By Heather Spaulding
As a father of four young adults, Will Blackmon knows a thing or two about parenting.
“Being a father has its challenges, but I wouldn’t be who I am without them,” Blackmon said.
Blackmon moved from Bakersfield California to Friday Harbor nearly 20 years ago and hasn’t looked back.
“I am so happy to have raised my kids here. If we lived in California, it would have been a hard place to survive,” Blackmon said, adding that as he has grown older he has continued to gain an appreciation for the islands.
His children — Willie, 24, Kimmie, 22, Mateo, 18, and Mia, 16 — have taught him patience, understanding and responsibility, he said, and how to take constructive criticism. His response is simply a humble, “Forgive me for I am fraught.”
During tough times, Blackmon’s sons and daughters were the reason he made himself get out of bed in the morning and go to work, he explained.
“They inspired me, were my motivation,” he said. “After all, they didn’t ask to be here, I made them.”
Becoming a father at a young age, Blackmon had no expectations of what fatherhood would be like, so nothing has surprised him.
“With my childhood, I didn’t know anything about being a father,” Blackmon said. He took the responsibility seriously and has worked diligently to support them.
Blackmon has been employed with San Juan County for seven years now, and the Town of Friday Harbor for three. He said he has always had to maintain two jobs in order to support his family.
A strong work ethic is one lesson Blackmon hopes to have instilled in his sons and daughters.
“I’ve worked hard for everything I have, and I’ve tried to teach them if they want something, they have to work for it,” Blackmon said. “There is no reason they can’t.”
Willie has remained at home during the pandemic but is looking forward to finishing up college. Kimmie now lives in Bellingham. Mateo graduated from Friday Harbor High on June 12, and will most likely be attending a Bellingham technical school. In two years, after Mia graduates, Blackmon will have an empty nest.
“I’m actually looking forward to it, I want them to experience the world,” Blackmon said. “I won’t be lonely, I know how to entertain myself. Besides, no matter where they are, we will still talk, be together. We are very close.”
He attributes their closeness to the ability to communicate well with one another.
“We have had our issues, but we work through them. We have a good understanding with each other,” Blackmon said. “We communicate, talk it out and fix it.”
Communication is a two-way street that requires both talking and listening. Listening, according to Blackmon, is an invaluable parenting tool.
“If you’re going to have a good relationship with your kids, you have to really listen to them. Listen to their happiness, their pain,” Blackmon said. He added that by truly listening, hearing them out, when things inevitably do happen, children won’t want to turn to anyone else but their parents.
Blackmon said that as a parent, he worries most about ensuring his children aren’t making a decision that affects their life in a way they may not have wanted.
“My biggest concern is their not being wise and making a wrong decision. I mean one that changes your life forever,” Blackmon said.
For example, he continued, he worries about his children deciding to drive after drinking, when catching a ride with someone sober or taking a taxi would be a wiser option; or knowing when to stay or leave a dangerous situation.
“I’ve definitely been in situations where I stayed when I should have left and stuff happened,” Blackmon said. “I’ve tried to teach them to be a leader, not a follower, to decide for themselves and take the big picture into account.”
One area, he added, that young people often fall short is by becoming followers and therefore not thinking for themselves.
To new or soon-to-be fathers, Blackmon said, “Keep your head up and be a good one. Grab your kids and hold them tight because you never know. Our kids really need us right now, there is so much going on. The word is just getting crazier and crazier.”
For all its challenges and worries, Blackmon would not change a thing about fatherhood.
“It has been a blast,” he said.