Fatherhood: The (Odd) Benefits of Lowered Expectations

Strange things have happened since my daughter was born, perhaps even including the miraculous manner in which she arrived. The first of which seems to be related to the genuine surprise that comes from being a young(ish) black man who is actively involved in his kid’s life. Everyone who knows me knows that my Ava is my sidekick, if ever I am headed to my car, then I am more than willing to don a backpack (I REFUSE to carry a baby bag – too much like a purse) filled with diapers, a few bottles and various supplies and bring her along with me. She is more than willing as a car-rider too, even though she is usually asleep before I have changed to 5th gear.

It’s quite normal to me, and I have been doing it for years, from my oldest niece who is now 15, through my nephews, age 11 and 8 respectively, and now my own. To me, it feels quite normal and natural. To onlookers, however, I seem to be an anomaly in being a black man who will be bothered with handling a kid. I have noticed that when I am in public solo with my princess – as in it is apparently ESPECIALLY odd to see a man with a girl child who is the age of my baby – people respond totally differently.

F’rinstance…

– people have given up their spots in lines in various retail establishments despite not being asked to

– doors have been held for me despite being TOTALLY able-bodied (note: this has actually been an older cat in a liquor store – a LIQUOR STORE, no less… on more than one occasion, even).

– the random old lady who catches me talking to and playing with her in the grocery store who actually THANKS me for having my daughter out and about with me

– the straightup thug-looking guy who was harder than hell before she smiled at him and becoming a babbling fool, giving me dap and moving along

– the random “we’ll be [place]… you coming out?” text messages where I respond with “daddy duty” and almost 9 months later I am still getting the response “alone?!!?”

Maybe it is me and my commitment to not repeat what that jackass I happen to be named after did (or didn’t do, as it were), which was made long before my child was a reality. It seems that I am often a benefactor of my own push to FAR exceed what are showing to be lowered expectations. On the whole, I rather enjoy the experience, nothing really beats sitting in the living room floor with a 1/20th-size version of yourself attempting to watch Top Gear while she climbs all over and “talks” to you. Needless to say, as peculiar as it may be compared to what my contemporaries are portrayed as in popular media these days, the in-public responses lead me to believe that SOMEONE is buying it and that responsible and present black fathers are unexpected.

Maybe I am just imagining this differently from how it actually is, but it seems that while people might have completely missed me before Ava, seem to stop and take notice, paying positive attention.

Are people REALLY this much nicer to people with kids?

I will be the first to admit that I was not ready for fatherhood and CLEARLY we had no prep time, but I am beginning to think I am adjusting well to it and very much enjoying the benefits of it. I never thought I would see personal benefit from living in the second consecutive generation of “ain’t shit” black fathers, simply by being driven to NOT be an “ain’t shit” black father, but lord knows I love it and my daughter will be better for it.

NOTE: Click here to visit The Black Fatherhood Project.