Robert Douglas – #whatmakesadad

We reached out a few weeks ago to ask Robert @this_father_life if he would like to take part in our blog series in the run-up to Father’s Day. We love the relaxed, natural image of fatherhood that he presents on his account, and the balance he achieves of tongue-in-cheek humour, hard-hitting reality, and a clear love for his family.  What he wrote for us – about raising Black boys – needs to be read and listened to *all of the time* but right now it feels even more pertinent as many of us are grappling, perhaps for the first time, with how present racism is in our world today.

Thankfully, I’m blessed to be able to say I’ve never lived any part of my life without my father. He’s been there for every milestone and significant moment from weddings to driving lessons, and rejections to mistakes. So, I knew that when I became a dad, I already had somewhat of a blueprint.

With what’s happening in the world right now, it would be remiss of me not to focus my thoughts on the side of fatherhood that I feel is one of my main duties.

Most of us will agree, parenting is no walk in the park. With the stresses and worries, there are repeated ups and downs, but, parenting black boys is a whole other level. As evidenced in the media and on the streets, black boys and men are still demonised by many. With every breaking race-related report, it’s becoming more apparent that black men and boys are (still) seen in a different light.

To succeed or even just live well, we have to work harder, be smarter, fall in line, be savvier, shut up, fit in, stand up, speak up, hide and dilute, all with a smile on our face with our heads held high. If we don’t fulfil such expectations, we can fear loss of life, in the metaphorical sense, and more worryingly, the physical. So a black father is not only thinking about the usual parenting worries, he’s also considering how he’ll tell his child that when their peers are already on the field, at the starting line ready to run, they’re still in the changing rooms. For me, guiding my boys to claim back that unmerited additional 100-metre sprint is #WhatMakesADad.

I remember at school, 14-years-old, being pulled out of English, accused of harassing a girl by writing insults and posting them through her letter box.

I’d never been in trouble in school. I was a good student, no fights, no truancy or skipped lessons, no attitude, yet here I was, pulled out of a lesson, and I clearly remember being told to not speak and just listen. No words were allowed to leave my mouth as I wasn’t given a moment to defend myself.

The teachers investigating the complaint had already made up their minds. They’d told me they’d contacted the police on behalf of the girl, and I was made to sit in an empty classroom and write a statement. I was shaking. I went home at lunch after seeing a police car pull up at school. The first person I saw was my dad. Despite knowing I’d done nothing wrong, I was scared. I knew my dad, and like most fathers, I knew he wouldn’t be happy with the school’s handling of the situation, but something about his reaction made me realise this wasn’t a simple case of the school clumsily mishandling a complaint. Later, I went back to school and without any explanation there were no police, no follow-up nor any acknowledgement from that teacher. The situation was just gone.

 

It wasn’t until I got older that I found out from other people’s experiences that the teacher in question held certain views against black boys. Looking back now, in hindsight and as an adult, I’m able to identify and remember the signs, but my dad must have spotted them straightaway and consequently shielded me from the situation.

There are many things my dad taught me about being a man, a husband and a father, but above all, he has shown me that you can provide a level of protection from such traumas, but importantly also build knowledge and draw motivation from the experiences to claim back that additional 100 meter sprint.

Love always,

Robert x

*WIN* £75 worth of credit to spend with Don’t Buy Her Flowers.

Because we know there is no such thing as a ‘typical dad’, we want to hear your stories about your dad or a father-figure and we have three vouchers of £75 to giveaway. Winners will be chosen at random. UK Deliveries only. 

To enter the giveaway, what you have to do is:
1. Post to your *own account* on instagram with the #whatmakesadad. It can be light-hearted or serious, an image or a video – the choice is yours.
2. Include the following sentence in your caption ‘I am posting my #whatmakesadad to enter a @dontbuyherflowers giveaway’
(if your account is private just DM us and we will request to follow you so that we can see your entry). Competition closes midnight Monday 15th June. Find out more on our Instagram.

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