Category Archives: Manhood
The best part of my childhood was knowing how much I was loved. It wasn’t the “be a good kid and we’ll show you love” conditional kind of love. As for my father, he loved me with a fierceness that made me believe that I was infallible. I wish I could say that that I loved my father in the same way. Unfortunately, I held him up to unrealistic expectations and made unfair demands of him to prove his love. I had high standards for my dad. I wanted him to be the perfect husband, father, and man. Anytime he made a mistake, I voiced my disapproval. I wanted him to be more than he could be without taking in to consideration that my father did not have an example or a role model of fatherhood. He created his own fatherhood blueprint. I loved my father yet I didn’t give him a chance to be human. I took his love for granted.
The Black father is expected to be near perfect. We want him to have the strength of James Evans, the patience and wisdom of Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the lightheartedness of Carl Winslow and intelligence of Uncle Phil. We want the black father to embody superhuman qualities and be more than he may be able to live up to.
Even our society polarizes black fathers. We either hear about the black dads that are doing exemplary things or dysfunctional, irresponsible dead beat dad. Black fathers are often reduced to caricatures. But what about the loving yet unassuming black fathers who are overlooked almost daily? These humble giants do not look for fanfare or adulation for being a dad. Why have we forgotten these unsung heroes who do so much for their families and ask for so little in return?
I think of men like my brother and husband who don’t think twice about making sacrifices for their families, especially their children. I think of the black fathers who pack the classroom of PS 153 every year for Dads Take Your Child to School Day. I think of the black father who stands on line in frigid weather in hopes of securing a spot for their child in a high performing school. I think of the black father who forfeits his work lunch hour to volunteer in his child’s school. I think of the black fathers I see in the park, eagerly engaging with their children. I also think of the black fathers highlighted in Zun Lee’s photo book: “Father Figure: Exploring Alternate Notions of Black Fatherhood”. These are not perfect men, they are men doing their best to show their children that they are loved and valued.
This is my ode to those unsung heroes, the loving black father who we pass by daily without giving a second thought to his life, his love or his experiences. We may even dismiss him or make assumptions about his character. These are the black fathers who are not an enigma to their children. They are physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally present in their children’s lives. They are the black fathers who don’t shy away from being the most important male to their children. These black fathers aren’t overly concerned with accolades for loving and caring for their children. Nurturing, guiding and supporting their children comes to them naturally. We don’t see these black fathers because they get lost in the shuffle of fatherlessness. We bring out the torches and pitchforks for dead beat black fathers but we don’t bring compassion and gratitude to the loving black fathers.
To you, black fathers, I say “Thank you”. Thank you for not allowing society to taint your vision of fatherhood. Thank you for caring more about your children than “showing that you’re a good dad.” Thank you for showing your children the power of unconditional love. Thank you for showing your sons that true leaders lead with love. Thank you for being a blessing for your children. Thank you for leaving a legacy of love for generations to come.
Originally posted at The Good Men Project.com
In his touching poem, Rick Belden reminds us of what lies behind the mask and armor of a boy as he transitions to manhood
Rick Belden is the author of Iron Man Family Outing: Poems about Transition into a More Conscious Manhood. His book is widely used in the United States and internationally by therapists, counselors, and men’s groups as an aid in the exploration of masculine psychology and men’s issues, and as a resource for men who grew up in dysfunctional, abusive, or neglectful family systems. His second book, Scapegoat’s Cross: Poems about Finding and Reclaiming the Lost Man Within, is currently awaiting publication. He lives in Austin, Texas.
This month’s What Kind of Man Do You Want to Be topic: The Image of a Real Man was a conversation about the image of a real man and how societal and media masculine standards perpetuates male stereotyping.
Panelists for Part I: Enrique Pascal, author of What Does A Real MAN Look Like? and host of Transformation Radio and Alan Bishop, founder of The 365 Effect, producer and creator several television shows .
My son told me the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Three simple words: “Mom, not guilty”. My 15 year old who has been watching this trial from the beginning. At first I tried to register if he was joking just to see my reaction. As I turned on the news, I stood quietly for such a long time, he had to ask me if I was ok.
