I’M A DAD, NOT A DEAD-BEAT

I’M A DAD, NOT A DEAD-BEAT

It’s time to raise our fists and build our momentum to fight against the stereotypical, dead-beat dad. Not the selfish, under-loving, narcissistic, self-proclaimed kings that are fathers at tax season and ghost during the year. The fathers who actually want to be ever-present in their children’s lives, but many women keep them at bay and force them to identify as dead-beats.

Oftentimes we hear about the vindictive SSM (Salty Single Mom) who feeds into an unfortunate, cultural stigma with the law at her advantage to satisfy the vengeance of her heart. And as a result of this, there are men who want to be dedicated fathers but are labeled as dead-beats by the SSM. And the worst part is the children suffer the most.

Now let’s be clear, this is not bashing the PSM (Powerful Single Mother) who is often forced to be both parents due to the absentee father. However, in this era of heavy women empowerment many members of our community often forget our men and seemingly render them unnecessary, which teaches our sons to fall back and not be the men we want them to be.

As women, we cannot continuously shame the willing fathers of our children, and then punish them for becoming what they were forced to become, worthless. Despite any conflict between these men and the SSM, we have to take a closer look at the dedicated fathers that have become who they can be in their child’s life.

What Has Daddy Become?

The Redeemed Father: After a bitter end to a relationship, this father will leave to seemingly never return, thus birthing a PSM. However, upon clarity, he returns to reestablish a healthy relationship with his child/children and cooperative relationship with the mother. This is usually met with apprehension because the PSM believes he does not want to pay child support, which is highly likely. Nevertheless, the father will make multiple attempts to repair the relationship so that he can be in his child’s life.

The Fight or Flight Father: When the relationship between the parents is toxic, this father leaves and is baited back into the relationship for access to the child/children. The household is usually shared and the SSM uses the needs of the children to draw the father back into the home. Unfortunately, with any argument, the father leaves and the mother begins a tirade of whining and threatening legal action such as child support or sole custody. Fortunately, when the father is home he is 100% dedicated to his children’s needs, but when he is gone his devotion is sporadic due to the nature of the relationship with the SSM.

The Gatsby Father: This theory is based off the book The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, in which the main character Jay Gatsby throws elaborate parties to hopefully catch the attention of the love of his life. A Gatsby father is painted as allusive and inattentive by the SSM so that the children do not miss him. However, the father creates big situations such as social gatherings, theme park trips, gift giving and more that are tangible ‘peacock’ methods to show their devotion and love. Although this father is aware that gifts and spoiling are not the only way to show affection, these situations allow them a chance to have brief intimate moments with their child/children.

The Solo Soldier: According to the U.S. Census Bureau only 31.4 % of fathers have custody of their children, especially if they cannot prove the mother is unfit to be a full-time parent. In this circumstance, the SSM creates dramatic and spiteful situations that keep the child/children away from the father. Yet, through relentless communication, court battles, and meet-ups, this father will fight to have his child/children in order to protect them from any backlash from the SSM. The best example of this type of father is the character Monty James, played by Idris Elba, in Daddy’s Little Girls.

Elle is a Gatsby Father who has five children and is settling his divorce. The mother has requested assistance, to which he adhered to willingly. However he is, unfortunately, met with public raging fits when the mother does not get what she wants. This forces Elle to schedule outings and activities to provide a reason to see his children and prove that he is a provider and loves them.

“It seems like when Dad isn’t doing what mom wants him to do for her, then the children in turn are shifted to think Dad isn’t doing right by them either,” Elle explains somberly.

“I’ve even been told by my daughter, who lives in an apartment that I pay 75% of the rent for, You can’t tell me what to do because you don’t pay any bills around here!These various interactions have helped me to understand that my children suffer at the hands of their mother who cannot put aside her gripes to build a peaceful and amicable pact on behalf of our children who depend on our guidance. My prayer is that most of [our] conflicts can be discussed openly with them in a way that doesn’t criminalize either Mom or Dad.”

