Zach Rosenberg doesn’t judge Rihanna for going back to Chris Brown, but her situation reminds him of the importance of fathers in their kids’ lives.
So, Rihanna’s back with Chris Brown.
First let me be clear: I’m not here to vilify Rihanna or Chris Brown. That’s too easy. See, I’m a father now, so life isn’t cut-and-dry anymore; everything’s got a process. I have to imagine my own daughter in Rihanna’s place, my own son in Chris Brown’s place. Or maybe the other way around?
Even that’s complicated. I’ve only got a son, so I don’t yet know that unique bond between a father and daughter—and though I will be my son’s good role model in how to treat both men and women, I don’t know if the process changes for fathers of daughters. In some ways, it shouldn’t; I am my child’s protector. I am my child’s educator. I am my child’s blueprint for right living. I am my child’s greatest largest fan and critic.
Removing all of the media fluff and stories about the night Chris Brown hit her (the time we heard about it, at least), I remember a couple of things about Rihanna: On Good Morning America in 2009, Rihanna said that after Brown beat her, it was “humiliating” to admit it and “wrong” of her to go back to him. But she also said that she’s human, and that she’s not perfect. Her idea of love drove her back.
The most revealing thing in that interview, however, was Rihanna’s mention that her father, Ronald Fenty, used to beat her mother. Rihanna said to herself that she’d never date someone like her dad. And yet, here she was.
Then, a couple of years later, Rihanna’s father did an interview in a magazine. He said that he and Rihanna had a bad relationship, and hadn’t talked for a long time. But regardless, Fenty said some incendiary things about Rihanna’s weight, and then called Chris Brown a “nice guy,” saying that everyone’s entitled to making mistakes. “God knows how many I’ve made,” said Fenty.
These are important things to consider. Rihanna’s relationship with her father is broken. She lived her life with the weight of seeing her own father hitting her mother. She swore to herself that she wouldn’t become a victim like that—but did. And then, with all of the pieces of the puzzle right there in front of her, went on back to the man that did it. Multiple times.
Now, maybe just as Rihanna saw herself in her mother, Fenty saw himself in Chris Brown when he said everyone’s entitled to mistakes. And it’s possible that part of Rihanna sees her father in Brown, and that’s why she continues to return to him. It’s also very probable that there’s more to it than all of us have seen on gossip and entertainment sites. I mean, when’s the last time all of your friends (let alone those thousands of people blogging about you) knew every detail of your relationship enough to make an accurate judgement? From the outside, we’re all relationship experts. I know this sounds crazy, but I’m not judging Rihanna for going back to Chris Brown.
Most importantly, I just keep thinking, over and over: what would I do if Rihanna were my daughter? What would I say to her? We say that kids are mirrors and simply reflect what we do—the good and the bad. Well, I’ve got a foul mouth sometimes, and my four year old son certainly repeats the things I say. So, I spend my days attempting to substitute acceptable words and phrases for the bad ones. But, my son also hears me tell my wife that I love her, constantly. My son reflects that back to us too. One day I counted 32 times that my son told me he loves me. As a father, it really is a source of pride to hear your child say something like that so much.
if I had a daughter, I’d do my best to teach her about communication. I might not be able to teach her all of the intricacies of femininity, but I can teach her to ask me anything. I may not know girls, but I know boys. And though I’m a father, a dad blogger, and a pretty smart guy, I might not have every answer that my kids could ask of me. It happens.
So okay, let’s say that Rihanna’s home life wasn’t an ideal place for her to learn how to love and be loved. How else would someone who was in an abusive relationship sing a song to the tune of a children’s rhyme saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me”? Clearly, this is a woman who never was afforded the right talks with her parents.
In a perfect world, fathers realize that the moment their child is born, they have a responsibility to be the man that they want their children to be or to be with. In a perfect world, fathers say all of the right things at the right times, and their children grow up to be strong, independent and emotionally aware. In my perfect world, I’m a father who will be around throughout my children’s lives to guide them and help when things aren’t ideal. That’s the hope, at least.
But things are rarely perfect, and Rihanna, with all of her success in pop music, hasn’t lived in a perfect world. She’s still just a kid in many ways, a little girl with questions. And along with her own life, Rihanna’s been tasked with the responsibility of not destroying our children, too, through her music and actions. She’s in a lose-lose situation: she can either live her own life and look like a fool that’s ignoring what the public deems as right, or she can run herself ragged worrying about what people think. That’s a lot of responsibility. I wouldn’t want my own daughter to be in that place. With the weight of the world on her shoulders, she’d no doubt end up making some bad decisions.
Rihanna was right in 2009—she’s human. And through all of the media noise, we’re watching someone who is “not perfect” (like the rest of us), wondering why she’s making the choices she is. This, however, is my own personal peace on the matter: I can’t worry about someone else’s daughter when I’ve got my own child to raise. So I hope Rihanna finds what she’s looking for, and I hope her journey ends in peace. It’s what I’d hope for my own child.
Photo: AP/Alex Gallardo