Before your show I never felt like just one of 34. I have always had a great and close relationships with 8 of my siblings that I do know. We have a very supportive and loving family overall. We are in constant contact, so it has always felt totally normal. Sure, I always knew that I had an unusual amount of siblings out there, and yes, I RESENTED my father for it. I never, however, despised what he created. All of my siblings are a blessing and they all matter, but I resented what he would NOT do. Yes my mother is the first, and she is amazing woman, nothing short of an inspiration. She has done great on her own, despite my father’s absence, and having so many children, it would be asinine to say he wasn’t necessary. It was just extremely difficult for us to expect anything from him at all. Let’s be honest, you cannot expect a man with 34 children to do something as ordinary as tucking you into bed every night. You certainly cannot expect that same man to put you and your 33 siblings through college. You cannot expect to see him during the holidays, your birthday, or even at your college graduation. Zero expectations, zero consistency. What does a person like that teach a child about how to socialize? Have no expectations? Have no voice? Set no boundaries? I will admit that I have had to ask myself each of those questions at different points in my life but the reoccurring question was always: “When will the day come when my Father will be held accountable and how?”
I thought that day had come when I was invited to join you on your show “Iyanla fix my life.” You were featuring a segment on my father, the man who has 34 biological children with 17 different women. When I was asked to participate I was apprehensive simply because I was not buying it. There was no way that anyone could “fix” my Father. His poor choices have disappointed me, and so many others countless times and I never thought the day would come where he would truly have the opportunity to face his demons. I fought with myself for a bit about my participation, but call it curiosity or wishful thinking, I decided to continue with the show.
I joined my siblings on the couch as we sat across from you, and then my father entered the room. In that particular moment, it felt like seeing a ghost. I hadn’t had any contact with my Father in over a year, and I was not at all pleased to be in presence. I just could not seem to wrap my head around my father knowing exactly how to reach me and where to find me all of this time but was only willing to talk when there was a camera around. Needless to say, my guard was up, and I did not believe that anything positive could come from this show. I began to worry about my siblings feelings, my family’s reputation, and I even questioned how I could receive any healing with my Father from that conversation. I left Atlanta feeling frustrated. All of the feelings about my Father that I had long since suppressed had resurfaced, and I did not want to deal with them, so I didn’t. I tucked my feelings away as I had so effortlessly done before, out of site out of mind. That is until the first show aired.
Sure I had heard the story before, after all it is my family, but it certainly did not feel like my family that I was watching on television. It was as if I was listening to someone else’s story, about a family that I didn’t even know. I could not believe that this man has 34 children! I could not believe that all of these women just let him get away with this! Why didn’t he just get a vesectomy? How did he get to this point? Furthermore, How can this be “fixed”? So just like any other viewer, I tuned into the next episode, and the next, and the next. I was able to see how what he created actually looked from another perspective, and was left with one question: Who holds him accountable?
So here’s what I learned from this process; It was never about highlighting the extraordinary circumstances of my family, it was about healing and finding your inner peace. This has tested my ability to compartmentalize the feelings that I have toward my father, so that I don’t allow his mistakes to mold my decisions. I also have to be cautious as not to project my feelings onto others. I am not just the eldest of 34. Who I am and what I feel as an individual does matter. His absence in my life is not a detriment. In fact, it has actually made me stronger, and serves a greater purpose. I know that things may not ever be perfect between my father and I. I am also aware that the time has passed for him to be a Dad, but I felt that this experience would at the least open up dialogue between us, possibly even maybe one day developing a friendship. So, with that thought in mind, before I left Atlanta I took a picture with my Grandfather and my Dad just so that I could have some inspiration to hold on to.
When I look at that photo, I see a young woman standing in between two of the most important men in her life. She is happy because she knows that the man to her right loves her, provides for her, protects her and she trusts him. She knows that when she calls he will answer, and that he will always put her first. She is his first child, Daddy’s little girl And he always has her best interest at heart.
She also knows that this is not real. This photo represents a “fantasy” of the Father that she never had. The reality is that this is the first photo she has ever taken with the two of these men together at the same time.
The even bigger reality is that last night was the first time that I spoke with my father since the show aired. So far the show has been running for 5 episodes with another follow up episode set to air this upcoming weekend. That means that it took almost half of your season for me to actually have a conversation with my father and that conversation only took place because I called him.
When I called him, the first thing that I asked my father was how he was feeling about everything. I knew that people were saying some pretty horrible things about him, and despite how I felt, I still cared. He responded by telling me that he was feeling great because he is now “working in purpose” and that he is very blessed with all of the opportunities that he has ahead of him because of the show. He then went on to tell me that he was not very happy with the first three episodes. He stated “The production made me appear to be like those regular guys out there who just have babies everywhere and don’t do anything for them.” I actually think that he forgot who he was speaking with because in my eyes he has always been just a “regular” guy having babies and not taking any true responsibility for them.
