Dads and their children

William T. Robinson, Jr.

There is no question that most men have always loved their children and played an important part in their social, emotional and educational development. I allude to a relationship that starts at birth, is carefully nurtured during the formative years, and then set (whether good or bad) by their teenage and adult life.

Unfortunately, circumstances have not always made it possible for many men to be a staple in their children’s lives. There are too many factors accountable for this absence of a lifelong bond, be it lack of a father in their lives, immaturity, finances, or bad relations between the father and baby’s mother. Be that what it may, most fathers have an inherent love for their children that is not manifested always in a tangible and collaborative bond. Saying you love someone and not being there to show that love has lifelong consequences for the child as well as for the father.

‘Hands-on’ fathers are becoming more prevalent in many families, especially in African American families where discriminating factors and ever-impending stereotypes continue to work to alienate or destroy the Black family as we know it. Regardless of ever-present discouraging circumstances, many Black men continue to exceed expectations and meet the requirements required to be a commendable loving hands-on father.

You have only to look around and see more fathers in public venues (stores, libraries, schools, parks, and restaurants) with their children devoid of the mother’s presence. Remember a time when society set parental roles wherein mothers spent time rearing the children while the fathers’ primary role was as a provider. Now, there are more doting fathers seen publically. Often their children seem joined to them at the hip. These are fathers who don’t hesitate to love and give their children (especially their boys) affection. Men usually shunned openly displayed affection in the past.

Many older adults, especially in the Black community, can remember when it was taboo for their fathers to openly show signs of affection—whether at home or in public toward their sons. Girls were more often openly shown signs of affection, such as hugs and kisses, from their fathers. They were constantly told they were loved, but many fathers felt it was uncomfortable and unmanly to shown open signs of affection to their sons. They felt that being in the home and working as a provider was significant enough to show they loved or cared about their sons.

Another factor attributed to not showing too much affection to a son concerned homophobia. The African American community, for the most part, felt any outward sign of affection (like telling a son you loved him) contributed to a son having homosexual tendencies. This outlook and practice was unfortunate. These African American boys needed love and affirmation from their fathers in a world that was not always so kind to them. This traditional practice fostered by so many fathers in the past created men incapable or reluctant to manifest the inherent love their sons needed. A show of affection would have enhanced the father/son bond and would have made their sons more caring, loving and responsible parents themselves.

Thank God young fathers today seem to have broken the detrimental generational practices that in the past have kept some fathers from giving their sons the love and assurance they need to be productive, loving and caring men in a world that doesn’t always have their backs.

A whole generation of older men should be appreciative of the young fathers who have stepped up to the plate and chosen to offer their sons (as well as their daughters) much needed affection and support letting them know they are unapologetically loved and appreciated.

As a young man growing up, a hug, a kiss on the forehead, or an open expression of “I love you son” would have gone a long way in bonding with my own father. Knowing what I needed and missed as a young man made me more responsive in giving these things to my two sons.

I know I am not alone in my feelings and hopefully have expressed the feelings of a multitude of fathers of my generation. Culturally, their fathers were taught not to manifest physical or verbal affectionate toward their sons. Fathers today seem to have finally gotten it right in building a much needed, loving fatherly bond with their sons—a bond that was previously only expressed between fathers and daughters.