When I was 19, my daughter, Krystasia, was born. I dropped out of high school to get a job, thinking that's what a father should do. I didn't grow up with my father and wanted a different experience for my child. I also moved in with her mother and left my mother's home. My mother didn't speak to me for months after the decision. When I held my only child for the first time at 7 pounds, 11 ounces, it was a moment I will never forget and made everything worth it.
Now Krystasia is 14 and dreams of being a designer and modeling for Adidas. Over breakfast in our apartment in Toronto, we now joke about what we see in our Instagram feeds.
Things weren't always so calm. A year ago her mother and I were still in a custody battle, which can be emotionally, psychologically and financially draining for parents.
Within a year of Krystasia's birth, I had returned to school through a night program and then moved to New York to go to college so I could be in a better position to provide for her. Her mother and I had ended our two-year relationship and worked out an arrangement in which Krystasia split her time between us about evenly.
As my daughter got closer to her teenage years, I could sense tension between her and her mother. I decided it was time for Krystasia to try living with me. For months my daughter's mother and I went back and forth in the courtroom.
In the end I was awarded full custody, but I didn't win. There are no real winners. I'm not proud that we weren't able to reach an agreement on raising our daughter without intervention, though I am grateful for the court's decision.
I'm absolutely in love with my daughter, and our living together full-time has been incredible for us both. We've found our favorite restaurants and I've learned to be a better shopper.
I encourage Krystasia to cultivate the relationship with her mother and two younger sisters. The custody ordeal was a little traumatic, so I constantly ask her, "Are you doing okay? Is this crazy for you? You know that you can call your mom anytime you want, right? Do you miss your sisters?"
"Yes, no, I know, sometimes." Those are her typical responses, like a typical teenager's. I get more details by studying her behavior, gauging her moods and speaking with her teachers. They say she is a gem and talks with other students. My mother, the first person to know about the arrival of my daughter's monthly friend, is also an amazing support.
I am a young, Black single father raising a teenage daughter. It has meant asking her to adjust. It's about understanding she is already transitioning from a girl to a young woman.
I trust Krystasia will be all right. I hope our relationship will be the benchmark for how she expects to be treated by men in the future. She recently shared scripture with me from the Book of Matthew: "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself." And that's what we are doing—letting what's best for today be enough.
This feature originally appeared in the June 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine.