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Boys Need Their Fathers: A Letter to My Ex.

Boys playing basketball

I took our son to his first basketball practice today. As soon as we walked in his friends called out to him and welcomed him with high fives, smacks on the back and general rough housing as boys do. I smiled as I went to the sidelines to sit and wait with the other parents. As I settled in, I realized that there was only one other mother besides myself. The room was filled with fathers talking to each other while their boys warmed up. You should have been there instead of me.

Growing up in a broken household with mostly women around me I never realized just how important boys and men were. Luckily for me my mother rarely spoke badly of my father, she never spoke badly of men in general. But a lack of badness does not equal goodness, it shows neutrality at best. It wasn’t until our son that I realized the importance of men. Standing there watching our son interact with his friends I saw how different and special boys are. They are more physical than girls, running and leaping. They are social but in a different way than girls. Gossip is almost nonexistent with the boys. They are more direct and honest. If a boy doesn’t like another, they don’t talk about each other, they get it out in the open and deal with it instead of sulking. Boys have a glint in their eyes, its part mischief, its part joy. I saw it in our son’s eyes tonight and it made me smile. You should have been there with me.

Our son is ten now and I’m not sure how the baby that I held in my arms just a few short years ago has grown into the kind, caring boy in front of me playing basketball. I try to give both of our children everything that I need, but I can’t. I can’t give them what I don’t have. For as hard as I try to lead them, I’m not doing them justice. It’s because I’m not a man. I can financially provide for them, as well as emotionally, but every gift I give them is wrapped up in womanhood because that is what I am. You should give them all that a father does.

Over the years you have told me that you might not be the best Dad but that you are a good one. I don’t agree with you. In my eyes a good dad protects and provides for his children. You do neither. You don’t provide emotionally or financially, and you don’t protect them from anything. You don’t protect them from the world by teaching them right and wrong. You don’t show them what it is to have integrity or how to overcome obstacles. You don’t provide emotional support, knowledge, or even basic items like clothing. You don’t make them feel safe and you don’t show our son what a man should be.

What things do you do for our children? You tell them how terrible their friends’ homes are when you drop them off to play, criticizing the size. You tell them that they don’t have to do anything that they don’t want to do. You tell them that they can make their own choices. Interesting how you side with your children when the situation goes against my wishes. If they don’t want to finish the extracurricular activity, they signed up for then you tell them to quit. You teach them to quit everything that’s too hard or uncomfortable for them. You give them the disdain that you have for the world. It’s that simple. Just like myself, you cannot give what you don’t have. For example, you can’t teach integrity because you don’t have any.

Man holding baby

Boys need their fathers now more than ever. In a country where masculinity is looked down on by many people, fathers are truly important. Men are important, but you choose not to participate in any positive way for your son. The sad thing is that as much as your son needed you during basketball tonight, he wasn’t the only one. You are missing those moments of joy that occur for a brief moment in the long days of parenthood. Moments that once they occur, are suddenly gone forever.

Although you should have been there for your son’s basketball practice tonight, I know that nothing will change, because the one thing that I can always count on you to do is to stay unreliable. It is the only time you are constant.


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Image by Tim Mossholder


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