It’s been couple of weeks since my wife and I dropped our son off for college for his freshman year. I have to say only now are we beginning to adjust. Even with our very vocal daughter still under our charge the quiet emptiness our son has left behind is palpable. For years I salivated over the idea of getting him out of the house. He ate too much, slept too much and did too much or too little of plenty that fathers perpetually beef about when it comes to their sons as they age into young men. But as we got closer to that day of departure for college I was caught off guard as I became overcome with sadness. I was losing/giving my son to the world, with only faith but not proof of what the outcome will be. I eventually overcame my sadness by spending as much quality time as I possibly could with my boy in the remaining days we had together so by the time we drove away from his dorm I was happier for him than sad for myself.
In 2009, as one of the first male writers here at BMWK I often shared my experiences with my then young son. It only seems appropriate that now, as he makes his entrance into adulthood that I should share once more with the audience here. What follows is an abbreviated version of the letter I wrote to my son for him to read on his own once he was off at college. It took me four weeks to complete. In it, I share my love and my guidance for my son. I’ve decided to share it here because this is the hub for marriage and parenting for persons of color. Black and Married With Kids has also emerged as one of the greatest stages to present to the rest of the world that we aren’t the one-dimensional, caricatures that mainstream media — from television to movies to music — wishes us to be. What follows is my testimony that I willingly took up the mantle of fatherhood, raised my son the best I could, and will continue to do so. I love him and I am not afraid or too tough to say so. I am no exception. Nearly all the fathers of color I know feel and do the same for their young. We are hiding in plain sight everywhere, not seeking recognition for our everyday activities, but definitely acknowledgement that we do in fact exist.
I’m beginning this letter to you in early August. I’m not sure what date I’ll end this but I’m thinking it may take weeks to get it all typed out. Right now I’m in Chicago being driven through the neighborhoods of my childhood. From what I see outside my car window there isn’t too much to speak of. Some of these places look like they’ve been hit with mortar shells. This is truly heartbreaking. But that is the nature of this life game: if you don’t take care of something, it falls into decay. Remember this, because knowing so will keep you ahead of the crowd.
I’ve made many mistakes in this life. Some weren’t so bad and others have been downright idiotic. I don’t have any regrets though. I’ve been blessed with the ability to learn from many of them. This has made them teachers to me rather than my destroyers. Some of the lessons were easy to learn. Some were and are still painful to this day.
Unfortunately, you’ve seen me at my worst – unemployed and underemployed – out of options for a couple of years. The economy was not kind to me. As a man it was humiliating to be told “there were more qualified applicants” or “you’re too qualified” over and over again. My value took a hit that to this day I sometimes feel I am still recovering from the damage. But the whole thing made me tough and turned me from the man that I was into the man that I needed to be. So in that regard it came to make me better.
What I also hope you saw was that I never gave up. I WORKED to overcome my situation. I never stopped trying. Never quit. Never laid down and died. Not even once. I simply had too much to live for — my family and a driving sense of purpose. I kept trying. Kept knocking on doors. Kept networking and just days before seeing you off to school money is now no object for me.
Just to put things into perspective for you: in 2010 I didn’t make enough money to file a tax return. Things got barely better in 2011. In 2012 I began to make some achievements which opened the doors for me to be in the position where I am now, doing work I enjoy. I say this to say, it may not happen as quickly as you’d like but if you stay faithful and stay true to your goals and put in that hard and smart work (I stress SMART) you can and will succeed. Throughout it all you and your sister have always been provided for. And from one man to another, younger man, if I’ve been an example of anything to you, I hope that words that come to your mind are perseverance, kind, strong, dedicated, enduring, and positive no matter what. I want you to embrace these words and make them a part of your life as well. They and the good Lord above will carry you on the days that you don’t think you can get out of bed. And these days will come.
Now, here I am looking at your room in our home and our basement with all your stuff packed up for college and I look into your eyes and see that the boy I once knew is gone. You still have his smile and his laughter but a man has emerged right under my nose. And although I may be done with the rule-making aspect of raising you I think my life with you as Dad is getting ready to kick into high gear. In fact, the lessons are just beginning that will shape you into the man that hopefully the world will benefit from.
It is my goal from this point forward to no longer be your rule-maker or disciplinarian but rather your guide, mentor and voice of reason for those times when you find yourself in spaces where life stops making sense. Life is hard and it isn’t meant to be figured out alone.YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And in this regard I am here for you and always will be. I’m just a phone call, text message, skype, or email away.