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Fatherhood Freestyle: Are You My Daddy?

May 4, 2011 by  

Fatherhood Freestyle

Let me start by saying God has a funny way of placing your anointing in front of you to remind you of the work still before you. I was in the beauty salon tonight waiting for my daughter to get her hair done. Second, let me say that by no means it was this the first time I’d sat and waited on a woman to finish something I had no interest in; getting hair done, shopping, talking on the phone. A good man will do it, but besides that, it’s my deposit for hoping for her to wait while I do something she’s not interested in; walking aimlessly through Best Buy or Home Depot; watching the game or talking about sports or video games; or on occasion my work; etc. etc. etc.

I’m always intrigued by the conversation that takes place when a bunch of women are talking. And as luck or fortune would have it, I was the only man in the salon. At times they were conscious of my presence, and at times they could care less that I was there. I am also a people watcher. Not in the weird perverted sense, just someone who is fascinated by human interaction and finds sport in imagining the life stories of the people I see. So, being in a salon with women and children, absent men to add a masculine presence, it was particularly interesting to see the various methods of discipline. Everything from yelling and screaming to the drag-off to the bathroom for the proverbial tighten-up!

As a Dad, I couldn’t help to realize and reflect for a moment that my 10-year-old daughter was experiencing something that will be a life-long ritual–going to the salon to get her hair done (did).  Along with several other observations, I could also sense that fathers in the lives of those children and good men in the lives of those women were a distant reality. It became overwhelmingly real for me when the little girl of a Mom, who spent the vast majority of her time yelling at this child, sat next to me and asked, “Are you my Daddy?” Stunned and overtaken, it took everything I had in me not to cry.  I could see the missing image of her father in her eyes. At 3-4 years old, she was already trying to fill it. Here I was, Mr. Responsible Fatherhood, and I had NO answer for her…and tragically enough neither did her mom.

As I stated before, what a way for God to remind me how critical my work has become. Statistically I know, anecdotally I know, clinically I know, but this child forced me to know on a whole different Godly level. In essence she was saying to me, “I don’t know who my daddy is, so what are you going to do about it?” And as she went back to play with the other kids, she left me perplexed and dazed. I had to stop the work I was doing, and as I watched her mother rise from the dryer, visuals told me a story that gave me little hope that this little girl would ever know who her daddy is.

To be honest, I am at a loss for words. Nothing gives me solace tonight that she will ever fill the hole in her soul created by a father who has left this beautiful Black child wondering and searching for a man who will probably never exist for her. Yet she will spend the rest of her life looking, hoping and possibly praying that the next man she asks, will respond by saying, “YES!”

Fatherhood Freestyle: Sober, Responsible Men and Fathers Please Apply

February 22, 2011 by  

This post originally appeared on The Black Bar.

Historically, the role of Black men and fathers has been minimized by mainstream media and marginalized by society. Media assaults on the images of Black fathers have been well documented over the last 25 years. While several television examples of responsible manhood and Black fatherhood can be cited, including Sanford and SonGood Times,The Jeffersons, The Cosby ShowRocThe Bernie Mac Show andEverybody Loves Chris, the vast majority of images depicting Black fathers are devoid of any social or political responsibility as well as allegiance to our families.

Television shows like The Game, produced by actor Kelsey Grammer who starred in Frasier, continue a long legacy of portraying Black men as irresponsible and incapable of maintaining healthy relationships. The fallacy of shows like The Game is they fail to provide balanced perspectives of Black family life and culture. While The Game is merely entertainment to most, it continues to perpetuate destructive images about Black life and culture. Several parallels can be made to Zip Coon, a caricature that emanated from the Antebellum South. Zip Coon, an exaggerated figure, was created to depict Black men as lazy, easily frightened, chronically idle, inarticulate and unable to reason or comprehend.

