In my daily life I rarely think about fatherhood. I’m not a father nor did I grow up with one in the traditional sense. My grandmother largely played that role in my early childhood but no patriarch existed, which is not uncommon for families of certain ethnic minorities. But there have been moments throughout my life that forced me to think about fatherhood, mainly how the absence of one affects my life.
I grew up mainly in the somewhat conservative towns of Vacaville, CA and Dixon, CA, so tradition is part of the identity of the areas in which I grew up. I recall my elementary school years watching other children geing dropped off and picked up by two parents, or by mom one day and dad the next day. As for myself, when that final bell rang I headed over to the campus-ran after school daycare until my hardworking single mother picked me up after ending her shift.
In later elementary school years I got involved with sports but had no dad to teach me fundamentals, so I looked up to sports figures I saw on television like Barry Bonds and Michael Jordan and imitated them with mixed results.
Then came the critical middle school and high school years where the body matures way faster than the mind can keep up with. This is when boys begin interacting with girls in much different ways than before, which coincides with adopting mature hygiene and grooming habits. These are things traditionally taught by the parent of the same sex.
That leads me to those bitter moments when I wondered to what effect a traditional father figure would have had:
Getting rejected by basically every girl in middle school and high school. After each rejection I felt lost. I knew something went wrong but I had little idea what it was nor did I have anyone to guide me through the process of rejection and recovery so I could improve for similar situations in the future.
Getting cut from every grade school sports team I tried out for. With no foundation of fundamentals this is no shock. The athletic kids not only had dads who coached the sports they played, but those dads also got their sons into sports at early ages so those sons could develop into competitive athletes. Let’s not even go down the rabbit hole of extra resources a father can provide to help a child develop in basically anything s/he wishes to be good at.
Cycle of poverty. During my long struggles to find permanent employment throughout different points in my early adult years many who never walked in my shoes or the shoes of others in similar situations either criticized me for not taking the correct steps toward employment or they criticized me for simply not trying hard enough. I vehemently disagree (I will likely write about that in the future) and wonder if these struggles would have even existed had I not been born into the seemingly endless cycle of poverty that often comes with being a minority from a one-parent home.
In the absence of a father figure I became a very passive adult, which has both advantages and disadvantages. An obvious advantage is the willingness to take a step back to see the world for what it is and properly approach any situation after analyzing it with rational thought. In that sense I'm a classic introvert. An obvious disadvantage is lack of assertiveness, which leads to missed opportunities.
These missed opportunities can be especially prevalent in dating since American women tend to gravitate toward assertive men. This could explain why I’ve never been in a relationship despite possessing more of the qualities many women claim to desire than are seemingly present in the men they eventually date. A minimal level of assertiveness is required to understand the nuances of escalating relationships with other people, whether it’s in dating, friendship, or business.
But I will never blame the absence of a father figure for my struggles since our experiences shape who we are, and this is illustrated beautifully in what might be the most emotionally moving episode of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. SPOILER ALERT: Will’s estranged father comes back into his life and they develop a bond before the dad walks out on Will again. After the father leaves, Will's uncle comforts the crying Will, symbolizing Uncle Phil’s status as Will’s true father figure. End SPOILER ALERT. Even after spoiling the end of the episode it is worth watching.
Before being comforted Will goes on an emotional rant listing things he accomplished without his father, so here are some of mine: I learned to ride a bike (much thanks to Mom), learned to shave, became an honors student and intercollegiate track athlete simultaneously, and topped it off by graduating from the top public university in the world.
Happy Single Mother’s Day!
P.S. Sorry for not including a Star Wars or Lion King reference somewhere.