Fatherhood

Try And Try Again

The boys were helping me with a project last night. It wasn’t going well and I was already frustrated. So, I snapped—not at them, but it clearly scared them. And Wyatt was a little down for the rest of the night because he felt he’d let me down. I apologized, told him it wasn’t his fault, but it wasn’t enough to salvage our collective mood.

I always say as long as you love your kid, that’s enough. But, that doesn’t mean you win every day. Sometimes, it means—despite loving them with all that you are—you still disappoint them. And yourself.

This morning, Wyatt and I talked about how to turn our days around, how to accept our mistakes and work to change or fix them, rather than letting them negatively color our emotional state.

Will we win the day? I don’t know.

But, we’ll try.

single mothers vs. single fathers

Patriarchy means “rule of the father” and it is about male control over female bodies. Women who are not controlled by men are looked down upon–especially those who have children, who can raise those children without a male influence. Society talks often about the negative effects of growing up in a fatherless household, that having a household without a father is depriving a child of some vital necessity. (This goes doubly for lesbian couples who decide to raise children together–a related but unique issue.) The belief is that fathers can offer something to the children which mothers can not.

Single mothers are looked down upon in patriarchy because there is no man to be at the head of the household and lead the family. This family unit is viewed as if it has no direction, as if their leader is missing, as if they are either doomed or to be pitied. That is how society treats single mother households.

Single fathers are praised because he is allowed the recognition as head of household, rather than viewed as the head of household missing from the equation. Normally, in a heterosexual patriarchal household, the mother’s duties would include regular child “maintenance” while the father would play with or discipline the children. He is praised for taking on the “maintenance” of the children–that is, society accepts that he can capably perform the tasks women are traditionally seated with.

What this comes down to, is that society believes men can do what women can, but that women can not do what men can. And what women do is basic, subservient labor, and what men do is shape personalities and facilitate growth.

That is why society hates single mothers but praises single fathers.

Some people are calling for the end of cargo shorts. Admittedly, it started as a joke, which is great. I like jokes. Really. But, tons of people—some of them dads—are joining the chorus and they’re not laughing. So, here’s the thing:

Fuck those people.

This dad I saw at the beach epitomizes the first reason people should zip their trap (and their fly, I guess) about cargo shorts. His little girl asked him to hold her doll and he just slipped it into a pocket, freeing him to continue playing with her with both of his hands. If she wants to play Ring Around The Rosie, he can do it with both hands. If she slips, he can catch her with both hands. If she does a super rad swing dismount, he can clap with both hands. And for the record, I asked this guy if I could take his pic, I wasn’t creeping.

I’m not even making the cargo-shorts-are-the-dad-purse argument. I’m just saying they were originally made for hiking through the jungle and going on safaris and shit and nothing comes closer to that experience than parenting.

I have a couple of pairs of cargo shorts and you know what? I use the pockets to hold Hot Wheels cars, Lego minifigs, clown noses, rocks—whatever the fuck my kids ask me to hold. And yeah, some of those Hot Wheels cars are mine, okay? They’re awesome!

Here’s the second reason I’m defending cargo shorts. Anyone who says you should stop wearing a particular type of clothing is a steaming sack of shit. Who gives a fuck what you think about my attire, blogger? Because it ain’t me. I’m too busy playing with my Hot Wheels cars. So, back the fuck off your Internet pedestal and check yourself.

Unless you’re talking about jean shorts. Those have to go.

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Zun LeeFather Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood

Widely hailed as a landmark project, Zun Lee’s monograph is at once documentary photography and personal visual storytelling. Through intimate black-and-white frames, Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood provides insight into often-overlooked aspects of African-descended family life. 

Zun Lee’s Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood is an incredible and necessary visual narrative. The images in this series provide balance and insight into a growing problem facing African American communities today. Zun’s critical eye has a deeply rooted connection to this story, allowing the viewer to see the often-invisible fathers, who strive to be providers and protectors for their children. All too often, these types of images never make the local news or mainstream media; however his work serves as a form of visual medicine to help in the healing process of so many in today’s society who are searching for answers to an ever growing concern. – Jamel Shabazz

The reader gains an intimate view into the daily lives of black men whom Lee has worked with since 2011 and who are parenting under a variety of circumstances – as married fathers, single fathers, social fathers, young and older, middle class and poorer. Lee brings into focus what pervasive father absence stereotypes have distorted – real fathers who are involved in their children’s lives. Men who may not be perfect but are not media caricatures.