Lessons From a Black Father to His Black Sons

It’s almost a given that as humans we will encounter challenges throughout our life that seem insurmountable. No matter how many times you fall, you must get up and move forward. If at first you don’t succeed pick yourself up and try again. Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today. It is better to have loved and lost than to not have loved at all.

That’s how I imagined my first conversation about life and its challenges would go with my kids. The plan was to just throw a bunch of cliches at them and let it be. What do I know about giving life talks? I never received “the talk” when I was growing up. All I got was, “You not putting your little ding-a-ling in no girls are you?” followed by “Alright, you better not be.” To be clear, if you give me enough time I can come up with some truly deep and inspirational words, but is that what parents do? Come up with a speech and then practice it before delivering the message? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Maybe. Either way I look at it, the initial plan is not going to work; too much is changing and the old rules no longer apply.  Navigating the social media landscape, understanding what career options are available and learning the importance of temperament are what I view as important lessons that need to be taught.

Navigating Social Media

In the early 90’s and 2000’s social media was still in its infancy. There was no Google Hangout; there was only hangout at a random place. Facebook was nowhere to be found, but you could meet face to face and maybe read a book at the library. I’m sure you catch my drift but one more: there was no Myspace; there was simply come over to my place and… study Algebra. In any case, social media has had a profound impact on how we live our lives and on our interactions with each other. It is easier to keep in touch and share our lives, but there is always another side to the coin. It also means we can operate and provide input with complete anonymity. This has fueled the flame of bullying and the lack of personal accountability for the implications of these actions. So, I must teach my kids how to be socially responsible and maintain control of their footprint on the web. It is okay to share but everything doesn’t have to be shared. I also must ensure they are not socially awkward. I want to teach them how to read body language, the value of friendship and the importance temperament. Skills that are best learned through life experience.  These are the type of skills that not only will help them to understand others but give insight into their own personal flaws.

I want to teach them how to read body language, the value of friendship and the importance… Click To Tweet

Deciding on a Career

I was very fortunate to know from a very young age that I wanted to be an engineer, so going to college was pretty much an afterthought and fell directly in line with the expectations of family and friends. But, what if I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life? There is no doubt in my mind that external forces would have disregarded my feelings and pushed me towards college. I cannot recall a single conversation about going to trade school or building some other non-technical skill. I could have grown to be the world’s best carpenter, but we will never know. As my kids grow up and start to take interest in different things, it is my job to enable them. I must be the one to tell them and show them that there are many options for career development. My hope is that they will want to pursue a STEM related field, but ultimately, the choice is not mine. So, while I can’t ultimately choose what career path they choose I can give them the mental tools to navigate and identify some of the horrors of this world.    

Staying Safe as a Black Boy/Man

As a father of two black boys, I have been inundated with many images and rhetoric that are cause for concern. It’s a subject that I didn’t want to touch on due to its nature to invoke certain emotions and because having the conversation almost makes me feel as though I have been defeated. When most people think of terrorism, they only think of the act itself and limit it to heinous acts like bombings or shootings. But if you step back and think about the true motivation of a terrorist attack, you will understand the person being attacked isn’t just the person at the site but everyone who could have been there. In short, the goal is not only to disrupt the lives of their victims but also to change the lives of those that may have avoided the threat. I don’t want to admit that I have been terrorized; I don’t want to change my behavior or encourage my children to change their behavior based on the events that have transpired. But how, as a parent, can I not prep my boys for what can be a very harsh reality? How can I sit back and leave it all to chance? Let “Jesus take the wheel” to some degree. Well if you know me, then the first thing you know is that I am not a very religious person and secondly, you know that I am not excessively naive. There are people that may look at my kids differently or make assumptions about their lives or experiences based on the color of their skin and there is nothing I can do about it. It is my job to teach them that they cannot let this deter them from accomplishing any goal they set out to complete. They must learn that there are people who will try to goad them into doing something that is not in their best interest by using vile words. They must learn to identify and disrupt these tactics. Learning to temper emotions is not something that comes easy for any person, it takes time and patience.

But how, as a parent, can I not prep my boys for what can be a very harsh reality? Click To Tweet

So… I have already started the lessons.  As you read this article, I am likely fighting with my oldest to show him how to control his temper. Stopping him mid-pout and fit to ask him why he feels the way he does and what his overreaction is achieving. He’s young, so I’m sure it’s having little to no impact right now but over time my hope is that he will begin to understand. Of course he doesn’t have social media but he does watch YouTube which is closely monitored. I’m confident that his viewing habits are why I keep getting recommendations to view toy reviews and egg surprise videos. And as far as a career path is concerned, I think I have a little time but in the interim we will monitor his interest and how to best develop them.

Post Author: Ories Cathan