The Law of Paternity

One of the many gripes that fathers who are no longer with their child’s mother have is the misuse of child support, in addition to limited access to children. Adrienne Holland, founder and CEO of the non-profit family law firm Holland Family Services, gave some insight on how child support works and what fathers may be unaware of when it comes to their paternal rights.

“Child support is meant for the benefit of the child,” Adrienne explains. “But, part of that are intangibles such as car insurance, electricity, cell phones etc., that the mother needs to function fully as a parent and person. It is the duty of the father to pay child support whether or not the father sees his child. That’s not to say that I don’t see mothers that withhold time-sharing out of spite. Usually, when this happens it is less about revenge and more of an unrealistic fear that a father cannot care for the child.”

What Matters Most

Despite the legal and emotional battle that comes with custody, parents seem to forget that what matters most is the child. In today’s culture, a broken home does not always mean Mom and Dad aren’t together, it means Mom and Dad lack a healthy, co-parenting relationship and the child(ren) pays for it.

Ending the cycle of fatherless children or toxic childhoods starts with the decision to be different. Mekesha Young, PSM of 15-year-old daughter, left a toxic relationship for the safety of her child and had this to say about the unrelenting SSM:

“You cannot control the situation, but you can change your perspective and attitude,” Mekesha says passionately. “It’s all about perspective. Once you realize that your child(ren) are the seeds of the future and you (the [custodial] parent) are the example, it should empower you to plant seeds of life and not destruction.”

It should be a cultural standard to teach our children how to deal with disappointment and heartbreak, but not get stuck in a bitter mentality that fuels the dead-beat cycle.

THE CHARGE TO WOMEN

Among all that a woman carries, should they have to shoulder the angst of an absent father’s irresponsibility? The answer is NO! However, it is the charge of the woman to eliminate the dead-beat mentality from their child’s psyche so that they do not repeat the same mistakes.

That starts with women forgiving the men that broke their hearts, enough to show their child that life does go on and a broken home is only one that is unloving and uncooperative.

While there are men who are careless as fathers, their error cannot be used as a blanket statement for all fathers who no longer desire a romantic relationship with the mother. Sometimes relationships don’t work out, but it never justifies removing the necessary love of a father from a child’s life.

By allowing a father to be in his child’s life, that does not take the ‘power’ away from the PSM; in fact, it shows the most important lesson a child could learn, respect.

Here are some ways (unmarried/uncoupled) fathers can protect their parental rights:

  • Establish paternity by signing an affidavit of paternity from their state’s office of vital statistics.
  • Make an agreement with the mother for time-sharing and monetary support and get it in writing before the child is born; if they don’t have a written support and time arrangement, they should keep a written log with receipts and dates that details the time and money spent.
  • Go to the collection entity or the court and put yourself on child support at any time.
  • Go to mediation or a parenting coordinator without a lawyer to help resolve disputes about parenting without involving the court.
  • Ask attorneys to use collaborative methods to settle the case even if the couple was never married.
  • Get an official DNA test (Note: Over-the-counter DNA tests are not admissible in court).
  • If the father is unhappy with the mother’s performance as a parent, they can file a Petition to Modify/Establish Time Sharing Plan and Other Related Relief, which results in him having most of the time with his children. This can only be done after legally establishing paternity.

 

Celebrating Fatherhood with Thabiti Boone

Celebrating Fatherhood with Thabiti Boone

CHAMPION OF CHANGE: Thabiti Boone gave up a promising basketball career to be the kind of father he never had.

On June 13, the White House Office of Public Engagement and Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships honored ten new “Champions of Change” who do outstanding work in the field of fatherhood. They join Thabiti Boone, a previous Champion and supporter of President Obama’s White House Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative.

Boone is a college basketball hall of famer who gave up a promising career when he took responsibility for his newborn daughter as a college student. He is the International Representative for Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative, a fatherhood adviser to the Allan Houston Legacy Foundation and the Fathers and Men of Professional Basketball Players, and a former New York Theological Seminary adjunct professor. UrbanFaith talked to Boone about his work with fathers and his own experience and legacy as a father. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

UrbanFaith: You work with various organizations on the issue of fatherhood. What are the key principles that you share with men about being a good father?

