Regina’s Reflections

By Regina McNamara

Regina's Reflections

We Need Fathers... Grandfathers... Uncles... and Solid Male Role Models

In the midst of the horrific demonstrations/riots that engulfed our country for the past several weeks, a ragged, tired looking middle-aged man assisted a homeless man to safety during one of the riots. He cleaned him up bought him a meal then once assured he was safe, moved on. By an odd stroke of luck, a nearby reporter quickly recognized the nice man as the veteran of 42 films, a director, a two-time Oscar winner, the extraordinary Denzel Washington. Full disclosure, I am a serious fan! I will occasionally search for a list of all his movies to see if I’d missed any, then find and enjoy it. The reporter, momentarily caught off guard, asked Mr. Washington “Why it was that many Black people rush to violence, lead dangerous, neglectful lives then others…. Like YOU, for example become enormous successes?”

Without missing a beat, he replied: “I had a FATHER in my home.” He is the son of a Pentecostal minister and a beauty shop owner. Washington first took the stage around the age of seven, appearing in a talent show at his local Boys & Girls Club. The club provided him with a safe place to be and to keep him out of trouble. At 14, his parents divorced and he and his older sister were sent away to boarding school. Although his father was in the home he was an imperfect dad, often clashing with Denzel. At the age of 18 his father “threw him out” . He was on his own, creating his remarkable career.

Denzel is a passionate advocate for fathers, and has much advice:

Take responsibility. One of the things that saddens me the most about my people is fathers that don’t take care of their sons and daughters. And you can’t blame that on The Man or getting frisked. Take responsibility. Look in the mirror and say, “What can I do better?” There is opportunity; you can make it. Whatever it is that you choose, be the best at it. You had an African-American president. You can do it. But take responsibility. Put your slippers way under your bed so when you get up in the morning, you have to get on your knees to find them. And while you’re down there, start your day with prayer. Ask for wisdom. Ask for understanding. I’m not telling you what religion to be, but work on your spirit. You know, mind, body, and spirit. Imagine—work the brain muscle. Keep the body in tune—it’s your temple. All things in moderation. Continue to search. That’s the best part of life for me—continue to try to be the best man.

Wise words to men of all races.

Boys, especially, need a present father. He is going to set their concept of what a man is. ... In fact, boys are more likely to emulate their fathers if their parents have a good relationship. Part of the reason a child wants to be like his father is because he wants his mother’s love.

Although having a strong male influence is important in a young boy’s life, it’s equally important for daughters to have one as well. A positive father-daughter relationship can have a huge impact on a young girl’s life and even determine whether or not she develops into a strong, confident woman.

A father’s influence in his daughter’s life shapes her self-esteem, self-image, confidence and opinions of men.

“How Dad approaches life will serve as an example for his daughter to build off of in her own life, even if she chooses a different view of the world,” says Michael Austin, associate professor of philosophy at Eastern Kentucky University and editor of Fatherhood — Philosophy for Everyone: The Dao of Daddy.

Austin identifies positive elements of “common sense” parenting for dads so they can help support their daughter’s self-image and curb any possibility of low self-esteem: Verbal encouragement, being consistently present in her life, being alert and sensitive to her feelings, taking time to listen to her thoughts and taking an active interest in her hobbies.

The type of men that women date and have long-term relationships with are also directly related to the kind of relationship a girl has with her father. Obviously, the hope is that the father figure in a girl’s life will aim to skew that young lady’s opinions of men in a positive way.

“He must, first and foremost, treat his daughter with respect and love. Whether or not he is married to or still together with his daughter’s mom, showing respect to her mother is essential as well,” explains Austin. “He must also value women as human beings, and not as persons to be used. Daughters will see what their dads believe about women by how they value and respect women, or by how they fail to do so.”

Words to live by from professionals in child psychology and the very impressive Denzel, who lives each day the way he preaches to others.

Happy Father’s Day to All! ■