My father taught me to be ‘a complete person’

My mother gave me the gift of books and reading. My father taught me how to season food and clean the kitchen as I cook. And I’m never too old to be given advice.

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Natalie Y. Moore, as an infant being held by her father, Joe Moore Jr.

Photo provided by Natalie Y. Moore

Back in 1987, my father briefly extended my bedtime. As a fifth grader, I was allowed to stay up to watch “Eyes on the Prize,” the epic PBS miniseries about the Civil Rights Movement.

At first, I was more excited about staying up past 8 p.m. — a treat previously extended only so I could watch Kim Fields in “The Facts of Life” — than I was about the documentary. But I knew the miniseries must’ve been important to get a bedtime amnesty. I watched, in disbelief, the old black-and-white news footage of Black Americans being hosed by the police and having dogs sicced on them as they fought for equality and justice.

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I hold this memory of my father, Joe Moore Jr., close. It speaks to his desire that I possess racial pride and know our people’s history. When I think of my dad and the lessons he has taught me, I don’t think about him in the context of laying the groundwork for my romantic relationships. I think about him wanting me to be a well-rounded person.

I used to laugh at Chris Rock’s standup comedy routine that his only job as a father was to guarantee that his daughter didn’t end up on the pole as a stripper. That punchline is not so funny anymore; and it’s an old trope. It’s akin to when any woman who experiences relationship troubles is labeled as having “daddy issues.”

Our culture also talks about “daddy-daughter dates” in a way that privileges the relationship as a precursor to future heterosexual partnerships. Far too many wisecracks circulate about dads gripping a shotgun to protect their daughters from suitors.

While this so-called protectiveness is seen as a way to elevate fatherhood, I think it actually diminishes the role of dads by pigeonholing them.

Research shows that children are emotionally and physically healthier when they have supportive parents, including dads. And two Black therapists are pushing back on some of the accepted norms that stifle father-daughter relationships.

“The problem of fathers treating their daughters like a queen is that is not the only thing she’s observing,” Sheehan Fisher, a professor and psychologist at Northwestern University who studies gender equality, told me.

Daughters, he said, are also watching how their dads interact with their female partners, which has an impact on their future relationships.

The stripper-dad tropes bug Fisher, too. A hyper-protectiveness of women’s and girl’s sexuality, he said, has a negative impact on women’s sexual and personal development as they get older.

“Because from an early age they’re taught they don’t have full ownership of their sexuality,” he said. “I hear enough stories from female patients they have to hide how sexual they are. That transfers from father to partner because they don’t have the right to their sexuality because it’s monitored by men.”

Rabiatu Barrie, a professor and psychologist at Adler University, said the familiar advice that a woman shouldn’t be with a man who does not treat her as her father would creates a damaging expectation. A father’s job isn’t to be intimate. His job as a parent is to set boundaries, instill morals and send a positive message.

“We try to make a parallel between [fathers and partners,]” Barrie said. “It’s not the romance — it’s the support, love and nurturance that makes her a well-rounded human and adjusted.”

She recalled as a child hanging out with her dad as he paid bills and then going to McDonald’s with him. A simple hangout, in which her dad gave her his undivided attention, was important. And not calling it a “date.”

We pick up various lessons from our parents, no matter the family. My mother gave me the gift of books and reading. My father taught me how to season food and clean the kitchen as I cook.

My father and I would hang out on the stairs to have special talks when I was a kid. We went to Bulls games, diners for breakfast and Carson Pirie Scott to Christmas shop. My father introduced me to the works and life of Malcolm X.

Today, my father celebrates my accomplishments by sending emails to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition in true dad-bragging fashion.

And I’m never too old for a lecture or advice.

This Father’s Day, I’ll celebrate him and our relationship. He kept his eyes on the prize by raising me to be a complete person.

Natalie Moore is a reporter for WBEZ.org.

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