In response to his denial filled statement I calmly said, “let’s be honest, if you were solely responsible for my three meals a day since birth I would not be breathing right now.” Of course that struck a nerve in him, and per usual he went on about all of the things that he did for me and my siblings growing up. You see in his head he feels he has been “super dad” when in reality, all he has to hold on to are glorified moments of generosity.
Yes, it was generous of him to show up to my performing arts high school graduation, and to take pictures with my family without ever having read a single report card, or having attended any of my performances. It was generous of him to encourage me to attend college in Atlanta, GA, purchase a twin extra long dormitory style bed set, and feel entitled to say that he has put me through college when he has not cosigned a single student loan. It was generous of him to drive up to my college during my first semester of with my grandmother, whom I’ve never met before, and have me stand outside of her passenger side window while she says “Jay your daughter is beautiful,” without encouraging her to speak to me directly or get out of the car and at the least give me an introductory hug. It was generous of him to visit me at my dorm during that same semester with his new girlfriend, who was newly pregnant, with his child and that she so happened to be a student at my college. It was very generous for him to NOT show up to my college graduation, because he just knew that his ex wife was going to be there to support me, and he did not want to risk being arrested for an imaginary warrant that she had out for him. It was even more generous of him to tell me just last night during our last conversation that he was valid for not coming to my graduation because he had 15 other kids to worry about that day, and that it was not worth him going to jail over. My only response to him, was that I wish he had that same mentality when he was holding me in his arms for the first time as an infant. I told him, that I wish he would’ve thought of my college graduation then. I wish he would’ve considered the possibility of having 33 other children, and what he was taking away from ME, his first child, then. At that point in the conversation, he said he had another call and that he had to go.
So there I was left with my thoughts and all that I could think was, what about us? What about the children? Clearly he has not learned a thing, primarily because he does not listen. Sure, he has heard it all before. The heartbreak and anguish of his children’s mothers, the sadness and frustration of his family, and the anger and utter disdain for his existence from his children. Yet, he still does not truly listen.
Perhaps if he spent less time trying to validate his poor decision making, and spent more time listening, he would have had the opportunity to learn about the conversation I had with my brother’s mother a little while ago. During our conversation, she told me that she brought my brother to the park to play and how he was playing with a group boys, and in that group of boys was a familiar face. Now if we look back to the second episode of your show this season you stated that his older children not wanting to have a relationship with him is the consequence of his actions. No. The consequence is my brother, his son, who has never met my father, playing in the park with his own brother, also his son, neither having a clue that they are siblings. So again I ask, what about the children?
This is undoubtedly a unique situation due to the amount of people involved, but the concept of ‘Deadbeat Dad' is not something that you don’t hear about everyday. However, as “common” as it may be to hear about absentee fathers, be it to one child or 34, that does not make it any more acceptable. So who holds my Father and the men that are like him accountable? Well, for starters I’d have to say the millions of viewers. Yes, the show has brought awareness to an epidemic that is long past due to be overturned. So the word is out, and now my father and his counterparts are being forced to face the mirror that is the world starring back at them FINALLY.
All thanks to you for being the vehicle in which he gets to share his story as he sees it. He now gets to be a catalyst for all of the irresponsible men, having children and abandoning them all over the world. Was that the goal? Was the purpose to make him feel better about himself? Make himself appear to be some kind of hero meanwhile he has single handedly “Dropped” all of 34 of his own children, as you so eloquently put it on episode 2 of this season? I suppose that all of this does make sense, after all the title of each episode has been “Fix My Father With 34 Children”. Well it’s clear that you have done just that, fixed my father. Now, my father has been refined. He has received the validation that he always hoped for. He now gets to be the poster child, the voice of all of the “rolling stones” across the country. He even goes as far as to apologize on behalf of all of the men who have wronged the women who have been victimized, or better yet in this case womanized. Yes, now he has found himself and his “calling” in life, all because he has been allowed to blame his parents for why he made the decisions that he made. Yet he has 34 children out there, with NO true representation of a Father, no voice, going out into the world after being told to just get over it and figure it out. So I ask again, what about “us”? Yes, what about “us”, the countless children growing up “Daddy-less," because our Fathers are more horny than they are proactive, more selfish than they were in love, and more of a barnacle than they were "generous” to finish the never-ending job of being a parent.
Earlier in this letter I asked who holds that man accountable? Well I’ll tell you who, his children. With all of that being said, I want to say thank you for fixing my Father. You have done a remarkable job in helping him to feel better about himself, while unfortunately further enabling his false sense of reality. The reality is that he still has not been held accountable, so I am encouraging you to ask yourself, “what about the children?”.