There’s enough negativity surrounding fatherhood-particularly Black Fatherhood-that more needs to be spoken either in positive or at least for pragmatic purposes.
The assumption made by ignorant, hateful people who often have poor relationships with their own fathers is that so-called “Deadbeat Dads” are all men who just don’t care about their children.
My assumption in creating this is that even some of the fathers who have been labeled “Deadbeat Dads” really want to be better fathers to their children. Some of them are being prevented from seeing their children and some of them simply don’t know what to do in a challenging situation.
Since we have been bombarded with negative information about fathers that does nothing to make things better, I want to deliver my contribution to the discussion to make things easier for fathers who want to be present in the lives of their children. After that, more mothers need to be open…
In another top ten list, here are my Top Ten Recommendations for Fathers:
With any job, the goal is always perfect attendance. When you show up every day, there will always be work getting done. Even if you have no idea what you are doing, keep showing up. In fatherhood, most of what happens without you knowing it is the modeling and the loving. Aside from that, when you show up consistently, you will figure out a great deal of what is necessary, and what you are uncertain of, you will find out from the people you begin to ask. Showing up means that you find a way to incorporate the child into your life whenever possible. Also, when you show up every day, the mother and the child become accustomed to your presence and it will be difficult to excise you from their world.
2.Honor your child’s mother.
You may be angry and think she’s a low down dirty bag of crap, but remember, you screwed her and got her pregnant, so try as hard as you can to be nice with the goal of getting her to be as civil as possible and maybe even a friend. Never refer to her as a “Baby Mama,” its ignorant and your child deserves a mother who is respectable-that begins with you. Remember that she is the vessel your child came through to enter the world and your child will more than likely always love her. Refer to the three of you as family, because both of you are related to the child. Take all three of you on breakfast and/or dinner outings. Take meals to her place and/or invite her to your place for meals. Include her in as many family events as possible, and if she wants to go out or otherwise have alone time, make certain she knows that you can be counted on, instead of always relying on a babysitter or daycare. If you get a new woman in your life, the new woman must be able to deal with knowing your child has a mother that won’t be going away. She must know that your family comes first, especially if she hopes to become a part of that family. As a man, you can actually manage the conflict between the two women by letting each one know what their role is, and then remain consistent and honest.
3.Pay half right at the start.
My motto is” “If you support your child, you don’t have to pay Child Support.” Establish what the actual expenses will be for the new child and create an agreement to pay half of those expenses. Some mothers really just want to share the burden, as oppose to foisting it all on you. Just as we are not all deadbeat dads, they don’t all want to financially rape and pillage. However, if she is all about pillaging your financial village, find legal resources to shore yourself up. A good attorney for counsel is always best. But there isn’t always room in the budget for good counsel, so look for other resources. A local law school may have a legal clinic using third year law students, or look online for an independent free legal clinic. -but be careful, some of them charge as attorneys would even though they are not attorneys, such as My Child Says Daddy in Los Angeles, a true huckster organization. You pay them to advocate for you and then you may still end up needing an attorney after they leave you high and dry. Also, there are men’s rights associations (MRA’s) popping up all over the nation who will advise and advocate for the rights of fathers.
4.Look your child in the eye.
Your child makes connections with other humans very early. One of the first ways is through eye contact, along with human warmth (hugs and holding) and nurturing (feeding). When your child begins to find your eyes, look into his/her eyes as much as possible.
5.Feed your child.
From the very beginning, children bond with parents who nurture them, which includes feeding. If your child is being breastfed, get a breast pump and begin feeding the child from a bottle. And, again, make certain to look your child in the eye when feeding him.
6.Less baby talk, more real talk-right from the beginning.
This also includes talking to allow your child to hear your voice. Talk to the child while still in the womb. If you can sing, do so. If you can’t sing, hum. The rhythm of your voice will become familiar to the child who will be calmed by it once in the world. This is yet another way to bond with your child early. Baby talk may be cute, but when you speak to your child calmly, but in real language, he will learn to understand real words as well as vocal inflections sooner. Sing the ABC’s instead of some ignorant rap song and the results will become apparent as your child grows.
7. Be the adult you want your child to become.
With every action you take, keep in mind that your child is watching and taking notes. What you do in front of your child, your child may end up doing in front of the world. The old adage “do as I say, not as I do” only works when a child is old enough to reason with. Before that, it’s all about doing as they see. Modeling loving behavior, especially will teach your child how to love and allow her to grow into a better human being.
8. Hug your child and say “I Love You,” even before your child begins to speak.
The Hale House in New York City was started for AIDS babies who were abandoned by their parents. Beautiful human beings including Sista Soulja and Roxanne Shante would show up just to hug the babies, otherwise, they would have developed severe attachment disorders, which children of disease or substance abuse typically do. Make certain to give your child the milk of human kindness at every turn. At eighteen months, my son can already say “I love you,” and loves to kiss and hug. He’s a very happy baby.
9. Make certain your child knows his/her family.
Of course, you want your child to get to know your family, but your child’s family consists of her mother’s family members as well. Make certain to include them in whatever big plans you make, including birthday parties. Strong relationships with your child’s mother’s side of the family can help foster better relations between your child’s mother and yourself.
10. Make huge changes in your life.
Move to be near his mother so the exchange won’t be so burdensome. Stop dating for a while so that your child is the focus. Change your work schedule if possible, to spend more time with your child. Create more down time so that you can sit with your child, even if you have no clue what to do. Spend time with other fathers.
Far too many people in this nation have “daddy” issues. Why add your child to that number? Studies show that there are fewer behavior problems when a father is present.
Fatherhood is challenging and can be difficult at times, but so is life. If your father was less than stellar, strive to be more. If your father was a good father, you owe it to him to deliver that to your own child. But more importantly, you owe your child the best that you can give so that the world has one less screwed up human being.
There are my top ten-add to them as you see fit. But do so based on real life situations, not fantasy based on anger or emptiness.
Happy Father’s Day–which is when? Everyday!
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge,” available now at DarrylJames.com He released his first mini-movie, “Crack,” and this year, will release his first full-length documentary. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at firstname.lastname@example.org.