I wrote the paragraphs below this past January or February after my most recent Supper Club meeting, and never posted them. Supper Club meets again this coming Saturday, and I’m reminded of the incident described and the reflection it brought on.
I had taken Jay to use the bathroom on the second floor of my friend’s house. She was hosting our quarterly supper club gathering, usually a convivial affair of five women, children included only if spouses and other relatives are unavailable.
The second floor was quiet, and Jay and I stuck our heads in a few doors before we found the right one. As we walked back down the staircase, Jay asked me, “Where’s the daddy that lives here?”
Hmmm. The question was wrapped in an assumption — not a positive word because we know what it connotes. Maybe “expectation” is better? It occurred to me that Jay assumes, or expects, a live-in dad because he has one; his first cousins live with their moms (my sisters) and dads; and as far as he can see in the three directions from where our suburban home sits at the top of a T-intersection, there are moms and dads with no kids or moms and dads with kids. He sees a fair mix of mothers and fathers, brown and otherwise, picking up his classmates from his private pre-school, again, in the suburbs.
Jay doesn’t know yet that the statistics would tell a different story. Less than half of black households are headed by two parents. I wonder when and how Jay will learn this, and what he’ll think. Will he feel privileged or embarrassed? Different or normal?I remember when I first realized that my own family structure was not the “norm.” I was in the high school bathroom with two of my friends. They were complaining about their overprotective fathers – orge-sounding men who strictly enforced curfews and rules about them receiving phone calls and visits from boys. I remember feeling odd that I could not contribute to the conversation, embarrassed that I could not say, “Oh yeah, well, my father is worst than that because . . . .” It struck me that in my own home, while we had rules and our own sense of order, there was no father who told me and my sisters what we could and could not do, and there never had been. Throughout my extended family, there were many examples of women-run households, fathers absent, sometimes absent and never heard from nor spoken of. I had come to take it for granted that men make babies that they may or may not hang around to raise, and in fact, we should be surprised if they did stay around.
Oh, bless Jay’s heart. Let him continue to expect a dad to be in the home and think of it as normal. Let him grow into a man who believes that it is his responsibility – no, his duty – to raise the family he makes.