A few years after my mother passed away in 1976, an angel of sorts made her way to the threshold of our home. Her name was Elmore Brown, and she joined our family as a nanny, confidante and surrogate grandmother.
Known simply as Ms. Brown to my entire family, her rural Jamaican upbringing may have left her without stellar academic credentials, but certainly contributed to her sparkling wit, organic wisdom and never-ending stash of sagacious advice.
One of her well-renowned gems was “Those who know better, do better.” She would often chuckle and utter these wise words when one of us fell victim to the temptation of revenge, and was poised to react to a wrong with a retaliatory wrong.
The other day, I was discussing the plight of single mothers with one of my male students who had admitted to being less than responsible in his role as a father.
In his eyes, I saw a genuine intent to give to his child all that he never received. In his voice, I heard doubt in his inflection and fear in his tone as he tried to navigate the obstacles of manhood and find his way to the safe shore of fatherhood.
As I listened to this young brother struggle to be the father that he never had, the words of Ms. Brown came back to me, but this time, in a whole different context: “Those who know better, do better.”
Bombarded by the statistics of absentee fathers, especially within the African-American community, reasons for the condition tend to come in greater proportions than the solutions.
From absentee fathers being a sociological vestige of slavery to the high rates of African-American males falling victim to educational attrition and the penal system, we do have our crosses to bear. But maybe it is the observation of that sweet, little
Jamaican woman that best describes the reason for and solution to the problem.
The training ground for fatherhood begins at home with the teacher: the father. For as Ms. Brown so astutely put it; “Those who know better, do better.”
Knowledge is best gained through seeing skills put into practice, and where there is no example; there can be no framework for the future.
Just as in the field of education, the true casualties of a teacher shortage are the students. The only way that you can mitigate the effects of that shortage is with the use of qualified and motivated substitutes.
Those of us who are qualified and motivated in the art of fatherhood must step in and be that example that grooms our future fathers and shows them how not to be part of the teaching shortfall of the next generation.
Through mentoring programs, coaching sports or volunteering at schools, those of us fortunate to have been the product of an
effective and loving teacher (father), need to ascend to the ranks of willing substitute teachers within our communities and become the solution to the teaching shortage within homes devoid of fathers.
Our homes represent the classrooms where the tools for cultivating generational family dynamics should occur. Even if the relationship between parents was never validated through marriage or disintegrates into divorce, the onus to teach our young men the tenets of fatherhood still falls on the father, or those willing to be father figures.
Though Daddy School may have a shortage of teachers, there seems to be an ever-present supply of students. Unfortunately, these students of fatherhood are likely to repeat this cycle of absenteeism if we do not align ourselves in a concerted effort to provide living examples of providers, nurturers, husbands and fathers.
When all the statistics are weighed, and the sociological ramifications measured, it still comes down to teaching our young men what it really means to be a father. After all, “Those who know better, do better.’’