The singular story of the Single Black Mother is repeated so often and has become such a zeitgeist of the African American experience that this belief has become a gospel truth that presents itself as an inherent and immutable state and condition of Blackness. Even I have drank the Kool-Aid. I never even stopped to question or challenge the notion when it is spoken because like dance, basketball, fried chicken, and grape soda - we are all the same right?
Well I am tired of accepting it. Single mom is not a catch all phrase for the whole of the Black community. I was not born to a single mom. I was not raised a child without a father. In spite of the changing marital status of my mother throughout my life; from married to divorced, from single and dating to married again, from widowed and back to single. Despite my mother and the women in my family having been highly capable of holding down their households, I have always had a father present in my life. He may not have always been in my household in flip flops, in a lazy chair, smoking a cigar while reading the Wall Street Journal after his long day at the office, but he was there as a dad on the weekends, as a step-dad, as a granddad, as an uncle, as an older cousin, as a close neighbor, or as a family friend.
He was barbecuing in a tin barrel in the backyard on the 4th of July. He was making sure I respected my mother and women. He was teaching me how to play the dozens. He was showing me how to tie my tie and fix my collar. He was giving me an couple of dollars to spend for myself for making a run to the store. He taught me how to drive in a parking lot. He taught me how to throw and take a punch. He taught me that, "An empty wagon makes a lot of noise." He taught me how to flirt and charm. He taught me how to bait a hook. He taught me how to gut a fish. He took me on road trips to see America. He taught me how to clean up and lather in Old Spice. He taught me about Classical music. He took me on field trips to the Art Museum. He introduced me to fine literature. He taught me when it was OK to cry and when it was not. He taught me how to be someone to everyone and to navigate the world no matter where I am or who I am with.
He may not have been the same man for every occasion but he was there.
I've never lacked fathers or father figures, ever. I think it's time I recognize that and give respect and thanks where respect and thanks are due. The physical presence of a biological father means nothing if the quality of that presence is poor. What matters are those great father figures who loved us, taught us, cared for us, protected us, and helped shape us into the men and women we become.
I was never a fatherless child.