With Father’s Day quickly stepping its beer-gutted, worn down Timberland boots around the corner, there is still one question on my mind: Since fatherhood in the young black community has seemed to go out of style, are father’s becoming fashionable again?
This past Tuesday, after a very rigorous spinning class with teacher Carolyn, I was on my way home when I noticed a very startling site: a black man with not one, but two children. Instead of ignoring the phenomenon like a normal Philadelphia pedestrian, I blurted out, “Wow, a man with a child? Wait a minute…two kids? That’s a rare sight!” Once I spoke the words aloud, I discovered my problem. Were those words only truthful to me? The genuine surprise in my voice amused my best friend and her daughter, but I was quite serious. I mean, there, crossing the busy intersection at Broad at Susquehanna was a man who had probably intersected himself into parenthood approximately four to five years ago (judging by the height of his oldest child). I figured that the infant harnessed to his chest and the pig-tailed girl holding his hand was a sort of community service for doing hard time (maybe 10-20 minutes) in some random girlfriend’s bed. And for the brief moment I’d seen his face, there was a vacancy in his eyes that didn’t seem to be reassuring. In that moment I’d understood how cynical I’d become about the state fatherly affairs. I couldn’t allow myself to see, in that man’s vacant glare, a father but instead… a “baby daddy.”
Over the past decade, black Americans have been accused of valuing labels and brands; not family or fidelity. However, if bloodlines are the new Sean John or Rocawear, are babies the new “bling?” Has fatherhood become the new trend? In this fad that I am dubbing “NWP” (New Wave Papas), it seems that all over the city men are taking the wheels of the bus and making heads go ‘round and ‘round with their newfound dedication to their school-aged tikes. They are making attempts at raising their children in ways that I have never seen before…and succeeding! As opposed to sitting at home watching cartoons, playing Playstation, and having basketball coaching sessions with their sons, NWPs are now making cameos at theatrical productions, city parks, and even strolling the expensive downtown shops with child in tow. Like women who enjoy a new handbag or MAC make-up, NWPs are enjoying their new accessory: their legacy. Having a future little NWPar. (New Wave Parent) to develop, NWPs feel like they have created something similar to a clothing brand; a name that will live on for an indefinite amount of time.
There are still moments when I doubt the sincerity of an NWP. Maybe he’s only with his child because the baby’s mom needed a babysitter, or maybe he has custody this one weekend of the month. My co-worker David believes that my wariness comes from being a part of “a generation with a lack of fathers. As youth, black men have become so accustomed to being raised by single-mothers, that we missed out on having a father-son connection. So we compensate by making sure we don’t ever deny our children of a father in their future.” He also said that “nowadays, black men may not even desire to be with the mother of their child, but will remain a part of the child’s life just because it is his duty as a dad.” This philosophy replaces the “hood-rich” mentality I thought was still present in young black males, where nothing is more important than their shoes or their cars. So, in an age where pushing a fly whip is the goal, are baby daddy’s merely pushing strollers, or being pushed to finally grow up?