The Story of a Teen Dad's Struggle to Become a Better Father

Friday, June 13, 2014

Marvin and his daughter Hailey. (Radio Rookies/WNYC)

Growing up, Marvin Ramos had few role models in terms of fatherhood. 

"I didn't see nobody doing what they need to do to their kids, like feed them," he tells The Takeaway's John Hockenberry. "I didn't see that from my father. I didn't have a model."

Today, at the age of 18, Ramos has a one year old daughter, Hailey. As he prepares to celebrate Father's Day with his daughter this weekend, Ramos reflects on his family, and his hopes for his daughter's future. 

Three of Marvin's brothers had children when they were young. About a year ago, their father left the family leaving Ramos without a fatherly figure to guide him as he became a dad. 

"I'm going to try to give the best time to my daughter—something I didn't have," he says.

Marvin is part of Radio Rookies, a project of Takeaway co-producer WNYC. He says he learned a lot about himself and his family through in reporting his first radio story. 

His most important lesson? "Just be there," he says. "You don't want them running to anyone else but you."

Marvin's hoping to complete his high school diploma this year. He admits that he wasn't much of a presence in his daughter's life until recently. This Father's Day is his second, but he's recommitted himself to Hailey and her mother, Ramos's girlfriend, Stephanie.

Ramos wants to strengthen his bond with his daughter, to "spend the greatest time with her while [she's] young, because when they get older, they want to do what they want to do. And then when they get older they'll remember, wow. I had a great dad."

Want to get involved in the conversation? Tell us about a person who has been a father figure to you—even if they're not your biological father. Leave a comment below or call 1-877-869-8253.

Radio Rookies/WNYC
Marvin and his daughter Hailey.
Radio Rookies/WNYC
Marvin and his daughter Hailey.
Radio Rookies/WNYC
Marvin and his daughter Hailey.
Radio Rookies/WNYC
Marvin's daughter Hailey.
Radio Rookies/WNYC
Marvin's daughter Hailey.
Marvin, Hailey, and Hailey's Mother Steph.


Marvin Ramos

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Jillian Weinberger


T.J. Raphael

Comments [10]

Jack Beck from Morrisville, PA

Marvin, I just heard this on NPR out of Philly yesterday. I was very touched by your story.

During the commentary you mentioned a passion for music production. I'd like to see if I can help you along that career path. I've been working with Fat Joe with a new music platform. I know he is in your neck of the woods. I'd like to see if we can't get something going for you.

This seemed to be the only way to possibly reach out you.

Jul. 09 2014 07:44 AM
GrifDafh from Tacoma, WA

Dear young fathers. Dear old fathers. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY. Just like mothers, fathers should be celebrated daily. My father and I have a great relationship now, but as a child he lived in another state, with a different family. I know what boys feel as they grow up without daddy, learning to become a man. I watch my brother and cousins grow up fatherless. They gang bang, sold drugs and were disrespectful to women. They all became young fathers, 15, 16, 17 years old, still dependent on their mamas. Still now at the age of 30 and beyond, they are not father figures, LOTS OF BABY MAMAs. No role models.
But they are trying to be. Trying to be fathers, men, role models.
I started off as a single mother but for the last 10 years, I am learning the importance of a father.
Girls need their daddys to learn the importance of a good man. Boys need a daddys to learn the importance of being a good man.
I have 1 girl and 3 boys. My boyfriend is the father of our last 2 boys. The father of my 1st 2 doesn’t even want to be a father. But this MAN has come into my life, praise GOD, been loving me for almost 10 years and raising our children. My daughter is learning the importance of a good man and my boys are learning that when they become fathers, they have a role model. HAPPY FATHERS DAY Marvin Ramos.

Jun. 13 2014 04:54 PM
Eleanor from NYC

does NO ONE talk to these kids about BIRTH CONTROL - how can kids (16! years old) bring up kids, especially those who have no one to patten themselves after? with all the good intentions, no job, no money, no future, is not the way to bring up children. Does any one talk to these boys, men about wearing Condoms? You have to be 18 to drink,drive etc. You need to pass a test to drive - why do they think that 'if they can' they should have children?(said she could have had an abortion, but did not think that was a good idea ) This interview made me very sad - they have no idea how to parent - and how much of their young lives they have to give up to be good parents, especially without much emotional support or financial support from their own parents.

Jun. 13 2014 04:09 PM
Susan from Manhattan

Marvin, I hope you're reading this. You're doing the right thing. I really admire you, and just from this story, I know you are going to reach your goals, you're going to be a great Dad to Haley, and a great man, for yourself.