 

The Game, which was thankfully canned by the CW Network, was subsequently picked up by BET as a result of millions of fans displaying outrage over its cancellation. Sadly, The Game debuted on Jan. 11, 2011, with more than seven million viewers glued to the tube. It saddens me that so many people – undoubtedly most of them African-American – got so outraged over the cancellation of a stereotypical television show when, by contrast, I bet if you go to any PTA meeting at virtually any school in this country you’d be hard pressed to find many African-American parents in attendance.

While the media plays a large role in shaping public discourse, our daily actions as men and fathers must be questioned. Indeed, we cannot be absolved of our culpability in some of the problems we face. According to a report disseminated by the National Fatherhood Initiative, the federal government spends about $100 billion annually on programs, policies and services related to absent fathers. The report, “$100 Billion Dollar Man,” is a glaring indictment of father absence and the toll it has on the larger family.

A growing segment of the population has become accustomed to not recognizing Black men and fathers as husbands, caregivers, and sober, responsible and spiritually guided men who are courageous pillars of their communities.

At some point, reclaiming the essence of responsible fatherhood in our community must become an agenda item. In fact, I argue some point is now! If the current trends continue, the alarming rates of violence and high-school dropouts among Black men will continue to plague low-income communities. It doesn’t take rocket science or an advanced degree from Harvard, Yale or Princeton to see the effects of absent fathers on the emotional, physical and spiritual essence of Black boys…

Read the rest HERE

Fatherhood Freestyle: Fathers, Be Good to Your Daughters

February 10, 2011 by  

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Driving back to my home office after taking my 14-year-old son to school today, I was listening to my favorite sports radio station. The hosts, all about my same age and all with at least one young daughter, happened to be talking about Darius Rucker [formerly of Hootie and the Blowfish], who is now a country singer. The original question put forth had to do with whether they “bought” Rucker as a country singer. Yet the conversation quickly spun into a debate about whether his song, “It Won’t be Like This for Long,” was the best father-daughter song ever.

This got me thinking about my own favorite father-daughter song, “Fathers Be Good to Your Daughters,” by John Mayer. When I heard this song floating through the speakers in a Nordstrom store several years back, it felt like a lovely and particularly decent musical snippet of life in a time when the 24-hour media cycle was beginning to demand ever more lurid and inane content to spew onto any who would watch or listen. From the lyrics, to the guitar, to the breathy quality of Mayer’s voice, it seemed like one of those classic songs that would transcend most contemporary clamorings and forever define the father-daughter song category.

So cut to last spring. My family and I had traveled to Maryland for my sister’s wedding. Late one night, my wife and I walked into a Safeway grocery store to pick up a few things we could eat right then and also make for breakfast in the morning. After wandering for what seemed like endless, unnecessary minutes through a store with a layout foreign to us, “Fathers Be Good to Your Daughters“ started playing through the store’s sound system. I immediately begin humming enthusiastically, enthralled by the looks on the faces of both black and white shoppers who looked surprised to hear this Black man uttering this John Mayer tune!

Yet, as my attention shifted from those around me to the lyrics of the chorus—Fathers be good to your daughters / Daughters will love like you do / Girls become lovers who turn into mothers / So mothers be good to your daughters, too—I felt that proverbial lump in my throat, and I found myself fervently fighting back tears.

As I continued to listen, all I could think about was my baby girl, Laylah—she who is born at night; my dark beauty. I realized that though I had thought about the lyrics of that song many times since she had been born roughly 15 months prior, I had not actually heard the song played since before she was born. So this ethereal composition of words and melody that I believed poetically summed up my moral imperative as a father to Laylah was now wafting into my ears for the first time since having had memories of her birth, and feedings, and first steps, and first words; and since having had visions of what her life might ultimately become.

So now, while walking through the store and projecting this soundtrack onto the silver screen of Laylah’s life, my eyes welled up to the point where they were certain to spill their contents. Fortunately, I was able to discreetly dab my eyes before any tears rolled down my face and before my wife or any other shoppers could notice. Yet I could not shake how profoundly this song both moved me and so succinctly conveyed how imperative it is for men to be a loving presence in the lives of their daughters.

