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DADult Life | December 2, 2022

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What I learnt from an absent father

What I learnt from an absent father

One of my favourite moments from Boyz n the Hood comes courtesy of Laurence Fishburne’s Furious Styles. During a heart-to-heart on a fishing trip with his son, he says: “Any fool with a dick can make a baby but only a real man can raise his children.”

In case you haven’t seen the film, which you really should, the clip is below.

When I was little, even when my parents were together, we never lived under the same roof. At home it was my mum, my grandparents, my uncle and me. I didn’t ask why, I was too young to know any different, that’s just how it was, it was the norm and I was happy with it, but when I got older I realised: 

My dad, a term I absolutely detest using because he’s been nothing of the sort, was a complete and utter waste of space incapable of family life.

To be entirely honest, any memory I recall of him is tarnished with false promises and disappointments. The biggest, steaming pile of BS was that he’d take me to Jamaica one day, the motherland, yet I’ve had a passport for 20 plus years and still no sign of that trip.

On a smaller but no less important scale, there were the countless times he’d cancel visits, days out, even be too late for us to see films at the cinema up the road that we’d have to turn around and go home, leaving my mum to pick up the pieces each and every time.

I am fortunate though that I had my granddad around to act as a solid male role model in my life and later my step-dad, the man who taught me how to shave and came with me to buy my first car (RIP Sinbad, you served me well for those first three months on the road), was there.

Yet, I’m full of questions. Who abandons their own child? Why tell countless lies to your kid? Is actively choosing to be a part-time parent something to be proud of? Do you know when my birthday is yet?

If you’ve grown up in the perfect family with two parents leading the charge, this may seem hard to interpret. But this heartbreaking scene from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which you may have well caught back in the day, is eerily accurate to my own experiences – so real that it could have been me saying the same exact words to my mum. So real that I can’t actually watch it without feeling that same despair, regardless of it being a TV show.

While I’m indifferent to the man’s existence in that we’ve never had ongoing dialogue and we’ve gone years without contact on more than one occasion, unlike Will, my absentee “dad” has taught me something very important.

I’m still full of resent, disappointment, disgust and anger – somewhat diluted admittedly because it’s the norm after almost 31 years of negligence – but it’s simply become part of me now and it helped shape my mind-set because from a young age I made myself a promise: I would never become anything like him when I became a dad.

Don’t get me wrong, over the years there have been fleeting attempts from him to make amends but to be perfectly honest, which is what I’m all about, they’ve been lazy, half-arsed and time-sensitive, which sums up his parenting style accurately.

Truth be told, the absence is too far gone to forget. But it has made me absolutely certain that I will always do my utmost to be the greatest dad I possibly can be to Roma.

The thought that she’d have to feel what I did for years makes me sick to my stomach and that in itself would be more than enough motivation to step up.

But whenever I look into her big brown eyes, from the moment I held her, from the second Jenna told me we were expecting, I’ve felt nothing but love, adoration and a firm knowledge that I’d be there always. That, in my mind, is what a father should bring to a family.

You can be certain that I have no intention of simply being, in the words of Furious, “any fool with a dick.”

So to all of the dads, granddads, step-dads, uncles, big brothers, little brothers, cousins and all those present and correct for parenting, you may not feel like it, but you’re smashing it. And for the mums, nans, aunties and sisters that have to hold it down, just like my old dear did, take a bow for yourself too.

Trust me, there may be times when you feel like the love you have to give your child is not enough but believe me when I say – it is, there’s no doubt about that. Have an amazing Father’s Day, love deeply and cherish the moments!

Related posts:

My daughter convinced me it was time to change jobs

Now… Say my name: She’s said her first word!

A tribute to my granddad

A poem I wrote for my daughter before she was born

50 days of fatherhood: 50 fast thoughts from a first-time father

The birth of our daughter – a viewpoint from a first-time dad

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