My first thought was, “Are you ok?” I was shocked, disappointed and slowly became outraged. Until I looked at my son and realized that this wasn’t about me. It was about the countless “Trayvon Martins” who have died because of gun violence.
Let’s be honest, most of these deaths were black on black crimes and the growing crime rate in Chicago sheds light on the fragility of the life of young black males. As the mom of two boys: a teen and a toddler, I have a visual daily reminder of the developmental stages of black boys. While most adults coo and play with my toddler, they’re apprehensive about my 5’10 teen son. I look at my son through society’s eyes, I wonder if he will be approached by the NYPD for Stop and Frisk? At what point will women clutch their handbags and men shift uncomfortably when he steps on an elevator? At what point will he start thinking less about his comfort level and more about making others feel safe around him?
Jonathan Lethem asks in his book, The Fortress of Solitude, “What age is a black boy when he learns that he is scary?” Last night the bigger question became, “What age is a black boy when he learns the value of his life?” My son learned the answer to this question at 15 years old. When I asked him what he thought and felt about the verdict, he simply responded “I’m shocked”. As an adult, I was barely able to process the information, so I knew that he was still trying to make sense of it all. He summed up his thoughts in a simple Facebook post: “I guess Florida doesn’t care about the life of teenagers”.
His post made me look at the verdict through his eyes. He wasn’t thinking about the complexities of the judicial system or why the jury acquitted George Zimmerman. He was thinking about the value of his life. I thought about how Zimmerman’s defense attorneys gloated about their victory as if they’ve just won an NBA Championship. There was little remorse or respect for the life of Trayvon Martin.
Children are polarized thinkers until they become teenagers. At this point, the world is no longer black and white, so they start to question the areas of gray that don’t make sense to them. They start to question the integrity, intelligence and common sense of adults. How can we tell them to be fair and to think before you act, when we are guilty of doing these things.
How do we explain to them that Stand Your Ground Law gives an adult the right to kill a teen boy? How can we tell them that they are the future but we do little to protect that future?
As parents, we sometimes aren’t mindful of how we speak to our children. Although we think we’re offering constructive criticism, we may be feeding our son’s inner critic.Children internalize the voices from their parents, teachers and other adults in their lives and start to criticize themselves.
Who is the Inner Critic?
The inner critic is that nagging voice that points out our failures, inadequacies, and our shortcomings. Although disguised as constructive criticism, this inner critic sabotages our best interest. The inner critic undermines our belief in our abilities.
In children, the inner critic tells them that they are not smart enough, good enough, or talented enough to accomplish their goals. Children start to use their inner dialog as a defense mechanism against the world. The truth is that criticism can never be constructive. According to Merriam -Webster dictionary, the definition of constructive is: promoting improvement or development, while the definition of criticize is: to find fault with: point out the faults of.
Since the inner critic is so powerful and convincing, how can we help our sons deal with their inner critic?
1. Help your son identify when his inner critic is attacking. Signs of the inner critic are fear, feeling powerless, feeling disappointed or discouraged, feeling tired or sick (such as a belly ache or headache), self blame and lack of motivation. Once your son senses when the inner critic is at play, help him to observe the underlying situation. What is the inner critic telling your son that he can not or should not do? Tell you son to observe what he is feeling physically and emotionally when the inner critic attacks. It might be helpful to have your son write down whatever he is feeling. It could be just one sentence such as: “I am not a good at math.” “My hands get sweaty and my stomach hurts when I have to take a math test.” Have your son do this whenever he notices the inner critic. If your son is young, ask him to draw a picture about what it feels like.
2. Help your son to develop powerful self-talk. Developing powerful self -talk takes time and practice. This is a tool that is useful for parents too! It is very easy for us to name our weaknesses or to recognize our limiting beliefs. However, it takes time for us to identify our strengths and potential. Try this exercise: Ask your son to tell you 5 things he believes is a weakness or something he is not good at. Time how long it take for them to respond. Next, ask him to name his 5 strengths. Time how long it takes for a response again. Most boys who have a healthy self-esteem and practice powerful self talk are able to tell you their strengths much quicker than their weaknesses. You can help your son nurture his strengths by brainstorming on strengths and helping your son to use his strengths more often. Make a list of all the strengths and post it on the wall, where your son can see it on a daily basis.
