week.

I learned kids don’t care about your obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) tendencies and will continue to wipe their dirty hands on your clothes and stomp on your boots and shoes. Also, when entering a house, they don’t take their shoes off, even when full of mud. Kids hate locked doors, are incredibly resourceful, and will learn how to climb onto counters and takedown safety gates way faster than they should.

Watching your child take their first steps and hearing their first words are a couple of the most incredible experiences, and I’m so grateful I was there to experience both of them. Even with the prison sentence looming over my world at the time, I was able to take in and appreciate most that was going on around me and especially those early moments with my daughter.

Fatherhood (Prison) 

Fathering a child from prison can be a daunting task, some kids allow it and others don’t. Over the years I haven’t really had to because my mom has done an amazing job and my daughter has been so resilient. Melrose wasn’t constantly asking when I was coming home or acting out because of my absence.

This allowed me to not stress about the day-to-day activities of raising a child and instead, focus my time on improving myself. I was able to get to know my daughter through phone calls and visits. Obviously seeing her face-to-face only 12-14 times a year, was not ideal, and neither were phone calls being limited to 15 minutes, but I still made the most out of those moments spent together.

Fatherhood | Noah Bergland

I tried my best to keep up with her current favorite color, which changed every month. I tried to encourage her in regards to whatever sport she was playing, hockey, golf, and basketball. Essentially, I took over that cheerleader role from prison, because I knew everything was out of my control.

Advice to other parents in prison:

  • Support whoever is raising your child
  • Let go and stop trying to control situations in the free world
  • Keep a positive attitude when talking to your children
  • Read books about generating conversation with your children
  • Ask a lot of questions
  • Drive the conversation around things that interest them
  • Take parenting classes that are offered at your facility

Fatherhood (Post Prison)

Now that I’m out, I’m learning to be a father again. I talked about this in my last post, Resilient. After the initial excitement of my coming home wore off, I was struggling to adjust.

I was invading my daughter’s personal space and she felt uncomfortable. Where I was looking for love and approval from my daughter, I was met with cold resistance. Once again I was thinking about me, not her.

With the help and advice from my friend Nate, mom, sister, and brother, I was able to overcome this early hurdle. I learned I had to be patient and allow my daughter to adjust to her new world with her dad. 

Fatherhood | Noah Bergland

I took a backseat role, followed my mom’s lead, and backed her up. I found different ways to fit in and add value. Helping Melrose with schoolwork, my mom with yard work, and I used my spare time to work on the blog and my recovery.

Things really started to turn around. However, I recently learned, that there’s always room for improvement, and not to assume that everything is perfect. I was challenged a couple of days ago by my counselor to ask my mom if I’m meeting up to her expectations in my role as a father. My mom told me that actually…

  • “I would like to see you not get discouraged so easily and give up.”
  • “Keep trying to interact with your daughter by taking her on your hour walks, even if she doesn’t feel like going, sometimes you have to find ways, such as new activities to motivate her.”
  • “School’s around the corner and I need your help getting Melrose to bed on time, I should have to yell down every night to tell her it’s bedtime, you should just send her up.”

I’ve been doing my best since this conversation, to step my game up, be more involved, and I will certainly check in with my mom more often to see if there’s more I can be doing.

Fatherhood Advice from Jesse: Dad’s raising Daughters

Think of the example you want to set for Melrose. Essentially the way you treat or talk to your daughter, along with other women, is setting the tone for how she will expect to be treated by other men in her life.

Britta, my wife, and I talk about how our relationship with each other is the most important relationship in the family. We know if we’re good then the girls will be good. But if we are struggling, then that’s going to affect the girls.

Keep in mind that you’re a role model. With every action, ask yourself if this is the message you want your daughter to hear.

Fatherhood | Noah Bergland

It’s important that you are working to build her confidence. So often, especially with girls, we have a tendency to focus on looks, but there is so much more that we can compliment them on. Focusing on their effort, intelligence, and sports will build self-worth.

Find a healthy balance of being both her friend and a parent. Eventually, I would like to see you taking more of the front seat parent role. Mom has been doing the parenting for years and I would like to see her enjoy the life of a grandma, playing with and spoiling Melrose, not setting rules and boundaries.

I think you are doing a great job and I’m going to continue to be here for you and help guide you through the difficult times that are sure to come. I love you!

 

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