Fatherhood Freestyle: Are You My Daddy?

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!”

Co-Parenting Matters This Week: Celebrating Stepdads!

April 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Podcast

Celebrating Stepdads on Co-Parenting Matters

Half of all children in the U.S. will have a stepparent at some point in their lifetime; 90% of children in stepfamilies live with their mother and stepfather. And yet stepdads seem to be the silent majority in the online stepparent conversation. On this week’s “Co-Parenting Matters” show, we give stepdads the spotlight. Our guests will include Ron Deal, the author of The Smart Stepdad, licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional counselor, who is the founder of Successful Stepfamilies. Ron will be “joining” us via pre-recorded interview. And we’ll talk to some of the stepfathers in our lives. We hope you’ll tune in on Sunday, April 10th at 9:30 PM EST, and be sure to tell a stepdad you know(or someone who loves him!) to join us too!

Courtesy of Ron and his publisher, we’ll be giving away 2 copies of The Smart Stepdad on the show. Entering the giveaway is easy: Leave a comment here or tweet us @weparent or @coparentingshow, telling us about your stepfathering experience or about a stepdad you love. From the entrants, we’ll choose 2 winners and announce them during the show.

We look forward to celebrating stepdads!

Tune in this Sunday, April 10th, at 9:30pm ET.  Listen via phone at (646)378-0580 or check out the live stream at www.blogtalkradio.com/CoParentingMatters.

Father Re-involvement…This Week on Co-Parenting Matters

March 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Podcast

CoParentingMatters

This Sunday on Co-Parenting Matters we’ll talk about the challenges of father absence and father re-involvement with the children from whom they have been estranged. Our guests are, Tonia Grady, whose GradyGirl productions created the documentary short film, Man Up, a documentary short film exploring many of the facets of father absence in an intense effort to show the magnitude of this social epidemic, and David Miller, co-founder of the Raising Him Alone campaign and ChangingFatherhood.com. We’ll discuss the impact of father absenteeism on children, families and communities, and explore strategies for addressing this issue at the community level and one family at a time.

Join in the discussion this Sunday, March 6, at 9:30pm by calling into (646)378-0580 or following the live stream and chat room conversation on BlogTalkRadio.

Fatherhood Freestyle: Sober, Responsible Men and Fathers Please Apply

February 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogs, Fatherhood Freestyle, Spotlight

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  
Filed under Blogs, Fatherhood Freestyle, Spotlight

father and daughters

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.

Co-Parenting Matters Anniversary Giveaway: SingleDad Coaching Sessions

October 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Articles

Our good friend, RJ Jaramillo, founder of SingleDad.com and master of so many things related to being a happy and successful single parent, is giving away an awesome anniversary gift for one of our single dad listeners.  Check out the wonderful video card he sent us to find out more about this Co-Parenting Matters anniversary gift.

So, one lucky listener is going to win THREE (3) 1-hour SingleDad live video coaching sessions with RJ Jaramillo.  You’ll get to choose from the “Cook Like a Dad Series” or the “Single Parent Coaching Classes.”  Whether it’s whipping up some kid-friendly meals or starting over as a single dad, RJ has a wealth of wisdom, experience and coaching expertise to help you be successful.

So enter to win this generous gift from RJ for yourself or for a great dad in your life by leaving a comment below telling us a piece of great advice you’ve gotten from a special Dad in your life.

We’ll announce the winner, selected randomly from all the entries, on our Co-Parenting Matters anniversary show this Sunday, October 24th.  The show airs at 9pm EST, and you can listen via phone at (646)378-0580 or from your computer at www.blogtalkradio.com/coparentingmatters.

Co-Parenting Messages in the Music: Saigon’s Fatherhood

August 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Articles

We’re not sure how we missed this one, but it’s never too late to celebrate Black fatherhood or a hip hop single that breaks Daddy love down so you feel the power coming through YouTube.  And, even though Saigon isn’t really talking about co-parenting in this testament to his love for his baby girl and commitment to be the best father he can, we’re loving these lyrics:

And it might sound a little bit cliche
But I’m lovin’ you even more each day
And even tho’ me and your mother don’t click
If it’ll benefit you, I’ll do whatever she say

Now, we’re not saying that coparenting equals doing what Mama says, but we’re loving this father for talking about making it work, despite conflict, for the sake of his beautiful daughter.

Thanks to StreetPositive.com for posting this on their Million Father March page where we found it.  And thanks, Saigon, for this tribute to fatherhood and for inspiring us to ask:

What other songs should we feature that talk about Black fatherhood, motherhood and/or talk about co-parenting issues (the good, the bad and the ugly)?

One Million Fathers March their Kids to School

August 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Articles

All over the country, fathers, grandfathers, big brothers and other men who care are descending upon America’s schools with their children on the first day of school.  The Million Father March has become a powerful day on which fathers demonstrate their commitment to their children, their families, and their communities through their massive presence at school.

The Black Star Project, in partnership with local community organizations, sponsors the Million Father March on the first-day-of-school in hundreds of cities across the United States and internationally. An estimated 600,000 men in 475 cities participated last year and the number is expected to grow this year.

Research shows that children whose fathers take an active role in their educational lives earn better grades, score higher on tests, enjoy school more and are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. Additionally, children have fewer behavior problems when fathers listen to and talk with them regularly and are active in their lives. A good father is part of a good parenting team and is critical to creating a strong family structure. Strong family structures produce children who are more academically proficient, socially developed and self-assured. Such children become adults who are valuable assets to their communities.

Participants in the event include fathers, grandfathers, foster fathers, stepfathers, uncles, cousins, big brothers, significant male caregivers and friends of the family. Although this event was created by African-American fathers, women and men of all ethnicities are invited to march their children to school on their first day and to continue to be engaged powerful forces in the academic success of our children.

Contact the Black Star Project at (773)285-9600 or blackstar1000 AT ameritech DOT net for more information on the Million Father March and to find out how you can participate or organize an event in your area.


The Million Father March Pledge for Fathers and Men

I will take my children or a child to school and I will be at a school on the first day to encourage all children to do their best every day at school.

I am responsible for the education of my child.

I will volunteer at my child’s school three times this school year.

I will pick up my child’s progress report or grade report when required.

I will meet with my child’s teachers at least two times this year and support them in educating my child.

I will teach my child the value of family as well as the value of education.

I will mentor my child or a child and I will teach children the values of education and family as well as the value of life.

I will work with my child’s mother or guardian to achieve the best academic and social outcomes for my child even if I do not live with my child.

Fatherhood Freestyle: Speak Up on WeParent.com

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  
Filed under Blogs, Fatherhood Freestyle

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

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