June 13, 2012

Letter to my Son

Dear Son,

You are just over 9 months old and have accomplished so much in your young life.  Let me first say that I am extremely proud of you and have anticipated your arrival for over 40 years (well at least since I’ve been old enough to think about kids of my own).  You are loved by so many people, some of whom are close to you, but what is more interesting to me are the dozens of people who come up to me or your mom and comment on how “smiley” and “friendly” you are.  I’m not sure about nature or nurture, but I do know that your disposition seems to be on course to be a friendly outgoing person.  My only wish is that living life never takes that away from you.

What do I mean by that?  Well, as much as I’d like to buy into the notion that since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, we live in a “post-racial” society.  I sincerely hope and pray that by 2028 when you are approaching 30, that we as a society will HAVE achieved this goal.  Until then there are some things that you need to know being a young black (mixed) man in this society.   Those lessons will be somewhat difficult and confusing, not to mention frustrating, and will be advanced in time, but they are lessons we will need to learn/teach nonetheless.

Something else that will make the transition from childhood, where there are no such things as hate, prejudice and discrimination, to adulthood even more challenging for us, will be that these lessons were not taught to me by my father or any singular male figure.  If you haven’t noticed, this family is heavy matriarchal on both sides.  Your mom has her father, your grandfather in her life, but besides that, it’s mostly women.  Let me be clear, that is not to say you cannot grow up to be a “man” by being raised by women, in fact I am saying the opposite.  Your father, me, grew up to be a man by being raised by women.  You, are lucky to have the best of so many worlds.

So let me say this, as we celebrate father’s day this weekend, our first, it is my wish that we never stop going to baseball games, never stop singing, never stop dreaming, never stop showing love and affection for one another, and, as selfish or cynical as this sounds, never stop demonstrating and showing other people that there is a different model of black male parenthood besides the one that is so prevalent in the media and the public discourse.  While I will continue to argue that I am a work in progress, and that there are a host of things I could do better (not the least of them being more patient), I will concede that every time we step outside the threshold of our house, we help to change the meaning to so many people about what it means or looks like for fathers, black fathers in particular to help raise their children.  I take from the experiences of watching male and female (as well as black and white) examples of extraordinary coaches, teachers, mentors, family members and yes media images (e.g. Bill Cosby) who have helped me become the father I am growing into. 

As Whitney Houston sang, I will always love you.  Ms. Whitney, also famously sang I believe that children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.  Lead the way son, I will follow.

Love always, Dad

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