Ice Cream Promises: A Son Yearns For True Love From & Connection With His Father

Editor’s Note: Moved by last week’s post about Jay-Z’s decision to delay becoming a father until he was ready to deal with his father’s absenteeism, my longtime friend, artist Rod Perez, shared this piece he wrote to his own absentee father, with whom he’s since re-connected. I’m honored to share it here on MyBrownBaby.


Dad, I’ve grown up to be a good man. I want you to see that. I want you to see that the boy you left behind is fine. The boy you’ve made “ice cream promises” to is fine.

I was hip to your game, you know—how you would show up just enough times to squelch your guilt. I’ve known for a long time now, Dad. You claimed to have missed me, but all I know is that you missed my birthdays. The creative mind of innocence made excuses for why you never came when you said you would. I actually believed them, too. The hearts of children. Belief is pure. But soon enough, it finds out the truth.

You built me up dad—built me to understand what hurt really is. There were not enough tears to put out the painful, searing fire in my chest. Every pounding beat in my heart reminded me that you weren’t coming. Soon, the heart grows tired of the games and begins to harden. Your charming calls were answered with short responses and even shorter tolerance: “You’re not a good or a bad father; you’re just not around.”

What I wanted was the father who dreamed of seeing his baby boy grow up to be a famous baseball player. I wanted to kiss my dad and feel the stubble of his beard against my face and not wish it to be my last. I wanted a father I could share a couple of beers with when I became of age.

Does it frighten you to see that your own reflection is a stranger?

You wish for grandsons, I delay. For fear of mistakes I might have inherited from you. For fear that I might understand why you did it. I can’t be like you, Dad. I am my own father. I have my own philosophies, my own advice to give, my own battles to conquer.

And when you get your wish for a grandchild, I hope that my path has not been laid and trod on by you. I want to be better. Do better. Love better.

Say that you love your boy, without being told to do so. Be proud of me when you see fulfillment in my face. Be a man—as I am today. And recognize that this man still needs his dad.

Rod Perez lives in Chicago with his wife and daughters.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. OH MY GOD! Thank you for this! As a newly single mom, my fear is that my little guy will live with and have to deal with the pain of realizing his father wasn’t man enough to raise him and not be able to get past it. This letter isn’t bitter but honest and how proud is his mother that her little guy grew into such a strong and articulate man. God Bless

  2. How does a man deny his reality?.. a reality reflecting his own image?.. I cannot answer that, and probably never will. it is beyond my understanding and i believe it to be unnatural. i am a Father of an 8yr old. the day my son was born i whispered a promise in his ear. today if asked, “what’s your Dad’s promise” my son’s reply would be, “That he will always be here for me.” my son lives w/ me full time and through i exhaust myself daily in raising him, i’m energized by his fulfillment. i take no pleasure in saying i’m the opposite of this Mr. Perez’s Father, there are far too many young men and boys living his reality. but as one man, one black man, i can do my part (as my Father did)… we MUST be present.

    sometimes (or most times) honesty can liberating. this gentleman, by sharing this very personal experience, i believe has done just that. regardless of how he was raised, in spite of any limitations, he has succeeded!.. Rod Perez has inspired me, just like our President did w/ the story of his relationship w/ his Father. the Bible says, “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me.” and believe this man, just like President Obama, can do anything he put his heart/mind to.

    sometimes life’s lessons are the one’s we teach ourselves.

    Thank You Mr. Perez for your artful candor.

  3. Beautiful, beautiful piece, Rod! From the short time I had to get to know you a little bit, I can definitely confirm that your father is truly missing out by not having a relationship with you. You have always struck me as a strong, honest, forthright, dependable dude. Props to the people in your life who helped you become the person you are. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. It’s amazing to me how much pain and longing so many of us carry around connected to our dads, even well into our adult years. But pieces like this can help others figure out how to begin the healing process, just as you’ve done. Have a great holiday.

  4. This just brought tears to my eyes. I am a single mom of twin boys and their dad is an afterthought. I have left the door open for him and so far he remains on the other side. I know I will have to answer questions and no matter how prepared I am I cannot shield them from questions of why and attempts to block the pain. Thank you for your candor and my prayers to u and your dad

  5. My fear is not seeing my son smile again the way he did when his father was around. I’m praying hard that god may give him a complete family that he deserves. I don’t want him to feel the pain of not having his father around. Hoping that all fathers will be man enough and be enlightened upon reading you story. Thank you for sharing how you feel. May God Bless you with a happy and complete family.

  6. My beloved nephew… At first, I was gonna crack a joke about this being a VERY good iteration of your now-classic “cold oatmeal” posts, but wow. Wowwwwww…

    You got me teary over here. Makes me appreciate my own Pops even more – for all my “complaints” about his parenting methods – because at the VERY least, he was always around, doing the best he knew how to with what he had.

    Godspeed, Rod. Be at peace and remember always, we might not get what we want, but sometimes we get exactly what we need…

  7. This post is…rendering me speechless. So strong, yet vulnerable. Profound. Thank you for sharing!

  8. I’m in tears. What a powerfully and beautifully written piece that speaks for so many children out there.

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