Posts Tagged ‘fathers’

when your life becomes a murder porn* episode

Last month, three of my cousins were murdered by one of their ex-boyfriends/children’s father.  It still doesn’t seem like real life.  This is some murder porn* stuff.

The day started normally enough for me.  I woke up late and my mom said she wanted to talk to me. I remember being really annoyed that we were going to have to have a serious talk right when I woke up.  I don’t think I hide it well.

“You heard about the triple murder suicide last night in [town]?”
“Uhm, no.”

I feel bad, because my first thought was of my brother M, who lives in that town.  So now I’m really scared.

“Well, I think K and B were killed by B’s ex-boyfriend last night and then he shot himself.”
“What?  No.”

And then I left because K and B are the last names I thought she’d mentioned.  But a quick check to facebook showed that their friends had already heard the news and that confirmed it for me.  Later on in the day, I would find out the third person who was murdered wasn’t just a friend of theirs, but actually another cousin of ours.

At first I couldn’t believe it.  That doesn’t make sense.  Why would he kill her?  And why he kill the rest?  And then why would he kill himself?  And what about the baby?  (The baby thankfully is ok and is too young to ever remember any of this (hopefully).)  So I started digging for details.  Turns out the reasons were the increasingly common reasons a noncustodial father kills the mother of his children – child support and because she was moving on.

Now that I could believe it, I was angry.  Why is this the solution?  Why is it when a relationship doesn’t work out, violence is the next step?  What was his plan if the cops didn’t stop him?  I actually don’t want to know.

I was only angry for a little while before I became sad.  My cousins K and B were young.  Both under 30 and both with children.  They hadn’t lived life yet. My third cousin, T,  was older, and to be sure, I feel sad for her too, but at least she got to live most of her life.  I was much closer to K and B than T.

And then the guilt came.  I hadn’t seen them since the last funeral we all were at, which was K’s mom’s in April.  I had done a terrible job of staying in touch with that side of the family.  Even since I had moved back to CT, I only was ever around during times of tragedy.  That and I had gone into super hermit mode for most of the first year I was here.  Do I have the right to feel devastated over deaths of people I wasn’t close to?  I still vacillate between “they’re your feelings it’s ok” and “you don’t have a right to feel this way.”

The only thing I felt I could do now was to help.  B’s sister had come into town and was doing most of the funeral preparations.  I had to help her; I felt like it was my duty.  Some small way to make up for not being around while they were alive.  Man, did she put me to work.  It was difficult to watch everyone’s coping mechanisms, which ran the gamut from working instead of feeling and feeling so much they wound up in the hospital. It felt good to help, it felt awful to witness the families sorrow increase as they learned more details.  The murderer’s very long and disturbing history of domestic violence, my cousins’ last moments, how if the stars had aligned a little differently another cousin could have been involved and if they had aligned another way, it would have been the family matriarch instead.

But then there were good moments.  People volunteering food and space for the funeral.  A toy drive set up for the kids.  Donations of clothes and other things babies need.   People coming to share a laugh and good (but really bad for you) food.  And although I’m not into  Church, I even appreciated the many prayers shared.  But the best was the baby, who was just as happy as he always.  Hard to feel down when he smiles at you.

We planned a double funeral.  We had to find clothes for them to wear.  Something that seemed easy enough but quickly turned into a three day project while we worried about what they would wear, would they have liked this if they were alive and still getting something to cover up all the things the family wouldn’t want to see. Because everyone was so emotionally beat down, I wrote the two obituaries.

And then the funeral happened and it was terrible and beautiful.  Two white caskets next to each other, surrounded by flowers in their favorite colors, in front of a packed Church in the middle of a snowstorm.  People were sobbing.  Some had the decency to do it in the bathroom and not on the family who was already barely holding it together.  Thankfully, I kept it together through the funeral and the burial. Me, my mom and my brother had to do readings, but again, I felt happy that I could do something.   In the end, K was buried next to her mother and B was married next to her.  Best friends to the end.

We worried if there going to be conflict within the family since T was just visiting and because she had died trying to help her cousins here?  But of course there wasn’t, because this is family.  My mom married into the family when I was little and I used to still be around even after her divorce.  K and her brother used to always be at my house and I have many found memories of us terrorizing my step-father with our antics (and bad and much too loud singing).  The one thing about that family that I always admired is that they always stood together, even when one was acting a complete fool.  ”The Mills!” I would say and laugh.  And so, when I learned that my cousins died because they were protecting one another, I was not surprised.  It seemed so fitting that this tight knit family would literally die for one another.  I could not be mad at that.  I don’t think they would be mad either.  I don’t think they would have even thought they had a choice.  And though I am still really sad and mad and guilt-ridden, I take small comfort in family and the things we do for each other.

e.