Thabiti Boone: I’ve always shared from my own personal background that being a father is one of the greatest joys that any man can have. I tell fathers, “The first principle is that principle of love and connection, knowing that this child who came from you and who you helped create, will always be a part of who you are and the legacy of what you stand for.” A lot of times fathers get caught up in being defined as providers, but the greatest principle is that it’s almost like a spiritual gift from God that allows a man to become a father, and so when he has a child, it’s the most beautiful blessing that a man can have.

You became a father unexpectedly in college and took your daughter to school with you. What motivated you to give up your basketball dreams to care for her?

That was life changing for me. My mom got pregnant at 13 and my dad was an older guy who wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be a father or not, so my circumstances could have come at the hands of a judge who decided that these two parents were not in a position to parent me. But my grandmother took responsibility for me. Knowing my fate could have been different because my dad questioned whether or not he wanted to be a father made me never want to be in a position to question my fatherhood of a child I produced. My dad was physically there, but I never really had the kind of father/son relationship that I felt would have benefited both of us. And so, I knew that if I ever became a father, no matter what age, I was going to be the kind of father that I know my dad wanted to be, but just couldn’t be. I wanted to be the kind of father that so many young black males growing up in my neighborhood didn’t have. I wanted to break that cycle and be the best father that I could be.

Growing up in a neighborhood where I didn’t see many hopes, dreams, aspirations, or male role models, I also knew that if I ever made it out of the streets of Brooklyn, I would not only raise a daughter and family, but I would become a mentor and role model of what it is to be a man. That was another motivating force, because even when my father wasn’t around, I was still searching, trying to identify who can take the place of my father. I didn’t have much success with that until I met my high school coach.

The last piece that was very, very motivating is when I almost lost my mother through her attempted suicide. At the age of 12, I watched my mother jump off the rooftop of a tenement building where we lived. I knew my father had something to do with that. My mother lost self-esteem, faced depression, had a nervous breakdown, and had to head a single-parent family, and she reached the breaking point. So I knew I wanted to be the kind of son and father that would never bring that kind of pain into a woman’s life. I didn’t want to disappoint my mother. I didn’t want to disappoint my grandmother, and I didn’t want disappoint myself.

EASTER AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Thabiti Boone revels in his fatherhood legacy with his daughter and grandsons.

When I did become a teenage father, I didn’t want to start making excuses like other dads make, or whatever the reasons that prevent them from being fathers. Enough had occurred in my life for me to say, “You know what? I can be inspired and motivated to really, really conquer this thing and hit this thing head on.” And so, every time I looked at and dealt with my daughter Kim, I knew that nothing was more important to me than being the greatest dad I could be. Nothing was more important to me than trying to live up to that principle of God giving me a gift to confront me with everything I’d gone through and everything that was against me. This was actually related back into fatherhood. God said, “Okay here’s your turn. Now are you going to choose basketball as your reason like a lot of fathers have chosen different reasons why they’re not in their child’s life, or are you going to step up like a true basketball player, like a true champion, and take on this thing and make whatever sacrifices you need to make to make this thing happen?” In my spirit, in my little teenage mind, I said, “I have to turn this paradigm around.” I think the way I’m living now would not have occurred if I would have denied my daughter. Becoming a dad closed the gap.

What keeps men from being the kind of dads that their children need them to be?

Several things are barriers. So many fathers are coming from this cycle of father absence in their own lives that you have generations of fathers who don’t have fathers. They become fathers and there’s no compass and action plan. By the time they become dads, they don’t have the proper tools or the emotional wherewithal to be able to come into fatherhood the right way.

As we’ve been going around the country talking to dads, a lot of them deep down really want to be dads, emotionally, but they’re stuck with their own hurt of fathers who have rejected them and have not been in their lives. They bring that pain into their relationship as they become fathers to their own children and this cycle just keeps viciously going. And so, one of things we’re trying to do is assist fathers with how to overcome their own personal challenges around fatherhood in their own lives.

