Kenneth Braswell believes that while we grapple with the realities of father absence, we must also elevate a conversation that celebrates the critical importance of fathers.
We are now passed the part of the year when we turn our focus and attention to the contributions of fathers. Increasingly, each year around Fathers Day we find ourselves in discussions and debate on the validity of fathers and their roles as parents. Unfortunately, the negative conjuncture of father absence plays an all too big role in the way society views fathers. So much so, that it has become easier and normalized to devalue dads on Father’s Day than it is to celebrate and honor them. It is a painful rejection of the vast and important contributions fathers make to the raising of their children.
With all of the great messages that Fathers Incorporated generates and the media’s positive focus on celebrating fatherhood, why do I feel guilty about being a father on Fathers Day of all days? One could argue that Fathers Day sparks a dialog about the issue of father absence that we ignore 364 days a year only to be debated on the one day dedicated to honoring fathers. If I’m in one more church service, program, interview or conversation that someone utters the words “Happy Fathers Day to all the Mothers holding it down,” I believe I’m going lose my mind, but I digress!
In my work around responsible fatherhood, the task of finding balance in the discussion is difficult. While on one hand we must grapple with the realities of father absence and all of the repercussions of fatherlessness, we must also elevate a conversation that celebrates the critical importance of fathers.
I am always overwhelmed by the kind words and recognition of the efforts of Fathers Incorporated. Yet, at the same time, intrigued and perplexed by the notion that many feel guilty about celebrating dads without in the same breathe honoring moms. It’s so deep that even fathers themselves denounce their own value as fathers and men.
In a recent article on the Huffington Post, Being ‘Motherful’ for Father’s Day by Ernest Owens, I read–in agony–the musing of a young black man who contributed his entire existence (as honorable as it may be) to his mother, as if no man has ever contributed anything to his manhood. In addition, he was dismissing the fact that one day, he too might become a father, to which his value as a parent-–if you take him at his word—would be irrelevant compared to that of the mother of his children.
I shared the article with a good friend, and he had some valuable insights: “Academic, monetary, and other worldly measures are areas where individuals with un-reconciled father absence issues tend to overcompensate…Relationship experts, the media, and celebrities rarely discuss how the void of paternal involvement manifests in people and how it navigates their behaviors and overall world views. What’s worse is they also fail to discuss forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing…I think the hardest part of this discourse is that it is so emotionally charged…People who have suffered from a lack of father involvement and nurturing become entrenched in maladaptive psycho-social coping mechanisms that cloud any guidance, direction, or coaching that is offered—such attempts are immediately dismissed as judgmental, denigrating, or as a malicious assault…And while the author is well versed and accomplished as a young man, the metrics by which we measure interpersonal success are generally too elusive for individuals rationalizing fatherlessness in the manner he has…”
Someone reading this article now has forgotten everything I said in the first few paragraphs. That’s ok, because I know that some folks will read this with an eye toward debate rather than reconciliation. Also, someone will read into this the possibility that my frustration might be speaking to the way I view my own manhood or desire to denounce the critical contribution of my own mother to my life. God forbid there is actually some measure of truth to what I’m trying to convey.
I hold secure to the fact that my children love who I am as their father. I am also quite comfortable in my value as a co-parent with the mothers of my children. Yet, even with this level of support and confidence, as a father I still cringe at the fact that fathers means so little to far too many people in our society; people who are angry and in pain from a personal or parental relationship, and that is the real target for their insatiable need to debate and downplay the importance of fathers as parents.
I heard someone say “you can only ever be the second best me; so why not spend your time being the best you.” I have the best wife and mothers of my children in the world, but I can only be the best father I can for them. There is nothing in my abilities, biology, desire, or spirit that I can call on to be their mother. Period.
Picture provided by author