Let the world tell it, good Black fathers are hard to come by—I beg to differ. Here to prove me right are a few good men reflecting on fatherhood and extending words of advice to new dads.
What’s the biggest challenge in being a Black father?
The biggest challenge I have faced as a young, Black father is trying to balance work, school and providing my children with the attention they desire. As their father, it is imperative that I show them what a man is supposed to be. A man should not only be a provider financially, but also a provider emotionally. It’s also a challenge knowing that it’s on me to show them what a man is, and at the same time, be able to own that sometimes I make and will continue to make mistakes.
-Adrian J., Father of 2
The biggest challenge being a Black father is teaching my kids how to find the balance between delayed gratification and enjoying their youth. As a Black father I constantly look for ways to help my children focus on the future that they want to create. My hope is that it may deter them from making bad choices in the present that can jeopardize that future. I’m well aware of the poor decisions that I made because I sought instant gratification, so allowing them to have a glimpse of what’s possible may help them prioritize what’s important. However, children just want to be children, and you can’t blame them. So, despite the ambitious hopes that I have for them, there is nothing that makes me more happy than seeing them enjoying youthfulness. But being a Black father and learning first-hand from my experiences, I know I have to prepare my children for the realities that face the Black community, and try to balance that with their natural desire to just enjoy being young.
-Brandon B., Father of 3
The biggest challenge that I face being a father is practicing what I preach. In actuality, that’s a part of being persistent as a father. We as fathers do not understand that our child’s environment can determine a voracious amount of their actions. Every day, I make choices according to the impact that it can have on my sons. Although I try to be as persistent as possible, I do not occupy 24 hours of their day. Therefore, it is my duty and obligation to ensure that my children mimic the moral values that their everyday environment should have displayed.
-Kevin R., Father of 4
The hardest part is understanding how to translate to a very curious child what it means to be Black in America. Much of public depiction, rhetoric and perspective of Black people is often negatively skewed, so finding ways to translate this into positive pride and self-esteem is difficult at times. When you add the fact that I am a man, raising a Black woman, it becomes much more complex. Women are often disrespected and under-appreciated, so helping Paige establish a sense of self-worth, despite what the world may say, makes things quite a challenge.
-Nick S., Father of 1
Because my son is aware of my experiences and success with athletics, he has taken a great interest in, and has his mind set on being an athlete. I want to encourage him to follow his dreams, but I also let him know that he can explore other interests and take the path he wants to take, and not necessarily because it’s the one his dad took. Additionally, since my son is very intelligent and curious about what he hears and sees, it’s a fine line to give him the truth and not being too harsh. My interpretations of things are based on my personal experiences, and I want to allow him to develop his own thoughts about some things based on the experiences he will have. Lastly, because my son is not with me full-time, I don’t want him to have multiple theories about things. That necessitates communication between his mother and I so we can ensure we’re on the same page. I also have take additional time to understand and give context to things he experiences when he’s not with me.
-Damien L., Father of 1
What advice do you have for new young Black fathers?
The best advice I can give a young Black father is not to forget to give your children what you had. We get so caught up in giving our children a better life that we forget to give them what we had that makes us who we are. Children need to know that it is okay to fail, and that it’s what you do after you fail that matters most (Do you fold, run and hide or do you take it on the chin, reevaluate your approach and keep it moving?)
Our Black children need to see nothing will be handed to them and they must work harder than the person next to them; however, they should never measure their success by the next person’s, and they have to be prepared to develop a plan, focus on their own path and have faith. These are things fathers should remember and take into account in their parenting, especially in today’s comparison culture. Adrian J., Father of 2.
Your children are gifts from God. They aren’t burdensome. Your children will be your greatest motivation to elevating your life. Don’t think you have to give up on the dreams that you have for your life, rather now, you get to include your children. Therefore the dream becomes even bigger! Yes it may get harder, but it’s still possible. Be intentional about the life of your children. The time you spend talking and playing with them they will remember. Start early teaching them how to be productive and creative. Help them think of how they will make their contribution to society. And lastly, but most importantly, never cause them to question the love you have for them as their father.
-Brandon B., Father of 3
If I could advise any young Black father today, I would say, “Ain’t no handbook on being a man, so there is no right way, and no wrong way.” I became a single father at 22 years of age and every day has not been easy. I’ve made so many mistakes and bad decisions that were called mistakes. However, I never gave up. Nobody can ever explain the details of this job. I understand that sometimes our past relationships with our fathers, or the lack thereof, sometimes places a state of dormancy on initiating the father role. Sometimes it is our financial situation that we feel should either substitute, or justify our absence. It comes down to this, though: you can either give a child everything, or give a child nothing, but a persistent relationship will outweigh any situation, because “Love conquers all.” There is no right or wrong way to being a father, there’s just trial and error and process of elimination. -Kevin R., Father of 4.
Be present. It’s one thing to be around, but be very intentional about what your presence means for your child. From the way you speak and the words you use, to the way you carry yourself and how you hug them, look them in the eyes and how frequently you say I love you…it all matters and leaves an impression on your kids. It’s not enough to be around, be present.
Know what’s important to your child and what makes them feel like their most authentic and true self. Invest in your child’s curiosity about the wide world of things that they can do and become. -Nick S., Father of 1.
Buckle up. Having a child is a life-changing experience. If you have a layout on what fatherhood looks like because your father was present, you still have to separate what make sense to implement in your parenting vs. what does not. If your father was not around, then think about the areas that were lacking in your upbringing, and make sure you’re there for your kid in those ways plus more. The best teacher is experience, so if you know what it’s like to not have, then you should be in a position to give your kid what’s needed. When it comes to black fatherhood, the perception is that we aren’t present, so dare to be different and do it your way and don’t look to the mainstream for what’s right. -Damien L., Father of 1