By the time we exited the store, I could no longer contain my tears. While laughing through the water streaming down my face, and simultaneously shaking my head at feeling ridiculous about being a grown assed man crying at night, in a grocery store, and over a song, I quickly and humorously explained to my wife what it was I thought I was experiencing. She seemed to vaguely understand and thought it was sweet, but somehow I think she still thought I was bugging.

Cut back to today. After getting settled in my office, I went to YouTube to check out the Darius Rucker song the radio hosts had been debating. Nice song. It definitely captures the idea of cherishing the moments a father has with his daughter because each magical stage of her life won’t last long. But there is just something in Mayer’s song about being good that I believe paints a gorgeous portrait of not just what to take from our experiences as fathers, but of what to give to those experiences as well—especially to our daughters. And for that reason, I cried again. I cried because I know that one day, as Mayer so aptly coined, daughters will love like we do.

In listening to this song yet again, I learned today that I probably won’t ever be able to listen to it without exhibiting some degree of unbridled emotion. I am certain there are multivalent reasons for this, my own “father issues” notwithstanding. But whatever the reasons John Mayer’s words and guitar licks move me to tears, I know that at the very least, the notion of having been given this gift of life so that I might give my daughter a pattern of love that will serve her for her own life is a notion that conjures both a profound sense of duty and a deep sense of joy. This is why both the effort and the tears fill my heart and fuel my smile.

These days, it has become fashionable to call a brother a punk simply for having the capacity to experience a range of emotions beyond anger or hubris. I shed some serious tears over a sentimental song sung by a pop culture white boy. This is true. That was me—the “strong” Black man experiencing a moment of genuine sentimentality. And yes, I would have been more than a little embarrassed at having been seen crying in Safeway for no apparent reason [let’s face it, testosterone still runs through my blood, and a certain type of acculturation still guides how I comport myself as a man]. That being said, I can honestly say I don’t possess much concern for what anyone calls me, as long as Laylah can call me a loving daddy who’s always been good to his little, dark beauty.

Fathers, be good to your daughters.

Fatherhood Freestyle: Speak Up on WeParent.com

July 14, 2010 by  

We’re looking for a few good men…

Fathers, to be exact.  Black Fathers to be even exact-er.

WeParent is currently looking for new regular and guest contributors to write for our Fatherhood Freestyle column.  If you’re interested in telling your side of the story, send an email to info AT WeParent DOT com.  Be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Subject line should be:  Fatherhood Freestyle Submission–YOUR NAME
  • In the email (not in a separate document)  include your submission which should be between 500 and 800 words.
  • In the email (not in a separate document) include a 3 or 4-sentence bio
  • A statement indicating whether you’re interested in being a regular monthly contributor or a guest contributor

If your submission is selected, we will contact you with additional details.

And, don’t forget to send in your submission for Fatherhood Freestyle:  The Book!  Get details here.

Fatherhood Freestyle: The Weekenders

July 8, 2010 by  

This week, Guest Contributor, Matt Prestbury, co-founder of the Black Fathers group on Facebook and founder of the blog Focused on Fatherhood, uses poetry to express a father’s frustration…and commitment.
how you gonna let a man that don’t know me from Adam
tell me when I can see my children
then you tell me that I can’t come to your building
and knock on the door for you to let them in

matter fact you tell me meet you at the gas station
be there at 6:30 and don’t have you waiting
if I take too long you’ll be getting impatient
and be downtown the next day telling them I’m violating

think about what you’re doing to them
when you open your door for a parade of men
one is barely out of your life before the next one comes in
and you got the nerve to tell my babies that I’m triflin

telling them that I don’t know how to treat women
and they shouldn’t be around me because I’ll corrupt them
It’s really time for the healing to begin
and cut all the hateful talk based on the pain that you’ve been feeling

