I often think about how I’m on the receiving end of awkward dad comments.
“Love to see black men in their kids’ lives!”
“He’s so well behaved!”
“Awe that’s beautiful!”
“You go, Dad!”
It is nice and it is maddening, mostly maddening. I’m mad. I’m sure people think it is a polite gesture, a compliment even. It's not, it is demeaning and it lowers the standard for Black fathers. It sullies the work that I put in as a dad but especially as a Black dad. Highlighting the fact that I am a Black man in public with his child is a microaggression, depending on what you say it's flat out racist. I know yall not saying this to white dads. I work hard to provide for my son. I am talking about my presence. I am talking about the tenderness that both complements and contrasts the tenderness that Leah gives him. We hear about a mother’s love, there is also a father’s love and I make sure he receives it day in and day out. I have high standards for myself and I will not allow it to be diminished by half-ass compliments that are fueled by racist stereotypes.
I imagine witnessing these comments could make a Black mother feel disrespected. People give Black dads the star treatment for simply walking with their child in a store, meanwhile, Black mothers get little praise when they bust their ass doing the same work, if not more than some Black dads. Black mothers deserve genuine praise. Parenting isn't easy whether it is a two-parent household, single-parent household, or a co-parenting system.
It is interesting to me that not only white people come with these comments (No offense to my white friends and allies, this is not directed toward you). Matter of fact, they mostly comment on Dom’s behavior as if they are surprised that he isn't falling out inside of stores or kicking and screaming. The main culprits are my fellow Black folks, mostly the older ones. I’m sure they mean well, at least that's what I tell myself. Regardless, they shower Black dads with this abundance of support and love for the least amount of effort. Somebody help me understand it. I get it from other young dads too, they try to pull you aside to tell you how good it is to you with your child. Sir, do you truly feel we are that rare? This is not Animal Planet and you are not Steve Irwin, you will not observe me minding my business then invade my space to talk about things I am aware of. Just say hi and ask to go out for a socially distanced beer, hopefully, LSU is playing that Saturday.
I have this unyielding idea that I should not just be in Dom’s life but invested in it, dedicated to it, and immersed in it. If Dom is learning sign language, I'm learning it too, and I'm practicing with him. If I am learning how to handle my emotions, I'm teaching Dom too, and if my wife and I are building a strong foundation, we will teach Dom how to use the same tools so he can continue to build on that foundation long after we are gone. I am not comparing beliefs to any other parent’s, this is how I carry myself.
I am saying all this to say, don’t comment on my presence in Dom’s life.