I grew up with the greatest dad in the world. My parents have been married for 46 years. I even attended the same college he did (Florida A&M) and pledged the same fraternity he did (Omega Psi Phi). While I’d like to say those decisions were based solely off of my own view of the world, I cannot deny the influence my father had and still has on me. I took pride in experiencing the joy he experienced seeing his son follow in his footsteps. I always imagined, like most guys, that I would have a son and watch him grow up to be just like me: date the pretty girls, play sports, pledge the same fraternity etc. But as we all know, there’s our plan and then there’s God’s plan. I was given a daughter.
The hypocrisy of raising a daughter as a father
Sometimes being a father to a daughter means being a hypocrite. In his song “Daughters”, Nas says “they say the coolest playa and foulest heart breakers in the world, God gets us back, he makes us have precious little girls.” And there's truth to this because my Mom, to this day, jokes with me about all the “fun” I had in high school and college. She says “it’s not funny anymore is it?” And, she’s right! It’s not! You begin to realize that the shoe is now on the other foot. I try my best to be transparent with my daughter, 15, and warn her about those boys that use to be like me…the payback is real.
However, while Nas said “God gets us back.” For me, I will say, “God saved my life.” God saved my life with something greater than me — my daughter. For the first time in my life, I had a purpose greater than me. And she is my purpose. For the first time, I had someone, that without question, I’d give anything to save and do anything to protect.
She is young, gifted and Black. What could be better? She is a princess who eventually will morph into a queen.
At an early age, through my mom, my aunts and my cousins and along with watching shows like A Different World /The Cosby Show and reading my mom’s copies of Essence — Black women are the cradle of today's civilization and culture. Black women are the epitome of grace, beauty, intelligence and strength. Even the world tries to duplicate, bottle and sell it. Billions of dollars are made every year off women who are trying to get wider hips, darker skin, fuller lips…all those things that come natural to women of color. But I digress.
I have always known Black women possessed these qualities. Part of the reason I went to a historically Black college and university was because of my affinity for Black women. However, it wasn’t until my daughter entered my life that I begin to covet, appreciate and understand the importance of protecting those things that makes Black women so integral to the human-ecosystem. I begin to think about things, that as a guy, I never thought about before or was even sensitive to. When it comes to our daughters and how the world treats them…it can be one big contradiction. I hope that as a father I teach her how to counter that effectively and efficiently.
The learning curve
My daughter has strong female examples in her life starting with her mother, grandmothers and aunts. They represent those qualities that I mentioned above that I know will mold her. But it's “how a dad approaches life (that) will serve as an example for his daughter to build off of in her own life, even if she chooses a different view of the world," says Michael Austin, associate professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and editor of Fatherhood – Philosophy for Everyone.
And that’s where the learning curve comes in. As my daughter has gotten older and developed her own swag, opinions, social-circle…I often feel lost. I realize I took for granted when she wanted to be around me all the time. These days, her wanting to hang out with me is as sporadic as the weather. And that’s ok, because what teenager wants to hang out with their parents all the time? I was that cool dad in third grade but now I am far from that as she enters the 10th. She has called me “lame” or “corny” before. Each day I find myself consciously wondering if I’m teaching her the lessons she needs and even more importantly, showing her by example the things she will need to succeed? I don’t try to be the perfect dad because I am far from perfect…no parent is. But that’s where the learning curve kicks in because I know I can be hard on her at times and over-protective. Then there are times when I push to give her space and freedom so she can grow up and figure certain things out on her own. It’s tricky and I pray every day that as a parent I am above the curve. It reminds me of a saying “Do thy duty that is best and leave unto God the rest.” Amen.