Slow down. Be Steady. Win The Race

I have started to jog in the morning. Don’t worry I am not training for the NYC Marathon or a 10k (although at this point I think I would do pretty well in a 10k) for work, a non-profit or some sense of civic duty/ self realization/improvement/preservation. I am running because I get to galvanize myself around an activity I can control forcing myself to structure my night and early mornings. It also helps my pants remain at a size my ego can tolerate. My two running partners keep me honest and help push feelings of being a complete and utter slob out of my head as well:

Late night text: ” We running tomorrow? 7:30am?”

Early morning text: “I am on the bus headed to  you. Be there in 15 min. We’re doing 3 miles this morning”.

So after about 4 or 5 weeks, running has become somewhat of a habit. I feel bad if I find two consecutive days having passed by and I haven’t pounded the pavement or a treadmill. Like most other activities I have come to incorporate into my life I decided to share it with my children.

I felt good about being able to share an activity with my little ones. I proceeded to stretch and follow my running rituals.

Stretch hamstrings…..Stretch quads….stretch calves….lunge to the left….lunge to the right….breathe….breathe…

*check Spotify run playlist*

Turn on Nike Run Club…3…2…1

Go! Wait….

As I begin to break into a stride I turn to see that my daughter is far behind, so I slow down….then I walk. We both walk. I try starting again, to make up some time…then look behind me again. Right, better just walk this morning. The normal morning jog has now become a 90min brisk walk. Once we finished I looked over to see my daughter, oblivious to her shattering of my morning routines, smile and continue to listen to her iPhone.

My usually pace is about a 10 minute mile allowing me to complete four miles in 45mins give or take. This particular Saturday my daughter wasn’t going to run nor could she have kept my pace and I couldn’t leave her behind so….I slowed down and eventually completed a morning stroll dwindling my pace down to a 20min mile.

Yikes!

I completed my normal running loop at a WAAAY slower pace than I had planned. That’s when I had the epiphany; parenting (i.e. life) is much like a race.

You can run by yourself and win the race quickly or you can run with someone else. Pushing yourself becomes more of a chore when you run alone but transforms into a habit when you are running from behind. Having my daughter join me revealed that initially children may slow down your pace. Good parenting I think is recognizing you may be moving at a different pace in your life than is probably healthy for your child and adjusting. If not then you run the risk of leaving them far behind you or worse yet causing them to hurt themselves trying to keep up.

The key is balance; gaining your stride and pushing them to increase theirs with every step. It’s hard. You want to break out in a full sprint, but can’t and slowing all the way down will just hurt you both. You have to pace yourself and the person next to you for as long as you can muster the strength. The inevitable falls that will happen aren’t as important as the times you get up. The race is always a marathon and no one moment is larger than the collective process/experience you both will have together reaching the finish line.

So keep running. Slow and steady. And Win.

PS. In life in general when you are in your own lane at your own speed chugging along, try not to commit the cardinal sin of glancing at the body along side you. Once you do that, instead of focusing on your own stride, breathing and form you are comparing yourself with someone else.  Who might have different training, body type, motivation, genetic makeup, sponsors etc. This shift in concentration allows the inevitable fall or stumble every runner faces to come much faster, even so you never stop…keep going because you want to finish the race, hopefully under your own devices. Running with a good partner (i.e. wife/husband) allows you to run further, while running sponsors (i.e. rich parents) gives you a leg up in terms of equipment and training. It is also bad practice when your little one is mimicking your strides step for step to lose momentum or personal drive. They are behind you pushing to reach their own goals. And maybe even surpass your own.

 

 

 

Happy Father’s Day

Its the most wonderful time of the year!!! The hiatus is over and I now have more time to push thoughts here. I apologize ya’ll (the seven people who read this thing) I was in graduate school, but I done graduated *black slave voice*. I have letters after my name and I probably am going to be obnoxious about it for a few months. I have earned the right to do so. Bragging is usually held with a negative connotation because it implies a lack of humility about one’s self and abilities. Superman shouldn’t be going around telling people how many buildings he stopped from falling on cats; you’re Superman, bruh its what you do.

This is why God did not deem it appropriate to imbue me with superhuman strength, X-ray vision, super speed, breath or the ability to fly. Because you would DEFINITELY know about it; Idc. Idc. Idc. Idc.