*murder porn is not actual porn.  It’s those murder shows like Snapped, Fatal Encounters, anything on Investigation Discovery.  Basically real life Law & Order.

Oprah and Iyanla on fathers, oh my!

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.

I love it when you talk Daddy to me

I must say, nothing makes me happier than hearing about my friends’ children. But my real joy comes when it’s my male friends doing the talking. I don’t know what’s so special about men doing what I’ve started to call “talking Daddy,” but I just can’t get enough. Luckily for me, a quick trip to facebook normally provides my fix. And if that doesn’t work, I simply have to ask my friend Jose how his son is and squeal when his answer is something super sweet like “delicious.” I almost can’t take it anymore.

I love when my friends tell me how their infant does something new or totally unexpected. I love watching videos of babies who have no idea how precious they are as they fall asleep while their parents try to get them to dance to songs. Or even simply little observations of their cognitive development. My favorite is when fathers tell me their child is their new best friend. I eat it up.

Something tragic happened to one of my closest friends, and yet even still, everything cool thing he does, he says it’s for his son. And even in private conversations, I can hear how this child who left the earth too soon has changed his life. My friend still talks Daddy to me.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by how much I enjoy Daddy talk given my field of research. I literally read and write about fathers all day long. And I find when I talk about my research, I spend a lot of time debunking this idea that fathers that aren’t married to the mothers of their children aren’t around and that they can’t be good fathers. And I spend the most time talking about Black fathers. Man, they get a bad rap for no reason. Especially when the research shows that as nonresident fathers, they are the most likely to actually be involved with their children.

It was with this understanding that I was totally annoyed when Courtland Milloy came out his face talking about Trayvon Martin and asking where Trayvon’s father was and why his mother was the one leading the charge for justice for her son. I mean, has he watched any of the press conferences? Tracy Martin is always there next to Sybrina Fulton. I mean, Travyon was visiting his father to get his priorities back on track when he was murdered. The next week, Milloy apologized… sort of. I get it, he’s writing about what he sees, or rather what he thinks he sees.

But this selective vision is the problem.  We really have got to stop assuming fathers aren’t around. We need to stop for one second and realize that we’re surrounded by many men talking Daddy to us. We need to start listening.

e.

On Daddy Issues

I hate the way people talk about “daddy issues.”

I think the biggest misconception about daddy issues is that people know how to deal with them. It took me easily 15 years to figure out that “dealing” with my father meant forgiving him and accepting him where he was. It took me a few more years to actually be able to do that. And I was lucky (using that term real loosely here) because my father had an excuse I could buy (addiction and PTSD) but more importantly, because he changed. (I wrote about it yesterday.)  I’m only beginning my research on adults and their fathers, but from what I’ve learned so far, this is not the way it always goes.

More often it’s a painful disaster. A few months ago I read Naked With Socks On’s piece about when he confronted his father about why he wasn’t there. His father didn’t have a good answer, he barely had an answer at all. And when that happens you are crushed. Hell, I was crushed and it didn’t happen to me. Another public example is a scene in the documentary the Prep School Negro. Andre visits his father’s house for the first time and confronts his father about what happened, where he’s been, what the deal was. To be honest, watching this scene was like watching a horror movie. I didn’t want to watch because I was scared of what the father would say.  And like NWSO’s father, this guy didn’t have an excuse and it hurt.  It was literally painful to watch.

I think the fear of these scenes becoming a reality is why I think a lot of people avoid having the conversation. What in the world do you say to a parent who wasn’t there and offers no acceptable reason? What do you do with that information? I don’t have the answers. I don’t know what I would do. And my guess is, a lot of you don’t know either.

What was the point of me writing this?  Lately, it seems that everyone fancies themselves experts on fathers and fatherless children.  And frankly most of what I’m reading comes from people who have no idea of what they are talking about.  I also have many, many thoughts on how we talk about women who grew up without their fathers, but that is another post.  I say all this to say that I hope the next time someone wants to tell people to go deal with their daddy issues, they’ll think for one second about what that really means, how much time it takes and how it feels.

To be clear, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t “deal,” I’m saying offer some compassion instead of ordering someone to do it.

peace,
e.

my father and me

This something I’ve been meaning to write forever. It looks like I first tried to write this last June and I’ve come back to see that I only wrote two sentences (and I’m not even going to use them). I want to write more about fatherhood in general, but I figured it would make sense to start with me and my father’s story.