The second barrier comes from employment. One of the biggest responsibilities a father has to his family and children is economic. You have to provide for them and make sure they have the things that they need to prosper. A lot of fathers, especially in the African American and Hispanic communities, don’t have a proper job and background, and it really presents a serious challenge for them in meeting that financial responsibility. That’s why a lot of father programs and government programs are geared around helping fathers get jobs. If we can continue to help dads with skill development and education, it will allow them to meet the financial responsibility of their children.

I know what it feels like when you can’t provide. When I was in college as a basketball player, I saw that my daughter needed Pampers and milk, so I started to develop a little low self-esteem because I couldn’t give her those things. I felt better when I took my scholarship money and income from part-time jobs to give her things that she needed. If fathers can get that kind of assistance, it would be a great self-esteem boost for them in terms of that barrier.

The last thing is how fathers are received. We have to start asking: How do we define fathers and what is that definition based on? Do we continue to beat up on them and call them “dead-beats” and irresponsible, or do we do more to analyze and understand what is making our fathers who they are and what is causing father absence? Having that conversation really helps dads to know that there is some common ground and that society is not saying to them, “You’re worthless and inconsequential,” but instead, “You’re needed.”

What we’re finding in this fatherhood movement, whether it’s in my work with Allan Houston or with President Obama, is that celebrating dads and giving them the benefit of the doubt that they can do it if they step up does a lot to help them in their overall commitment to their children.

Do you think President Obama would be as passionate about fatherhood if hadn’t had an absentee father himself?

One of the things he has shared at the White House both publicly and with us that work with him is that if he was not the president, he still would feel the importance of this issue based on his personal challenge with his own dad. And so, I think he would still be as passionate about this issue and would do all that he can to support it even if he wasn’t the president. With all the things that he has going on as president, the fact that he still feels the need to have this initiative says a lot about what he thinks about this issue.

In an interview with Yahoo! Sports last year, your daughter, who is a married nurse with two sons of her own, said you are a “real man who stepped up to the plate.” In that same interview, you said that the fact that your grandsons have not know poverty or tragedy is your legacy. You traded the potential to have a professional basketball career for this legacy. How do they compare?

People like Allan Houston, who was one of the greatest players in the NBA and has a wonderful foundation that addresses the issue of fatherhood, would have no interest in having me advise and assist him on the issue of fatherhood if he didn’t respect what I did with my own daughter.  The same thing is true of the president, other NBA players, and people that I work with in other walks of life. We can be remembered for how great we were on the court, but basketball is only going to be in our lives for a certain amount of time. What we do to impact our families as fathers and to impact society as fathers and men, that’s the lasting legacy.

My choice was: Do I want Kim to say, “My dad used to be a pretty good ball player,” or do I want her to say, “My dad will always be remembered for the fact that I was more important that anything in this world.” And so, when I see my grandsons, who are growing up in a two-parent home, never having experienced what I’ve experienced, with two loving parents, I cannot beat that kind of legacy. Going back to what I said earlier about the generational challenge around father absence, God forbid my two grandsons ever know what that feels like, because their grandfather took on the challenge to eliminate and then bring into their life a legacy of father presence through my son-in-law.

I’m proud to have been in the basketball hall of fame as a college player,  and I’m proud of my success and all my accomplishments, but nothing compares to the feedback that I get from what I’ve done in terms of being a father. I would not trade all that other stuff in for the world. I will forever be known as the guy who stood up and stepped up when fatherhood really wasn’t that popular back in 1984.

Creflo Dollar’s Bad Father’s Day

Creflo Dollar’s Bad Father’s Day

TOUGH LOVE?: Pastor Creflo Dollar's mug shot from his arrest on Friday, June 8.

This is not the type of story I was expecting to read just before Father’s Day.

According to news reports, Atlanta-area megachurch preacher Creflo Dollar was arrested for allegedly assaulting his 15-year-old daughter. The two were arguing over the daughter attending a party. According to the Fayette County police report, the argument turned physical when the preached clutched his daughter’s throat, slammed her down, punched her, and beat her with his shoe. His 19-year-old daughter corroborated the story, police said. Dollar was arrested on charges of simple battery, family violence, and child cruelty. He was released on $5,000 bond.