Being a dad — in my eyes — is just that, the longest brush you will ever have with membership to a justice league of other superheroes. Real dads understand that those few first years you ARE superman to your son or daughter. No one is stronger than you are, smarter or possesses a great ability to kill monsters, for a time. Your superpowers eventually fade and the Clark Kent portion of your personality seem to be all your children see. They can no longer detect  your superpowers. I personally try to continue my feats of superhuman strength by surprising my daughters with concert tickets, random phone calls and an occasional item that is the difference between life and death (i.e. an iPhone).

I am not sure about you but I enjoy being a superhero. The smile I receive when I can rescue someone from danger (i.e. advice) or stop a evil villain from destroying the city (i.e. mom is being unfair) is unparalleled. I have superpowers for Christ’s sake! Why would I keep that to myself and NOT save, inspire and change people’s lives for the better? Is that NOT what superheros do? We aren’t selfish by nature and don’t look for praise but Metropolis does have a day to honor all of the heroic feats of the last son of Krypton.

And it should.

Often all the kissed scrapes, vanquished closet monsters or quiet sacrifices are lumped together and pulled down onto a canvas of normal human deeds. Never once breathing the air and standing in the light of heroism that it rightful deserves. Though not a competition  moms aren’t saddled with this armor of obscurity as often. They stand in the light more frequently and breathe in that air.

Well today is the day for all superhero fathers to fill their lungs DEEP. To let their heroics be recognized and exulted beyond reproach. If you have been saving lives in the shadows for one year, ten years or a lifetime then today — FATHERS DAY — please take you bow and smile at the accolades you have rightful earned.

I for one LOVE father’s day because I feel as though I have completely earned the right to celebrate my fatherhood today, I hope you feel the same way!

PS. Game seven of the NBA Finals are tonight…..on Father’s Day….. if the universe is with us,  who can be against us?  

The Death of Superman

First off I…..I know its been two and a half months a while since my last confession post and several weeks on top of that since I shared an activity guide for the weekend. This especially sucks since 3 weeks ago it was  Easter. Easter is filled with church service, egg hunts and more than enough activities that I didn’t share with you.

I apologize for that. Sincerely.  And not to sound like a cheating boyfriend but…..please give me another chance. See it wasn’t me. I value authenticity and believe that is how you develop the strongest relationships. Only by first being honest with yourself and your truth do you begin to allow your interactions with others to be more meaningful and fulfilling. I put out my activity weekend guides because every weekend….that is what I was doing: trying to decide what I was going to do with my daughters Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That’s changed. My weekends don’t look and feel as they once did and I have noticed a weird transition happening in my experience as a father. As puberty contorts how my daughters view themselves, it is accomplishing the supplementary objective of augmenting how they look at me as well. I am going through my own adult puberty where things in my body are starting to change, mostly in my chest.

Recently I took my twin daughters to see the comic blockbuster: Batman VS Superman. As a fanboy, regardless of the reviews, I had to see for myself what Zack Synder’s vision was for the birth of the DC universe. I can’t say I was disgusted or utterly disappointed. I enjoyed my time in my movie seat watching two of American culture’s most iconic symbols of heroism duke it out.

Spoiler Alert: In one intense scene towards the end of the movie Superman drives toward the villain, Doomsday, and his ultimate demise with all the urgency, valor and intensity you would expect from one of earth’s mightiest heroes. He cared a spear made of Kryptonite — which is if you didn’t know — the only thing on earth that can kill Superman. So I am in a weird place as a father, one that I didn’t anticipate being in a few years ago. I sort of feel like Superman, speeding towards my eminent doom carrying life threatening poison; this sucks.

At the core of my interactions with my girls is a space where I try to build a close relationship and cultivate intimacy. There was a level of mysticism I held as dad: I was strong and knew everything about everything, that’s now slipping away. I was Superman to my little girls and I now believe there is a pear sized piece of Kryptonite pushing closer to pierce my chest.

