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Hermene Hartman

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True Fatherhood Separates the Boys From the Men

Posted: 06/16/10 03:33 PM ET

Happy Father's Day to the wonderful fathers, grandfathers, and great grandfathers!

Fatherhood is a big step. It is not the seed that you plant, it is the nurturing and empowering of a child that constitutes being a father.

Fatherhood separates the boys from the men.

Long ago, I had a student who asked a question that I still hear. I was teaching Sociology 201 at Truman College. We were studying Marriage and the Family. We were looking at different family types from all over the world -- the American family, The Asian family, The African family, etc. We were talking about family constructs and family roles. The discussion was rich because the class was a united nation and the family constitution was discussed from real life experiences. This young lady, who was in her early 20s raised her hand and said, "what's a family?" My reply was, everyone has a family because everyone is born into one. She countered: "I never had one."

My student discussed some terrible experiences that made her life seem unreal. She knew no family. I often think of her on holidays.

In our community today, too many fathers are missing in action. Many are too young in the first place to take on the responsibility of fatherhood. Some men are planters rather than fathers. Some are absent because they are jailed. Some are absent even when in the household -- and are too busy working.

So, who becomes the father?

I have a friend who works in the community to match boys with fathers, not biological, but role models. His work is important. He says he can spot a teenage boy without a man in the household. "He doesn't have to speak it, I know the signs," my friend often says, and he is convinced that this is why the crime rate is so high.

He often says, "it's too many women raising boys and they don't raise men. The boys become confused with their own levels of masculinity because they don't know what to do as a man. They may learn sex as the expression of manhood, but some get lost in responsibility and accountability."

Fathers shape lives. They are always strong, but most of all, they are always there to help solve problems or to discipline or to teach.

Fathers engineer lives, while women are the caretakers. Too often, women must play both roles and be strong in each. Every child deserves a father in his life. The influence is powerful. Fathers teach different lessons than mothers.

For some of the boys, the father is a public figure, or an image.

Manhood or the role of a man becomes defined by a video game, a television show or a movie.

But the real men come forth. Maybe it's a minister, or a man at church. Or a teacher at school. Or a neighbor. Or a man at work. At any rate, my friend tells me some man some where can put his arm around a young boy and take him to the ball game and say call me when you need to talk about it. Some boys understand that kind of relationship to be, sort of, like a father.

Bill Cosby, the television father, probably set the standard for popular fatherhood.

You are blessed if your family and relationship with your father is intact, be you male or female.

Much of the negative behavior that goes on in our neighborhoods with our children would stop if fathers would take time to play sports with their sons, read report cards and spend quality time in the demonstration of manhood.

So in that vein, thanks to the father figures in the world, who are public fathers -- teaching men how to be men and boys how to become men. Thanks to the ministers, the educators, the civil rights leaders, the politicians, the entertainers, the speakers, and the everyday role models.

Still, there is nothing like a real father in your life.

And it takes one to make one.

 

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