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Men to Fathers

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“They can be great people Kal-El.  They wish to be.  They only lack the light to show the way,”   Jor-El tells his son in “Superman Returns.”  That’s something for all of us to mull over this summer, as it applies to parents, teachers and especially students.

Greatness is elusive.  Nevertheless, our search for greatness and be enlightened by it are things that should never be diminished. “You do what you have to do, but we need milk,” Denzel Washington’s wife tells him in the remake of “Pelham 123.” Sometimes we are faced with adversity and it’s then we step up to the plate and do what needs to be done to take care of our families. Education has always been the best cure to many of our ills. Many choose not to see that, and in the process the values many of us held as more precious than gold has been tarnished by the things many have chosen as replacements, such as clothes, cars and concubines.

It’s ironic how those things we choose to value change our entire perspective as it becomes clear what we view as important.  The irony is our kids reflect our values.  When we as a parent or teacher see that, and don’t like what we see, do we ask how that happened?  When we lower the bar, and make it so easy to cross what have we accomplished?  More graduates?  Less conflict?  When we become scared of our shadows, we fail to realize the fear our kids have when one day they discover how ill prepared we’ve allowed them to become.

Oh…I’ve heard many of the excuses.  He doesn’t know how to do that…meaning mothers want an excuse to keep their kids babies as they maneuver a certain degree of control that often evolves into conflict when fathers try to make men out of sons who are able to carry their own weight. The tragedy of this can be seemed in boomerang children who are robbing their parents of their retirement in an attempt to make their child’s road easier than the road they traveled.  Am I making sense?  And the worse manifestation of this are schools where the dumbing-down process allows many students to take AP classes just so they wouldn’t have to be in the general population. You know what I mean!  If I can get an 80 in an AP class, that’s the same as a 90 in a regular class.  And we wonder why scores decline.

Teachers and parents have menaced our young people by becoming too permissive, allowing privilege to take away power, and in the process enabling children to be pitiable.  Many parents are raising a pack of whining, overly indulged babies who have no intention of taking care of anyone but themselves.  And if your children have not given any indication they are willing to give something back, then take notice to what I’m saying.  We don’t groom a Warren Buffet every day, but more important, when we start siding with Hip-Hop artist who capitalize on degrading women and marginalizing our vocabulary by using words we can’t repeat, then we create Gomorrahs in our communities.

So how do we stop this? I have one word, and it begins with an F and ends with a K.  We bring on the heavy artillery to put fires out.  We create a need and desire that is so passionate we can scale any building that’s burning and reacquaint ourselves with the same fire our parents had for education.  We call on the firetruck that stirred our ancestors and move toward the light, inspiring our kids to lead, rather than follow like blind dumb sheep.

Vanessa Rodriguez, a former Fox Tech graduate, eloquently eulogized the possibilities by admonishing parents from asking, “Are you going to college?” To resurrect this urge for higher education, parents and counselors should be asking, “Where are you going to college.”  It’s the old adage, if you have no idea of where you’re going, how do you know when you’ve arrived?  Ms. Rodriguez rightly asserted that one factor that contributes to the lack of college-bound teens is a lack of parental involvement.  I would additionally stress that the lack of paternal involvement should be mentioned at every opportunity to make sure teachers know both parents care, and more importantly, that college aspirants know that both parents care.

In our home, we surround our sons with the gospel that “Education is essential, and college is an expectation.”  It’s never too early, nor is it ever too late to stress this, as parents help their kids see the light.  We engage ourselves, rather than just hope.  We talk to people we know, rather than wait for them to contact us.  We live the thought that if you want to have what I have, then do what I did to get it.  Moreover, tell them they can do even better!

There are easy ways to do this.  Start making kids do more. Chores have their place, right next to consequences that should exist as reminders that attitudes have to be monitored, and simple tasks can help that.  Chores are important and there is no need for an allowance with these. Meeting with teachers early is another way to generate interest in college, and prohibit the possibilities of wrong choices based on incomplete or inaccurate information.

I would like to see a group of dads do something Ms. Rodriquez alluded by having periodic sessions where students met and talked about college, especially the work necessary to fill out application, write essays and understand that where you go is almost as important as going. If any of you are interested in doing something like this in your community, if this is the light you needed, then move toward it. There are many organizations in San Antonio trying to do this:  Nippy Betz and Empowering 21; Claudette Lewis and the Cherice Cochrane Foundation, and Devethia Thompson of the National Society of Black Engineers are just a few.

As our sons move closer to becoming men, we must realize, if we want them to achieve to be great, we must let them see what lit our paths.  They must know what we value; what we dream; that if they want the world to be their oyster. It takes a lot work to become its pearl; and even more to become a man who can take care of a family, as we men should be grooming our boys to do.

“There is too much hate in the world….if I tried to affirm that I was the only one right I would be as narrow-minded and self-righteous as you want to accuse the church.” -Jon Rose
from Murder on the Pier,” by Jere Myles, [p. 171]

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