In their adolescence the girls aren’t as concerned about spending time with me as they once were. They are caught up with the intricate nooks of their own lives and just like there was a MOMENT when I couldn’t help them change in the batheroom I now feel this is the MOMENT they are deciding that they don’t need as much of my presence to help guide them. I knew this day was coming but I wasn’t ready for its humbling wave to be so succinct. I mean all parents know there will be a day they are no longer cool to their children. They will no longer be held with awe but eventually seen as people. The Clark Kent identities laced with flaws and fears with whom to tolerate. I mean don’t we all seem to believe this universal truth will somehow pass us over because,  we’re different than the millions of other parents on the earth who have dealt with the very same thing? I did.

I know better now.

So as I charge forward towards Doomsday, Kryptonite spear in hand, I remain Superman. I don’t falter or stop or fly away. I can’t. I am still Superman.  Heroism is about not you but “them”; the collective others you have sworn to protect. This is parenting in its essence. The first day home from the hospital you know one day the world — your child — will shun your powers and deny you exist but you fly forward. They won’t believe in you until they need you, still you fly forward.  You are a novelty until they need rescue or saving or to be guided, still you fly forward.

[Spoiler Alert: At the end of the movie its clear that Superman’s casket won’t be his final resting place. Even after the great sacrifice]

So…

Head towards the danger because the “S” on your chest dictates it. Charge forward, kryptonite in hand, with your eyes set on certain death. Be the hero you know deep down you can never run away from because whether they know it or not they will always need you in their life.

-A Single Dad

PS. I will put out an activity guide for this weekend of April  22nd. Promise.

Ready? Fight!

So we’d like to live in a world where the threat of war, famine and poverty don’t exist BUT seeing as these issues have plagued mankind since Noah boarded the Ark its not very  likely. Conflict unfortunately is a part of life. If you are a screenwriter it is what every interesting story is built upon. If you are a parent however it is something you tread lightly around [sort of]. Most of us don’t want our son or daughter to grow up to be hardened criminals or bullies. We want children who grow up to be nice people who respect themselves and others. We teach them right from wrong in hopes that they can ultimately discern between the two on their own.

The sidenote to all this rests on a person’s own personal upbringing and views. There are people who are violent who expect their children to fight while others never want their son or daughter to endure the marathon of personal angst they experienced. Some people never really had to deal with extreme conflict in their lives and teaching it isn’t intuitive. No matter what your background it is my personal belief that teaching your son or daughter to deal with conflict is very much a part of your parenting handbook.

So Ready? Ok. Fight!

I grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood in Brooklyn New York. If you fought with a street kid it wasn’t a simple fist fight at 3pm in the school parking lot. A fight in the street could mean a month long ongoing endurance test of survival with someone looking for you. It was called beef. Having your heart drop every time you leave your house and speed up at every unfamiliar face is a feeling hard to describe and one not easy to forget however, it its unique in what it teaches. It heightens your senses, awareness and ability to take in your surroundings in a way you didn’t know was possible prior.

Your kids should  be so lucky.

The learned skills from that difficult situation are life long. I carry them with me where ever I go for the rest of my life. It contributes to my grit. Most people don’t have grit. I believe grit is good. As an African American dad I know grit is what allows you to push past micro aggressions, stigmatisms and personal doubt in order to exist in a way you deem meaningful to yourself and  your children.

It is for this reason I think if your child comes home and tells you they were in a fight your first question should be “What happened?” and  “Who won?”

Not because you want to encourage a mentality of altercation but because you want our children to understand that although you are intelligent enough to communicate and talk through your problems everyone you encounter in life might not be. I never want them to be in a situation where they are ill equipped to handle or deal with someone who is physically threating to them.

I never want another human soul to lay hand on my daughter but I also know I want her to never invite someone to cross that boundary by completely rejecting the notion of defending herself. My son can NOT be a bully but he will have to fight for himself one day and if I am there I will make sure he puts forth the effort to meet that difficulty. He will have to learn what it is like to lose and what it is like to win against another human being.

It helps build the personal boundaries he has for the world, himself and others. I believe in the importance of that. I don’t want my son or daughter to have beef; to worry if someone will pull a knife out on them. Simultaneously someone isn’t to bully their personal space. It is a balance as a parent you have to pay attention to as you decide who you are raising to show up in the world.

I am a black man who has to raise other black men and women. They gotta be ready for a fight. Especially if I have anything to say about it.

