Back to Where I Should Have Been

I’ll be honest. It’s been a while since I’ve been on the blog scene. Not a big confession, though, since the dates of the blog posts make it obvious that it has been a minute since I was on the scene.

Fatigue. Chasing the dollar in other places. Survival. Parenting – yup, I do that too. Church. School. All those things that pushed me away from where I should have been.

But I’m back.

And what sealed the deal was a workshop session I gave in Baltimore on April 16. Heal a Woman, Heal a Nation is a wonderful – no, make that tremendously vital – grassroots organization that deals with the real issues and questions facing women who are raising children alone.

By grassroots, I mean that the focus wasn’t a guest speaker who flew across the country to share knowledge – and we can always use that – but this conference had real “I drove in today” sisters, of all denominations and hues, talking about who they were, where they wanted to go, and how their success was so integral to the success of their children. Working-while-powerful people like me and you.

The conversations after a session always allow me to go home uplifted and encouraged. For some reason, though, as a sister talked about an ex-partner who kept taking her to court out of revenge, or a three-year old who had no relationship with his father while she wondered if that would be okay in the long run, or an older, very polished sister who said that successful single-parenting is possible but gee, it hurts…I realized three things.

Black men, black fathers, have a job to do that can be done by no one else. They can pass it off, they can fake it, they can ignore it, but to be done well it must be done by them.

Black women, black mothers, have a job to do to make black fathers welcome in the lives of their children. Fake it, yeah, chant, meditate, pray, hold back that tongue–whatever. Some brothers need that space and permission to do their job.

Lastly, I have to do the job I was given. Bills, students, a case of the it-doesn’t-fit-right, an attack of the is-anybody-listening, none of that matters. I have to do my job, and not where I want to be but where I should have been all along.

improving the dialogue between single mothers and absentee fathers. In support of their children. One word at a time.

Positive Communication and Death

By now, we have all digested and dissected the death of former NFL quarterback Steve McNair. McNair’s death has been ruled a homicide at the hand of his 20-year old mistress, Sahel Kazemi; allegedly, she then positioned her body to fall across his lap and fired a single bullet into her head.

What may continue to confound us for a while, though, is the impact of his death — and life — on the role of father and husband as seen through the eyes of the sons he leaves behind.

Stories continue to abound regarding McNair’s multiple infidelities, Kazemi’s instability, the “love nest” close to the Titans stadium, but there is quite a bit that we may never know. What we can construct is that it appears to be another case of a professional athlete involved in an extramarital affair, anger/frustration/violence on the part of someone, and  resultant death for both McNair and Kazemi.

McNair, 36, leaves behind one wife and four sons, at least one of whom was born either outside or prior to his marriage. What mother bore what child is irrelevant — family makeup be damned at this point.

Here is what I see, however, as perhaps the most critical question surrounding this tragedy. I can’t help but wonder what the tenor of the conversations will be when mothers are left to discuss the circumstances surrounding Dad’s death.

What positive spin can be placed on the circumstances surrounding  McNair’s death – whatever the details? What is the process to ensure that his sons will not internalize the specifics of his death, but will understand that who was with whom need not be their legacy? How will his sons maintain a sense of self when seen as the offspring of a man murdered by a paramour almost half his age?

I’m a strong proponent — a warrior, if you will — promoting the banner that communication is the strategy of victory when dealing with chaotic family relationships. What strength will it take to have a positive conversation about a father labeled a champion in life but revealed, at least to some degree, lost in death?

In this case, mothers will have to communicate via a monologue. Dad’s voice, needed to explain his weaknesses and vagaries of character, has been silenced. I have no doubt that former friends, teammates, community and religious leaders, all will join to have the conversations that will remold and reshape the life of Steve McNair such that his children will see the full picture of their father. I imagine that so many will work together to ensure that his children will not forever see their father, last in a place where he need not have been and murdered by a woman he need not have engaged.

But what of the hundreds of thousands of young men whose fathers have been last hired, first fired, arrested, jailed, murdered, leaving a trail of what could have or should have been behind them? Where is the community that will work together to show them the very best of their fathers and, more critical, to show them the best of who they are.

Regardless of whose they are.

Whose son or daughter are you reshaping in conversation today?

A Different Independence

July 4th, commonly called Independence Day.  Freedom from the British, freedom from tyranny, freedom from unfair taxes.

If you’re coming out of a divorce or an unhappy relationship, though, independence can come on any day. Although failed relationships initially bring sadness and a sense of failure, the resulting period of reflection is usually followed by a sense of relief, a ‘wusah’ moment that allows us to breath and realize that we can start over again.

There is no independence experience for children. For thousands of years offspring have attempted to disconnect from their parents by legal separation or “emancipation”, by moving to different parts of the globe, or by simply refuting the existence of a mother or father. To no avail – regardless of the health of the relationship, one’s parents will always remain as an irrefutable element of physical bonding, never to be undone.

As the world scrambles to determine who are the parents of Prince Michael II, Paris, and “Blanket” Jackson, it becomes apparent that the answer will vary depending on the respondent. No matter what the accepted answer, however, their parentage is already a fait accompli….they are the offspring of one man and one woman and that can never be modified. Manipulated, perhaps, but not modified.

As we watch this dark and distasteful pursuit of parentage with a little bit of shame and a lot of interest, it gives us an opportunity to see the cares and concerns of our own children in a different light. No matter who left whom, who died, who won’t marry whom —  for children, parents are for life. We must reciprocate.

The cost of parental independence is much too high.

Father’s Day…….Let’s Keep it Going

Father’s Day……..Father’s Day is always hard for families where Dad is absent. Or if we tell the truth, he might as well be absent. In some cases, folks are wishing he were absent. For the past week or so, I Tweeted a daily tip on how to look at Father’s Day from a different perspective, if that was what was needed to get you in the mall to help little Jaden or Jasmine get that gift for Daddy. The feedback from Twitter was good, and I wonder how many fathers are aware that their gift was a result of  a little bit of Twitter and a lot of prayer.

The new day is almost here, though, and Monday will eliminate the Father’s Day fervor and get us back to the everyday negotiations of life without Daddy.

Stay tuned……………we’re going to move you from Chaos to Communication and find the Good in Him. “Cause it isn’t about you, it’s about the children. It’s all about the kids.