Home About Me The Cyclical Relationships Men Have With Their Fathers and the Lessons Learned

The Cyclical Relationships Men Have With Their Fathers and the Lessons Learned

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One of my favorite stills from the movie, Mo Better Blues.

Over the weekend, I got it in my head to go help my father do some housework. As my father gets older, he really needs a helping hand getting things done around the yard and in the house. Last weekend’s project was to pick up some flooring from a warehouse and store them in the garage. While we were lifting the flooring into his truck, he said to me, “I can’t move around as fast as I used to now that I’m getting older, Jay.” His statement wasn’t really all that necessary, I obviously could tell this used to happen a lot faster when I was younger. However, for a moment I stopped and thought about how my relationship with my father had come full circle…

I’m a child from divorced parents. I spent most, if not all of my childhood with my mother. My mother understood the importance of having a male presence in my life and also my father. Therefore, it was not common for me to go long periods of time without seeing my father. In those times that I would spend with my father, we would hang out, play sports or run a race. Sometimes we played chess or a game of cards, but what I enjoyed the most was boxing with my father. My father grew up boxing and was pretty good at it. He told me that if I really wanted to get good at baseball, boxing would be a good way to work on my hand and eye coordination.

There were a few things about these boxing matches of note: 1) He always won, 2) My father always was faster than me, and 3) My father was always stronger than me. This wasn’t up for discussion. I can remember that all the way through high school, my father could still beat me in a footrace. He could always lift way more than I could when we carried groceries into the house or had to do some work on my grandfather’s farm. That was just the way it was.

Looking back on those times and fast forwarding to now, I realize that the tables have turned. As we attempted to load this flooring into the truck, I thought to myself, “This would be so much easier if you would just let me do it.” I could lift each one of the boxes containing the flooring myself. Even though it was twenty boxes, I was confident that alone I’d be able to complete the task a lot faster. That’s when I had an epiphany about a father’s relationship with his son. I thought back on my childhood and imagined what it must have been like to raise me as a son. The lessons I never noticed, but were glaringly obvious came to the forefront…

1) My father, although stronger than me, always gave me a load to carry.

If each time something had to be done, my father, just said, “Move out the way and let me do it.” I may have never developed the strength I have now. I have friends who you can tell have never done a hard day’s work. If you asked them to do something like paint a wall or change the oil of their car, they’d be lost. My father was teaching me that even when you’re stronger than someone, you never carry their load. Every man must carry his own weight.

2) My father, although faster than me, always had patience to wait for me.

One of the most frustrating parts of small children is their short legs. If you’ve ever taken a small child for a walk for any distance you almost immediately notice that it takes four or five times longer than if it was just you. I imagine that as a child growing up my father knew that he could get from point A to point B a lot faster without me, or by telling me to run while he walked. My father never did that though. He was patient and he waited for me. I would have never known that it was taking him longer than usual.

3) My father, although busy, always made time for me.

I feel as children when we grow up and our lives get busy, we tend to let our relationships with our parents slip. Growing up you spent pretty much 100% of your time outside of school with your family. When evaluating plans for the weekend as an adult, you tend to pick time with the guys or hanging out with the ladies over Dad. Well, my father never did that to me as a child. He always made time for me. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike or throw a baseball, he made time. He didn’t complain or think about all the things he could be doing, he just made the time. What this past weekend meant to me was a reminder that I can’t ever be too busy to make time for my Father.

4) My father, will always remind me, “Everybody ain’t your father” but he always showed me the true meaning of friendship.

As a child, it was important to note that my mother and father were not my friends. Growing up in a Black household you learn early on, “Stop talking to me like i’m one of your friends.” Yeah, growing up I had that common DC problem of calling everybody, “Youngin’.” That wouldn’t fly with my father. However, over the years i’ve realized that my father asks me for advice. He listens to my advice as well. Most of all, we’re friends and friends help each other out in their times of need.

5) My father, as he grows in age, reminds me that always isn’t always going to be always.

As a young son, you sometimes view your father as this strong, all-knowing individual who is impenetrable. As an adult now, I realize that my father is indeed mortal. It’s a weird feeling to notice that your father needs help, and that everything won’t be fine if I leave everything up to him. My father taught me lessons as a child about how everything didn’t come easy to him, but I never believed it. I am learning now that we are all mortal and that we all have pain and we all need help from time to time. I learned that all those times he said, “Call your grandmother” or “Call your cousins” he was teaching me that since we are mortal, you need to appreciate the time you have with your family the most.

Of course my father and I came to a healthy compromise on the best way to load and unload the flooring. He wanted to help, he wanted to remind me of that first lesson he taught me about carrying your own weight. Maybe it took us a bit more time to complete the task but it also gave us plenty of time to talk about life. I wanted to make sure that I reflected on this afternoon spent with my Father. I wanted to make sure that I wrote this post this week because I’m sure I’m not the only one who shares experiences like these. I wouldn’t regulate the experience to only men. I’m sure that women share similar experiences with their mothers. Moreover, I wanted to remember this because one day I’ll have a son myself. When I have my son I want to make sure that I give him everything and little more than what my father gave me. Whenever that time comes, I know that it will all start with sharing, patience and making time for my son.

– Dr. J

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Comment(29)

    1. I am in complete agreement. Great post, Dr J. I love the relationship between you and your father, and the fact that your mother encouraged it.

