Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Is Fatherhood In The Gene(s): An Imaginary View of How Fathers Are Made

Dr. Michael A. Robinson

Over the years, I have been told by the elder men in my family as well as by the dads and uncles of some of my closest friends there is an art to being a father. These wise men, all of whom are married and appear to be happy and well adjusted or as my wife would say, they have been well versed on the inner processes of keeping a wife happy and a family strong and together. These men, these rock solid brothers, offered advice to young foolish souls such as me. If honesty is the best foundation for a great story based on real events, then I honestly must admit that at times I found little use for their pearls of wisdoms. The facts are less flattering; on numerous occasions I completely ignored their guidance. Fortunately my avoidance of these opportunities did not come back to haunt me, thus suggesting on some subconscious level, I must have some way, somehow absorb their messages.

Now, as father, I reminisce over the many conversations and the countless hours of sage advice presented by these unassuming, yet giant figures of our community. Then it hit me! These guys got it! They understood it! They had it! The question is what was is it and where did their gift to stand tall as men of faith; good husbands and loving fathers begin? The similarities in their descriptions of the multiple aspects of fatherhood and the commitment it took were uncanny. How they explored what it took to accept and maintain a strong and vibrant relationship with their spouses and children were not lessons delivered in an hour long dissertation, but over time. These great men led by example and spoke frankly, but not preachy. These pillars of my world and my community who walked and talked with the confidence of Gods, but loved and respected their families as mere men, appeared to have been passing on the secret to eternal wedded bliss and family cohesiveness from which kingdoms and nations were forged.

From my days of reminiscing, as coined by a great African American poet and singer, Mary J. Blige; I came to understand, there was something special within these men. This generation of men, these remarkable brothers, who were in some cases unrelated and not from the same community, but whose essences were parallel had to have a common thread. What was this strand that linked these men? Where is it now? Does it exist in our fathers, brothers, uncles, and the other significant males in our community?

Recently, I overheard a conversation between five graduate students at an well-known historical black university discussing their views on how men, but more specifically African American men become great fathers. Their discourse was fascinating, intriguing, mind boggling, intellectually stimulating and very funny. These future scholars were pursuing doctoral degrees from different academic fields. While all offered unique views to how African American men go from good men to great dads, it was perhaps the views of the medical student I found the most amusing. Her view was both funny and intriguing.

Medical experts assert there may be a cell within the male DNA that appears to represents the characteristics typically associated with the desire of men to become fathers. The DADDY gene or DDG for us non-clinician minded individuals is a tiny organism living inside every male. This DDG grows as the young man matures.

The great thing and the not so great thing about the DADDY gene it is a blank gene, with the exception of the limited coding for daddy responsiveness. The DADDY gene is without a bulk of the DNA coding that has been placed on every other form of genetic material in our body. Therefore, the DADDY gene is somewhat impressionable. This gene is like the proverbial lump of clay, unmolded and ready to be shaped into this great work of art. However, if the DADDY gene falls into the wrong hands, it could have a devastating impact on society.

This remarkable tiny cell has the potential to change the course of a world, a nation, a state, a community, a school, but more importantly a family. The DADDY gene if not nurtured in the best possible environment by those who respect and honor its power can become self-destructive. The DADDY gene determines the type of father all men who decide to take on fatherhood will become. There is no way around it; the DADDY gene guides the parental instincts of all men.

While the DADDY gene has slight hereditary features already encoded within, the volume of what this gene is to become is engraved by the many influential adults this young man will encounter in his life. The first and far most influential figures will be his parents. Typically this means mom and dad. However, there is a special place on the young man’s DADDY gene that has been set-a-side for his father. The father’s values, beliefs, and views on life that are embedded on the DADDY gene by fathers are typically permanent and become visible shortly after birth.

Given, the delicate nature of the DADDY gene and how it will and can impact the development of future fathers, it becomes imperative for all fathers to step up to their responsibilities as dads. This requires that fathers work tirelessly to ensure they are placing the right messages on their son’s DADDY gene. Their sons will take whatever they have learned from their fathers, they will internalize what their fathers have written or failed to write on their DADDY gene and enter society prepared or ill-prepared to fully accept their role as leaders of communities and families.

The DADDY gene is not impervious to misinformation and unfulfilled promises associated with childhood. However, what makes the DADDY gene one of the most resilient of all cells in the male body is its uncanny nature to decode itself once it realizes that unhealthy messages and misleading information has been implanted. Albeit the DADDY gene has the capability of throwing off facets of the common cold, it is not immune to the multitude of other forms of viruses and thus needs to be nurtured like all other genes in the body. Consistent attacks to the DADDY gene will eventually result in the permanent infection of the gene.

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