But it starts before I even got here. My mother and father don’t agree much on the details of how they met but from what I can gather, my mother came to California, met my father and they fell in love. Like for real love, they got engaged and bought a house. Then my father messed up big time (“groupies” according to my dad and drugs, bad combo) and my mother left him. After she had me, she moved back to Connecticut. And since my father loved both of us, he followed. Since he didn’t know anyone in CT, he couldn’t get drugs and so he got clean.

For a while we all lived together with my grandmother. My mother’s work required her to travel a lot, so I spent most of my early years with my father and my grandmother. Eventually my mom was able to spend more time in CT, enough to buy a house and we were a “regular” family. I’m not sure what happened, but my father moved out but we still hung out all the time. I was the ultimate daddy’s girl and it was awesome. He spoiled me rotten and I loved it. Whatever I wanted I got and I got used to it.

When I was nine, my mother told me she was going to have a baby (with her husband, not my dad). That’s when my father decided to tell me that he had just had a baby with some woman I never met and that I had a six month old brother.

Somewhere along the way my dad started doing drugs again. His visits became more sporadic and when we hung out it was sometimes with real shady people and sketchy situations. I was also getting older, so I was more aware of what going on, but for the most part everything was cool.

Then my dad started going to jail. The first time was devastating. I remember hiding in the closet and crying. But after that, I began to look forward to my dad going to jail because when he was in jail he called and wrote all the time. And when he was out, he was gone.

During another stint in jail, the woman he had my brother with had a little girl. She was born addicted to crack and was placed for adoption. I only met her once, the day after she was born. And then she was gone.

Though I was getting frustrated with my father around this time, I was not done with him. I figured eventually he would clean up and get his life together. He had kids and all these mistakes had costs. But my father couldn’t clean up. My breaking point came when he missed my high school graduation. Later he told me that he was high and didn’t want to see me in that state. But I didn’t know then and that was the first time I cut him off.

Through all of this, mother has always remained calm. She never says anything negative about my father and his shenanigans. And whenever I talk crazy about his, she reminds me that he is my father. I’ve always admired this about her because if some man was driving my children crazy, it would be all over for him.

I don’t remember how, but we reconciled. I didn’t trust him and I barely liked him but I still loved him. My mother made me invite him to my college graduation. He came and was so proud you would have thought he had anything to do with my success there. It infuriated me.

The next few years were strained. I was going through my own stuff and didn’t want to deal with my father’s. I can’t remember now what happened, (I’m sure it had something to do with the truly awful man that I was dating) but I decided that I needed to deal with my father and our issues before it ruined any chance I had at obtaining and maintaining a function romantic relationship. So I wrote him a letter. It said three things: 1. You don’t know me, you haven’t made an effort, so I’m going to tell you who I am, 2. You’re either in or out. I’m not going to continue to chase you around and beg you to act like a father. You either do it on your own and leave me the hell alone and 3. You are not going to be the reason I don’t get married.

To be honest, I didn’t expect an answer. But my father, ever full of surprises, wrote me back and sent a packet of other stuff. He said he was sorry. He said he had been clean for a year and was diagnosed with PTSD. He had been in therapy and was back to drawing again. He sent me all the information he had about my sister. He sent me info about veteran benefits for children (way too late as I was 25 but it would help my brother). And he said I was right. I was finally able to forgive him.

He started to call me. If we had plans to meet, you better believe he was there. And for that I am grateful.

Our relationship now is not perfect but it’s much better. I have accepted my father for who is. I can see who he is. And I am ok with that. He’s never going to be Bill Cosby.   He’s never going to be the man to financially bail me out of situations.  But he is the man who will come down to to New York year after year and move me to different apartments, even mice filled ones that scare both of us. He’s the man that tells me I’m beautiful, smart, funny, insert positive adjective here when I need to hear it. He’s the man that helps me calm down because he’s incapable of not seeing the bright side to a situation.  He’s the man that makes me laugh.  He is my father.

e.

Day 3: Thoughts on Interviews… and fathers

I read somewhere that A Belle in Brooklyn writes all her posts on her Blackberry. Since I have an hour commute to work I figured I’d give it a shot. And I really need to write since I’ve already  fallen off my write every day wagon. #weak

At any rate, I’ve been thinking a lot about these interviews I’m doing (hopefully for my  dissertation). So far I’ve only done and to be honest I was not prepared for what I heard and how I felt afterwards.  I’m interviewing daughters who grew up in different households and I’m
trying to explore how they maintained these relationships, what these relationships are like now and if these relationships have affected their dating habit and/or sexual behavior.