Being a father of a 19-year-old daughter, I have an idea of how this went down:

Dollar: Look young lady, no God-fearing daughter of mine has any business being out there “droppin’ it like it’s hot” like some video chick on BET, or worse.

Daughter: Oh, so you calling me a ho now, Daddy? You worried about me or your preacher reputation? I’m grown. I can do what I want to do. You don’t own me.

Dollar: Little girl, I brought you in this world and in the name of Jesus, I’ll take you out.

Daughter: To hell you will!

Dollar: No you didn’t! I’ll kick your …

And that’s about where the similarities end for me. Raising my hands to my daughter or to my wife is out of the question. My older sons? Well, they’re different cases. But not my only daughter who (technically) is no longer my “baby girl,” even though she’ll always be just that.

As a father, rearing a daughter is more than a notion. Especially if you know what’s out there awaiting them because of your own pre-Jesus experience running “the game” in the streets. We dedicated fathers worry about dogs … I mean, young men — many of whom do not have their fathers around to train them. We worry they’ll disrespect our daughter or outright abuse her. We have thoughts of willingly doing prison time after tracking down some punk who harmed our precious girl.

We remember the “sweet talk and conquer” mentality we had as teens and twenty-somethings and wonder if our daughter will reap what we sewed. Combine this with that neck-jerking, eye-cutting nasty attitude that often comes with the terrible teen years, as a parent you sometimes don’t know whether to pray or pull your hair because of your daughter. It’s a blessing if teens like Dollar’s daughter truly understand this.

My daughter and I have gotten into it particularly over some of her choices in skirts. I don’t like seeing her legs the way I like looking at her mother’s thighs. We also get into it because we’re stubborn debaters. We enjoy frequent rounds of verbal handball. But to get so out of control that I clutch her throat, slam her down and ball my fist? No. That’s not fatherly strength; it’s the ultimate sign of male weakness.

CELEBRITY REV: As an author, TV personality, and pastor of World Changers Church International in College Park, Georgia, Creflo Dollar gained an international following.

My daughter got spanked on the butt when she was a little girl, but I didn’t hit her when she was a 15-year-old hormone terror. You can bet your bottom dollar that I would never sink so low.

The police report for the Dollar family incident says Pastor Dollar told authorities that he tried to restrain his daughter when she “became very disrespectful” after he told her she couldn’t go to the party. Dollar admitted to spanking his daughter and wrestling her to the floor, but said it was because she hit him.

In these types of domestic cases, it’s always unwise to leap to conclusions. There are always more sides to the initial story. The truth of what happened in the Dollar household will eventually seep to the light, regardless of how the preacher will try to keep things shrouded.

Dollar later released a statement through his lawyer saying, “As a father I love my children and I always have their best interest at heart at all times, and I would never use my hand to ever cause bodily harm to my children. The facts in this case will be handled privately to further protect my children. My family thanks you for your prayers and continued support.”

You certainly have my prayers for your entire family, brother. But my respect for you as a man and a father?

If the police report is true, you’re too weak for that.

Single Moms Are Not Fathers

Single Moms Are Not Fathers

I have an idea for a good Father’s Day present: a Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Inside is the definition for father:

  1. A man who has begotten a child.
  2. A male PARENT.
  3. A father-in-law, stepfather, or adoptive father.

I would give the dictionary to deadbeat dads, but I’d also give it to those being duped into honoring single mom’s on Father’s Day.

The gift idea came while I was in Wal-Mart to buy a card for my dad. My wife, as she shook her head sadly, pointed to the category “Happy Father’s Day, Mom” in the Mahogany section. Mahogany is Hallmark’s brand for African Americans. I looked through the general Father’s Day card section, but couldn’t find the “mom” category.

Hmmm. Why?