    2. I agree. This was a great post and it totally enlightened me on the importance of having a father in a boys life. All I can think about is how the absence of my father made it more difficult for me to learn some of these lessons.

      Thanks for the insight Dr. J.
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  1. Real spit. My relationship with my father looks more like a Mario Kart course than a full circle but eventually we made it back around. It was rough early on because i was somewhat of a geek and as hard as he tried he just didnt get me. As I got older he tried to keep my head in the right place but i was a teenager so i just didnt get him. Now we finally found some balance. It took patience on his part to know eventually i would mature, that eventually it would go from lectures to conversations. It took patience on my part to know that he only has the best intentions, and eventually he’ll drop his hammer take a step back and notice the man he molded. Having already lost a mother, i’ve made it a much higher priority to spend time with my father and take in as much as i can so when i have my first child i’ll already have the blueprint.

  2. Damn it. It's too early in the morning for me to be tearing up.

    Excuse me. I need to give Mars Calhoun a call real quick.

  3. This was heartfelt, your father should be proud. Not only did he teach you lessons, you are able to articulate the lessons learned and spit them back. That's deep, not many men can break it down the way that you just did. Proud of you for this write, and your father should be too!

  4. Great post Doc. I didn't always recognize the relationship I have with my father until I got older. I actually assumed it was the norm and it wasn't until I got to know more and more men (and women) when I grew up that I realized having a father in the household – a good father at that – wasn't always the norm. In some cases, it's the outright exception.

    I def appreciate my father a lot more because of that. He's also taught me similar lessons to those you outlined in the in post. Almost losing him last year to cancer brought us and the family closer than ever. In fact, although we've always been close, it's only been in the last few years that we end conversations with "I love you" because I think we're both finally accepting that he won't be here forever……it's crazy coming to that realization. As I've said before, for a number of years, I assumed old age, sickness, and health issues only affected everyone else's parents but my own. Reality has taught me that isnt the case and I've learned to appreciate both my father and my mother more as a result. In general, this perspective has made me appreciate people (I'm close to) more. I hope I can impart similar lessons on my son/daughter in the future. We'll see…

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  5. Man, this post right here requires introspection, and thankfulness. My folks never got married to each other, but my father was always around. I notice some of these same lessons in not only our relationship, but the one I have with my stepfather as well. Awesome, awesome piece sir, truly.

  6. This post right here!? Kudos on the introspection, as well as acknowledgement of the lessons learned. My folks weren’t ever married to each other, but my father was always around. I learned many of the same lessons from him, and even some from my stepfather. Awesome, awesome post sir.

  7. The media too often paints Black men as semen-spreading *ssholes who don't take care of their children.. I appreciate you sharing this to represent those who grew up with fathers who loved them unconditionally. Thank you for showing how wonderful Black love is!!! It made me tear up.

  8. Sweetest. Post. Ever! Call me a softy, but when Dr. J started breaking down the different lessons learned, I had to stop reading for a second to keep the tears from flowing. Definitely sharing this on facebook and twitter.

    OAN: I'm uber jealous I can never attend the Happy Hours. Have you all ever considered doing like a 10-City "Happy Hour Tour" (making sure to stop in Chicago)?? I dunno, just a suggestion 🙂

  9. My pops still teaching me a lot about life and work. I remember when I got kicked out of school (only for the last 2 months) and my mother sent me to live with him the summer before starting college, he set my head straight without the flick of a finger.

    1. Fathers have a way of talking to you as a boy or man that puts your whole life in perspective. Your father doesn't have to raise his hand to make you feel like ish… he can keep it between the shoulders with these things:

      1) Making you feel bad for making your mother cry.
      2) Making you feel like less of a man. Then, fundamentally breaking down how your actions are not those of a man.
      3) Making you feel bad because you're letting your family down.

  10. GREAT POST! i loss my father in '96 and although i'm his daughter i do appreicate every lesson he ever taught me; most of which i didn't really understand until i became an adult. i recently bought a house and was able to do a lot of the work myself b/c my father taught me right long side my brothers. what i couldn't do my brother (in state) did b/c of what our father taught us. love and miss that awesome man.

    LOL…now my mother on the other, bless her heart, has no patience what! so! ever! which is why my cooking skills lack to this day. love her with her none patience having self… 🙂

  11. This post really epitomizes the honor of a man through the lessons that he has learned, has taught himself, and is willing to pass on to others. The fact that you haven't held onto these lessons as your own, but have chosen to share this intimacy with others really speaks to what you have essentially learned through your relationship with your father. I am ALL about this post. (and didn't tear up the second time I read it) 😉

  12. This was pretty awesome and well written 🙂 I'm sure your dad read it and did the lone tear. It's nice to see something positive written about Fathers… Dont see that often. Great job homie!

  13. Powerful introspection!

    I often complained about how I became the go-to for the needs of my younger brother and sister. Even though I have a twin brother, somehow whenever someone needed something they came to me. It wasn't until my dad passed that I realized his lessons were preparing me to take on the role as somewhat of a patriarch. And in the end, the way my father had soften his tough exterior and let down his emotional walls when I was sick, I did the same for him. So it definitely always comes full circle, regardless of how rocky it may have started out.
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  14. This has to be one of my favorite posts…beating out Single Sam in the City (sorry)…I love a good DAD story…more than likely because I didn't have one and I'm trying sooooo hard to get my daughter's father to see how important being a GREAT DAD is…thanks for sharing!!!!

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