A few days ago, my husband and I were having dinner with the family in a particular Ashville, North Carolina restaurant, when our two-year-old had a diaper disaster that required the skills, patience, and compromise that took both of us to remedy. While we worked quickly to clean up the baby, and get him into fresh clothing before the line at the bathroom door grew even longer, I realized that the pair of us make an awesome team. Yes, team. For far too long, in terms of parenting, a mother is regarded more than the father. Fathers are usually regarded as one of two things. They are either not a factor, or the “reserve” parent. We know more than we want to about the “not-a-factor” factor. I am not speaking about those who have passed on, because regardless of the length of time they have spent in the lives of their children, they have indeed impacted their lives. These fathers will always remain in the hearts of their children. When I speak of a father who is not a factor, I mean the one who fathers the baby, but does not stick around for the responsibility of parenting. This seems to be so common, that some single mothers feel compelled to be honored for both Mother’s and Father’s Day. Personally, I respond to that philosophy with a resounding, “No ma’am!” While we understand and acknowledge the challenges of being a single mother, they need not submit themselves to being the father too. A mother is not a father. She cannot instill in that child what only a man can teach. And for mothers who do not recognize the importance of man’s presence, they are doing their child a disservice. And to this end, I implore single mothers, if there is no father in your child’s life, please find them a positive male influence, pronto!
And then celebrate them on Father’s Day.
The reserve parent is what society thinks fathers are. It is like winning a beauty pageant. Like In the event the mother is unable to perform her duties as parent, the father takes her place. Um no. That’s not what I was taught about fatherhood. My father is not the reserve parent. He’s the co-parent. Sure mom picked out my clothes, styled my hair, and taught me how to be a young lady, but so did Dad. In equal measure. Sure, they fell into certain roles concerning our upbringing, but if my mother was not awake when Dad and I headed out into early morning, my father could get me washed, dressed, and do a mean Afro puff. No problem. Because of my father and his strong example of love, nurturing, and discipline, I was able to pick the perfect father for my own children who instill the same values. My husband is cooking meals, hosing down kids, and picking out hair. And outfits. He’s also teaching life lessons, math problems, and answering questions. He’s tossing the ball around and playing tic, tac, toe. My children are blessed to have their dad. And to him, I wish a Happy Father’s Day. And in the spirit of The Village, I am also grateful for their grandfathers, uncles, godfathers, teachers, mentors, and friends who are positive influences in their lives. To them, I also extend a Happy Father’s Day. And thank you, Daddy. I learned what a father is from you.
So as our son left that restaurant restroom clean and happy, I knew that it was due in part, to his dad. I am not alone in raising him. And for that, I am grateful.