I’ll never forget the day my husband and I found out we were having a baby, mostly because my tears of fear were in stark contrast to his tears of joy. He was ecstatic about becoming a father. He imagined all the things he could teach our child and share with him about the world, including his love for baseball, cooking, and (insert eye roll from me) his obsessions with Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and the stock market. And like a typical dad-to-be, he helped assemble furniture and gadgets for the baby, took parenting classes, went to appointments with me, and listened as I shared my latest research on how to get a baby to sleep.
After months of anticipation, our beautiful baby boy finally arrived, and I loved watching my husband slide so easily into his father role. My heart melted when my son would fall asleep on his chest, skin to skin.
My whole world would stop when I caught my husband gently singing sweet lullabies to the sleeping baby cradled in his arm.
One day, my husband wanted to bring our son to a work function although I insisted I was fine at home taking care of him alone. But he was persistent and really wanted to take our son and show him off. I gave in after seeing how much our son making an appearance meant to him.
Taking our son to his work function wasn’t the last time my husband was quick to volunteer to tow our son around. A walk in the neighborhood. A visit to the park. A trip to the grocery. And of course, to hang with the “fellas.” A lot of my husband’s work friends, who have since transitioned into lifelong friends, had already had kids, and my husband had been eager to join their ranks as fathers and bring his kids to their playdates. Now, with one of his own, my husband looked forward to hanging out with all the dads and the little ones.
When our son was only a couple of months old, my husband was once again all too anxious to bring our son over to his friend’s house to introduce him to all the boys and our son’s new friends. I laughed. Our son really couldn’t do anything, but I could see the excitement in my husband’s eyes.
Later that evening, I eventually wandered over to relieve my husband of his parenting responsibilities and whisk our son away. All of my husband’s friends were cooing over our son. Holding him. Passing him around. And helping my husband get acquainted with his newfound dad duties. The other kids were off running around and having fun.
I was touched by the scene I witnessed and felt blessed to be surrounded by a loving husband and his wonderful friends.
The playdates have since continued and only intensified in their frequencies since the pandemic forced us all into a little bubble. The fathers stepped up and gave the mothers much-needed breaks. They entertained the kids with games, sugar (probably too much), and pizza parties. To my son and me, my husband and his friends are the loving, attentive fathers they were always destined to be.
My husband and his friends are Black. But to some in society, they would be considered unicorns, an exception to the rule perpetuated by harmful stereotypes.
The media and society have not been kind to Black fathers. Both are guilty of perpetuating the myth that Black fathers are uninvolved in the lives of their children. Late one evening, as I was having an uncomfortable conversation with someone I know about race, he brought up the problem of the absent Black father. I was stunned. Was that myth really still circulating around?
It was so far from my reality and everything I know to be true: that despite racist stereotypes about Black men, research shows that . . .
Black fathers are taking their children to and from activities and helping their children with homework more than any other race of fathers whether they live under the same roof or not.
Black fathers still show up even though according to the American Psychological Association, people see Black men as larger and more threatening than white men who are the same size.
The shocking reality is that there are twice as many Black males incarcerated than there were enslaved in 1850. Black people, especially Black men, many of whom are fathers, are more likely to be charged, tried, convicted, and sent to jail than white people committing the same crimes. But, despite the odds, Black fathers are more present than ever.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” I told him.
My husband and his friends didn’t need to prove anything to anyone, especially someone who didn’t really know them, but I wanted to then—and I still do now.
So, to my husband and all the Black fathers out there today and all the days to come, know that I see you. I see you squashing stereotypes and going above and beyond in an effort to show the world you are excellent fathers. But most importantly, I see you showing your children unconditional love. Thank you for all you do.