if you choose to keep on acting this way
there gonna wake up and resent you one day
and understand that their father NEVER walked away
but was forced out despite his attempts to stay

and forced to respect a strangers orders
someone I never met telling me when I can see my daughters
and money doesn’t raise them It can only help support the
things that they need but I’m determined to be more than just a donor

so I send the payment as I must
and shake my head in disgust
and resent the fact that you didn’t trust
that we could work this out between us

reports cards came out and I was truly amazed
when the girls called and said that they got all A’s
and I really wanted to take them to out to Friday’s
but I couldn’t because it wasn’t one of my days

I told them, “When the weekend comes, I’ll take you to your favorite spot
I’m very proud of you two and I love you a lot
don’t ever let anyone tell you that I am not
doing the best I can with what I’ve got

although we can only spend time together on certain days
I am you father and I’m here for you always
keep striving for excellence in all ways
and I’ll keep on coming to your games, and recitals, and plays

so I’ll just keep sitting here waiting
to give the third degree to the guys that you’re dating
and keep on mailing a check although it’s frustrating
and keep on dreading Sunday evenings because it’s heart breaking”

’til we meet again

Fatherhood Freestyle: Honoring Mothers

May 28, 2010 by  

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In the spirit of “mama-love,” this father would like to take the opportunity to recognize the importance of mothers in his life and in his ability to father a daughter. So, let me start by saying thank you to my own dear mother and the many mothers who took part in raising me, guiding me, and just loving me.

Growing up, I was blessed to have been raised by an amazing mother. She was a strong woman who instilled in us so many positive characteristics. While I could go on and on about the many wonderful things my mother did for me, I think the thing I am most thankful for is that she taught me how to take care of myself and exercise responsibility and accountability. We did not have a lot of money growing up, and many times struggled to have our basic needs met. However, no matter how difficult things got, my mom taught me how to go after what I wanted and find the win in life. That attribute alone has been a major part of my successes to this day. For example, when I didn’t have enough money for college and my family could not afford it, I went out and literally “raised” the money. When I started my law practice and may not have had the necessary funds, I found access to capital when the banks turned me down. The bottom line is my mom taught us how to work and find a way to accomplish our goals regardless of our resources.

Learning how to find that win in all situations turned out to be fundamentally important in my co-parenting relationship. I guess that is the real focus of this blog. You see, my daughter’s mom and I have had a relationship that has touched on every emotion and seemingly every possible scenario. We have gone from peace to discord, love to anger, yearning to emptiness. Over the past twelve years, our relationship has traveled from the real to the surreal and back again. Through it all, I have learned some important lessons about finding the win and appreciating the importance of mothers.

While I may still be hurt in some respects, I have unequivocally concluded that a peaceful relationship with my co-parent far outweighs the alternative. It is real easy to focus on how I was wronged in the failed relationship. It is easy for me to see things through my perspective only. It takes real courage to see through hurt and understand my co-parent’s positions and perspectives. Having had the opportunity to parent through anger, court, battles and disagreement, I have learned that we must find a way to co-exist and co-parent peacefully. In that spirit and during this month that we recognize mothers, I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge my daughter’s mother and thank her for being a loving mom to our daughter.

I also want to encourage fathers to thank your children’s mother. Even if the relationship is strained, recognizing her importance and value will go a long way. Reflect on the importance of your mother and remember your child will likely value his or her mother in the same way. Fathers, continue to work towards a peaceful relationship with your co-parent, continue to get through the pain and struggle and do everything you can to find peace in your co-parenting relationship. From someone who has been through it all, peace is the best situation for you and for the children. So, let us men honor all the mothers in our lives.

