Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, whether biological or surrogate! It is always great to be recognized for a role that many times doesn’t come with a set of directions or a guidebook of instructions. And often, the role bears no points and little recognition for success. Except in the court of public opinion, fatherhood is rarely examined under a microscope, as is motherhood.
Father’s Day is not as commercialized as Mother’s Day, and it is not as widely celebrated. The restaurants on Father’s Day are not as packed and unavailable for reservations as they are on Mother’s Day. However, fathers are important too. Although the role of father is just as essential as the role of mother, fathers are often given passes and excuses are made for their lack of participation and/or limited level of participation in the lives of their children.
From boyhood to manhood, there are different rules, different regulations, and different expectations for and of males. Males are given different messages, and they are allowed much more leeway than females, from the cradle to the grave. And if you are e a male reading this blog, I am sure you can attest to this difference in treatment (if you will be honest with yourself).
Although there are more males incarcerated than females, more female single parents than males, more battered females than males, and males are paid higher wages than females on the average. Males are afforded more freedom and seemingly less direction than females. For some reason, male children are allowed to cross all boundaries without consequences or repercussions. They are often allowed to stay out later and longer than females, and they are rarely held accountable for their actions, especially if there is no father or father figure in their lives. There is a staunch discrepancy between the guidance and direction provided for boys, from that provided for girls.
From the time boys are born, the societal messages are one of entitlement, especially for white boys. Boys in general are revered at a higher level than females. I have witnessed this within my own family and amongst my friends. Boys are usually allowed to not have curfews, not have chores, not work during high school, and sometimes not work after high school, into adulthood. They are rarely criticized for their style of dress, their actions, and their behaviors, unless they are males of color. The negative behaviors of boys are often considered funny and humorous. However, these same negative behaviors are seen as hideous if put forth by girls.
We wonder why more crimes are committed by boys and men than those committed by girls and women. It almost seems as if boys and men start taking dares to do wrong as children, and those dares continue into adulthood, all because of the free passes afforded them in life. The freedom boys are given at home by their mothers is often due to their absentee father; mothers feel guilty and overly compensate. Their girlfriends and their wives then afford them the same freedoms when they become adults, without accountability and without consequences for their behaviors. If we have more boys and men in prison, especially African-American boys and men (although too many are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit), it would seem as if we would come to realize that boys need guidance and direction just as much as girls. As a matter of fact, they probably need more!
And when our boys become adults, we wonder why they have difficulty engaging in positive, healthy, and lasting relationships. WHO TAUGHT THEM?! Mothers tend to revere their sons, especially if the father is not in their lives, and their fathers tend to rush them into manly roles when they are still ‘wet behind the ears,’ with the ‘milk still not dry around their mouths.’ Many of our boys are often fearful, in pain, and confused. Yet and still, we expect them to function in the real world when we have allowed them to live in a fantasy world most of their lives.
It’s amazing how much so many of you, as parents, show discrepancy between the rearing of your boys and the rearing of your girls. Girls are told and taught to keep their dresses down, but how many of you tell your sons to keep their penises in their underwear, not alone in their pants? They are seen as conquerors when they can have sex with a harem of girls, like their dads, and girls are ridiculed for having sex with more than one boy, not that this behavior or practice is right for either of them. Girls also have many derogatory terms ascribed to them when it comes to their sexual escapades.
Boys can produce double-digit out-of-wedlock babies and never be held accountable for their actions or assume responsibility for the children they produce, financially, physically, morally, spiritually, or emotionally. However, girls are expected to take responsibility for their children, as well as make what is often a painful decision as to whether they should keep their out of wedlock children, or place them up for adoption, while males are once again given a free pass. And as a mother, girls and women MUYST be accountable for the total wellbeing of her children, no matter what her situation. When a girl or a woman has several children by several different men, she is seen as a disgrace, a whore, a floosy, and a ‘burden on the system’; someone who should be ashamed of herself.
