I grew up in a two parent household. Most of my friends did. I was born and raised in Harlem, a place not exactly known for the nuclear family. The men from that generation aren’t exactly the emoting type. You fall down, get up and walk it off. There really wasn’t an emotional outlet for them to express things like love, or pain that wasn’t overtly skewed by the need to project that masculine façade. But it worked.
For the most part everyone I grew up with and chose to surround myself with, all ended up finishing college, they all ended up committing to a relationship and have moved on to start families of their own. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the presence of a man in their lives, as both guidance, household justice and just an example of what to be.
By no means were these guys perfect. As you grow and your understanding increases and you see some of the bullshit about them. They drank. They were a bit harsh. Sometimes the nurture button was off. Occasionally there is infidelity. But when you’re a child you never realize how full of shit mothers can be too, until you are old enough to deal with women on a consistent basis. Then that light bulb goes off and as a man, you go “Ahh! That’s why!”
As Black men, a lot of us are lacking the stability and the example of the father in their household. Yes, there are male role models and uncles and grandfathers hopefully that your sons can hang around that will tell him to get his hands off his hips like a bitch. We need to be careful about the images we expose our children to, and the people we have them around. I don’t look down upon women and the effort it takes to raise a child alone. Many have given their all to provide their children some kind of stability in the home.
That said, it’s time for Black people to stop lying to ourselves. At some point we need to draw the line in the sand and realize that we are doing a disservice to ourselves by continuing down the path of single parent childrearing. Divorce happens. Death happens. Those things are unavoidable. And if a man is a negative influence on a child then by all means run like the wind. But there is a gulf between these men and a guy that you just don’t get along with anymore.
As a people, we have to allow men to be fathers to their children. We have to stop allowing our egos an our personal issues to get in the way of providing both a masculine and a feminine ideal to our children, particularly during their formative years when they are learning to communicate and navigate this world of ours. If a man doesn’t love you anymore, that shouldn’t be a barrier towards him being an active and effective parent. If a woman is wilding out, do what is necessary to be an effective a father to your child.
This isn’t the blame game here. I know men and women in some pretty screwed situations because the father or mother of their child is worth less than steaming dog shit. Your kids will remember this stuff. Trust me they will. But for the sake of us all, we need to allow our men to be more than checkbook padres. Child support is cute but it pales in comparison to taking your kids to the park, teaching them how to tie their shoes, or any other building block activity that prepares them for this world.
It’s Father’s Day. Make that call, send that card, have that dinner. Today is not the day to shit on men who aren’t being fathers, but to celebrate those who are. If you don’t have a father and you are an adult, think about real reasons why he wasn’t there and try not to repeat that cycle. Our collective survival depends on it.
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