Fatherhood Freestyle: Mother-Love Makes a Man

May 5, 2010 by  

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Growing up, my family was typical of lower income New Orleans households in that one house held several branches of the family tree; my mother and I lived in my grandparents’ house, as well as my aunt and her two children.  One of my earliest memories is from my third birthday.  I see a corner of a bed, huge in my vision with faded red lines which moved toward me as I pulled on it in an attempt to lift myself up.  And then my Grandmother Frances’ bespectacled face appears, smiling and comforting as she pulls me up…no easy feat ‘cause by all accounts I was a mini Buddha-baby.  My grandmother always looked out for me.  I always felt I could count on her.  She would always slip me candy or some spending money, would take my side in little arguments.  She could fuss at me, and minutes after, console me.   When I became a teen, she even attempted to help me organize my love life.  If I was out with a girl, and another one called while I was out; she would find a way to discreetly inform me of the call, with raised eyebrows and code words.  The fact that she would do this in front of my date was especially cute.  She was also deeply religious, praying twice daily, morning and night, sowing the seeds of spirituality in me.

Then there’s my Aunt Henrietta.  She was strong and firm, plain and matter of fact.  I was quite afraid of her in my early childhood.  None of us wanted to be on her bad side.  She was my mother’s older sister and as my mother worked different shifts in her job as a nurse, my care fell into her hands from time to time.  While my grandmother was my guardian angel, saving me and aiding me, my aunt seemed to be my persecutory devil; I couldn’t get away with anything!  She could always spot my lies, know that I snuck a snack, and had an uncanny way of feeling you get off the front porch before 3pm from two rooms away.  She was also the best cook in the house and I still long for her Sunday pot roast, potato salad, cornbread and desserts.   My aunt was fair; her justice was true.  What I saw then as persecution turned out to be preparation, and her no nonsense habits are reflected in the way I have parented my own children.  As I type this, I realize my aunt was only 5, 2’, but she was a giant in my life.

My mother, Theresa or Terri to her close friends, was many things to me.  She was a young mother, 19 when I was born, and the passion of her youth was quite evident.  I remember the hugs and kisses I would get when she came home from work, her fierce protectiveness of me when she felt I’d been wronged.  I have a clear memory of feeling loved by my mother; it seemed that in her eyes I was a gift, and there was no finer or smarter or cuter boy with curly hair on the planet.  She would talk to me about my dreams, how to carry myself and how to treat a girl with respect.  To this day I still receive compliments on my chivalrous ways of holding doors and having women walk on the inside of the sidewalk; and I know that is my mother.  I showed a talent for art as a child, and my mother encouraged it and would support me despite the grandness of my ideas.  She nurtured my intellect and my love of reading, buying me comic books initially and then magazines, paperbacks and novels.  While she was not a big reader, she always allowed me time and supported me in pursuing those things that seemed important to me.  But above all, my mother encouraged my speaking my mind and taught me the importance of listening.  Like my daughter, I’m pretty clear I can talk your head off at times.  But I can count on one hand the times my mother scolded me or shut me up when talking.  It didn’t matter if I was 3 or 13 or 33, she would listen to me.  She tolerated my endless questions, my protests when I viewed hypocrisy and even what could be described as back-talk when I did not understand or agree with her instructions.  As a parent I now realize the depth of patience she showed…I still have most of my teeth!

These are only three of the women who have shaped and helped me become the man I am.  Without any doubt they are the biggest contributors, the foundation of my relationships with all women.  On Mother’s Day I will remember them and smile.  And, everyday, I hope to honor their legacy and impact on my life to make them smile.

Fatherhood Freestyle: My Story….Not My Father’s

April 28, 2010 by  

Boy Holding Dad's hand

I love women. I can find something attractive on almost anyone of them. It could be their eyes, their smile or the way they carry themselves with confidence. I don’t have a particular type or shape or color preference. Long hair doesn’t turn me on more than short, curvy bodies more than straight, tall over short. Intelligence and a sense of humor goes a long way though..

I was raised by women, have raised women and some of my closest friends are women. I’ve worked as the only male in treatment center for females and survived and thrived. Women have shaped my life, contributed to the man I’ve become and the values I have.

