In typical fashion I am late to the party, hey what can I say? However today Black bloggers across the blogosphere are uniting to write on a very important topic that really requires all of us to start getting involved and not just by talking but to really work towards creating change. In the US, children born out of wedlock have become a common occurrence and the truth is there are lots of reasons why couples choose not to marry. Though in the Black community the consequences are creating what I am sure scholar’s years from now will call the lost generation or maybe even the lost generations. A generation of kids raised without two individuals involved in their lives. I am not about to argue on the moral piece of why folks must get married because as someone who did time as a single Mama I know all too well that life happens but even as a divorced young Mama years ago I understood that my ex-husband and father of my son needed to have a place in my son’s life. I suspect the reason I understood that was because of how I was raised. Here are my thoughts.
My parents married a month before I was born, for years I was embarrassed that my parent’s wedding anniversary was 5 weeks before my birthday. I often wondered why they waited so long but now as I approach middle age I am just glad they decided to become a team.
Growing up my Mother, rest her soul was the light in our family. She was the heart and the soul, her death 6.5 years ago made that clear. In fact it wasn’t until weeks before her death that I spent a significant amount of time with my father. No, my parents were never separated, my dad was a good guy but the truth is he was a bit gruff and frankly at times a tad unpleasant. Think James Sr. the father in the old TV show Good Times that was the father I grew up with. I will be honest as a kid, a teenager and even as a young woman I didn’t think he was special. It actually took my mother’s illness and subsequent death to realize he was indeed special. Since my Mom’s death I have gotten to really known him and appreciate him to the point that he is moving out to Maine this fall.
Yet it was hitting my mid 30’s a few years ago that it hit me that my father’s influence was always lurking beneath the surface. While I can’t say wholeheartedly that Dad was the first man I loved he was the man who set the bar for what I looked for in a man. See, my Dad was that old school blue collar man who put family first. He worked, brought his check home and allowed my Mom to be a homemaker. I have said on this blog before I used to be ashamed that my Mom was a stay at home Mom and the fact we didn’t have much in terms of financial resources. Yet in allowing my Mom to be a stay at home Mom in the 1970’s and 80’s he gave me a gift, a framework that only now as I approach 40 I truly understand.
In the Black community there is a saying Mama’s baby, Papa’s maybe and I think in the last 20 or so years we have seen the tragic results of such thinking. A couple has a child and Mama is responsible and well maybe Daddy is around. Yet the fact is kids need two parents ideally they need them to be together but if that is not possible and believe me it was not possible for my ex-husband and I. I am firmly convinced that had I stayed married to my first husband one of us would have killed the other. Two people can be so alike and passionate that it’s a very bad thing and the best thing they can do is get far the hell away from each other. Yet when I left my ex husband it was my own father who told me that my son needed his Dad. As hard as the road has been it was true my son did need his father and the fact that his Dad has been in his life always is one of the reasons I think my son is as grounded as he is. No matter what our feelings for one another, our boy has been a priority. It’s been 17 years since we split but a few months ago when I saw my ex-husband at our son’s high school graduation we embraced. The road has been long and despite our divorce early in our son’s life we both made the sacrifices to create the best life for our son.
This is what more Black men and women need to do. I have close friends whose kids did not have their fathers in their lives and now those young adults are going off in bad directions. Yet these same women did not have their fathers in their lives so in many ways they had no idea what it would mean to not have a father for their kids?
I am convinced the older I get that kids model what they see. In other words if Mama has a string of boyfriends what message are you sending to your daughters? If she sees you doing everything and a man laying up on you or worse yet begging Daddy to send money or spend time, what message does that impart to your kids? How we expect a young boy to grow up to be a responsible young man and take care of his kids if he never saw his own father do such things? Clearly a child can grow up to do the right thing but for so many Black kids that is not happening. Considering that Blacks are disproportionately affected with lower rates of school graduation, higher rates of unemployment, higher rates of prison incarceration and the list goes on. The fact is children being raised by two parents who are there emotionally, mentally and financially can go a long way in curing much of what ails the Black community.
In the idea world, a couple would get married, have kids and stay married. Yet we don’t live in an ideal world…shit happens. However we can make a decision that if we have kids they deserve our best and judging what is best starts on being brutally honest with ourselves. If you choose to lay with a man or woman and the possibility is there that you can create a new life. Ask yourself this question, do you want to deal with that person for the next 18 years if a child is created. If the answer is no get up and leave right away. Your right hand and or a personal vibration device can take care of your needs just as well without creating a vulnerable new person in this world.