It is imperative to recognize that if you want responsible and accountable men, you must start with responsible and accountable boys. But in that vein, boys need you, as mothers to stop coddling them and rear them the same way you rear your girls, without compromising their gender identity. Moreover, you as a father, whether biological or otherwise, need to step up to the plate and accept your God-given role to help mothers to rear, guide, and direct your children, especially your sons. It takes both mothers and fathers to bring about equity in rearing their boys and their girls. And fathers are necessary to bring boys from boyhood to manhood.
Specifically in African-American communities, there are entirely too many absentee fathers who bear no role or responsibility in rearing their children, especially their boys. As a result, too many fathers have pretty much abandoned guiding and directing their sons, forcing them to succumb to the self-guidance and self-direction, or the guidance and direction of negative, external people and forces. But then, who taught him? Mothers are constantly attempting to do their very best as single parents. However, a mother cannot rear a boy to become a man; she needs the assistance of either his father or other healthy and positive male role models.
If the boy child is not guided and directed during boyhood, as a man, he will fall by the wayside, lacking positive attributes he should have received as a child. If the boy child is allowed to believe or is taught that his power is below his waist, in his penis (sex), and not above his waist in his head (brains) and in his heart (positive emotions), as a man, he will exemplify the same. For so many males of color, this misguidance and misdirection has wreaked havoc on the family. If it continues, there won't be enough men for women of color, because as boys, they were either not guided, not directed, or misguided and misdirected. Hence, they will more and more fall prey to the pipeline to prison that starts in third grade, by a society that still does not see them as whole, or they will fall prey to other societal maladies.
Without proper guidance, without proper direction, and without proper teaching for our boys, they will make poor choices and poor decisions with negative consequences, while engaging themselves in negative and destructive behaviors that negatively impact their relationships with family, friends, and the opposite sex. Here is where gangs become the norm, rather than the exception. Boys without guidance and direction also find themselves feeling unloved, have low self-esteem, and they lack a sense of belongingness. As a result, they find themselves easily influenced and easily misled; they become followers, rather than leaders, seeking love with the wrong people and in the wrong places, compromising their values, and pushing the limits with the legal system, many times sacrificing their lives and their freedom.
Guiding, directing, and teaching our boys properly when they are young, will allow me as a therapist to not have to look at the man sitting on my therapy couch with his mate, when she is perplexed by his behaviors, or lack thereof, and I have to help her to relent some by asking her the question, ‘who taught him?’ The early guidance, proper direction, intentional teaching of our boys, will determine the outcome of their lives as men. Will they go wrong at some point? Yes, as does everyone, they will too. The difference is, with guidance, direction, and teaching, they will ne able to not only find their way back to the right path, they will have less difficulty getting back on track.
For the great fathers out there, as well as the men who can attest to having had or still have a great father in your life (and as you know, there are many of them), it is imperative that you continue to participate in guiding and directing the males in and around your life. If you don't do something now, we will continue to pay a dear price. Our African-American males and other males of color are in desperate need of positive father figures in their lives.
For the positive male role models reading this blog, I would like to take this opportunity to challenge you to take on the role of providing guidance and direction for a male child in your neighborhood and/or your community. And I challenge the females reading this blog to identify and challenge the positive males in your life, to commit to providing guidance, direction, and teachings for a male child in your neighborhood and/or community. If not now, WHEN?!
Here are but a few of the issues boys face when they are not guided, directed, and taught by positive people in their lives, especially by positive male figures.
· They are left without male teachers who look like them
· They see a home with a struggling mother…many times with more than one child
· They are sometimes in a house without a financial foundation
· They become hopeless
· They are more likely to drop out of school
· They feel forced to try to be a man at an early age
· They stop dreaming
· They sometimes don’t learn how to respect females, starting with their mother
· They become bitter, angry, and unforgiving
· They are placed in a position to engage in negative external influences at an early age, including gangs, addiction, and crime
· Their self-esteem and psyche are negatively impacted
· They are not afforded the positive spiritual connection from a male’s perspective
· They can become emotionally bankrupt men
· They are cheated of the opportunity to become a healthy man, with healthy relationships and a healthy life direction
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