Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I’ll start being flooded with text messages and e-cards wishing me a happy Father’s Day. It’s pretty much been a tradition since The Girl was born.
That’s because I’m a single mama and have been unceremoniously charged with manhandling — pun intended — all of the needs of the household, from raising the kid to diagnosing weird noises under the hood of the car to cooking what I can at least hope are nutritious meals. I field the responsibilities that should be shared by two people. So up until recently, I thought it was fine to celebrate.
This year, I have a new perspective. I’m not going to reject people’s well wishes, of course. That would be rude, since they mean well. But I’m not going to dinner or getting a pedicure or anything else to commemorate the holiday. Try as I do to be there for Tween Girl in every way, I am not nor cannot be a father. Only a man can do that.
Growing up, it was just me and my mom. She was a definite do-it-yourselfer. Still is. Mommy doesn’t believe in waiting for anybody, especially not no man, to do for her what she can try to do herself. When I went home to visit last week, I didn’t ask any questions when I saw her little toolbox open and pliers, twine, and other Home Depot-esque contraptions scattered across the bathroom floor. I just smiled, stepped over the construction zone, and silently thanked God for having a handywoman as a mother.
Naturally, I picked that attitude up and carried it into another generation. I didn’t need a man to help me change a tire. I didn’t need a man to help me save for a house — heck, what I really couldn’t afford was to keep waiting around for this fabled dude who was supposed to be The One to show up. And I didn’t need a man to help me raise my daughter.
Obviously I don’t believe in gender roles in parenting. I can’t as a single mother and a literal one-woman show. But say, for instance, it’s a father’s job to teach a girl child certain things like how to spot a lying guy, ride a bike, or throw a punch. I’ve done all of those things, no man around to speak of.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: in the black community, we’re so used to not having men around that having a dad at home is more shocking than finding a $1,000 tucked in between the car seats of a free Rolls Royce. So I guess that, coupled with the longstanding teachings from Mama Harris, has made me acknowledge myself as a kind of multiple personality, a jane of all trades parent. I gladly accepted the Father’s Day shoutouts because I was in fact pulling double duty.
In my warm and fuzzy dreams, the good Lord will send a man who will willingly take on the role of not only my husband and partner, but a loving and wonderful father figure for my daughter. But — flashing neon sign around this big revelation — he can’t step into that position if I’m already standing in it.
Without my self-imposed festivities, Father’s Day in the Harris house is fixing to be just another Sunday on the calendar. That’s OK with me. The Girl and I don’t feel the sting of missing-in-action dads and never-were-there fathers. But I’m also looking forward to the day where just maybe, God willing, I’ll have somebody to fill in that third chair at our dining room table and be able to shower him with some well-deserved affection on one of these third Sundays in June.
Are single mothers entitled to celebrate Father’s Day along with the fellas?
Image via Neeta Lind/Flickr