Dear Starbucks Dad,
I hope you don’t feel shy or awkward about me writing to you in this way but this is just a small acknowledgement of your commitment to fatherhood. I don’t know what your personal circumstances are, so all I can comment on is what I see most Thursday evenings when my son goes to scouts. You’re there for one hour with your son, I assume, not long enough do anything too hectic, but time enough to sit still, read, write, chat and vibe.
Even though I’m usually deeply engrossed in whatever, I’m aware of you and your son enjoying some quality father/son time. Actually, and I hope you don’t think me rude, but you are rather difficult to ignore. A six-foot black guy, in a leafy suburb is always going to attract attention, let alone one with a raucous laugh, a cute son and – here’s the shocker – an apparently dynamic and engaging relationship with your son! This crashes through the received wisdom of neglectful black fathers, known to the mamas as DBDs. Yup, there are plenty of those, but you and many others like you are breaking the mould.
You both love computer games and you play animatedly and noisily against each other, with the grace and rivalry of old friends. Your attention is fully focused on your shared activity, no computer work or mobile ‘phone calls to distract you. When I get to Starbucks, either alone or with my daughter, you are already there, and we usually leave before you.
We have experienced plenty of fatherly absence in our family unit which has affected me and my children in different ways, but seeing a father who shows up and is present, and seems to enjoy the relationship, is all too rare a sight. However short or long the time is that you spend with your son, and whatever else may be going on in your lives, you have established a routine and consistency around your father/ son time. You’re not on the phone and he’s not playing a solitary game.
As founder of happyinschoolproject, I‘m acutely aware of the impact that boys’ behaviour can have in school. They can appear challenging, defiant, rude, aggressive and in some cases violent. Some of these boys are missing a father, a role model, a constant, a wall to push against. Many single mothers do a great job against considerable odds, but it’s impossible to be a man and a woman. Believe me, I’ve tried it! The statistics of fatherless households, particularly in the black community, are depressing, seeing your commitment gives us hope. For that, we high five you!
Whatever happens in your lives, and however difficult the realities might be – I hope you will remain constant to each other.
Yours, with gratitude from all of the fatherless children, and their mothers, S