Whenever I would envision the way I would begin the story of my life it always began this way, with most of these words. For one thing, the words are true; women have played a huge role in my life. And I am clear that another reason why is my father.

My father and I have never lived in the same house, have never played catch, shared a joke or a laugh. We have never watched a sporting event, taken a walk or watched a cartoon together. And while many adults could make the same claims for many reasons: “my father died when I was 2” or “he ran away when I was born” or “my mama wasn’t sure who my daddy was”.. I do know who he is. I know his name and occupation and where he lives. His physical absence from my life played as big a role in my shaping as the women who were present. And notice I said his physical absence; emotionally he has been and remains one of my major influences.

As the women in my childhood taught me and scolded me and fed me, my father’s effect was subtle, almost unnoticeable until my teenage years. This increased as I grew into manhood, became a tidal wave as I became a parent to my daughter, and exploded in a crescendo as I became a father to a son. I can remember the joy and wonder I felt as I looked into my daughter’s eyes for the first time, the pride and relief of knowing she was safe, healthy and whole. The comfort I felt in feeding her, changing her and making her laugh. To this day she still takes my heart to the top of the clouds just to be in her presence. The birth of my son added a new wrinkle and sense of wonder; while my daughter was clearly related to me, my blood, my offspring- my son was a mini version of me. We shared more than similar physical features, he wanted to play sports, to wrestle, to fight, to play catch. We used our fingers to hold objects in the same way, crossed our legs and hummed while eating something special. And as I became more aware of these similarities and shared traits, that’s when my father’s presence or lack of had its biggest impact; I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t understand how he could leave, how could he know I existed and not been in my life. How could he not play catch, take a walk or share advice with me? Whereas not having my father in my life growing up was accepted as a fact by me, an unalterable truth, becoming a parent and seeing my son and knowing how I felt about both my children, that fact became absurd, insane, truly, beyond any words I can use.

And I have tried desperately to understand. I have thought and thunk, asked friends and strangers, spoken to clients and read books. I even went to my father and asked him directly. “Well, your mother didn’t want me around” was the first deflection, followed by “and to be honest with you, I’m not even sure if I am your father”. And that was the beginning of my enlightenment and release. At that moment, the utterance of that blatant and obvious lie, I realized that whatever I was looking for, I would not find it in him. There would be no guidance, no embrace, no shared experiences; as alike as we were in appearance, our build, our hands and that slightly up tilted Bob Hope nose, we were completely different in our hearts, our view of ourselves. Whatever motivated him to speak those words, fear, guilt, shame or ignorance, I’ll never truly know (and I can only wonder if he knows). As the father to my kids some of my biggest fears have been ‘Will I be good enough? Can I give them a different life from the one I had?’ Only time and their testament will declare the truth of that. But I know that my children and I share things he and I will never have. The memories of stitches and casts, cakes and wrapping paper and the swell of pride as they walked across various stages marking the advance of their own lives and accomplishments. When I look at them I feel a peace in knowing these are my children, and I am their father.

Call for Submissions: Fatherhood Freestyle…The Book

March 15, 2010 by  

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Fatherhood Freestyle: The Unheard Voices of Single Black Fathers
(working title)

Open Call for Submissions

Summary:

WeParent seeks submissions for an anthology expressing the insights, experiences, and feelings of African-American fathers who are no longer in relationships with their child(ren)’s mother, and who are co-parenting, solo-parenting and/or have or have attempted to do either. This book is intended for publication in mid-to-late 2011.

Deadline for submissions: October 15, 2010

Overview:

The purpose of this anthology is to explore the experiences of African-American fathers who are no longer involved with their child(ren)’s other parent but who are, have or seek to be engaged, active fathers nonetheless. WeParent seeks to amplify the often unheard voices of single, divorced, and separated African-American fathers who are parenting their children. Through a combination of probing blog posts from the popular “Fatherhood Freestyle” blog on WeParent.com and original personal essays from other contributors, WeParent seeks to pierce through the deafening charges of deadbeat absentee-baby-daddyism and offer refreshing and enlightening perspectives on parenting, co-parenting, step-dating and step-parenting, remarriage and more.

