“For many of us, our fathers show us by the example they set the kind of people they want us to become. Whether biological, foster, or adoptive, they teach us through the encouragement they give, the questions they answer, the limits they set, and the strength they show in the face of difficulty and hardship.”
– President Barack Obama
I love that quote. I love the idea behind it. Only tricky thing is, I didn’t grow up with a father.
Over the years, I did however have different men in my life who somewhat took on a dad role.
Some I am forever grateful for. Some I could’ve done without.
So Father’s Day has always had a funny little vibe about it for me.
This Father’s Day however is special in many ways.
Firstly, this year I’ve begun looking for my biological dad. Not because I suddenly feel the need to have someone called daddy in my life – that ship has sailed a long time ago – but because I am on a journey of reconciling my past, history, heritage and present and knowing him and the connection to those who have come before me matters a great deal. So the idea that I might stand face to face with the man who fathered me some time soon stirs all sorts of emotions this Father’s Day.
Secondly, on this journey of trying to find my dad I’ve been thinking a lot about the narrative around fatherhood. My generation has been called the ‘fatherless’ generation. We’ve talked about the lack of dads, father figures, role models and so forth, for decades now. And don’t get me wrong, it’s all true.
However, the opposite is true too.
I came across this quote by Will Smith and it really summarized what I have been feeling in this context:
“There’s so much negative imagery of black fatherhood. I’ve got tons of friends that are doing the right thing by their kids, and doing the right thing as a father – and how come that’s not as newsworthy?” Will Smith
Now I know this speaks of black fatherhood in particular, but I think it’s universally true. We keep painting this negative image of dads. Their failures, their absence, the hardship of being a dad and so forth and then we are surprised at the response. ‘Cool, if this is who you say we are, that’s who we’ll be’
(I know I’ve just dramatically simplified mis-representation, media influence and society shaping mechanisms, but you get what I’m trying to say!)
Like it says in the quote though, there ARE amazing dads and we should start celebrating and highlighting them. We should start upholding the images of the dad we know our brothers, sons, uncles and friends CAN be.
We need to start encouraging the men in our lives to want to be dads, tell them that we’ll be on the journey with them and that we don’t have an expectation of perfection.
So this Father’s Day I’m thinking of the amazing men in my life who are dads or I know will one day be dads.
I celebrate and honor my grandfather who – in the face of adversity and doubts embraced me, his mixed raced born out of wedlock grand daughter (at the time that was a bigger deal than you think) and loved me unconditionally. Was he perfect? No, but no one is. He loved me as best as he could, he provided for me, he taught me the things he knew, shared his beliefs and laid a foundation of faith in my life. And he showed me by how he loved, cared for and honored my grandmother, how a man should treat a woman.
I think of my brother who – although like me growing up without a dad – is the best to be around kids. Seeing him with little ones makes me excited for when he’s a dad one day. I know that he will be kind, caring and present. He’ll be their hero, their rock and he’ll be honest about his mistakes. So I honor him in advance for the amazing father he is going to be one day.
I honor my friends – too many to name here – who are already on this journey of fatherhood. I watch you love your babies and honor your women and sometimes that moves me to tears because it makes me so hopeful. I watch you balance being a provider and present dad, watch you make mistakes and apologise for them, watch you take others under your wing whilst you’re still trying to figure it out and it makes me confident that: not only can we be hopeful for the future but we can be confident that the seed that is down today will come to flourishon without a doubt.
And I honor those men in my life who aren’t dads yet but who choose to be role models and mentors to those younger than them. You are being brothers, uncles even fathers to a generation that could easily be written off. You are changing the narrative.
You are making history.
So for those of you out there who don’t have dads or don’t have a good relationship with your dad, why not today celebrate the men in your lives who are awesome.
Let’s change the narrative.
Happy Father’s Day!