-A Single Dad

 

Owe Me Back

I have a rule which states to never lend money you can’t stand to see disappear. If someone asks to borrow $100 make sure that Benjamin Franklin can slither from the light of day never to be seen again and you are alright with that. Otherwise do not hand over the bill. Just a personal rule of thumb that has served me well in avoiding unnecessary heartache and stress.

It is also a philosophy I try to incorporate into my parenting. Your kids don’t owe you anything regardless of how you feel. Now I know some people reading this might disagree that they owe you SOMETHINGS; a phone call, a birthday card or visit during the holidays.  I am here to burst your proverbial bubble: YOUR CHILDREN DON’T OWE YOU SH*T. If that hurt to read then know it also hurt to type but I guess I should elaborate a bit more on what I mean?

I believe putting things into similar contexts often helps to make the difficult digestible. I think it is a natural human mechanism we use to help explain things in our universe that baffle us. Scientists administer this technique often in experiments; use what you know to help figure out what you don’t know.

The relationship you cultivate with your son or daughter is one that is unique like no other. It changes you as a person. Love does that, unconditional love in particular. We often really don’t break down what it means and I will give you a small example to help clarify.  In a normal boyfriend/girlfriend relationship you may throw out the word “love” after a set of conditions are set up for you. Nice dinners, gifts, sexual encounters etc, which all encourage a specific feeling from that other person. These CONDITIONS need continue otherwise that “love” will probably stop. You won’t “love” that person anymore because they have “changed” on you. If your child never made you a card in school or held your hand in public your level of love wouldn’t waiver. It wouldn’t disappear all together  because that love has no conditions for it to be reciprocated [i.e. unconditional love]; it just IS. In our own personal relationships we strive towards that but it takes a huge block of consistency with one person and we often waiver.

We are naturally selfish and one of the biggest struggles any parent deals with when having a child is realizing your thoughts, actions and feelings are second fiddle to someone else’s. Could you image living your life and constantly having to see how your co-worker is doing first before you decide to go to lunch?

“Hey Jon planning a trip to Paris with my girlfriend….you good though? Cause if you’re sick I’ll just cancel and come bring you soup”.

Annoying right? Well that’s what being a parent is in a nutshell: ITS NOT ABOUT YOU ANYMORE.

We all aren’t good parents. [I’ll let that one sit for a minute]. Just isn’t possible. We all STRIVE to be good parents but many of us fall short. I would wager most of us feel that we fit into this category and that there is some other person guiding their son or daughter in a way you can’t fathom. Here’ is some good news: that is a complete and utter lie. The more accurate description is that we all struggle with how we view ourselves; we are all infallibly human. On the other end of the spectrum separate from normal insecurities are parents who are just……well…..BAD AT IT.  Now this isn’t my attempt to judge anyone but deep down you can sense if or when you aren’t giving it your all. That applies in the gym, at work and at home. The trick is to minimize those moments by staying at it pushing yourself to do better. I know its hard.

Tough.

After 18 years of constant self sacrifice a little ROI would be nice though huh? I know. I wiped their butts, tears and dishes clean but still can’t get a phone call from my daughter for two consecutive days. I am not complaining. I have unconditional love for my daughters. They never have to do anything for me to feel how I do about them. It could wane but it can never disappear completely.

The funny thing about doing something self sacrificing over and over and over again is that it becomes a state of consciousness that fixates itself to your being; it becomes who you are. You no longer think about it or expect a residual which is exactly when the MAGIC happens.

When you are someone who works hard because you are a hard worker, love because you are loving and are an inspiration to others because you are an inspiring person you will almost ALWAYS be rewarded. THAT person may never ask for it but will always be noticed by others, why? Because quite frankly they’re rare. Aren’t they?  In terms of parenthood  you will be the mother and father others admire and person your children look up to —  not because you asked for it but because you didn’t.

So don’t worry about your reward. Don’t do things for the pay off. Do them because deep down you know and feel they are the correct thing to do. Operate under this guise and your boss [your children] will promote you when you least expect it. Like when you are 85 and are hugging your grandchildren at Thanksgiving. Promise.

-A Single Dad

Equity of Being Socially Awkward

So as a parent how do you decide when your children should be on social media? When they start having sex — so in their 30s — the end.