We seek essays that offer transparency and heartfelt honesty, as well as inspiration to fathers committed to navigating the sometimes tumultuous waters of fatherhood in the absence of a relationship with the other parent.

Our project is still in its early stages and we realize that at this point, though we have dedicated contributors, we cannot make any guarantees about the collection’s outcome; however, we are confident that this project will appeal to publishers for a number of reasons. One prominent reason is the focus currently being placed on fathers and fatherhood by the Obama administration and increased attention in the media. When we have a publishing contract in hand, the essays will undoubtedly go through a review process with the publisher’s readers and ultimate acceptance of articles for the book will depend on that process.

Possible topics to explore include:

  • Impact of your childhood and your parents’ relationship on your experience of fatherhood
  • Your journey through fatherhood, co-parenting, remarriage
  • How you experience other people’s perceptions of African-American fathers/single fathers
  • Your challenges and/or victories with custody, child support issues
  • Insights you have gained as a co-parent, single parent, step-parent
  • Experiences related to dating as a single father
  • Challenges, failures and victories you have experienced in parenting or co-parenting

We are open to any topic as long as it shares your personal story and/or insights.

Submission guidelines:

  • Submissions should be no longer than 5,000 words.
  • Good writing skills are helpful, but not necessary. Mostly, we are looking for powerful insights and stories that share the hearts and wisdom of our contributors. We will work with you to polish your writing.
  • Be sure to include full contact information, including your name, address, phone number and email address. Also, please remember to notify us at once if you move, change your phone number or email. (If you wish to remain anonymous, let us know, and we won’t include your name in the book.)
  • Submissions should be sent via mail (our preference) or email. When mailing, please include a stamped, self-addressed envelope (SASE) so we can return submissions we are unable to use. Without a SASE, submissions cannot be returned.
  • Each contributor chosen for the anthology will receive, as compensation, one (1) copy of the completed anthology within one month of publication.
  • The deadline for final submissions is October 15, 2010. However, it may take you some time to write your submission. So that we will know if you are considering making a submission, please send us a brief letter via email or mail to notify us of your intention to submit by June 1, 2010. The letter of intent should include your contact information, along with your proposed topic. Your letter of intent in no way obligates you to make a submission. It merely allows us to provide you with information and support during this process.
  • Final drafts of submissions must be postmarked on or before October 15, 2010. The final selection process will begin then.
  • Address your submissions to:

WeParent
Attn: Fatherhood Freestyle
PMB 153
1000 Whitlock Ave., Suite 320
Marietta, GA 30064

Or send an email with subject ‘’Fatherhood Freestyle Book Submission’’ to: info AT weparent DOT com.

Fatherhood Freestyle: You Are the Prize

January 20, 2010 by  

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This post was inspired by the recent “Co-Parenting Matters” show on “Dads Raising Daughters” as well as my recent move from one coast to the other.

So, my daughter has been walking to school with one particular “friend” from our neighborhood since school began. We’ll call her, “Sarah” for the sake of anonymity. Well, around 7:15AM a few Mondays ago, my daughter sent Sarah the customary text to determine the logistics for the morning’s plans. When she responded “I can’t walk today,” I made the decision to drive my daughter to school myself. As we sat in the school parking lot waiting for the doors to open, I casually asked why her friend couldn’t walk. She shrugged her shoulders, explaining that Sarah “doesn’t speak” to her anymore.

Wait. Wait. Wait. Rewind.

She doesn’t speak to her anymore? How about all the back-and-forth texts? And her smile when I drop my daughter off every morning? No sooner than she’d said this, we looked ahead and there was Sarah walking up the hill…by herself. My daughter pulled out her phone to confirm she had read the text correctly, and disappointingly stated, “That’s what she said.” I immediately got that visceral feeling that overcomes every parent when they think someone has hurt their kid, regardless of that person’s age.

