Against all odds, single father succeeds

Senior graduates early to take care of daughter

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Against all odds, single father succeeds

Ashley Flores

Ashley Flores

Ashley Flores

Senior Gabriel Rutledge and his daughter, Analee.

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A giant grin and a giggle bubbled out from the one-year-old’s mouth as she stumbled and reached out her hands to her dad. “Da-da! Da-da!” Senior Gabriel Rutledge glowed with pride and happiness as he watched his baby girl take her first steps.

Rutledge is working against all odds and opinions to raise his daughter, Analee, to the best of his abilities. He was 17 when Analee was born last year, and she has been his motivation to learn all he can to make their lives great. Rutledge recently transferred to Memorial Pathway Academy to complete his senior year and allow for more time to take care of his daughter. He graduated Friday, Feb. 20.

“Having a child didn’t scare me,” Rutledge said. “It was just the reaction of my parents I was worried about. I told my parents the first time I thought [my girlfriend] was pregnant, and it was scary. But she wasn’t really pregnant, so that made me look like a fool the second time when she really was.”

Although his parents disapproved of his actions, they told Rutledge they were willing to help raise his daughter however they could. While at North, Rutledge was enrolled in a teen parenting class to learn technical tips on parenting. Other than that, Rutledge said he learns the most from firsthand experience.

No one showed me how to hold a child…[but] realizing she was my own, it just came natural to me.”

— Rutledge

“When I first held her, she was 20.5 inches long and weighed seven pounds, one ounce,” Rutledge said. “I was scared that I might drop her or something. No one showed me how to hold a child or anything like that. And then realizing she was my own, it just came natural to me.”

When he transferred to Memorial, one elective Rutledge was sad to leave was choir. However, according to New Horizons teacher Mary Jarcy, singing is one attribute she believes Rutledge will always continue doing. Rutledge sings to his daughter any time she is feeling sick or crying, and he said the soft rumbling of his singing makes her happy and calms her down.

“He just sings and he sings. When he’s working on something, he’s always singing too,” Jarcy said. “When we were talking once, I told him that one day, [Analee] is going to have a hard day at school and come home and say ‘Daddy, will you sing to me?’ And he will! He’s a great parent, a very active and involved parent.”

Unlike the stigma that teenage pregnancies are accidental, Rutledge said Analee was completely planned. Although the idea of raising a child seemed intimidating, Analee’s mother wanted to have a baby and the idea eventually grew on Rutledge.

“I wouldn’t lie,” Rutledge said. “At first I was thinking, ‘Am I actually going to be a good dad?’ Because my father is a player, so [my siblings and I] are all from different moms. I knew that I don’t want to be like my dad; I wanted to do the right thing.”

I know the stereotypes, but I want to prove them all wrong.”

— Rutledge

Rutledge originally planned on entering the Marines after high school, thinking Analee’s mother would take care of her. “At first I thought I was going to be the guy who paid child support, because I can’t really take a child away from [her] mother,” Rutledge said.

But the mother decided to give Rutledge full custody, and he does not know why. Being a single father is hard on him. While taking Analee to doctors’ appointments and checkups, people tend to assume that Analee’s mother is making him bring Analee. Rutledge said that these questions and assumptions just bring back unhappy memories that he is left to explain.

Rutledge said that the basic stereotype for dads in high school is that they are ghetto, irresponsible, and that they are most likely going to abandon their child and make the mother do everything. Since Rutledge had an example of bad parenting from his own father, he knew that he wanted to be there for his daughter and that he could not abandon her.

“I want to prove people wrong,” Rutledge said. “That’s really my main goal. I know the stereotypes, but I want to prove them all wrong. Because my daughter – she means everything to me.”