We are generations of men raised by women. For years I’ve been doing work, and writing, and putting on shows about and talking to children of the fatherless tribe, and what I’ve learned in all of this is CHILDREN OF THE FATHERLESS TRIBE LOVE DIFFERENTLY. They LEARN differently.
These children, us children, learn to be who we are in spite of who was not there to teach us. We promise ourselves we won’t be like him.
When I found out I was going to be a father, I was a student in college. After blaming my bad nerves on a defective pregnancy test and realizing this was real, I went to the nearest bookstore and purchased three books on fatherhood. They sat on the table in my shoebox sized apartment unread. I’ve known men who have done this over and over and never needed a book. Why would I?
The first thing said to us was this: if it is a boy, you’re only giving birth to an individual. But if it is a girl, and pray it isn’t, you’re giving birth to a nation. I was 22 and not prepared for a nation. These nations, these girls require more. Not only would I need to keep an eye on her, I’d need to keep an eye on those little boys who would remind me of me at their age. Everything I know about boys, she’d know about boys. Everything I think I know about women, she’d know about women. She wouldn’t be one of these girls of the social media age who constantly remind us on their facebook status of how much they distrust men. She’d know at least two who she’d be able to trust: me and the man she’d take as a husband. With nations, plans have to be laid, what we plant must be watered, and buildings, no matter how old, must be cared for. I was not prepared for a nation at 22.
But what was I prepared for? I was 22 and hadn’t yet learned to tie a tie. I came from the generation of men who were raised by women who couldn’t quite find the time between the feedings and the burpings and tears when college came. But as a man, and as a son, I wished someone had known how important it was for me to learn to tie a tie. It didn’t just mean that I could now walk into offices and restaurants and receive smiles from those who would have been otherwise nervous. What it meant to me then, and I still hold loosely to this, is that men knew how to tie neckties. I was not a man. My father had not taught me to be a man. Thank god for the internet. I learned to tie a tie on google before my son came.
So I see this head coming, and then the rest of his little body, and I could now put a face to all of my thoughts. He was perfect. And the first thing I said to him was “You are going to be great.” I stared at him for hours not knowing if what I said next needed to be as profound. It didn’t, but it needed to be important. I needed everything I said after that to be important. So I started writing him letters on anything I could find and placing them in his baby book.
I will raise my child. He will be a man raised by a man. He will define manhood for himself slightly based off the good he’s seen in me. I will teach him these things:
*Always tell your children everything will be alright even when they know it won’t. They will not think you are a liar, but a father.
*When you get to an age where my shadow is too overbearing, just ask me to move over a few feet.
*The greatest gift a father can give is belief, and I will believe in you.
*I am your father and I will hug you whenever I want.
I am a man raised by great women. These women guaranteed I would not become the man who would teach his children based on the wrongdoings he’s done. I am not him. I know that man. I have grown to love that man, but I am not that man. There must be recognition for the influence our parents play in our life, whether we see it as positive or negative, whether they were present or not.
I am not that man to tell my children how to live. I simply live, and let them watch me. They will learn to love differently, but not ineffectively. They will hold me accountable as I hold them accountable and we will all be great.
So where do we go from here? We become those fathers in movies who we never believed existed. We ask our friends who have not lived up to their fatherly duties “when’s the last time you talked to your kids?” We hold them accountable. We become a village of men who raise men and women along with the women who’ve been doing it for years.
Can a woman raise a man alone? Yes. But she shouldn’t have to.