It takes two people to make a baby, and in theory, it takes two people to raise a child. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Grandfathers, uncles, and mothers must step in to guide a child through life, in the absence of a father. My life has been blessed, I grew up with a father, two grandfathers, and a great-grandfather. As a kid I suffered through gatherings where old tales were told. I rolled my eyes and went out in search of my younger cousins. As an adult, I often wish I had remained and taken notes. So much of the verbal history of the family is lost forever because, as kids, we didn’t always appreciate what we had.
The men in my family didn’t always stay within the boundaries of male stereotypes. They rolled up their sleeves and cooked dinner, washed dishes, and cleaned houses. They were not just the disciplinarians, they were also the nurturers. They attended parent-teacher nights, not just graduations. They woke up at two am to soothe a nightmare. They changed a diaper even when the mother was available. They broke out of the box and taught us all how to be parents.
Mothers get poems, dinners, flowers; it’s time for fathers to break out of the Maury Povich script and demand equal treatment. In this past week, I’ve seen a divorced father encourage others to be there for their children. I’ve seen a son dedicate a music post to his father and another son discuss the changing role of fathers . I’ve also seen a daughter thank her mother for being the father she never had. One of my cousins said it best, “ I also think it is the right example for Fathers to give their young sons as they become young men heading into the world. They should never have to rely on a woman to feed them, wash their clothes, or any other domestic maintenance needs. I don’t have daughters but I do have a few nieces. I think it shows them that if they date or associate with a man who is unwilling or incapable of doing these things for himself then she needs to keep looking.”
So this goes out to Santiago Martinez, who delighted in our childhood antics and laughed at our awful Spanish with his cackely laugh. This goes out to Francisco Rivera who made furniture for my Barbie dolls and always made time for little girl questions. This goes out to Jose Santos who made us all feel safe on the rough streets of the South Bronx and then went into the kitchen to make an awesome pernil. This goes out to Eli Rivera who taught me to face life with my faith and sense of humor as a shield against harm. And this goes out to all of my amazing cousins who have become great parents because of the example we were all given.