A Boy Raises A Man — And Becomes One Himself

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Colbert Williams with his son Nathan at StoryCorps in Grand Rapids, Mich. i

Colbert Williams visited StoryCorps with his son Nathan in Grand Rapids, Mich. StoryCorps hide caption

itoggle caption StoryCorps
Colbert Williams with his son Nathan at StoryCorps in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Colbert Williams visited StoryCorps with his son Nathan in Grand Rapids, Mich.

StoryCorps

Colbert Williams was just 16 when he became a father and then had to raise his son as a single dad. Now Colbert is 30, and his son, Nathan, is a teenager himself. Recently the pair talked about raising kids.

"What were you thinking when I was born?" Nathan, 15, asked.

"I guess as a 16-year-old who came from a situation where there wasn't a father, you know, my confidence level was probably as low as it possibly could get because I realized that I was going to be responsible for some person," Colbert said. "So I was scared."

Fear was what made Colbert reach out for help. He attended parenting groups, hoping to learn how to take care of Nathan. And even though he stuck out a bit, the sessions gave him confidence.

"I think the more you practice and learn, the better you get at it," he said.

Growing up with a teenage father had its own benefits. "Since you're younger, it's easy for me to speak to you," Nathan said.

"Is there anything you wanted to tell me but haven't?" Colbert asked.

"I'm proud of you," Nathan replied, "because you're a really good father."

Colbert said he was proud of his son, too. "I ain't trying to get all sentimental," he said laughing, "but I'm proud of you. I think the reason I'm so proud of you is because you've allowed me to be a father. And I'm proud of you for allowing my voice to still have meaning."

Colbert said Nathan could have used the fact that he grew up without a mother as a "crutch" to not progress.

Nathan had another question for his father: "What advice would you give me about raising my own kids?"

"Never give up," Colbert said, "even when you just don't understand what you're doing. Always listen and never stop holding their hands. It's OK for your son and daughter to be 14 and you decide just to hold their hand. That might be a little corny, I don't know."

"I know, right?" Nathan laughed.

"If I held your hand, you'd be cool?" his dad asked, and they laughed some more.

"Love you, Dad."

"Love you, too, Nathan."

Today, Colbert is a father of four: He's raising three foster sons along with Nathan.

Produced for Morning Edition by Vanara Taing. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo. Recorded in partnership with WGVU.

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