In March of this year, a dear friend forwarded to me an email about an editor who was assembling a group of writers to contribute to a literary project. The project was geared toward everyday people going through real struggles who just needed some inspiration to move past their particular challenges.
That email stayed in my inbox for at least a few days as I mused over the possibilities. Initially I was lukewarm; it seemed as if I had a laundry list of excuses not to participate. I was still adjusting to becoming a father for the second time in my life. I was in the middle of a contentious battle with my son’s mother. I was strapped for cash. I had already begun work on my third book.
One night as I was laying in bed pondering, the thought occurred to me: what if my ‘mess’ could be used as a ‘message’ that could help some other unmarried or divorced father who loved his child as much as I loved mine? What if I could convince some man who may be on the verge of homicidal or suicidal action relating to issues with their offspring to act otherwise? What if I could do my meager part to help some brother who’s been absent in their child or children’s lives see the value in reconnecting to them?
Something leaped in my spirit as I lay in bed. The opportunity to help some person see the glory in their story – in spite of their unique challenges – was too good to pass up! I got up and went to work on crafting that message.
I contributed to the book, No Glory Without A Story, mainly because I wanted to reach out to men who, like me, are unmarried but love their children and want to remain a relevant part of their lives. I organized the non-profit support group, Their Eyes Were Watching Daddy, because I know there are other men out there who are doing the right thing when it comes to their children but are not experiencing the peace and justice that is our inherent birthright. Yet I also wanted to reach out to men who may be hiding in the shadows and are cut off from their children due to fear, hostility with the mother or financial stress. The message of Their Eyes Were Watching Daddy – both the essay and the non-profit support group: if you want to be a better man, be a better father. If you want to be a better father, be a better man.
Fatherhood does not always take place in an Ozzie and Harriet context. And although there are literally millions of fathers who occupy a prominent place in the lives of their children, there is far too many who don’t. Their Eyes Were Watching Daddy was born to empower those men who are distanced from their children to become a more active presence.
I’ve been asked how I arrived at the name for the non-profit support group. If you’ve been around a newborn baby, you may have been fascinated, as I have been, with the way their eyes become fixed on their caregivers. Since males are traditionally associated with authority, a newborn’s eyes rarely leave their daddy’s figure.
My contention is that through infancy, toddler, pre-adolescence and teen-age years, those eyes are always watching daddy.
Their Eyes Were Watching Daddy was created to remind unmarried fathers of those eyes that are watching their every move. Because in the end, the eyes of the court don’t matter, the eyes of the law don’t matter; what matters most is the set of eyes that become entranced with that male authority figure from the cradle to adulthood.