Charles E. Richardson

Fatherhood: It’s not about biology and DNA

If you’ve followed my column for any amount of time, you know I think fathers are a special breed. No matter what some think in today’s society, fathers are an essential component of the family unit. Period. I could stop writing now. That’s it.

Too many male Homo sapiens, particularly those who try to walk around with their pants below their butts, think fatherhood is a matter of biology. They’re flat wrong. The act of creating a child is the easy, fun-and-games part. The mixing of DNA has nothing to do with being a father.

Today, I celebrate the fathers who stuck around for the hard part. Yeah, the part with the baby waking in the middle of the night and refusing to go back to sleep. The part where you rush to the emergency room because of a fever. The part where the child thought he could fly like Superman and learned he doesn’t bounce. The part where you can’t sleep until your child comes home after a football game.

And the good parts. Their first day of school, elementary school graduation, turning 16, the first report card. Children can be our greatest joy — and our greatest sorrow. Fathers know the ups and downs of every emotion known to humans. It’s not just mothers who — when they hold that little bundle of joy for the first time — wonder what the future will bring. Fathers, as they cradle their legacy, worry about the awesome responsibility for guiding, directing, loving and caring for someone whose eyes look just like theirs.

I’m talking about fathers like Sam Hart, Kenny Burgamy, Ray Rover, Albert Abrams, Al Tillman, my nephew Tim, Ed Grisamore, Cliffard Whitby, Roy and Oscar Tomie, Randy Whitfield, Oby Brown, Tim Jones, Larry Bates, Joe Kovac, Tommy Barnes, Bill Weaver, Jim Coady, Andy Galloway, Harris Walker Jr., and so many others — you know who you are — who sacrificed and are sacrificing for their children and for children who don’t share their DNA — kids they coach, mentor, foster or adopt. Fathers create trajectories for the children in their lives. That’s what they do.

Fathers are the models, because children are the best imitators I know. They are constantly watching, picking up cues on how to act. Boys learn how to be men from their fathers. Girls learn how they should be treated from how their fathers treat their wives.

If you want to know why we have so many lost men, it’s because we have so many fatherless boys who were unsuccessful navigating the transition from boyhood to manhood. They had no guide to show them the way. Instead they were influenced by the images depicting men as shucking, jivin’, cussin’-up-a-storm cretins.

Being a father isn’t full of Hollywood-style drama. The most action occurs when Child A, a son, sits down with dad after school to do homework so they can go out and play catch before dinner. Or Child B, a daughter, has to be picked up from cheerleading practice, so dad plays taxi driver.

But don’t be fooled. Dads do have super powers: a listening ear; gentle, but probing and questioning wit; fatherly wisdom and intuition to know where his children’s heads are each and every day. Tireless fortitude. Fathers don’t take days off or vacations.

Fathers quietly go about working their magic. They partner with their wives to outthink their children, because they know their kids think they can outthink them. These fathers get up every day, go to work, to church, coach Little League or other activities and are models for boys who only had sperm donors who were just around for the fun part. And there are those like Roger Jackson, Sharone Wright and Tony Lowden who share their gifts and talents with young people and commit themselves to the community — many times at great cost.

And finally, a real father has to be a man of God.

If you want to understand the importance of a father’s relationship with God, think back to the original 1977 TV series “Roots,” when Omoro holds his newborn baby, Kunta Kinte, arms outstretched toward the night sky filled with stars and reveals to him, speaking of the Creator, “Behold, the only thing greater than yourself.”