from Daddy Dialectic:
This is a heartfelt discussion from a Black father. It touched me deeply.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
A Day at the Park
Posted by Shawn Taylor
1. I’m unsure why, but I get asked—quite often—about the hardest part of being a father. The people who ask me this are almost all younger cats who are about to become fathers or are there already. That question is a Pandora’s Box. Being a father is hard in a million different ways: Balancing fatherhood with partnership; being able to do the things that I love to do on a consistent basis (for example, writing—I’m writing this at 3am, while everyone is asleep and I have a moment to myself); the loss of money; having to send your child to childcare because both parents have to work to afford all the additional costs. Working all day, coming home at night and only seeing your child for forty-five minutes before their bedtime—in these ways and more, daddyhood is hard as hell. But none of this (yes, even the money problems) even comes close to the raging difficulty of being a father of color.
2. Being tattooed, visually Black (I’m half Jamaican and half Puerto Rican), over six feet tall and muscular, holding a little ethnically-ambiguous toddler makes many people double, triple, quadruple take—and also, for some odd reason, loosens tongues, mostly of white folks, and creates an environment of familiarity. And yet they still manage to see me wrong: In my daughter’s twenty-two months of living, I have been labeled ‘uncle,’ ‘babysitter,’ ‘guardian,’ ‘cousin,’ but never father. I can’t tell you just how crushing a blow this is. I LOVE being a father and I think that I am becoming a better one by the day, but to have one of my greatest joys discounted is painful.
3. Do we really live in a society that is still stuck in the lie that Black men cannot be fathers? Well…I must admit that I was on that same shit for a while. When my partner told me she was pregnant, I had fears that, at the moment of birth, a Greyhound ticket would appear in my hands and I’d leave my partner and new child to fend for themselves. I thought I’d become an absent father sleeper agent—the baby’s first cry would activate me and my mission would be to get as far away from mother and baby as possible. Because, throughout my whole childhood, I never once had a friend or met anyone (of color) whose father lived with them, or in some cases, even knew who their fathers were. There is a generation of brothers and sisters born after Viet Nam and before the release of Ghostbusters that are a tribe of fatherless children. My own father, I saw the bastard five times in my life.
4. People mistaking me for everything but being a father almost invariably happens at the playground. While the mothers (rarely do I see fathers at the playgrounds—but it could be where I choose to let my daughter play) are sitting in groups, either texter-bating or focusing intently on some new piece of thousand dollar baby gadget—I’m in the sand, on the structure, kicking the ball. I’m playing with my kid. Over at this park in El Cerrito, California, I was teaching my daughter how to hang from one of the monkey bars. She is a ridiculously daring kid and will try anything, as long as it is dangerous. This kindly older woman (dressed up like a fashion model to go the park) smiled at me and said, “My uncle used to do the same thing for me. He always let me do the things that my father would never let me do.” She drew out the “never” as if I was tossing my daughter over an open lion’s mouth. I told this woman that I was an only child, that my kid didn’t have any uncles, and that I was her father. She glanced between my daughter and me several times, and finally said, “Noooooo.” Wow.
Read the rest of this beautiful piece at the link above.