He Will Not Be A “Junior”: A Black Father Reveals the Mindset Of A Man Expecting A Son

By JAMAL FREDERICK

As I write this, my beautifully pregnant wife has about three more weeks until she gives birth to our second child, a boy to complement our 3-year-old girl. Most assume that my son is what I’ve been waiting for the whole time—that having a boy was my sole aim for growing our family. I can’t tell you how often I hear, “So, Jamal, you’re going to have a boy! Aren’t you excited?” The excitement in their eyes dims when they see my slight hesitation—the second or two or three of silence that comes before I respond with whatever comes to mind that sounds like it’s a crowd pleaser. My answer isn’t intended to be disingenuous, but my more thoughtful, realistic response would require comfortable seating and an open afternoon. What’s most difficult to express is the frustration I feel and the slight offense I take when I can tell someone is assuming my hesitation means I feel negatively about my new baby—that I don’t want him and am not anxiously awaiting his arrival. This couldn’t be further from the truth. But I would like to walk them through those three seconds of silence.

The First Second…

I’m thinking about my role as father, the provider—my main focus. I’m fortunate enough to have a job right now—one that offers a hefty amount of overtime, allowing me to work six days a week, averaging 60 hours a week. Considering the economic hardships many of our people face, this is a blessing. But in my role as a father, I am constantly estimating bills, future expenses, working OT, getting a side gig, future job possibilities, etc. Daunting, exhausting, overwhelming? Yes. But this is what I feel daddy’s part is on the team.

The Second Second…

I’m going over what I believe a father should be to his family and the exact kind of father I hope to be. Much of my daddy daydreaming revolves around being one of those dads that always has some good anecdotal advice ready, provides an environment of culture, art, music, and education and has an impeccable sweater collection. Cliff Huxtable pretty much.  It’s a perpetual back and forth dance of doubt and reflection. Questioning whether you’re fit for the job isn’t emotionally easy. I realize more and more that I will be the image of what a man is to both my daughter and my son in their respective dynamics and that, in itself, is heavy.

The Final Second…

This one is the occupier of the majority of my thoughts—the one that leaves me meditating on my laundry list of shortcomings, failures, bad choices and decisions and personal defects. A person with a more positive outlook on things would say that everything that’s happened in my life occurred so that I could teach my children properly. But I look at it like I’ve written the perfect cautionary tale— perfectly detailed bedtime stories absent of heroes and full of monsters. The monsters are my inner demons that I need to protect my children from—the ones that warn others about what not to do.  An arch nemesis, alcohol, has been a black widow-like seductress in my family, with a fancy for the men. She whispers promises and massages worried hearts like a nurturing mother, but eventually, her rose petal-soft hands squeeze and squeeze those hearts until the beat ceases. In a superstitious way, I think that if I can conquer the dark parts of me, these qualities won’t affect my son. Like I’m breaking a spell or lifting a curse in some way.  This is why my yet-to-be-named son won’t be a junior. He will be so much more than I’ve ever been. And I’ve a seething urgency to rise to my position, my place, my role and my truest self. For his sake.

My three-second pause does not denote a negative feeling in any way. I can’t wait for my son to get here. I dream of our conversations set to a score of John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Fela Kuti. I dream of his hands, his nose and loud laugh—the perfume of his breath and the calm of his cuddle. My pause just reflects all that goes into me being a father and all the work I know I have to do. So, when someone asks me about our arriving son, I don’t automatically think of his smile and the happiness he will bring. I think of what I need to do to be worthy of the title of father so that he may be a happy child and grow into a well-matured man one day. Given that, three seconds is quite a short amount of time.

Jamal Frederick writes poetry and music and contributes reviews to AboveGroundMagazine.com. He also is married and the proud father of a three-year-old daughter. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalfrederick.

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{Photo credit: Lillegutt for Flickr’s Creative Commons}

 

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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.

15 Comments

  1. I love this article!

  2. I am feeling this article. Excellent insigts. Thank you for the transparency and honesty.

  3. Profound feelings, combined with seductive insight, anything I say will be a great shortcoming after such an honest revelation. Beautiful should suffice.

  4. An honest reflection. Makes me consider the age-old “half empty, half full” school of thought. There’s a lot that rides on the shoulders of fathers, yet it’s important for them to know their contributions are invaluable.

  5. Great post! We should all strive to be worthy of our children!

  6. If and when your son reads this post, he will feel loved. Great post. I’m reading it again.

  7. Great article! My great nephew already has the best father!

  8. What an article brother, can’t wait for my nephew to get here, & I hope to see them both well all four of y’all soon, your gift for gab is beautiful, amazing, encouraging.. you make an emcee run outa adjectives! Makes me understand & recognize my shortcomings & selfishness, motivates me to not strive to become a better father/husband but also give Apria a brother..but you know me, i’ma have a JR! Ha! Loved these words, Pri’s bedtime story tonight is…

    I’ve always enjoyed your words whether they were in rhymes, poetry & now these articles I run across, hope a door opens where you can able to give more time to write & enlighten others w this talent of yours

  9. Barbara Soloski Albin

    Wonderful article and wonderful man. I guess it has always been easy in our family, being Jewish, we do not name a child after someone who is still living. We don’t have any juniors, etc. It seems to work out well, I was named for my father’s father, whom died before I was born and my middle name is for my mother’s mother, who died when my mom was 5 years old. I am honored to have their names.

  10. Sigh…such insight into a mans pause. I loved this post. Brought tears to my eyes. The part about your past and the lips of alcohol…sigh…remember brother that you can always start a new chapter and write new pages to your own book. With a father this insightful, knowing how heavy his responsibility can be, and taking it seriously, this little boy will be delivered to and grow into greatness. I feel it in my bones. Keep on keeping on.

    My best, Lynn

  11. Christon Shields

    I think you article is truly inspiring-provoking the call of many that read your lines of passion. I believe one of the greatest testiments that people leave are their footprints, which can be seen in our children. Thank you for taking the time to write such a timely article. I believe that because you have set in your heart a vision, and have planned for the future, your dream of being a great father is being fulfilled. I also think that you have a great writing gift that pulls the reader into your story. I look forward to reading more from you, and gleaning from your wisdom.

  12. Great post and great Dad.

    I wish you all the best!

  13. Great post! I totally understand your hesitations and honesty.

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