A Piece of My Story

By Richard Hart

First came the confusion: Why was I just finding out about my son getting pushed on the playground? 

Then came the frustration: If I was there, I would have known about it immediately. 

Instead, I didn't learn about what happened to Elijah until he told me over the phone. Two days later. 

That’s not a good feeling. I had so many things I wanted to say.

But I don’t live with Elijah. 

And like the blow of a hammer, the realization that circumstances — the ones that would prevent me from talking to him one-on-one, comforting him hours after his first experience with violence and instructing him on what to do in those situations in the future — hit me.

Hard.

I gave Elijah some guidance over the phone. But the real father-to-son talk  — the eye-to-eye — would have to wait until the weekend. 

For most of my son’s short life, this has been the reality.

Elijah — my “mini-me,” my heart and soul — was born two years ago. His mother and I were married then. Today, we’re not. And my son — the smartest kid I know (and I’m not saying that because he’s my son) — is growing up without a father who lives with him. 

That’s new territory for me. I grew up in a two-parent household, with a father who was always there, everyday. 

Now here I am on this journey: A journey where I don’t get to see my son everyday; a journey where I talk to him on the phone daily but don’t talk to him in person until the weekend. 

I’ve missed bedtimes and bath times. I’ve missed taking and picking him up from school. I’ve missed chances to quell his fears of monsters under the bed.

It’s tough.

And it gets tougher when I rack my brain with questions about my own adequacy as a father: Am I being the best dad I can possibly be? Am I doing everything I need to maintain a wonderful relationship with my son? Should I be doing more? Could I be doing more? Am I a good father? 

I’ve grappled with these questions for a long time. But it’s getting easier to answer them. 

When I see the glow in my son’s face each time I pick him up for the weekend, I tell myself I’m doing a good job. When I consider the kind of relationship he and I have, I tell myself I’m doing a great job. If no one else will say it, I will. 

It’s not to boast but to uplift and encourage myself. That’s what I want to do for other black fathers who, whatever their circumstances, are doing their best for their kids. 

Are we perfect? Of course not. But we’re trying. And that matters.

A lot. 

My focus now isn’t on whether I’m doing a good job or not. It’s on how I can be the best dad to Elijah, and make his life wonderful.

Remember the situation with Elijah on the playground?

I wasn’t there the day when it happened, or even in days afterward. One could argue that me bringing it up again was useless at this point. 

I picked him up that Saturday, and when it was just him and me, I addressed it. We talked. I explained. He listened. 

I wouldn’t let the moment slip by. I’m committed to not letting any slip by.