Merriam Webster defines a “father” as a male parent or a man who begets a child. But today, being a father is about so much more. Today, fatherhood, especially Black fatherhood, is less about vicinity and relation, and more about influence, presence, and selfless acts of acceptance and love. For this Father’s Day, BET.com wants to share the stories of three different father relationships, in their own words, to provide a more expanded view of modern-day Black fatherhood.
Alphonso Reyes, 38, was born in Milwaukee and now lives in the Bronx, New York with his 7-year-old son, Christopher.
Eight years ago, Alphonso met the man who would become his husband. By the following year, he and Melvin had tied the knot. From the very beginning of their relationship, it was clear to each of them that they wanted to be parents. So much so that on their first date, they had a conversation about children and their roles as fathers. Six years later, their dream became a reality when Christopher arrived in their home. The fantasy was unfortunately short lived. Two years ago, in June 2018, Melvin died suddenly, rocking both Alphonso and Christopher's worlds.
In his own words, Alphonso Reyes explains how grief has actually helped to strengthen his relationship with his son.
I take the meaning of fatherhood quite seriously. For me, it means being there for my son on his great days and his challenging days. It means listening to him when he is frustrated, sad, and upset and finding a solution to helping him find his own peace. It means listening to his excitement when he achieves a new level in a video game and seeing the joy that such an accomplishment provides for him.
Fatherhood means to just be present in your child's life, because at the end of the day all a child wants is to be loved and to know they are loved by their parents unconditionally. And with Melvin gone, I am all he has.
My understanding and practices of fatherhood were developed from my own childhood experiences. While my dad was a fixture in my life growing up, we were emotionally distant well into my adult years. He passed away in 2015. I always felt awkward talking to my father and because of that, I try to ensure that there is no awkwardness between my son and I. He knows he can tell me anything, even if he thinks I will become upset. I love talking to him. He may just be 7 years old, but he is very intelligent, caring, and entertaining.
Stepping into single parenthood, grieving the loss of my husband, and caring for a child who has lost a parent and grieving in his own way, has been a challenge and an adjustment. My husband's passing was something that still affects both my son and I to this day. Neither one of us were prepared to see him go, but what I have learned is that both Christopher and I have a resilience that is much higher and much stronger than I ever thought.
There are some who say that single parents are heroes. That may be true for some, I don’t consider myself heroic. Everything I do and everything I am is centered around what’s best for my son. Sometimes, oftentimes, I have to ask myself, “Do I have this?” I take the punches as they come, and somehow, some way, things always work out. I may not have my husband here with me, but I have my son. I wouldn’t change anything.
Photo courtesy of Alphonso Reyes