Historically, many of the discussions about Black fatherhood in America chronicle relationships between fathers and sons. For many Black fathers expecting the birth of their first child, the idea of having a male offspring solidifies their quest for an heir to carry on their family name and lineage. Yearning for a male child is an age-old tradition steeped in patriarchy. The mindset is very commonplace in the male world.
Unfortunately, because society places so much emphasis on fathers and sons, the essential bond between fathers and daughters is often marginalized.
In turn, the marginalization leads to uncertainty in the hearts and minds of many fathers who are raising daughters. In a recent series of focused interviews with a cohort of young fathers in Atlanta, a father of three girls said he was ill-prepared to raise his daughters. More specifically, he remarked, “I need help or else I will ruin my three daughters.” His comments underscore the fears many fathers have about raising daughters: changing diapers, cleaning their genital area, doing their hair and preparing them for the harsh, cruel realities of society as they transition through adolescence to adulthood.
In addition, among fathers with pre-teen and teen daughters, the thought of going to the supermarket to purchase feminine hygiene products is often mentally overwhelming for a large segment of them. For countless other fathers, discussing with their daughters sensitive topics like sex and dating can be their worst nightmare. Additionally, fathers’ joke about purchasing shotguns to ward off male callers and oftentimes send not-so-subtle, threatening messages to young men who are interested in their daughters.
As a Black father of two daughters, I have wondered why so little attention is given to the special relationship between Black fathers and their daughters. Ask any committed father, who is raising a daughter, about his fatherhood journey and instantly the conversation elicits a range of emotions, a robust smile and, in many instances, tears.
Raising my daughters has been like a joyful roller coaster ride with teachable moments and questions about my ability to parent girls. Like so many Black fathers who are raising daughters, I question whether I have the necessary emotional bandwidth and skills to raise a daughter in a toxic society. As fathers in a culture that dehumanizes Black girls and women, we have a moral obligation to teach our daughters strategies to navigate racism, sexism and misogyny.
Whether going with daughters on trips to pumpkin patches or attending their school plays, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching my daughters grow academically and socially. Those memories include sitting in the front row and holding back tears as I watched my daughters excel. I still fondly and vividly remember our first trips to the ice-skating rink. I was the typical overprotecting father, hovering around my daughters with a profound fear that they would fall on the ice and break a bone or two.
Some of my fondest memories of raising my daughters have helped me become a better husband, father and advocate for Black girls and women.
I lovingly remember sitting in the living room armed with rubber bands, a rat tail comb, a hairbrush and the pink bottle of hair moisturizer. I will always remember how I used to wash, blow-dry and untangle my daughter’s hair. Watching the expressions on my daughter’s faces when they looked in the mirror at the ponytails Daddy created was absolutely priceless and a memory I will hold in my heart and mind forever.
On January 26, 2020, the nation — and the world — mourned the sudden, tragic and shocking death of one of the NBA’s most iconic players, former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant. Shortly after we learned about the horrific helicopter accident that claimed Kobe’s life, we learned, sadly, that his thirteen-year-old daughter, Gianna, was also killed in the crash.
The deaths of Kobe and Gianna sparked a frenzy on social media, and the hashtag #girldad generated thousands if not hundreds of thousands of heartfelt messages and images of fathers and daughters. What began as a tribute to Kobe and Gianna morphed into thousands of dads and daughters elevating conversations about the sacred bond between Black fathers and daughters. It was very powerful to say the least.
All too often, Black fathers who are raising daughters fail to understand the power of the “Daddy/Daughter relationship” and the unique, emotional bonds cultivated by these relationships.
During my travels, I gladly share a few, critical aspects of a healthy DaddyDaughter relationship in conversations with many Black fathers who are raising daughters.First, I tell them that actively–involved fathers play a significant role in how girls view relationships, intimacy and sexuality. Renowned comedian/actor Chris Rock reminds us that “keeping our daughters off the pole” is vital for fathers raising daughters. What he means is it is our jobs to ensure our daughters value themselves and, when seeking employment, don’t even consider anything as demeaning as becoming nightclub strip dancers. Second, I remind them that daughters with involved fathers are less likely to struggle with issues related to anxiety and depression. Understanding these two critical facts are essential for the optimal development of our daughters.
Tips for Black fathers raising daughters:
Guest Blog by: David Miller, M.Ed, is the father of two daughters and one son, the author of Dare To Be King: What if the Prince Lives? and a Ph.D. Candidate in the School of Social Work at Morgan State University in Baltimore, where he is studying relationships between Black fathers and daughters.