3. Offer positive feedback. Listen to how your son explains what failure means to him. How does your son react when he fails a test or scores lower than expected? Find out what position your son takes on his accomplishments or failures? Don’t rush to solve the problem or tell your son why he failed. Let him use critical thinking skills to identify what is going on. If you notice your son making excuses or self criticizing, make your son aware of it.
4. Be a role model. Do you have a grasp on your inner critic? Your son notices how you behave when your inner critic attacks. When you are disappointed or have failed at something, talk to your son about it. Be honest with your son about your own inner critic. Notice how you behave when your inner critic attacks and set the example for your son. Let your son see you demonstrating healthy ways of dealing with disappointment.
Have you made a decision recently that you are now regretting? At the moment did you know that the decision was not right for you, but you went along with it anyway? It’s interesting how we choose to get into situations, simply because we feel so strongly about having something that perhaps is not appropriate for us. It’s difficult sometimes to listen to our hearts and trust our instincts.
Against better judgment, we sometimes make a left turn, when we were suppose to make a right turn. We second-guess ourselves even though deep down, we know what we are feeling is right. Many of us as children were taught to follow our heads. We learned to think logically and to rationalize our decisions. Unless we had parents who taught us the importance of following our hearts, we learned to ignore our “gut feeling”.
Some of us are living our lives as dreamers and idealists following what our hearts are leading us to. Some of us are realists, following our heads and limiting ourselves to our logical minds.
When was the last time you did something based on what your heart was telling you? Instead or weighing the pros and cons on your decisions, try listening to your heart. Be still, silence your mind chatter and listen to what your heart is telling you. Don’t rush through a decision because it seems like the right thing to do. If you let your instincts guide you, you will surely find yourself on the right path.
This week, I am dedicating a post a day to a word the exemplifies a “real dad”. Unfortunately, our society had taken a polarized stand when it comes to fatherhood. Basically, you’re either Cliff Huxtable or Darth Vader.
We tend to neglect or forget the men in between. The dads who despite not having a great role model, dis their best to provide for their children, love them and instill strong family values. These men are rarely talked about because we have this unfair expectations of fathers. We laud fathers who make supreme sacrifices but we demonize those who fall short of being “Dad of the Year”.
We forget that these men are human and not without fault. Yes, its not enough for them to provide for their children, they must be emotionally, mentally and spiritually present in their lives. Before a man can do all this, he must have faith in himself as a father. He has to believe that he is the man for this job. He has to know that parenting is a futile attempt to make order out of chaos.
Yes, there will be days when you disappoint your kids and yourself, yet this does not mean that you are a bad father. It is a learning experience. Just as there are no perfect moms, there are no perfect dads.
So today, I urge all fathers who feel they are threading closely to parenting failure to take heart. For every dad that thinks he’s screwing up, there’s a kid proving him wrong.
Moms, let’s do our part to be supportive and encouraging instead of critical when dad is doing his best. We can not control and dictate every situation. If we want our sons to become responsible fathers, we have to let them see their dad in action.
I used to think that I did things better than my husband and would micromanage almost everything. Looking back, I was afraid that if he could handle it, he would take over my role as mom. It sounds silly now, but the insecurities we have as parents manifest in our actions.
Learning to share the responsibilities gave me more freedom to do the things I wanted to do and gave my husband a chance to bond with his sons.
I was so upset when I overheard a single mom at the supermarket tell her friend that she didn’t need a man because her son was her husband. Granted, I should have been minding my own business, but if you talk loud enough, I’m going to listen.
I wanted to find her son and tell him to run for his life. It’s an unfair situation when mothers make their sons their surrogate husbands. These moms feel so deprived of love and attention that they turn to their sons for comfort and emotional support. These moms are either single or in a marriage that is unfulfilled or unbalanced. I’ve seen the long term effect and it can lead to these boys being incapable of having mature, loving and healthy relationships as adults. They will constantly have to support and comfort their mothers.
