Last Sunday, Oprah, Iyanla and friends tried to tackle fatherless sons again. I want to preface this post with: I’m happy this are discussing this issue and sparking dialouge but I absolutely hate the way they are doing it.
The thing that bothered me most was the faux attempt to fix father and son relationships within the span of two hours. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t forgive someone for letting you down in two hours. You don’t change the way you’ve acted for years in two hours. You can’t “do the work” in two hours. And I get that this is a television show, but this is also real life for the guests..
The segment that bothered me the most was between Aveion Cason Sr. and his son. Aveion had not seen his son in 8 years. He had just missed his son’s graduation. His son was very hurt. What the show should have done was have them start the conversation that would help them improve their relationship and then provide some counseling to continue after the show. Instead, Iyanla fed the sons lines to say to his father (a la DMX and his son) and then the father promised to be there and not let the son down before. Without know these people, I can imagine the son and father have had this conversation before and I can also imagine that nothing has changed. And then the father took this opportunity to tell his son that it hurt him that his son didn’t respond when he told him “I love you.” I can see how that would hurt, but sir, this is a child, your child, who you hurt all the time. Act like an adult, deal with your pain and don’t put it on your child to change, especially when you’ve been dropping the ball for eight years.
I struggle with absent fathers. I struggle with their excuses about why they are gone. And I struggle with their pain when their children treat them the way they have been treated before. Later in the show, a father came on and asked what he could do because his son had stopped responding to him. The father admitted that he had a new family and his stepchildren loved and adored him and that helped him to see what a mistake he had made with his own child. I was glad Steve Perry was there to tell him that he might have to eat it. I think what gets lost in these fatherless children conversations is that children have a breaking point. There comes a time when they can’t handle the rejection any longer and they shut down. While I understand that this hurts fathers, it never ceases to amaze me how they don’t understand how their actions have hurt their children. This confusion grows when it’s men who grew up with absent (either physically or emotionally) fathers. They know how it feels, and yet, they turn around and do the same thing to their children.
Steve Perry and Geoffrey Canada discussed how some kids punish their fathers to make them feel the hurt they’ve experienced for years. I was glad that they bought that up because I haven’t really heard it discussed or read about it but it’s something that I did to my father and I know some friends who have done the same. This defense mechanism allows children to feel power and control in their relationship with their father. For me, it also made me feel better to see my father actually try to be a part of my life, even if was later than I wanted and in reaction to my rejection of him.
Something that I didn’t realize until after I watched the show was that there was only one White guest speaker on the show. I understand that the world wants to believe that Black people are the only ones dealing with fatherlessness, but that’s simply not the case. There are plenty White, Hispanic and (I’m guessing even) Asian children that are fatherless. I also think people forget that many children experience living in a single parent household when parents get divorced.