For as long as I can remember, these dreams and aspirations of fatherhood have been a centerpiece of my drive for more. This was before I ever picked up a Quran and read that men were the providers and protectors of women and children. I honestly knew I wanted to be a father before I knew I wanted to be a husband. I saw my friends’ fathers and would relish in the displays of manhood that were honestly fleeting at best.
I will never say I came from a broken home because I hate the term. I had a complete and rich upbringing anchored by two amazing women–a mother and a grandmother. But, I did come from a home that was divided, where my two brothers and I each had a different father. I remember how serious the sense of isolation was and the inferiority I felt when they would leave to be with their fathers. They had their fathers and I didn’t, so I would often sit in isolation and anticipate the day that I could take on the role.
I had my chances, too. The first was in high school, with a beautiful and amazing girl who was moving just as fast as I was through life. I got her pregnant and scrambled everywhere in search of a way to provide. I was sixteen years old, wanting to be a good man before I was a man to begin with. She chose to have an abortion, which I understood but took hard. I still suffer from nightmares and tear up at the prospect of what could have been.
I wish it never happened, in retrospect. Even more than that, I wish I could say this was the only woman I went through this with. Whereas my first experience was one of hurt, the others were experiences of relief. I still had the opportunity to move as I chose, without the burden of an unplanned forever. I tried to make myself believe that I was far removed from the dream of fatherhood. I tried to make myself believe I was numb and unaffected by my actions and the ease in which I could say ‘I love you’. More than anything else, I loved not being alone.
There’s a certain irony in my story and it lies in me being girl crazy. I would sneak to the lunch tables where they sat, would leave the basketball court to watch them jump rope, and curiously spoke to pretty girls to see if their stories were just as beautiful. As we grew close I would listen to stories of men (specifically fathers) who weren’t there to show them a man’s love, through tears that only a shattered heart can produce. It hit me that I still wanted to be a father. However, the real realization came when I realized I wanted to father a daughter.
My guys would look at me as if I went mad. I explained it to them the best I could, as coolly as possible. In order to maintain my cool, I left out details to them. I didn’t tell them I looked forward to the tea dates and nail painting. I didn’t tell them that I looked forward to the smile she would get from her first love letter. I definitely didn’t tell them that I wanted to redeem myself for the wrong not only I, but, we do to women. A third realization came from conversations such as these–I can only do these things by being in the house with not only her but her mother.
I think some of our disdain towards our women comes from the tyranny of single mother households. What they said was law, a law that couldn’t be agreed to or vetoed by men who should have been in the house but weren’t. The second we hear so much as a criticism from the women we love we have flashbacks to wanting to get away from our mother’s barking but couldn’t. During the times we don’t get what we want from women, we harken back to the relatively few times when our mothers came up short on any little thing and relive the disappointment. We get scared.
But why do we fear the women we call our own? We come from women, they teach us formally and informally, and they even find a way to feed us. When we unite and reproduce, they biologically pass more of them to our children than we do as men.
I often wonder, do men fear a woman’s strength or do they fear the weakness they’ve created through mistreatment?
Regardless, I’m fighting through these fears, just as many men are. We’re moving backwards, in the direction of providing in the most traditional and literal sense. I know one day my time will come when I walk an aisle, provide a home, and hear a small voice call me, “Daddy.” I anticipate the day I can have a young child see in me what I saw in my friends’ fathers–unequivocal manhood and royalty in the flesh.