Family photos courtesy of Courtney Wise Randolph
My favorite things about the month of June are the two days set aside to honor the beautiful Black man who lives in my house. His birthday comes first, when I laugh about how I never planned to date him long enough to even think about becoming his wife. And then, there’s Father’s Day.
I didn’t always feel excited about Father’s Day. I loved my own father when he was alive and since his death, I love him still. But our relationship was hard sought. I didn’t really understand what a father could do, how he could shape a whole world, until I was almost grown. As I witness my partner pour his love into our child, my heart explodes in wonder of who our daughter can dream herself to be all because he’s here.
She’s brave in ways that I’m not, because of her dad. He lets her leap from heights so high, sometimes I have to cover my eyes. But he’s there to help her safely test her limits and learn that fear is her greatest obstacle.
In the winter, they build igloos and storage for snowballs, not snowmen. He teaches her how to have fun — and be resourceful.
On lazy Saturday afternoons, when she’s hungry and he’d rather not cook, they work together to turn a 10-cent pack of Top Ramen into foodie art, enhanced with boiled eggs, spinach and other chopped veggies. Dare I say, in that he’s preparing her for college?
He plays all the games I’d rather sleep through, laughs at all of her jokes—which for a three year old don’t often contain a recognizable punchline—and dances with both of us in the rain.
He never hesitates to pulverize monsters hiding in the closet. He responds to her calls in the middle of the night without a whine. He’s caring and attentive to her conversation. Even better for me, he’s the preferred parent at bath time, allowing her all the time she wants to play and somehow never getting shampoo in her eye.
Witnessing him parent, I’ve learned that he’s like the majority of Black fathers. Black fathers are present, active—and proudly so. That’s the case, even if they don’t live in their child’s primary household. For most of high school, I assumed one of my friend’s parents were married because she saw her father every single day. Knowing that she lived with her mother, I couldn’t comprehend being with her father so much any other way. But fatherhood is about more than where you live.
I also know Black fathers who lovingly care for children who may not be theirs biologically, making some their namesake. Oprah tells the story of how her mother and father only slept together one time, and Vernon Winfrey only knew about his daughter when her mother sent letters requesting money to care for the baby. Oprah said, “the reason he did, is because it could have been him. And the responsibility that he took for me, not just a responsibility but care and love and direction and support as a young teenage girl, is the thing that made the difference in me being who I am now or somebody you would have never, ever heard of.”
Black fathers are out here doing their thing, I tell you. They make, provide for, play with, teach and love their children with purpose. They change diapers, comb hair, cook meals, clean scraped knees and elbows, wipe tears, give medicine, lead parent committees, help with homework and even fold laundry right after it’s exited the dryer.
They don’t do it in silos, either. My daughter’s father exists in a community of Black fathers. They share pictures and videos of their children, arrange playdates to engage with one another and hold each other accountable for the ways they show up—not only for the children but for their partners and themselves.
They do all of this 365 days a year, even while the annual Father’s Day gift lists stay overcrowded with suggestions for power tools, obnoxious singing ties and socks.
Before becoming a mother, I only thought about the big difference a good father would make in my potential child’s life. I never considered how much parenting with a good father would change my own. And because I’m grateful, the month of June is reserved for a good time. In my life, it’s made especially to appreciate the man who makes motherhood such a joy.
This essay was first published in BLAC.