Sunday will be my first Father’s Day since the divorce was finalized.
I’m in a good place mentally, these days.
Life is good.
After I removed myself from the household, my first thought wasn’t of my marriage, it was about the well-being of my daughter, and the fear of being the stereotypical single, black man.
Will I miss milestones in her life?
Will she cry for me?
Most importantly, would she remember me?
And black fatherhood, or the perceived lack thereof, is often politicized by forces within and not of our community.
After all, I grew up in a two-parent household.
I wanted my daughter to have everything I had growing up and then some. I had a lot, and when it became apparent that things weren’t going as I planned, I believed I failed my daughter in a way that my father never failed me. After working through my feelings of anger, sadness and regret, along with getting advice from family who had been through the same, I realized that I had to get out of my own way to be the best father I could possibly be.
And there were many rough days and nights.
I knew I had to put up a brave front for my daughter. I was secretly hurting, and I didn’t want her to see that. One of things I vowed to never do is project my anger onto to her. I’m not a religious man, but I’ve taken a liking to the Serenity Prayer. The part about “accepting the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference,” is something I constantly think about.
After all, children can sense when something is off.
Being a father in an industry, journalism, that remains uncertain is a circumstance that is not for the timid.
It has strengthened my resolve.
My role as a father and my career are the two most important things to me, and my focus has never waned.
Growing up, my father would give me a constant reminder about finding my place in world.
He would say “Always bring something to the table.”
It wasn’t until recently that I fully understood what he meant. I think he meant that being a stand-up person in your home and in society is what matters most. I believe that he was preparing how to deal with failure while bouncing back from it.
These days, my time with her is filled with reading books, teaching her how to roller skate and potty training. Just the other day, I was writing in my home office when she walked in and handed me her Big Bird doll. It was completely soaked. Of course, I had questions, comments and concerns. I later discovered that she put Big Bird and the clothes I had laid out for her that day in a bucket of water I had completely forgotten about.
One of my favorites tracks from South Side native Common isn’t one of his traditional songs. It was when his father Lonnie Lynn would have a guest appearance on some of his early albums.
Those interludes were called “Pop’s Rap.”
One of those interlude hit me pretty hard on one of those days when I realized my daughter was changing before my eyes, while being a father. Like him, I was mad at the world, while keeping my wits about me as a dad.
“And one morning you looked across the table at me, it was like,
What? Whatchu’ gon’ be? Whatchu’ gon’ do? You got the responsibility to teach me the right things. You got the responsibility to teach me truth and respect and love, and safety You know? And my knees started gettin’ a little stronger, you know? I said, cause I can’t get past these eyes man, it’s just the eyes of a babe looking at me And I couldn’t look it off, I couldn’t even play it off, you know? And immediately I started gettin’ the road maps seein’ like how am I gon’ do this?
When I first laid eyes on my daughter, I whispered in her ear, “No matter what you do or where you go, daddy loves you very much.”
I need my daughter, and she needs me.
Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen!
You are my heroes.