So how can mom divorce her son? For one, you must set boundaries in your relationship with your son. You are the adult, so be consistent with being the adult. Once you ask your son for advice about personal matters or leave him to make adult decisions, you have placed him in the position of authority. If you tell him, he’s the man of house, he will take it literally. If you try to bring in a boyfriend, it’s going to create a conflict.
You have to get a life of your own. If your relationship or marriage has troubles, do something about it. You should be able to talk and share with your significant other/spouse, not your son. If you decide to make him your marriage counselor, don’t be surprised if he starts to resent his father. You’re not a victim, ask for what you need in your marriage. Your son is the victim because you are engaging him in inappropriate conversations. If you’re single, rely on your friends and family for emotional support or get counseling if you need it.
Your son is not your handy man. Sure, it’s good to teach him to help out around the house, but if you keep calling on him like he’s Schneider the handyman, eventually he’s going to get tired of fixing things. Do yourself a favor and sign up for Angie’s List.
Stop asking your son to attend events with you. I don’t mean having an occasional fun evening with your son, I mean having him cancel his plans to hang out with you because you’re lonely. Not cool. Get a hobby or find some new friends on Meetup.com. Let your son live his life.
Understand your son is not your equal. He’s not your support system, you are his support. When you turn him into an emotional partner, the dynamics of the mother-son relationship are skewed and your son will carry this unbalance into his adult relationships.
On Sunday, May 5 on Life Class on the OWN Network, Oprah Winfrey and Iyanla Vanzant are addressing a sensitive topic that needs more awareness: Fatherless Sons. This two part show is a must watch for families. We need to start the healing process for men who grew up without fathers, we need to set the example for our sons to be better men and fathers.
Tune in Sunday, May 5, at 9/8c for a special two-hour Oprah’s Lifeclass with Iyanla Vanzant.
As moms of boys, our role is to support the needs of the boys and men in our lives. Whether we’re married or single, we need to ensure that our sons understand the importance of a father in a boy’s life. We need to teach our sons to be accountable and responsible for their decisions and actions. Let’s build a strong foundation for our sons to leave a legacy of compassion, respect and responsibility.
Fathers, don’t be an invisible or silent force in your son’s life. You are the man he aspires or does not aspire to be. Your actions and behavior dictate to him all he needs to know about manhood. He needs you to teach him how to be a man. He needs you to guide him through his rites of passage from boyhood to manhood. Be a visible and powerful force in your son’s life. Show him how to be man of character by living your life with integrity, honor, respect. Every day in every way, you are becoming a better man.
Let’s teach our sons that fatherhood is not a casual choice.
I think of Dave Chappelle’s skits, When “Keeping It Real” Goes Wrong when I see someone get themselves in trouble in the name of “keeping it real”. The truth is most people are copying someone else and doing a poor job of it. In our over-saturated society of media whores, reality stars and fake “rich people”, it’s easy to pretend that you are bigger, badder, richer, happier and more successful than you really are. People try too hard to be edgy, funny, snarky and end up failing miserably.
I overhear so many young people use acerbic wit as keeping it real. Yet, when you engage them in a conversation, you realize that they’re masking some kind of insecurity. They’re just regurgitating wheat they’ve heard from someone. So much for keeping it real. There’s also this misconception that keeping it real implies that you can be rude and obnoxious to people without any recourse. Trolls hide behind anonymous identities and spew their venom at unsuspecting people online just because they feel the need to be real. Parents use social media to shame their kids in the name of keeping it real. Kids record fights in the name of keeping it real. People write blog posts to demean others in the name of keeping it real.
But what is real? We talk to our kids about realness but how many of us live by those words. Kids are like surveillance cameras and they are surveying our behaviors and actions even when we’re unaware of it. When we tell them one thing and do another, they see through our hypocrisy.
It’s imperative that kids understand that keeping it real does not mean keeping up with appearances. Yet, we tell our kids one thing and do something different.
As parents, we have to be consistent and clear with our message. We can’t tell kids that they shouldn’t care what people think and then post something on social media so our friends can think we’re cool. If we’re not being authentic, how can we expect the same from our children? Once we start keeping it real, our children will do the same.
Are you keeping it real?