When I visited the ESSENCE offices last year, I was stunned that ten years had gone by since I first told the world that my little girl has forever changed me. So much has occurred since then: She’s gone from a cute 12-year-old with braces and braids to a beautiful graduate of Howard University who is about to take her first steps into “real” adulthood.
Over the years, Taylor learned what I already knew: The kind of love and relationship we share aren’t common to everyone. The original article, “Daddy’s Little Girl,” struck a chord with many readers. This point was personified by an enthusiastic woman who sprinted across a department store floor toward Taylor and me, yelling, “It’s true, it’s true!” Initially, Taylor assumed this was a fan coming to take a picture or get an autograph, but it quickly became clear that wasn’t the case. This thirtysomething woman excitedly told us that she had read the “great” article about our relationship but assumed it to be part fantasy. She told us she didn’t have a real relation- ship with her dad, and many others she knew didn’t either. She said gleefully that as she watched us look for a dress for Taylor, she could tell by our interaction that what Tay and I shared was real, and for that she was grateful.
It proved a great lesson for Taylor and me—not to take for granted what we have. When the feature came out, so many people wanted to know what we were going to do next. The next was the creation of the Daddy’s Promise initiative. This program and online platform salutes the special bond between fathers and daughters and shows that the stereotypical view of the absent father isn’t true in every household and that there are men holding it down. I hoped it would also serve as a means to push those men who aren’t being fathers to stand up and be the men they should be.
From Detroit to Dallas and New York City to Anchorage, Alaska, we traveled the country spreading the narrative of the importance of being a good father. At our town hall meetings, church events and father–daughter dances, we’ve seen tears of joy and sorrow from both sides as people explored either the fantastic or painful parent– child relationship that is their reality.
More men must take ownership of the role they play in their daughters’ development. I recall conversations I’ve had with men who say you can often tell if a woman you’re dating had a father in her life. Many times the expectation of how a man treats a woman and how a woman treats a man is derived from the interaction or lack thereof a woman had with her father. Just look at Scandal’s Olivia and Papa Pope, who have a toxic relationship.
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I think of all the girls who, because they’ve had no male perspective while they were growing up, confuse sex for love or accept bad behavior or treatment from the men in their lives because Daddy never showed them it doesn’t have to be that way.
I recall the countless conversations I’ve had with Steve Harvey about being a strong male figure in our daughters’ lives and the confidence that gives them. I think about when Jamie Foxx and I talked with pride about our “little girls,” who are the same age and have Evans aren’t just TV characters—they are fictionalized versions that represent the real, loving, caring African- American fathers who do exist.
As Taylor matures, so does our relationship. I no longer need to be the father who stands in the door to scare the boys away. However, I am here as a sounding board about what men do and think. I remind her that while I am no longer in the doorway, I am always around just to make sure that any man in her life understands that there is always an expectation of how she should be treated. (Sorry, fellas. This is what a dad does.)As we gear up to celebrate a decade of Daddy’s Promise with the planning of new events across the country, I’m proud we’re proving there are a lot of good fathers in the world; many are giving love and effective parenting to their children and, in some cases, the children of others. Those of us who have accepted the responsibility of the best job in the world must now show the way for the men who haven’t seen the light, yet.
For those who haven’t caught on, I hope they learn sooner than later that being a good father gives more to your soul than it does anyone else. I created a pledge that we ask fathers to recite to their daughters, and the last line tells what we owe them: a lifetime of love. So much has changed in the ten years since I first spoke on my journey as a father. I am thankful what hasn’t changed is the love and dedication that Taylor and I have for each other.
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