Brandon Darrow has been a proud, single father since August, 2012, the year his daughter Jyden, who is now 11, began her journey through elementary school.

Brandon Darrow has been a proud, single father since August, 2012, the year his daughter Jyden, who is now 11, began her journey through elementary school.
He had shared custody with his ex-wife, but she moved out of state and residential custody was granted in Brandon’s favor.

But shortly after being granted custody, his disability rating through the VA for an injury sustained while in the Army, finally was completed. Brandon made up his mind that despite being disabled, he would do everything possible to ensure that his daughter would always come first and that her needs were met before his. “When I became a stay-at-home father, it gave me the opportunity to attend school lunches, go on field trips, and allowed me to go back to college to finish my degree,” says Brandon. I wanted to show my daughter that no matter what type of physical, mental, or emotional disorders you have, you always finish what you start and never give up.”

Brandon says he couldn’t be more blessed when it comes to family and friends who help him out. “My family has always been supportive even when most of them lived in my home state of Michigan, taking turns moving to Kansas to help out,” says Brandon. They allow me to take a break to have some time for myself or with friends. As for my friends, I couldn’t ask for better. Though there have been many that have come and gone throughout the years, every one of them have impacted my daughter and I in numerous ways. My daughter has a special place in her heart for each one of them, and they contributed to who she is today.”
As Jyden prepares to enter sixth grade at Lansing Middle School this fall, she has plenty of interests to keep her occupied during summer vacation. She loves dancing and attends Byrd’s Dance and Gymnastics where she enjoys recreational dance classes, competitive dance team and tumbling. Brandon says he is officially a ‘Dance Dad.’

While Brandon ensures that Jyden has plenty of fun activities in her life, he is also determined that she learns to be productive and share doing what’s necessary for running a household.
“As she continues to get older she does get more chores, though I don’t consider them chores,” says Brandon. “I consider them responsibilities. Jyden washes and folds her own laundry, helps load and unload the dishwasher, dusts and vacuums, and helps with what is asked of her. She knows in our house we are a team and have to work together and help each other. We rely on one another to make sure our house is taken care of.”

Cooking has become an enjoyable challenge for Brandon as he tries to keep up with Jyden’s  ever-changing palate and make sure that the meals he labors over will be something his daughter will eat.
“When I cook spaghetti, Chicken Alfredo, fish, or anything on the grill, she will eat it,” says Brandon. “And of course after meals there has to be dessert, right? When we eat with my parents, Jyden and her Grandma Laurie enjoy baking cookies or brownies together.”

“As she practices her routines at home, I slowly attempt to learn the routines with her. While at dance competitions, I am that crazy dance parent in their chair going through the motions with her, cheering her and the team on,” says Brandon. “I do her hair and makeup (it has taken lots of practice) prior to each event, enjoying that special moment with her, though she didn’t trust my make-up artistry skills at first. At home we enjoy riding the motorcycle or taking the boat out to the lake with her grandparents.”
One of the challenges for Brandon has been helping Jyden with homework. “We don’t see eye-to-eye sometimes because of the way curriculum is taught today compared to the 90s,” says Brandon. “When it comes to projects, we have lots of fun. Of course being a dad, it has to be creative, big, fun, and go all-out. I always ask my daughter what her favorite subject is, and she always says P.E. or science.”  
For Jyden the biggest challenge after her parents’ divorce was split custody. She would alternate weeks with her dad and mom. She was faced with two sets of rules, two sets of routines and two different parenting styles. After a few years she adjusted and it became a smoother and more natural routine. But when her mom relocated when Jyden was in kindergarten and the custody changed solely to her dad it took a little bit of time to readjust and Brandon says she slowly began to understand what was going on.
“For Jyden, our parenting schedule was set by the court, taking in consideration the distance and her school schedule,” says Brandon. “Knowing it has to be reasonable and realistic we have arrangements that work for her mother and me.”

Brandon loves every moment of single parenting, but admits there are challenges. “I think that the biggest challenge of being a single parent is the financial responsibility. As they get older, they have more needs, everything is more expensive, and extra-curricular activity costs increase as well. Despite the cost, I figure it out and ensure she has everything she needs. I would also say the second biggest challenge is co-parenting. Many split couples have trouble agreeing on what is best for their child, how custody works, who is paying for what, and so on. Since day one, all I have wanted is what is best for my daughter. Many split parents become selfish and think more out of spite rather than what is best for their children. A child should never be used as an object for leverage or for one’s selfish possession. People need to think about the child first and foremost. Regardless of the differences parents have, they have one thing in common, and until that child is old enough and mature enough to make their own decisions, the parents should work together.”
He also relies on single -father friends who play a role in helping him be the best parent he can be. He has learned that anyone who says parenting is easy is wrong and that it should be a daily experience that allows you to learn and grow by continuing to build each other up. “Children learn just as much from us as we learn from them, if not more sometimes,” says Brandon.
If Brandon were to give advice to other single fathers he would emphasize the need to raise a child with love, support and care.

He believes that when times get rough and money gets tight, those experiences can be used to teach a child valuable lessons about life. “Take the negatives and teach them cause-and-effects as well as consequences,” says Brandon. “My biggest piece of advice would be, regardless of differences between parents, never speak negatively about the other parent in front of your child. Allow your child to grow up and decide how they feel on their own. Children are smart and pick up more than what we think they do, and we should not make them feel guilty or ‘in the middle’ of the parents’ differences.”

Brandon has only one biological child but he is also a positive male role model in many other children’s lives.  Throughout the years, many of his daughter’s friends, who don’t have a positive male role model in their lives have called Brandon ‘dad’ which makes him feel very proud.
“The best and most rewarding part of raising my daughter is to see beauty, growth, intelligence, maturity, and skills she has been taught collectively from family, friends, and through her mother and me,” says Brandon. “She is becoming a young woman and it is scary how fast 11 years have gone by and how quickly time will go by.”  

As Jyden inches closer to her teen years and adulthood, Brandon hopes to not just teach her morals, values and good traits, but ensure that she has a legacy filled with many memories and learning experiences that she can someday use in her role as a mother and pass on to her children.
“She has learned respect, unconditional love, care for others, and to be a leader,” says Brandon. “These are not skills taught in school, these are skills that are learned from those who love her.”
And as Brandon and Jyden celebrate Father’s Day tomorrow his message to his daughter is, “I love you Jyden, and you will always be Daddy’s little girl.”