I was utterly blown away at the responses from the 300+ middle school and high school students. I volunteer as a group-leader at a suburban church youth ministry. The speaker asked, “How many you have ever thought about ending it all and committing suicide?” About 100 students’ hands went up. “How many of you cut yourselves?” A third of the hands went up again.
The males and females were later separated for breakout discussions. The guys talked candidly about their suicide attempts, rebellion towards authority, smoking weed, and general apathy towards life. The common denominator among 95% of them was their disdain for their estranged, imprisoned, or disengaged fathers. I was so moved; I just wanted to give them all a big hug.
I’m not a father. But for the last 25 years, I’ve mentored dozens of broken and wounded children who haven’t had a reliable father in their lives. As a mentor, I can only supplement their absence. I cannot replace the connection a child has with their father. So men…whether you’re a father, or going to be one, stop telling yourself,
“My child will be alright even though I’m not around as much as I should be.”
That’s a straight up lie. I could cite numerous statistics, but I know too many personal examples to make my case. Most recently, I found out two 20 year olds I mentor have 6 suicide attempts between them. And they both say that their wanting to end the misery and pain in their lives was directly linked to years of feeling unaccepted, let down, or rejected by their fathers.
Yes…there may be some legitimate issues that impact the relationship a father has with his children: baby mama drama, divorce, living in another state, imprisonment, etc. But it’s time-out for driving your 13 year old son or daughter to suicide attempts because you can’t get along with their mother. And I’m not blaming men for whatever relationship barriers exist. But barriers be damned…I am challenging you to get over any personal issues, figure out a solution, and be an active reoccurring positive participant in your children’s lives.
That brings me to the second lie fathers need to stop telling themselves, which echoes the sister article written by Tiya Cunningham-Sumter, The One Lie Married Women Must Stop Telling. And that is,
“Naw man…I’m good. I’ll be alright.”
That’s your pride talking. Because…deep down inside, you’re either mad, angry, or hurt because you also might have felt unacceptance, being let down, or rejection from your father. It’s common folklore that since 1979 the divorce rate hit 50% and hovered around there for 25 years. So if you were a young boy in the 80’s (like me), there’s a 50% chance your parents divorced (like mine), or never married. And there’s the same likelihood that young boys experienced some level of unacceptance, being let down, or rejection by their fathers.
Thirty-five years later, we young boys are now grown men…some, with children of their own. We have mastered society’s requirement to suppress our feelings, suck it up, and keep-it-movin’.
But truth-be-told…some of us are not good. We’re not alright. Some men have never dealt with the feelings about their fathers…the anger, the resentment, or their own demons they created. They are now manifesting themselves in the familiar destructive patterns that are leaving a legacy of suicide attempts, self-cutting, and depression to their children. And that’s some bull…!
You need to seriously talk to a counselor, a minister, or a wise-old-man to help you work through your issues…so you can be there to help your children work through theirs. Or else, your grandchildren will be struggling with the same problems you had with your father…and your children have with you. Because that’s not the legacy you want to leave your children…no matter what the relationship is with their mother.
BMWK: What can fathers do to leave a great legacy for their children?