There was a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics that reflected that “by most measures, black fathers are just as involved with their children as other dads in similar living situations—or more so…” Now, I’m sure your next thought or question is what are the “situations” referred to? When they polled these individuals, unbeknownst to me they decided to survey those that were not living in the homes with their kids versus those that are living with their kids (black fathers won in almost every category with regards to participating in daily routines and activities with the children). My immediate question and inner thought was, but what about the fathers (like me) that fall under both categories?
My kid lives with me (according to the courts) “one week on, and one week off.” I have (and fought extremely hard over the years for) complete shared custody; both legal and physical, which means he technically lives with both of us ( his mother and I) even though we reside in two separate homes. I am proud to say that I have faithfully been there for him and remain actively involved with his life every step of the way, from the womb to today’s date down to the minute. To be clear, I am not with his mother, and that makes me a single father. I think I’ve done a fantastic job in being a role model for him, and as a single black father trying his best to co-parent and raise my wonderfully and beautifully made black boy, I’d like to share six of the many ways that I’ve been able to richly enhance his life and the direct results of such from my end of the parenting spectrum. Though the media’s narrative doesn’t always reflect it, the black father is so important to the life of the black son and daughter, and after reading these six steps, I’m sure that if properly applied, another father can do the same as I have done and continue to reflect our equally important roles in their lives.
- Academically: Making sure he’s not only aligned with where he should be for his respective grade level, but as a black boy making sure he stays ABOVE the requirements. My son and I have achieved this by constantly reviewing homework and practicing in each subject area daily. As his father, I’ve remained actively involved in his education, being in contact with his teacher (via email, parent teacher’s conferences, and in-person), and reading various books to him exposing him to a variety of subjects; sometimes outside of what the schools are teaching. Additionally, make sure he participates in various school activities.
*Results: He’s always read at almost two grade levels higher than his peers. He also has much better language skills than his peers.
- Socially– In raising a black boy as a single black father, I make sure he’s fully educated socially. We don’t just watch Sponge Bob or action-packed fighting movies, I also make sure he watches CNN with me and we also watch Shark Tank. Whilst watching Shart Tank we discuss the products and I break down to him the business aspects of the show. We’ve attended Black Lives Matter events at the local university here in Richmond, VA, Virginia Commonwealth University, hosted by the actual BLM founders. He also attends poetry events regularly, rallies with me, etc.
*Results: He’s able to have educated dialogue about social injustice with others and not sound ignorant or feel left out. He’s also able to fully function amongst diverse backgrounds…part of that was the choice in schools that was also made as a parent…making sure he attends mixed and culturally conscious schools.
- Faith– We pray together, I try to do so every night that he’s with me. We attend church together every Sunday. As a father, I try to use everything possible as a teaching moment-as far as life, in general, and to reference the Most High. We’ve attended bible studies. He attends children’s church. I work on building his faith, and even make him aware of why black people’s faith levels are so much stronger due to our historically innate resiliency.
*Results: That boy can pray! He’s in tune to God’s awesome word. He loves to worship, loves church and can talk openly about his faith. For example, here he is speaking to Sway Calloway at VCU-and he’s not ashamed to love and follow God. Amen.
- Engaging and Empowering: As a black father raising a young black boy, I HAVE to be and remain engaged and highly involved in his life; all while empowering him and building his life acumen. You’ve all seen the statistics, he’s almost doomed if I’m not doing so. Additionally, I’ve noticed throughout my years of living that society dooms him from the beginning as soon as they see that I’m not (maybe it’s the notice that we already begin with two strikes, I don’t know). I have to physically be there, actively be there, consciously be there, help him to discover and activate his talents, and give my undivided attention to him and all that he brings.
*Results: WE are closer. He comes and confides in me as his father. He trusts me more now than ever. Also, he hardly has any problems (school, mental health, behavioral), and I believe it’s due to being fully engaged.
- Inquisitiveness: I teach him to be inquisitive; more than an average 10 year-old boy would naturally be; “go beyond that son” is what I tell him. Ask the questions others are afraid to ask. Ask them in different ways. Dare to be different.”
*Results: He gains more insight, knowledge, and boldness. He’s learned more outside of what’s taught due to this.
- Identity Awareness: Fathers, spend time with your child; set the example. As his father, I’m the one that’s supposed to teach him to be a man. We discuss the role of a man, the importance of knowing who you are, being able to always improve, as a man standing by your word/promises, the importance of accountability, and being able to articulate your thoughts/feelings in a healthy manner, etc. Additionally, I try to keep him around family, and also provide a healthy gender identity. Bring him around with me and around other positive males. Lastly, HAVE FUN with your child…Lord knows I do.
*Results: He conducts himself like a well-balanced young man; a young King rather.
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