It is 5:30 and two of my children are awake. On most mornings, they wake up at 6:00 to get ready for school, but today they decided to make an earlier than normal appearance. As I took a break from my writing and raised my right leg to kick the air, my middle child asks me, “Are you trying to be the Black Panther?”
“No,” I said. But then I started to think about one of the positive messages the film offers fathers.
I want to share the brief story of how I went to see the film without my partner. If you have not seen Director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, keep reading—this is not a spoiler alert.
Last Friday, shortly after the film opened, I asked my wife to come with me to the movies. She was interested but said she didn’t want to see Black Panther for a week. After all the positive messages I received about Marvel’s latest film, I decided that it would be impossible for me to wait. I was impatient.
To invest in my marriage, I make time each week to have breakfast with my partner at a local cafe.
Our breakfast dates often occur on Mondays. They give us a moment to talk without our cell phones or computers as interference. Making this time for each other has made a significant and positive impact in our relationship. With the opening of the Black Panther film, I not only offered our routine breakfast date, but I offered to take her to the movies.
My wife is not a fan of action or science fiction films, so she was not in a rush to watch a superhero movie about a man who dresses like a wild cat to defend a wealthy country in the African continent. With awareness of my partner’s interests, I decided to do what I believed was best. I called a family friend, and we saw it together last Monday.
Overall, I enjoyed the film. I’ve read some analysis of direct and indirect messages that the film conveys in regards to racism, #toxicmasculinity, the CIA, and Pan-Africanism. I agree with several of these insights and re-posted critical race theorist Kimberle Crenshaw’s review to my Facebook wall. However, the purpose of this post is to share with you a message that I found applicable to fatherhood.
There is a scene in the film where a leader shares a brief dialogue with his father. The son asks his dad for advice with regards to his newly-acquired responsibilities. The exchange they share is profound, as it relates to the achievement of success in fatherhood.
In an alternative universe, the son questions whether he is ready to assume his father’s previous leadership role.
His dad replies, “A man that has not prepared his own children for his death has failed as a father. Have I ever failed you?”
“No,” his son responds.
In this brief dialogue, the father affirms his son’s readiness to serve as a leader. As a man who is a father to three children, this scene in the film resonates with me.
I work every day to provide for my children and to teach them how they can become their best selves. Sure, I have my moments when I’m exhausted from work and don’t feel up to taking my children to the park or kicking the soccer ball back and forth for an hour. However, frequently I push through those moments of fatigue and do it anyway. My goals as a father include having a consistent physical and socioemotional presence in the lives of my children.
Mindful time with a child is the most precious gift that a father can provide.
I don’t say this to ostracize fathers who may be absent from the everyday activities of their children. There are valid obstacles that can prevent a man from being the father he desires to be. I do want to affirm that Black Panther can offer some insight into defining success for fathers. I also share these thoughts to encourage men who are fathers to find more value in parenthood.
I plan to see Black Panther again—this time with my wife and children. As I watch, I’m sure I will find other applicable scenes to my journey into authentic manhood.
If you saw the film, what resonated with you? Leave a comment!
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