Sigh, guess I should say a bit more than that huh? Well this is a hard topic for me because it is unchartered territory. Facebook is only 10 years old! A generation 20 years ago in 1995 (geez that doesn’t seem that long ago) Biggie and Tupac were still producing albums and the internet consisted of AOL dialup if you had that in your household (many people in my neighborhood didn’t). It was a big deal for me to even have a computer at home to type papers and play solitaire. I remember getting recommendations from my Junior High School “computer teacher” for a commodore 486? I am shaking my head as I type this because today the cell phone in my pocket is probably 200 times more powerful. At that time my parents’ biggest concern was keeping me and my brother away from gangs and out of the street. The only bullies we dealt with in 1995 were the REAL ones living in our neighborhood housing projects. Unfortunately, there was an abundance of them due to the crack cocaine that blazed through the inner city of New York like a demon, possessing everything in its path, in the 80s.

The threats at that time were not “less” real just “more” evident. You knew where they were because you could actively see them around you. When I was growing up there was one simple way to stay on the straight and narrow, voiding the pitfalls of life: Say No To Drugs. If you were an inner city kid that was your mantra for progressing forward positively . Today in 2015 I have no idea what that mantra would be as the world has become a bit more complicated. Drugs and emotionally raped teenagers still exist only now they have the internet. A generation ago cyber bullying was not a term people could fathom and identity theft only existed in Total Recall. Social media was person to person conversation and if you liked someone’s pictures it was because you were holding the Polaroid in your hand and enjoyed how it looked.

Now in the era of selfies, likes, snapchats, status updates and tweets navigating the straight and narrow comes with an extra level of social difficulty; who you are online matters. If you are a nice person in real life but post nothing but racists remarks or gang fights it says something about you to people you know and others you don’t (i.e. the world). The examples of celebrities tweeting out something in appropriate are too numerous to list here but it all becomes part of their “brand” and image even if it’s too damaging (i.e. Kanye West’s interruption of Taylor Swift). Remember the internet is FOREVER.

So is parenting.

My daughters have instagram [insert collective scream here]. Why? I have no idea actually because a minute ago they were little girls who wanted dolls and ice cream. Today they need “likes”, “followers” and clever hashtags. Who made it like THIS!?!?! Wait one darn [yes I said darn out loud] minute….

Was it me? Am I to blame? Of course not. I think.

Today, our children witness the attachment we all have to our cell phone and unless you have a newborn it will soon become learned behavior. The constant ecosystem of  messages and influences from social media; funny memes, posts and personalities float around the world daily. Your son or daughter will intercept some of them. I know I know you are completely and utterly shocked that you aren’t perfect in your parenting power. You can take a number and let me finish my essay.

So what is an engaged parent to do? Like my answer to most rhetorical questions I ask here I don’t really know. We are in a generation of technology that didn’t exist before.  Its tough but isn’t something insurmountable [at least i don’t believe it is]. I also believe that it is a very necessary component of parenting today.

We complicate things in our lives because we refuse to see the similarities in events we participate in and how skill sets carry over. How would you tackle a problem at work of this magnitude? You have to come up with an idea about something no one has ever really seen before, quantify it then make a plan about it for someone else. Because when you think about it that way it becomes a piece of cake right? Right.

Well if you are like me and have struggled either at work or in parenthood wondering what the hell you are doing then I’ll share with you my template for figuring out: Can I do that?  *Sidenote: if this causes you to excel at your workplace, your welcome.

Lets start with what we do know: yourself, your child (hopefully) and what kind of things you want them to stay AWAY from (i.e. messages/images/themes).  Going along with this theme lets look for other forms of media that we can draw reasonable parallels. I’ll pick TV.  How do you monitor what kind of television your children watch? Is there a curfew? Certain channels they aren’t allowed to watch? Movies that are off limits?

Now that we can pull a framework from somewhere which aspects are applicable? Which things can we use and what can we throw out? I would give my children a social media curfew; no posts after 9pm. [Got to start somewhere]

From there you can decide how you would like to manage what pages they follow and have access to as well as who follows them. I believe their friends in real life should mirror their friends on social media. So if they, can’t call this person to say hello they probably shouldn’t be following them on social media. Celebrities are a toss up because while Michelle Obama is someone I would want my daughters to follow on facebook i know Rihanna is someone they admire as well. Your daughter might very well look at Rihanna’s page anyway but the precedent on who you deem as appropriate needs to be set. My mother wouldn’t want me to watch Def Comedy Jam when I was younger because of the cursing but I managed to anyway. I don’t think social media is much different. You have to set boundaries even if you know they will be tested.

