IFive years ago, Father Dema Marvin Harrison sent a heartfelt message to his friends that would change his life forever. Her son was three months old and her daughter was six months old. And he couldn’t help but feel like a fake, a hypocrite. He says, ‘I felt cheated.
He was going through the motions of being a loving father and supportive husband, without feeling the deep emotional bond with his children that he had always expected to feel. Looking back now, he says, “I don’t understand how to connect deeply.”
His job in marketing involved working long hours and while he was at home, he thought that his priority as a father should be to facilitate and support his wife Nina in the role of mother. But at the same time, she felt that something was missing from her relationship with her children.
His own father has not been in his life since he was 18 months old – and when he sees other fathers holding their children, playing games and having fun, he thinks to himself: “I don’t think I’ve done anything. Many of those moments. “It seemed so easy, so innate for all the other fathers, so he thought it must be his fault.” It must be. ”
When her daughter Sagar was born, she felt that she alone lacked the ability to have a deep and meaningful relationship with her children.
Faced with the challenge of raising a child, she could not stop herself from looking through the lens of her father’s failure. “My feelings about being a father were based on my father’s experience – or lack of experience. I was almost fighting like a ghost. I wanted to be better than him, to be present, active and loving as he was not.”
One week before that life-changing Father’s Day, he remembers trying to take care of Blake and Ocean alone, while his wife was resting. Sagar started crying, so I picked her up and tried to calm her down. And she cried even more. She seemed to be saying: ‘Take your hand away from me, where is my mother?’
He felt rejected. And then her crying alerted Blake and she was like, ‘Yeah, I want my mom too.’
Inevitably, the “curfew” woke up his wife. “And I had to give my daughter to her and then my son ran up to me and jumped up beside her, ‘Yes! We want a mother.’
He felt completely inadequate. “I thought, ‘I can’t support my wife even when she’s asleep, because they have a lot of desire for her.'” “It really affected me. It didn’t feel good.”
He sat with his feelings for a week and then it was Father’s Day. But I did not want to persuade. I don’t think I should do anything. “
He decided to send WhatsApp messages to other black fathers he knew – at the time, a group of 23 people – wishing them a happy Father’s Day, saying they saw him as a role model. I wrote: ‘I want to thank everyone here, because I see how I’m thinking about my parents and I’m really having a hard time with you.’
It was then that he discovered that other black fathers were feeling the same way. “We were all looking at each other, unknowingly.” He further revealed how he was feeling. “And then everyone started sharing their stories and talking about how we need to convince each other.”
It was the beginning of a conversation about black patriarchy that would eventually lead to a global movement. Soon, black fathers around the world were joining the WhatsApp group and sharing their own parenting experiences. Harrison realized that many were facing special challenges and concerns, often linked to racism or cultural beliefs, unique to black fathers – and that they needed a suitable platform to support each other.
He started building an online community of the same name, along with (now many award-winning) podcasts, Dope Black Dads, and other fathers.
Today, thousands of black people around the world use her forum to discuss the highs and lows of male parenting, masculinity, and mental health. And look forward to celebrating Harrison Father’s Day this year.
“Right now, I feel guardianship is my superpower,” he says. “I have a lot of fun.” He reflects on how broken and powerless he felt five years ago and he can tell his younger self that you can’t connect with the child. “It happens naturally when you’re hiring – and time.”
He had his own success when he started practicing confirmation with Blake. “I would laugh at him saying ‘I’m brave.’ And then he would shout it at the top of his voice.”
Spending a lot of time alone with each of his children – talking to them about Arsenal and his other passions, taking them to work, walking and driving together and in playgroups and movies – he learned what it means to be a father. “It’s beautiful. But you have to launch yourself into it. You’ll make a mistake. It won’t be easy. There will be days when you don’t sleep. You’ll be thrown upstairs. You go out somewhere and when you get there, they’ll tell you they want to go home now.” Everything will be character building and you will learn to truly love your children.
Looking back on his early days as a father, he was in skin-to-skin contact with his kids, carrying them on a sling, helping his wife out with dinner and talking to them about almost anything – even if they ate breakfast. . “Your voice should be quiet for your child, it should be something that calms them down – and so should your smell, your touch. And it all helps you – not only in their relationship with you, but in your relationship with them.
Knowing this, he now realizes that when his children need comfort, “I never had the equipment.”
His own father, after all, was not there to help or guide him. “I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I was a father. He taught me who I didn’t want to be.”
He was getting stronger when he realized that he could get the necessary help and guidance from his friends. He is grateful for all his wife’s patience and support, and his children have taught him a lot.
Being a loving and present father, he feels now, not so complicated. “It’s just a matter of time. It’s just a matter of time before they do anything, how they view the world and when they are free to see who they are naturally.
It’s easier said than done as your children get older. “As they became more mobile and more aware of things, I realized I could teach them little things and they wanted to come back to me and learn to do things.”
One of the reasons She decided to practice affirmation with her children because she experienced “extreme racism” as a child in Hackney where she was called N-word and chased down the street. He wants his children’s voices to be positive and what he wants to say to himself, in their own minds, if they have ever been the victim of racism or ridicule for being different. “To my children they are beautiful, they are powerful, they are loving, they are kind, really important, because I don’t think society ever tells them that.”
Seeing how his children have benefited from the confirmation, and how confident they are, he decided to write a children’s picture book. I love you – Images of Blake and the Ocean – published last month, and Harrison hopes other black fathers will use it as a way to connect with their children.
“The book will carry a lot of weight, but the child will feel that you are talking to them.”
Since he founded Dope Black Dads, his priorities in life have changed. In the past, he usually worked 13- or 14-hour days. “I’m just going, going, going. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to be with my kids. I want to experience with them. I want them to take places. They are the most important people in my life.
He no longer thinks about his purpose, or why we are all here. “I’ve got the glow I was looking for, the glow I was missing – and it’s really powerful.”
I love you Featured by Marvin Harrison and Diane Ewen (Macmillan, 99 7.99) Available at guardianbookshop.com for 7.43