Father’s Day is a week from tomorrow, and I want to spend some time giving praise to those fathers, particularly those in the black and Latino community, who are taking care of their children.
Too often, statistics are given out about the men who are not taking care of their children. But I believe most men who have children are meeting their obligations to provide stable, loving homes for their offspring.
Perhaps I should begin by defining what I consider are the prerequisites for being a father.
Fathers are responsible and accountable. A father realizes he has helped to create another human being, and his priority is to ensure the health, safety and welfare of that child at all costs.
A father will go out, repeatedly, to look for work, find a job, and earn the necessary income to provide what his child needs.
A father will spend quality time with his child. That means he often will forsake what he wants to do and dedicate that time to play with his child, give the child a bath, change the child’s diapers, clean up the nursery, help the child with any and all homework, and daily tell and show that his love for his child is boundless.
A father will discipline his child when needed. Unfortunately, I have seen children talk back and even hit their parents if they don’t get their way. I believe that happens because the child has not learned about discipline.
We can agree to disagree on whether corporal punishment should still be used in the 21st century. I am old-school, however, and I firmly believe in the biblical principle of physical discipline, done in love and never in anger, to mold and shape boys and girls.
My late grandmother used to beat me, my brother and sister with a sturdy part of a green plant. We called it a switch. My dad and mom used a belt. I know of other folks who used their hands, a shoe or a paddle. The bottom line is that children need to learn discipline to correct inappropriate behavior, and sometimes physical punishment is required. And a father will make sure he measures out the appropriate discipline.
Marriage, sadly, is becoming a thing of the past, but even in our American society when half of all marriages end in divorce, a father will make sure he keeps in contact with his child.
A father has integrity. He upholds a code of moral and artistic values and he passes them along to his child by his words and deeds. In other words, he won’t be a hypocrite. Part of that integrity is admitting his errors or when he is wrong to his child. There was a popular rhyme that was told to me when I was young: “If you mess up, fess up.” A father also will follow that rule. Fathers are not perfect. They make mistakes. A father will make the time to tell his child he has erred, and a father will ask his child for forgiveness.
A father will show his child how he respects the child’s mother. Men and women have argued and will continue to argue and even fight in relationships. But a father will realize that his child should never see him abuse that child’s mother. A father will walk away from a volatile situation if need be to avoid a confrontation in front of the child that could have long-lasting negative effects.
A father with multiple children will make every attempt not to favor one over the other. Many adults have traced some deep-seated problems in their lives to favoritism in the home when they were children. And the culprit, in many cases, was the father.
A father is a promise- keeper. He will not use a trite excuse not to keep a promise he made to his child.
A father won’t be ashamed to shed tears in front of his child. Men have a mantra that we must always “man up” and never show emotions when we are hurt or disappointed. I used to hold to that belief. I’ve given it up. A father realizes he is not exempt from the pain caused by the challenges of life. His son or daughter needs to know men do cry. Men do get hurt, and tears are not signs of weakness, but of being human.
There are more good fathers in our community than bad ones. Bad fathers get in the newspaper and the daily TV broadcasts because they are involved in behaviors that are a detriment to themselves and their children.
The Vindicator recently had a feature story about a 5-year-old boy who has kidney cancer and his sister, who also has some physical challenges. The story dealt with a fundraiser on the boy’s behalf in Austintown. If you read the piece, you noticed the boy’s father was involved in every step of his son’s journey. You see, real fathers, not sperm depositors, don’t run away from their obligations and responsibilities when times get tough and things don’t go as planned. They embrace them.
Father’s Day is about recognizing men who are accountable, reliable, have integrity, admit their mistakes, discipline their children, respect the mothers of those children and aren’t ashamed to show their tears to their child or children.
So, to those fathers, I proudly say: Happy Father’s Day. And may you have many more.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at email@example.com