As in most things you are probably holding more answers than you realize; who do YOU follow in social media? If both you and your child follow an approved account and comment, that could become a level of interaction between you both [*sidenote: this is not in replacement of actual physical conversation]. The side effect of this is self monitoring for the sake of the correct example for your children (….i’ll be damned if that theme doesn’t feel familiar). Your life will go on if you can’t follow Rihanna’s page or F*ckJerry(may want to just create another login for those). Check your daughter/son’s page periodically so that they know you are always aware of what they post but not enough that they feel micromanaged. Talk to them constantly and if they post something inappropriate speak to them and tell them WHY it wasn’t the correct thing to post online. The goal is to enable your children to make smart, informed and thoughtful decisions…WITHOUT you. The building blocks for that start now. Online or in real life.

– A Single Dad

The Illusion of “Stuff”

So the time has come once again for you reach deep deep into your wallet or purse and part with a significant amount of money in order to see your child smile and enjoy themselves for 48 hours or the fall term of high school; their attention span for new things. You can call this time “Christmas” or a “Birthday” or “Graduation” or “Having a Good Report Card” or “A disappointment buffer” etc etc. There are an array of occasions real and imagined that warrant — in your mind — a trip to the mall. There is no way I could sit here and say I am not part of this club, nearly all parents are. No big deal right? Right.

Except its an illusion.

No I am not suggesting that you tell your little one that every single birthday & Christmas from now on will be cancelled but I think it all needs to be put in perspective. Parenting needn’t to be a mythological experience with no beginning or end that you stumble through via the grace of the Almighty. People have traversed this road before and have done so without iphones and the internet. I believe that YOU should be your first stop when looking for an answer to a question you feel is larger than your circumstance.

So ask yourself can you remember every present you received from every single birthday? If the answer is no then what does your childhood memories consist of? I’d wager the finite details are fuzzy but the overall canvas of experience comprises of a consistent theme: love, understanding, comfort, hate, arguments, pain etc. We buy into the illusion is that “stuff” masks or manifests these themes when in fact people do. Children remember all the “stuff” you give them: the material “stuff” never quite compares with the the emotional “stuff” however, so be mindful of where you invest your time, energy and resources. Money spent on experiences is money well spent. Money spent on “things” is fleeting. Emotional investment is enhanced by your wallet but it should be limited by it.

Material things are an illusion. Promise.

– A Single Dad

PS. Can’t lie, Christmas 1985? A Nintendo Entertainment System? Mom and Dad: good job!

Like Father Like Daguther

I saw this clip and was over joyed. Nicole Paris and her father share a few things in common. Besides love for one another (which is also displayed in the video) they each possess unique beatboxing prowess, each capable of pushing their lips together to vibrate melodies, sounds and rhythms. Apparently there was an earlier square off between the two and this is the “re-match”. In both instances dad catches a serious “L” from his daughter whose range and technique is a bit more sharp and 2015 to her dad’s old school 1988 flow. That doesn’t matter however because you can see Dad’s pure elation at the fact that someone he loves took something he loves and made it their own by bringing it to a higher form. They say mimicry is the greatest form of flattery and I can tell Dad is super flattered.

Always share YOU with your children, as you are often more than just discipline, food and protection. You were and are a person who has interests and hobbies that your son or daughter might find enjoyable as well. Don’t forget that or hold the boundaries of your relationship with them small. Be warned though, your son/daughter might learn to love what you do and even become better at it than you are. That’s not so bad though, right? I am sure this dad and Dell Curry would tell you it’s not.

Its Plain. Black and White

How do you teach your children about racism? Should you? Sorry if this hits a sore spot for some but it is the unfortunate reality in many black American households. Whether we want to admit it or not race is a subject that bubbles at the surface of many different aspects of our society; education, government, politics and not so sublet pockets of everyday life. For many this isn’t anything new while for others it isn’t anything at all. If you are reading this and saying, “I don’t see race at all”, I am talking specifically to you. We are just too bombarded by it on a day to day basis to pretend to “plead the 5th” on its effects; you can’t deny it, only acknowledge the varying degrees of impact you’ve been witness to.

