As a parent I believe that there is no greater task than making sure your children are successful. The obvious next question must be asked, what is your definition of success? I would define success as “knowing what you don’t know”, simply I need them to be self-aware. I have a philosophy about how to get them there. Many disagree with me, but I have my parents to thank for their great example. One of the great things my parents did was the gentle subliminal push toward and appreciation of education as the route to achievement. I remember the extra lessons in grade school, and going to the clinic with my mother. I remember helping sterilize the supplies in her delivery bag. What I don’t remember is any discussion of college or which college or even getting better grades.
My parents were very generous with opportunity. They allowed my brothers and I the freedom to decide our interests. Expectations were high but were not overtly discussed. We were required to read aloud at daily devotion. We were not allowed to work outside of the home. Our only responsibility was to complete chores and go to school. We filled our down time by dreaming of the world that could be and taking control of what was around us. We learned to cook, hand wash and iron our clothes. I learned to tailor and one brother learned upholstery. We learned to manage our money, by managing our daily school money. This collection of activities may not seem very significant, but my brothers and I have extraordinarily similar outlook on the world. We believe that our children must be allowed the chance to attain the highest pinnacle of education because they can, not because they must. We believe that our responsibility to our children is paramount and no one comes before them. We may live far apart, but would give the same general answer to 9 out of 10 questions.
We learned from out parents that living the example is more important that showing it. We saw our parents reading and watching the news. We saw their drive to continue their education. We watched them solve problems creatively. They allowed us to explore the world freely but the boundaries were clear.
My view of the world is shaped by my family. My parents and grandparents created an outlook on the world that as given us a never give in attitude. I want to give my girls that same attitude. I will never clip their wings. I will allow them to fly. I will always be there to catch them if needed. I will be supportive. I will provide the means for them to have a platform for success. I will always support my girls, because they are equal to the challenge no matter what it may be.
I thank my village for giving me the strength to allow my princesses to fly.
Having children has changed my life for the better. Having girls has allowed me to see the world through changed eyes. I often do not like what I see, but there is always hope. I am hopeful because I can see strength in my princesses and I can see the world evolving. The change is not as fast as I would like, but change is happening. My princesses have been born into a world where they have access to opportunity and much improved safety. As women of African heritage they have unique challenges and strengths, but mostly they are from a long line imbued with confidence and self-sufficiency.
I continue to be sure of their success because they have great role models. My instinct is to protect them from all that is bad in the world by building a wall around them. My struggle now is to determine the height of that wall. I want them to grow by learning from my successes and failures, but understand they will learn best from their own experiences. All parents have that nervousness, but for a father of a women of African heritage the world is a little different.
My princesses are still innocent to the crazy world and I will protect them from it for as long as possible. They are three and five years-old and their life is changing fast. My five year-old is ready. She is the love of my life and I worry, and I am excited for her. I am ready for her to discover more of what the world as to offer. The world has already expressed their low expectations of her, but like her ancestors before she will perform above and beyond because her corner expects her to be the best. High expectations lead to commensurate performances. I will continue to protect and love her, and be her shield and sword. I am a parent, I am her father and her friend for life. I will always expect more.
It has always been dangerous to be a black man in America and it continues to be. One day it will change but I am not likely to see that day. The most recent expressions of the disregard for my life as been expressed. This was a predictable outcome. Some will be perplexed and angry but for my survival I cannot be. The stress of trying to survive is enough to make me sick but I will continue to be respectful of those who are respectful of me. I will only indulge in practices that will give my family a chance to survive the maze we live in as people of African heritage.
I will not waste my time getting offended by show trials, because I know enough history. Our experience has not changed from sixty years ago, except that there is pretense that it has. The system now provides us with a trial, but will never provide us with a conviction. As a black man I know I am expendable, I know no matter what I think of myself I will always be viewed as less than. My ideas will be disregard, not because they are without merit, but because I am a black man.
In spite of the attempts to steal my life and my ability to progress, I will continue to strive for that 40 acres. I will not be intimidated nor will I allow my daughters or my nephews to be. No one needs to tell me that I am as good. I know I am better that most. I know I can compete. I know that my family will continue to compete and win. I know this because it is what my grandparents made me believe. I know because it is how my parents lived. I know I am equal because Darwin is correct. We have survived in spite of the attempts to eradicate us, because the fit will survive.
The opportunities provided by the American system are numerous and we must take advantage of them. Academic, professional or financial successes are no guarantee of survival or respect, but these are the routes to continued survival. I will always be distrusted by the majority, but I will not allow the small-minded and backward to derail my goals. I will not get angry and fulfill their ideas of me. I will channel my anger, because in the long view of history we have won.
I am a father, what now? I hope you have asked yourself that question at least once. Furthermore, I hope you have gotten an answer that works for you. As a son I thought that Father’s Day was a time to acknowledge all the things that my father has done and continues to do for me. Now that I am a father I have a clearer vision of what Father’s Day should be about.
Firstly it truly takes a village, for no man is an island. So, I have to give thanks to all the father figures in my life. Many have passed on but their influence on me is forever. From them I learnt how to be respectful to women. I learnt the meaning and virtue of hard work and the joys of setting and achieving a goal. Most importantly I learnt that as a father my most important asset is my family. I learnt that I must value my wife and treat her well. Why? Because my example is the treatment my daughters will look for in a partner. If you want good things for your children treat their mother like the queen she is. Be a good example for your children.
Being a father to daughters I strive to be their rock and example. I take Father’s Day as the once a year when I look at my performance and honestly grade myself on how well I am doing my duty as a father. My job as a father to daughters is to make sure my girls are strong successful women. I cannot guarantee anything, but I can do my duty well and give them the skills needed to navigate the choppy waters of life. That sir is your duty. Happy Father’s Day dads. Take your kids out and show them a good time. Create some memories.