While we sat in the car waiting for the school’s doors to open, I decided it was time to press the issue a little. My daughter explained that Sarah had given some kids in the classroom necklaces, but not her. She told me Sarah sometimes didn’t even speak to her in school despite their having walked together just that morning. My daughter said Sarah called her “sooo annoying” and had recently been very mean to her. My blood, a raging 212 degrees Farenheit at this point was about to explode into a wicked headache. I tried my damnedest not to show my frustration, because I didn’t want her to pick up that this bothered me and (possibly) decide against sharing these kinds of stories in the future out of concern I would be hurt.

Convinced I had already heard enough, I let her finish telling the story anyway. I knew my daughter wanted that relationship, even though it probably didn’t feel good to her. I felt she was sticking around, because she didn’t see any better alternative. She had plenty of other good friendships from before, so she probably thought she’d easily find them here. After all, she had never experienced being the new girl in the new neighborhood in the new school on a different coast. Honestly, I may have underestimated these challenges myself. Given the recent transition, I knew she really wanted to be accepted and would be willing to try her hardest to make that happen, even if it meant forgetting her own strength and value. The whole discussion actually reminded me so much of those I’ve had with adult women about their own friendships and romantic relationships throughout the years. All I could see was my own daughter ten or fifteen years from now…and I refused to let this teachable moment pass without my sending a powerful message.

After she finished, I started to teach (or was it venting?). I told her she didn’t need to pursue ANY relationship where she was not equally pursued. I told her she was a good friend and needed to find friends who reciprocated. I explained to her that making new friends quickly wasn’t as important as making good friends. I even told her most people are lucky to have just five or so true friends in life. I explained that she should want friends who value her friendship, and that she should never settle for less. This probably lasted for a good half hour. She opened the car door after the school doors opened and gave me a hug. As she was leaving, I told her to look around, and I said, “Remember, YOU and your friendship are the prize.” She nodded her head, sighed, and left.

All day, I kept wondering if I had said the right thing. I was completely unproductive at work, calling friends left and right to see if they could help me wrap my head around the whole situation. I was consumed. Did she pick up on my anger? Was she listening to or even understanding what I had said? Was I being too protective and not just allowing her to ride it out naturally (with less overt support)? Should I pull her from the school if things didn’t improve? Would I continue the conversation later at home? Or maybe I was just blowing this whole thing out of proportion.

By the time I got home, I had already decided I would drop subtle nuggets of wisdom here and there instead of continuing to explicitly reference the situation. However, later that evening, my daughter spontaneously said to me, “Dad, Sarah told me a few days ago that she was going to buy me a Christmas present.” I calmly asked if Sarah had spoken to her throughout the day, and she responded, “No.” I wanted to make sure she wasn’t getting her hopes up too high. Plus, I had mixed feelings about her accepting a gift from Sarah. However, I wanted to leave the decision up to her, so I asked her whether she intended to accept it. She shot back forcefully, “I don’t know, but even if she gives me one, I am not getting her one!” Although it was her decision to make, I insisted she consider the message she would be sending either way. “If you really do not want to be her friend, do you really think it’s cool to take a gift from her?”

She went on to say that how Sarah had been acting was not nice, how she didn’t appreciate it and didn’t want to be her friend anymore. In fact, she told me that if the girl did not apologize and tried to talk to her, she would simply say, “Wait! What is that buzzing sound in my ear?” She stated she could make friends with other kids, and she no longer wanted to walk with Sarah. (Of course, she didn’t know I’d already made arrangements with the boss to go in late, so I could bring her to school myself.)  Surprised at this new energy and spirit, I was smiling as I asked her where all this was coming from. She looked at me with those beautiful brown eyes and said, “Remember Daddy, I am the prize.”

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