So the question remains: how do you teach your children about racism? I am sure a few people reading might respond with a plan of active ignorance as the best policy — its not there — to combat the ideology so ingrained into our society. If it isn’t a problem in their household, it doesn’t affect them.

It does.

You are ALWAYS teaching whether you know it or not. Your children are ALWAYS watching what you say or do and how you interact with other people. So while you may not believe you have implicitly told your son or daughter about different races, you have. Your children will pick up on the queues you give them as well as the ones that society bombards them with so your goal as a parent is to create stronger queues to follow.

[Warning: this is disturbing] Check out this video.

Now besides the woman’s vile and ignorant rant there was an even more repulsive act transpiring in the background; the education of her children on how to interact with a person of color. Forever etched into their minds will be their mother calling this black man a n*****. She validated screaming profanities as a conducive way to display her dislike for — according to the video — starting his car. The lessons learned are how to convey anger when you are upset and how to do it when the object of that anger is a person of color. I can’t imagine this being the first time those children have seen their mother upset but by their quiet demeanor I would guess that even THEY knew it was embarrassing and “not quite right”.

You may be saying this is an extreme case but I ask you – is it really? How many times have you been so mad and pissed off  you spewed hatred towards another human being simply because you felt they deserved it regardless of the fact it was in the presence of your children? And I understand that no one is perfect. Policing yourself 24/7 around your children comes with the territory of being a caregiver plus they have to learn at some point how evil the world is no?

Actually, no.

Lets play devil’s advocate for a moment and say this was an isolated extreme case, one that doesn’t happen regularly. If this is true where does racism exist in the day-to-day teachable form that our kids observe and absorb?  The media? Are movies, television and popular music that often glorify a negative image of African Americans to blame for surviving negative stereotypes? Or are there more direct causes?

Rashid Polo made some pretty hilarious videos of him being followed around in different stores by employees. Coincidence? Maybe but, after the third video its very hard to deny a pattern. Some might see this as a young kid trying to sensationalize moments for internet fame, but I doubt there were too many black men who saw this video and did not give a nod of approval at its validity.

I am not sure what transracial means but, apparently it is Rachel Dolezal’s explanation for pretending to be African American for several years as president of a chapter of the NAACP, despite growing up to two Caucasian parents in Montana. The dynamics and narrative to this story still baffle me quite frankly. Rachel Dolezal sent herself false death threats from white supremacists. I guess that validated her experience as an African American woman? You can IDENTIFY with the African American culture without BEING African American. Generations of authentic African American men and woman actually died in order for Ms. Dolezal to do just that. This makes a mockery of that very fact in my opinion. Even Rachel Dolezal knew that what she was perpetrating wasn’t right. You can watch her reaction for yourself when she is questioned about her ethnicity. The picture was worth 2000 words.

On the other end of the spectrum is McKinney Texas, where a police officer was recorded waving his gun at black teenagers at a pool party. Apparently a Caucasian resident called law enforcement when too many teenagers showed up. There were both white and black young people there but, only one group that was targeted by Texas officers. Can you guess which group? No? Here is the video. As the father of girls I can’t accurately describe what my reaction would have been if my daughter had been handled that way by a police officer. On one hand I would have been relieved my daughter and none of her friends were killed while on the other I would have been infuriated that she had been subjected to sub-human treatment. The interaction between police and the African American community is a completely different topic that this essay could not begin to address even a small infraction of. I could have cited twenty other examples of blatant racist interactions between these two groups but it becomes exhausting. We could talk for days about Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Mike Brown, Walter Scott or the dozen plus other black men who have lost their lives in the past twenty four months.

Lastly, I saw a this video of a young boy expressing his frustrations with president Obama and the African Americans he has come in contact with thus far in his maybe 8 or 9 years on the planet. Someone is recording this video [probably an adult] whom you can hear in the background snickering. These views weren’t learned through osmosis but came from somewhere, most likely from home.

So…as a father I have to explain what and why transracial is. I have to train my daughter on what she should do and how she is to conduct herself in the presence of a police officer. I have to explain to my daughter to keep receipts whenever she buys something inside a department or convenience store and let her know what to say if she has a classmate who thinks all black people smell like sh**. So how do I do this?

I can’t.