I know what my “daddy story” is and have been thinking about blogging that just to get it out of my system and to just sit and think about what it is to me and how it’s affecting my research.  But that’s another post ;-)

Anyway, what’s surprised me most about these interviews is how sad they make me.  Granted there were a lot of sad parts in the interview, the sadness I felt is most likely my own shit rather than empathy.  It just boggles the mind how fathers can disappear and move on with life
so easily – especially when their own fathers weren’t there. They know what it feels like, and at some point they must have said “I’m never going to do that to my child.” And yet the pattern continues.

At some point, I’d like to interview the fathers. Not sure how well that would work out. Probably like how it is when Oprah interviews child molestors.  She can’t be cool, she barely holds it together and you can just feel her disdain for them.  Maybe my emotions aren’t that
strong, but I would be going in with judgment and emotion. That doesn’t mix well with science.

Back to the interview. It helped me form a hypothesis about how these relationships are maintained.  I’m going to see if these next two relationships confirm the pattern.  It’s exciting.

peace,
e

every Black man’s worst nightmare

The title alone makes me cringe: Childless man freed after serving time for child support violations.

Yeah read that again, this dude has no kids and has gone to jail, no once, but TWICE over child support violations.  Basically what happened was dude was with some chick, she got pregnant and told him it was his.  They break up shortly thereafter.  She goes after child support (or if she was on public assistance, the state went after child support).  Like many low-income men, he couldn’t keep up with the child support payments and the state threw his butt in jail (that law is so dumb, but that’s another post).    Then he got out, got a job and couldn’t pay again and then went to jail again.  13 years later he hears whispers that he might not be the father and decided to take a DNA test.   So eventually Mr. Haltey take 2 paternity tests and it’s concluded that the child is not his.  It’s good in the hood right? No, Mr. Hatley still has to pay his back child support even through the child isn’t his.  Why?  Because he signed a consent agreement to pay child support back when he thought the child was his.  The court is holding him to that, so he has to pay more than $16,000 in back child support.

How could this happen?  It’s actually really easy.  All you really need to do to establish paternity is pay a small fee to get your name on a birth certificate.  I’m not aware that you actually need to have a DNA test to do this.  So if you’re messing around and aren’t sure where your seeds are growing, you too could get caught up.

My biggest problem with the article is that it assumers that if you’re aren’t paying child support you’re a deadbeat dad.  I hang around a lot of fatherhood researchers, and they call it something else: dead broke.  I think most men would gladly pay child support if they were earning a decent salary.  I was watching this documentary and this man said by the time they took child support out of his pay check, he had $0.16 left.  You just can’t live off of that.  And even though it is selfish, to want to put food in your mouth over child’s, I get it.

All in all, I’m glad Mr. Hatley is out of jail but let this be a cautionary tale.  Fellas, be aware of what’s going on.  If you don’t think you can afford 18 years of child support payments, or just don’t want to pay them, wrap it up and call it a day.  Ladies, when telling men that the child is theirs, please be sure you actually know who the father is.  Fellas, if you aren’t sure they child is yours, please get a DNA test.  Yes, I will still call you a dick for putting a pregnant woman through the drama that is men figuring out who the father is, we will all be happy in the  end when we know who the actual father is.  As you can see, if you make a mistake with this, you’re stuck with the consequences.

peace,
e.

Roland Martin puts fathers on blast

Fathers, and pretty much anyone that deals with them.

I’ve called on pastors nationwide to stop the stream of momma, grandmother, aunts and female cousins coming to the altar for baby dedications with no man in sight. That pastor should say, “Until I personally meet with the father, I will not dedicate this child.” Somebody has to hold that man accountable for his actions.

It’s time that men hold their “boys” accountable. Actor Hill Harper had a friend who once said that he hadn’t seen his child in some time, but he found time to play basketball with Harper. Hill said, “Unless you call your child now, we can’t play ball.” See, Hill had to force him to accept his responsibilities.

I’m down for men holding other men accountable.  Not sure how I feel about pastors refusing to baptize kids.  It’s not the kid’s fault the parents don’t get along and the dad wants to disappear.

I mean we even got kids trying to hold their dads accountable.  Al B. Sure’s son wrote him two public letters, and the fool still hasn’t even responded. lame.  ABS, do better dude.

But for real, I think men should hold themselves accountable.  I don’t know that I would want my dad to acknowledge me solely because his friends won’t ball with him anymore.  I want my dad around because he is my dad, because he loves me and because he wants to be there.

peace,
e.

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