Parenting is a Team Sport, Thy Black Men are Not Storks, and We Need a Fatherhood Bailout.
(ThyBlackMan.com) I don’t remember much about my father, a man by the name of Boyce Sanders. I met him three times, and didn’t mix with him very well. I have no animosity toward him, no admiration. Just emptiness, with the exception of the fact that I’d never seen another man who looked so much like myself.
Even though my dad was never a part of my life, I felt no bitterness because another man stepped into his place when I was three years old. Larry Watkins always was and always will be, my father. My spirit is descended from his spirit, and his relatives are my own. I admire this man in the way a lot of sons see their dads: Like a super hero, the man who taught me to keep my chin up and go after what I wanted in life. Those messages guide me every single day, especially when times get tough.
When I consider these lessons of manhood that I’ve been able to take for granted, I feel horribly for many of the young boys and girls in our communities. Too many of our boys don’t get the chance to learn the principles of manhood at an early age, and end up feeling lost in a world where manhood requires courage, focus, dedication, commitment, intelligence and vision. It’s a warzone out there, especially for black men, who are fighting for resources in a society that wants to see us dead or in prison.
I feel bad for the girls without fathers to love them. A psychologist once explained to me that a woman often sees her self-worth through her father’s eyes. So, if your father never takes the time to even observe or tell you that you’re worthy of love, it can cripple your relationships until you’re old, gray and dead. We owe more to our children.
We must, of course, commend those parents who are doing their jobs effectively, for they are the cornerstones of our community. They exist everywhere, and there are millions of men who are taking responsibility for children who are not their own. I say that we need even more of these men to step up in an ethical way, since there are children who are part of the lost society in black America, unable to make good decisions without their primary role models.
We must also remind all men that none of us are storks or animals in the woods. Your job is not to show up to sleep with a woman and then disappear when the baby is born. Dropping off a pack of diapers every month doesn’t make you an adequate father either. Being consistent, putting your kids first and working to raise them into responsible adults is the goal of a father, and when fathers fail to do their jobs, our entire community suffers.
Finally, I encourage mothers to always appreciate and respect the value of a dad. The “I can do it all by myself” mindset is empowering in some ways, but debilitating in others. The presence of consistent and involved role models of both genders is critical to raising a balanced and intelligent human being. Your kids may seem to be OK without having their father around, but the truth is that you won’t see much of the psychological damage for another 15 years.
Parenting is not an individualized sport, and it also makes sense to screen men for their fathering capabilities before allowing them to “swag” their way into your bedroom. I tell my daughters that if a man does not appear to be responsible enough to be a good father and husband, don’t even give him your phone number. Part of good parenting is choosing a good co-parent in the first place. If you’re unsure of a man’s fathering capabilities, then that means you don’t know him well enough to give him the honor of having access to your body. After all, intercourse doesn’t just produce pleasure…it also produces the next generation.
Finally, I call for a “Fatherhood bailout.” That means that every able-bodied father should step up and be there for a child, even if that child is not his own. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to adopt the child and bring him/her into your house. It just means that, when the opportunity presents itself, you should love, care for and nurture that child as if it were your own seed. You never know how a few positive words, some good advice and a little love might change a child’s life forever.
Never underestimate your impact.
Staff Writer; Dr. Boyce Watkins