Sorry for the anti-climatic gut punch but as an African American father I have not found an accurate way to keep up with the different attacks to skin color my children may endure. As I patch up one hole another emerges that requires attention to fill but expertise to recognize. As if becoming a “woman”, dealing with the opposite sex and pimples weren’t enough. What is a single father to do? Nothing?

No. Not nothing.

I will give you the strategy that has been serving me thus far; be yourself. The only accurate way I have found to teach your children about certain difficulties in life is by example. Are all white people racist? No. Does every police officer you met see you equally? Probably not. I have to teach this by how I INTERACT with people who are different than I am. How I INTERACT with police officers. What do I say about people of different races? What do I TEACH? If I have racists thoughts am I working on them? Am I pushing myself and my boundaries to include others who don’t look like me? Do I encourage my daughters to have MANY friends of different nationalities?

I do my daughters a disservice if I don’t tell them about police brutality, about keeping their receipts when walking around department stores and how to deal with the burden of educating ignorant people they might come in contact with. I also do them a disservice if I only tell them to play or interact with people who look like them because it makes ME feel comfortable. Difficult as it maybe it is the highest form of care for yourself and parenting your child is by leading them towards the barriers of their comfort zone. Even that still might not be enough but, its a start.

The only complete way I have found to teach my children is to grow myself. Hope that helps.

-A Single Dad

Mom Vs Dad

I tell all new young fathers: “Be Dad. Never try to compete with who and what mom does. That’s not your job”. I stand by that statement 100%. Last month restaurants, florists and 3rd grade school projects all spiked in anticipation of Mothers Day. It was on TV, Radio and in Hallmark  since February 15.  Now I am not hating on mom — good job — however as an advocate for single dads I want to say that Mother’s day shouldn’t be the yardstick you use to measure how well you are doing as a father. Sunday you might not have had dinner reservations and the media might not have had reoccurring stories and dialogue talking about you. A card or ugly tie MIGHT be the only thing you received if you received anything at all.  That is okay. Why?

Well because parenting isn’t about accolades. Though nice when you receive them “props” aren’t the end goal when you become a father. Pats on your back aren’t why you sacrifice or toil or worry or protect or pay for or do many of the things you do that no one — including your child — may ever see. You do them because it is your job, plain and simple. Being a parent boils down to putting something before yourself at all times; making something more important than yourself. Staying in and going over algebra homework over going out to drink with you friends. Sitting through dance rehearsals at school over returning the call from the cute girl you’d like to date. It is one of the hardest things to do — initially — but with time you learn how to make it  second nature.

This also applies to your counterpart and in some instances mortal enemy in parenting; mom. That’s right mom may have her own selfish agenda that doesn’t involve you. She could be working towards accomplishing something completely different in raising your son or daughter. That is a very real and unfortunate side effect of being a single dad – the vision you have for your children’s lives may not be reciprocated. There is no remedy, it is just an ugly truth that may lie underneath the surface of your parenting experience. I hope it isn’t the case and you participate in a collaborative effort dedicated to developing the very best human being possible. If you don’t then concentrate on your son or daughter, the rest will come. This isn’t unique to being a single parent either, married couples experience the silent rivalry for their childrens’ affection as well.

Mom slaves away all day cooking, kissing boo-boos, and coordinating play dates and in one fail swoop becomes a footnote once dad walks through the door. Dad has done his best cooking, cleaning and putting barretts in his daughter’s hair only to get a wailing attitude that evaporates when her mom takes over. Only her pancakes taste good or help with school science projects valid.

Relax. You are only in a competition with yourself, no one else. Seriously.

You are in a marathon not a race, stamina will determine how you fair not style. Fatherhood does not happen in a single moment but from a collection. You may not become important to your son or daughter until they are 12 and going through puberty. That means you have to wait TWELVE YEARS to pull ahead — though this is not a competition — in that race. Can you wait that long? That was a trick question, you have no choice. And you know what? That one moment you’ve waited so long to experience might be so pivotal that it resonates deeper than mom’s packed lunches and science fair help in the third grade. Your understanding as a parent when they were teenagers lost in the world will be what stands out. Which one is more important? Neither. They both require patience. They are both part of parenting……BUT one definitely feels a bit more gratifying than the other when things are said and done.

Even though this is not a competition, I like it when dads win.

– A Single Dad