We’ve been celebrating the release of “Fatherhood: Rising To the Ultimate Challenge,” the new book by NBA veteran Etan Thomas with MyBrownBaby contributor Nick Chiles, all week, focusing on the beauty of involved fathers who treasure the most important job on the planet: raising children. But fatherhood has its downside, certainly in our community, where the absence of dads in children’s lives is acute. Biting. Heartbreaking. And, in some cases, devastating. “Fatherhood” does not shy away from the phenomenon; indeed, the book attacks the issue head-on, with stories from athletes, political activists and celebrities who share not only their stories of fatherlessness, but their prescriptions for breaking the cycle, including specific steps for how to be a better dad after growing up without one in the home, how to help children overcome their anger over growing up fatherless, how to help single moms shoulder the burden of raising kids alone and the importance of finding elders and role models for children who are missing dads in their lives.
One story I found particularly touching was from NBA veteran Derrick Coleman, who explains how, even now, he still aches to meet his father, whom he’s never, ever seen, so that he can show him how well he’s done for himself—and how his father’s absence made him promise himself that he would never, ever abandon his own children. It is an incredibly powerful testament to the story that is all-too-familiar in our community—one which we humbly present today on MyBrownBaby:
Right now, I am in the process of trying to locate my father. All my life, growing up to this date, I have never met my father, and I am trying to find him this minute. I don’t want anything from him; I just want to get the opportunity to see him and bring closure to something that has been bothering me my entire life.
There is a saying that I have permanently etched in my memory: “The chains remain.” It’s a reminder to me that I don’t want to grow up to be like my father. Those generational chains from him will not be placed on my children. I don’t know the reasons he didn’t stick around or why he never wanted to have a relationship with me and be a part of my life. I can’t tell you that it didn’t hurt me and anger me. When I was young, I would ask my mother questions. She would either change the subject or give me the short, short version, so I eventually left it alone. But the curiosity never fully went away. I remember thinking to myself, Well, what about me? Regardless of what y’all were going through, I was still your son, and you didn’t care enough about me to want to see what was going on with me? How I was doing, what I looked like, if I looked like you, if I was okay, if I needed anything, nothing? You didn’t care about any of that? It made my blood boil. But it also made me vow to never be that way with my kids when I had them, regardless of what happened with the relationship with the woman. Because I understand relationships don’t work out, but it’s not the children’s fault. They had nothing to do with y’all’s mess. So I vowed to always be involved with my kids.
It bothers me to this day, which is why I’m here, a grown man—some might say an old man—still having the need to actually meet my father. No, I don’t want anything from him, but I have to admit I want to ask him, “Why?” Why he never called. Why he never checked on me. Why he never wanted me. I want to ask him all of those things, but I know I don’t want to grow up to be anything like him.
It’s crazy that today you see all these sporting events, basketball, football, track and field, and you see all these single moms out there supporting their babies. No fathers. You see mothers out there carrying football pads and water bottles. That’s supposed to be the fathers doing that. So I vowed to never be that deadbeat, poor-excuse-for-a-man type of father when I had my kids.
Don’t miss out on this groundbreaking tome of powerful voices—stories of love, heartbreak, courage and wisdom from men who value the beauty of fatherhood. Buy a copy of “Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge” here.
1. Welcome to “Fatherhood” Week on MyBrownBaby!
2. A Special MyBrownBaby Love Letter To Black Fathers Getting It Right
3. On Black Fathers, the African American Image and MyBrownBaby Etiquette
4. Fatherhood: Talib Kweli Says He Regrets Missing His Daughters Birth In New Book On Dads
5. Dear Daddy: New Documentary Tells the Story Of Fatherlessness Among Daughters