: )

Jun. 13 2014 03:58 PM
Anita from Queens

This story made me well up. It reminds me of my youngest son. His father was not there for him because he was battling some serious demons. My son has a terrific Stepdad and incredible older brothers but nothing could fill the void of his father not being there. I use to tell his Dad that even the smallest gesture would make a world of difference. When those happened once in a while, they meant the world to him. I now watch him with my granddaughter, being so loving and attentive. It means the world to him to be a good Dad but its a struggle. Finding steady work, the relationship with his girlfriend and providing the basics. I pray that the universe will support his most genuine intentions. However, many men get easily discouraged when they cannot provide materials things for their children. Many women make them feel like losers if they don't. My plea to mothers and fathers out there. FATHERS are important!! Show up, love them and the rest will follow.

Jun. 13 2014 03:43 PM
A.J. from Springfield, OR

Some aren't cut out for all that parenthood entails, but end up with children anyway. And I guess unless those kids somehow find an internal compass and/or external connections that allow them to prevail, society pays a price too. But I think some signs of 'success' as a father are the presence of a true loving bond, open lines of communication (as challenging as that can be), more respect than fear. And ultimately that the person who develops from the process can go forth with a measure of competence, confidence, and reason, and feel like they can have some control over their destiny. Of course, some of it boils down to things like temperament and secondary social influences. You just do the best you can. Good luck to the young Dad.

Jun. 13 2014 02:29 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

I am one of many fathers who pick up their kids after school every day. I am writing a t.v. show about Brooklyn fathers called "Bench Warmers".

Today's modern dad has to deal with things like this: My daughter approached me and said," Can I talk to you for a minute...You know I am the one who loves you the most. You can trust me. "

I looked around behind me to see if someone was going to cut my head off, like in an episode of "Game Of Thrones"

I would love to hear from other Dad's who in Rodney Dangerfield's words,"I don't get any respect."


Jun. 13 2014 02:28 PM
Lina from Seattle

My story is a bit different, and although I feel very lucky/blessed for the presence of my kind and hardworking father, it isn't because so many others didn't have theirs. I feel so blessed because my dad's dedication to his family stemmed from his love for people. He is, and has been, generally a loving and happy person who worked hard and did his best WHILE reaching for what made him happy. He was able to put people first and be a rock, as was my mom. But they were also independent and imperfect.

He and my mom migrated from country to country with their kids and the knowledge that if nothing else, they had loving families on both sides to return to, all be it in a war torn country. Parents are not perfect, they make a lot of mistakes. And the great ones are/were usually great not only because they aspired to be, but often because they were supported.

As I was listening to this story, it came up that you don't necessarily have to have that example to follow, that knowing and striving for what you wish you had had will make you the example. This is a great starting point. But naive hopes may seem impossible and cause us to become discouraged. I think that ambition to be all that you wish you had had, needs to be tempered by the education and support that a community can provide. And the knowledge, always, that what you were born into is/was NOT what you deserved. Its just what you were born into. And that we all DESERVE the support we need to do better.

And absolutely, for those of us who have been blessed, we need to "step up" and provide that support! Beautiful story, thank you!

Jun. 13 2014 01:37 PM
Sandra Withers from DFW TX

My father gave his whole life to the US Army/ The USA: He died at 45, I was 15, hardly ever been with him for the whole of my childhood:
The affects were/are devastating:
My brother got away with raping my for four years. If my father had stayed in my life that would have never happened,
After an initial rape by he and two of his friends.
Without a father in my life, my mother worked two jobs, raised 4 children by herself, lead me to look for men who were abusive as my abusive brother was my only male role model. The events have left me clinically depressed, with PTSD, unable to have a regular life with friends from moving on average once to twice a year for every year of my 50+ years. I have 3 failed marriages. I have become an emotional cripple without the man who was the most important influential male in my life.
Children who grow up without either of their parents struggle to find confidence, and their place in the world. Those that have them statistical grow up to be more balanced, confident and know their place in the world than those who do not.

Jun. 13 2014 12:19 PM
Robert Fowler from Potsdam

My biological father left shortly after I was born due to my mothers growing mental illness. He left me as an infant my older brother and older sister in the care of newly afflicted paranoid schizophrenic. We lived in her chaotic world of mental illness for many years up until or teen age years. Eventually one of my sisters best friends father stepped in as a surrogate father figure (he was an english professor at the local university) and taught us tact, self respect, and made us all aspire to be better people then we could possibly imagine given our situation. While he may have had his flaws, as we all do, he made me aspire to be a good man and father.
We didn't hear until our father until we were grown we my brother and sister we're called to identify his body. How can you if you haven't seen the person for the majority of your life? He was found dead in a motel room in Fort Worth, TX surrounded by pipe bomb materials and ammunition. But thats another story.

Jun. 13 2014 09:41 AM

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