-By Jontae Grace
I, am an absent father.
I am no different from hundreds of thousands of men who have been separated from their families, either by incarceration, divorce or domestic dispute. Each of us love our sons and daughters more than life itself. We get up everyday and present ourselves to the world as whole beings, all the while working to bridge the mile-wide chasm that sits in the middle of our lives. All of us carry a load that would crush the average man, and yet we grow stronger under the weight. It is time we re-examine the factors and motives that give rise to that most stigmatized group of men: the forgotten, unacknowledged, absent fathers.
There are some things that young mothers should know – not about parenting, but about dealing with your children’s father once the relationship sours. From my experiences and observations, this is one reality that is harder for women to adjust to, and it can create all sorts of unnecessary issues if you don’t have the right mental framework.
I like to use the workplace comparison: everyone has people that they work with who they absolutely cannot stand. You know, the office gossip, the sexual harasser, the kiss-ass. In general, men are better at putting that animosity behind them in order to focus on the task at hand. Women in the workplace allow their personal problems to compromise their working relationships with those they loathe. It’s the same thing with parenting: although you may have your personal issues with your co-parent, you were both hired to do a job, and you must not allow your personal problems to creep in and undermine the quality of your output towards your child(ren).
I have always been very tight-lipped about the mother of my Son, out of respect for her, and because I never needed anyone’s sympathy or judgment. My situation is what it is, and will be what I make it in the future. However, to contribute to the larger topic and conversation about the issue of absentee fatherhood and broken homes, there are certain facts that must be shared with you in order to create a foundation for a general discussion of the future of Black Love.
To be quite honest, I do not know where my son is, or how he is doing. I have not had contact with his mother in over three months. I never “left” Mekhi’s mother; we were never together to begin with. So when I moved from Portland, OR to Dallas TX in search of better opportunities to provide for my son, she moved and changed her number, which I found to be more than slightly hurtful. I pay over four-hundred a month, every month, which I have learned means little to nothing. (When you don’t pay it, you’re the worst father who ever planted a seed. When you do pay it, it’s “so what?”). Those are the facts.
Here are some suggestions. Accepting these rules of thinking will help you to avoid saying things that can’t be unsaid, and doing things that can’t be undone. No matter how much “more” time you’ve invested in a child, that child is still EQUALLY his, and equally yours. In America, we think “I” and “mine” but our roots as black people have always stressed “we” and “ours”. But no amount of time will ever make that child more yours, and you must accept the fact that each parent has an equal entitlement to their child’s development and upbringing.
There is a difference between choosing to be a single parent, and being forced to (single parent meaning parental status, not marital status). Just because you can take care of children by yourself – meaning you are capable of digging deep when times are hard and no one is willing to help – doesn’t mean that you are meant to. We are made to create life together, which means that we are also required to sustain life together. That “I can do this by myself” pride has pushed fathers out of their children’s lives as a vendetta, not a necessity. If a father is not a physical danger to you or your child’s safety, there really is no valid reason why their involvement in their child’s development should be limited, blocked or otherwise restricted.
I always hear women say, “I can’t believe a woman would do that to the father of her children.” To me, I always take that statement with a grain of salt because it actually isn’t that far of a stretch. When someone has been hurt – male or female – it is impossible to predict how they may react. Many women have been hurt so bad by a man that they try to hurt him the best way they know – financially through the courts, or emotionally by taking his family away from him. It’s a natural healing reaction, however irrational it may be.
In my case, the people in my life lost faith in me, like the asshole that sold his Nike stock right before they endorsed Jordan. Nowadays, no one believes in a comeback. We see people when they are down, stumbling, making mistakes, and we think they will always be that way. So even once they get that reality kick in the ass and straighten up, they’re still viewed as the same loser who could never get right. But while others may give up on you and write you off, you cannot. Mistakes happen, but as long as you have a pulse, you have no choice but to keep going. Let them live in past realities if they so wish; you just keep creating new ones.
Losing touch with my son has been – without question – the biggest source of grief in my life, and I’ve had several monumental moments of spectacular failure. Unfortunately for my son’s mother, she just happened to get involved with me right before my life entered its darkest period. But I’ve always known that I was a winner, there were just some lessons I needed to learn firsthand to help me make the transition to this thing called manhood. I’m not worried about myself, or my son. I pray for the protection of his mother every time I pray for him, so I know he’ll be aight. Recent events have shown me that I made the right decision in coming here, and one thing I know is that God does not solve 99% of your problems and leave 1% undone. It will all work itself out, all I have to do is keep going, and keep working at it. Peace and Blessings to you and yours.
Oh yeah. Happy 3rd Birthday to the best contribution that I have ever made to the world, Mekhi Tae Grace. 09-23-09.
Click here to download this article to your phone, tablet or PC!