When I was seven or eight my biological father went through a possibly lengthy process of reaching out to my mothers family to get her number. My mother at the time lived in a different state and had not seen my biological father since the day I was born.
He reached out because he felt he was finally ready to meet me. Now Looking back I always find this funny because I feel sometimes we as black women are so desperate to give our children a strong family structure that we often overlook absenteeism and applaud men for finally wanting to care of their responsibilities. Often negating the fact that they contributed nothing to early child development and that the child does not know them at all, but we pickup like they never left. And we act grateful that he is ready to be a parent on his terms. We gas the children up to think their father is the greatest man on earth because he finally wants them.
I’m not going to lie. I was excited and intrigued. Who was this guy who had wanted to meet me? Well, he never showed up and I never heard from him again. It wasn’t until I was 21 years old that I found him and had asked about what had happened that weekend that nobody asked him to call about . His explanation was “The girlfriend I was with at the time didn’t want me to go. So I didn’t”. I was crushed because I remember thinking “Is that really the best you got?”. His girlfriend at the time is now his wife and the way my father framed his reasoning was by not being active in my life somehow made his girlfriend feel secure in hers. See,the problem I have with this is he was quick to throw his girlfriend under the bus instead of just taking responsibility for his past mistakes and decisions. I felt immediate rage towards his wife whom was never mean to me after I had met him. I blamed her from keeping me from my dad and life they had already had which was a family that had family portraits taken, that threw birthday parties, that attended parent teacher conferences, and had family dinners where they talked around the table every night. I hated her for what she took from me. I hated her more than my father.
I can think back to my childhood when my “adoptive” father was having children left and right. My mother would let us know about it and I remember my head would hang low because with each child I felt more and more forgotten and felt less like a priority. Granted I knew I was already low on his totemic pole of self elected responsibilities, but I knew I was sent even lower because of the his “Real kids” the problem was never the fact that my “adoptive” father never wore a condom, but it was the women trying to take him away from me. My mother would say maybe to us “If it aint come out my pussy it aint your brother or sister”. I remember being disgusted by this because my siblings and I didn’t have the same father but yet we were supposed to refer to each other and think of each other as full and never what we were which was half siblings. What made them less my siblings was the woman. Somehow, she was the carbon copy and my mother was the original and the fact that my mother was the first to have children with all three of baby fathers meant that their future children were somehow not worthy or legitimate enough. With each child born she would always talk about the woman taking my father away from his responsibilities because “He hardly taking care of the ones he got. Now he wanna go play Daddy to his new kids?”.
“New” was a word I hated because the hardest feeling I’ve ever had to reconcile was knowing that I was not wanted. I grew up thinking I was never pretty enough, smart enough, patient enough, or kind enough and that’s why my “dad” had a new family.
My mother was quite young and didn’t realize that women weren’t the problem it was the men. The fathers that opted out of taking care of their children were to blame not the wicked Jezebel girlfriend or wife because ultimately a man decides. Sometimes the fathers don’t even tell their wives or girlfriends about their past children, sometimes they make it seem like they made all this effort only to be pushed out of their kids lives by their mother, sometimes they tell the truth and say “I don’t want to be active in my kids life” and sometimes they don’t, but the only person who holds the true power in this scenario is the dad because sooner or later his efforts or lack of effort becomes more and more apparent. Sometimes these women don’t even realize that the men are deadbeats until after they have kids with him themselves.
but are women truly to blame for this? No.
It frightens me how much we never hold black men accountable for their actions and how we often times let history repeat itself. We suffer the blows of trauma to shield them to give them their time to get their act together. Never fully realizing that we’ve stunted our own emotional growth and opportunity to know ourselves by being this self sacrificing! I believe that’s how patriarchy works at it’s core for black women. Sacrifice and hope they will come back. And to never mention their absence if they do because they may never come back.
Am I writing this to say that women are always innocent? No. There are plenty of women who threaten to walk away from their spouses if they are active in the children lives even children born long before they even met. I am simply pointing out how we enable patriarchy, toxic masculinity, the strong woman black woman stereotype, and sexism to play over and over again. We create enmity among ourselves as women over some not shit men. We look at each other as the cause of grief and never the men.
My youngest brother takes responsibility for children. Some that aren’t biologically his and some that are. My mother does not like this because she sees my brothers kindness as being taken advantage of by some Jezebel women. She urges my brother to protect himself by having paternity tests done on the children that are his. For some odd reason she didn’t want her son to be trapped. Not realizing the fact that she “trapped” his father by allowing him to do exactly the same thing. She views this situation as different because “You can’t trust these girls” not realizing that she is one of those girls!
Anyway, to get to the point. I’ve heard many young girls and women cry “My dad didn’t want me because of his wife!” Hell, that was a story line on the Braxtons only for the daughters to realize the hatred they had for their Daddy’s side chick turned wife was wasted energy and the person they should’ve been really be upset with was their father. We blame women for shitty behaviors men make, we blame ourselves, but what we never do is blame men and in order for shit to change we’re going to have to start.