Some people insist on making a buck by selling the idea that Father’s Day is also for single moms. Hallmark has been offering the mom cards for a few years, and a Web search also revealed a few entrepreneurs selling T-shirts, mugs and the like. Being a dedicated black father of three grown children who looks forward to this one day that celebrates what I willingly do every day, I find this offensive and even dangerous, particularly for the black community.

Nationally, 1 out of 3 American children live in homes where fathers are absent, according to the Center for Disease Control. The black rate is 2 out of 3. The message to the black community is that single motherhood is acceptable, so celebrate with a Mahogany card.

Bull.

By marketing “some love” to single moms on Father’s Day, the role of dads is devalued, especially in a community that badly needs fathers to step up and be real parents. It’s also capitalizing on a self-inflicted wound. Society should be lifting men who are honoring their role. That’s what the National Fatherhood Initiative is doing. The organization, which promotes fatherhood among all racial groups, is targeting the deadbeat crisis with a Call to Action that aims to mobilize black churches. Urban Ministries, the parent company of UrbanFaith.com, is involved. I recently spoke with Roland Warren, the president of NFI, who agreed that celebrating single moms on Father’s Day doesn’t help. Warren, who like me is a product of divorced parents and was successfully reared by a loving single mom, is a married father of two. (Hear the entire interview on The Wil LaVeist Show on June 22 at Noon EST at www.whov.org.)

I called Hallmark to ask why they’re capitalizing on this crisis, but hadn’t heard back from them. (Update: Three days after this article was published, a representative from Hallmark did contact the author. See Editor’s Note below.)

There are many legit and even painful reasons beyond control for why moms end up rearing children alone: Abusive relationships that wives flee; rapes, where the woman (or girl) heroically presses through the pregnancy; fiancés and husbands who die suddenly. However, there are adult reasons that happen within our control. Since the 1960s, increased divorces and out-of-wedlock births have dramatically spiked the number of households headed by single moms. And, unlike my father who stayed involved with his children, many dads cut and run. It’s also true that many moms force fathers to stay away, reducing them to monthly paychecks.

I also understand that school children, whose dads aren’t around, are often led to make Father’s Day gifts for their single moms to make them feel better. Children don’t need pity. They’re resilient and can handle reality. Having them show appreciation for their next closest positive male role model—an uncle, coach, pastor, or neighbor—is a better option that could help replenish the value of men in the black community among future generations.

I respect dedicated single moms, but understand the definition. A woman can never be a father and a man can never be a mother. Both parenting roles are equally unique and invaluable. Even among same-sex parents, you’ve got two moms or two dads. The idea of Father’s Day was actually inspired by a single dad who reared his six children after his wife died. Mother’s Day is in May. You also have the lesser-known Single Parents’ Day on March 21.

A mother being celebrated on Father’s Day makes as much nonsense as telling a single dad Happy Mother’s Day.

I doubt you’d find a Mahogany card for that.

Why?

It wouldn’t sell.

*******

Editor’s Note: Following publication of this article, columnist Wil LaVeist did receive a response from a Hallmark representative. That email is reprinted below in its entirety.

Mr. LaVeist,

First, let me apologize for our delayed response to the question you left for us last week. We were unable to confirm facts with the Mahogany and Father’s Day card teams prior to the deadline you noted in your message, so we missed the opportunity to provide context. But I thought it might be helpful to share our point of view.

Hallmark’s goal is to offer cards for the wide range of our consumers’ relationships so that everyone who wants to connect with others in positive ways can find a card to meet their need. For years, consumers have expressed a desire for cards addressing this relationship, and we’ve offered them for the past several seasons. The Mahogany Father’s Day collection included 66 cards to help people honor dad and other special men in their lives, and that selection included two cards recognizing mom. Please note that our general Hallmark Father’s Day line also included a “To Mother on Father’s Day” card and several “Like a Father” cards to acknowledge those who play a father-like role in someone’s life.

We’ve shared your post and the discussion in the blogosphere with the Mahogany team. It’s always helpful to have insight from varying perspectives as we plan selections to meet people’s card-sending needs.

Thank you,
Kristi E.
Public Relations | Hallmark Cards, Inc.