Friday, June 19, 2009

On Father's Day, Remember That Enough Is Always Enough, My Brotha


There's one major concern and reoccurring worry that I have as a father, and that's that I'm going to forget to teach my three sons something very important before they grow up and leave the nest. One day I'll look up and my boys will be young men and they'll be faced with a scenario, a situation, or an opportunity, and they'll lack whatever attribute needed that they should have received at home (from me) and it will affect them deeply.

The reality is it's going to happen.

I can't stop it.

I know that I don't have all of the answers.

One of the Barnes Brothers may hold on to one of the many life lessons I share with them, and another may miss it entirely. That's just the way it goes. With their multitude of differences, skill sets, talents, strengths and weaknesses, it makes my head spin thinking about how best to prepare all three of them to set out into this sometimes cruel yet beautiful world.

I start to think about all of the things that I'm not that good at—how to work on cars, how to build an amazing tree house from scratch, electrical and plumbing repairs,etc.—and it makes me feel far more inadequate than any woman has ever made me feel. But instead of knowing how to fix a transmission and hang dry wall, my boys will be able to rundown the players on Coltrane's last three albums, know the difference between pad thai and jollof rice and a safety blitz and a corner blitz; they'll be able to clearly verbalize Alain Locke's importance to the Harlem Renaissance, and weave, with precision and passion, lyrics from Stevie's "Overjoyed" into a love letter to charm the girl of their dreams.

I was thinking about all of this after sharing a few words and some laughs, too, with an older Jewish gentleman with whom I was waiting on a flight in Baltimore. He told me how proud he was of his youngest son, a film student who was beginning a very promising career in his freshman year. And then he laughed heartily when he recalled how that same son called him the other day to ask where, exactly, one buys postage stamps. We both laughed even harder after recalling a couple of our own clueless moments as young men.

After boarding my plane, I came to this very simple, logical conclusion: As fathers, we need to understand the inevitable: We're all going to hit and miss with the gems we try to pass along to our children. Sometimes I think we worry too much about all the wrong things with our kids, instead of teaching them practical things, like how to wash their clothes, how to cook at least 10 good dishes, how to keep their composure during the most trying circumstances, and yes, how and where to buy postage stamps.

When Solomon, my 4-year-old, asks me, "Daddy, what do you think of this break beat?" before sitting down at his drum kit, I say, "That's me."

When my 8-year-old, Ezra, remembers in detail the outfit that the little 9-year-old object of his desires had on that day at school, and continues to remind me of how pretty she was, I say, "That's me."

When my baby boy, Silas, aka "Nestle Snipes," remembers to say, "please" and "thank you," and is always first in line to kiss his mommy's hand, that's definitely me.

What am I saying? On this Father's Day, fellow dads, remember that everything you are, right now, IS ENOUGH. You can't be what you're not, you can't teach what you don't know, and you can't worry about how equipped or ill-equipped your children will be when they go off on their own. They will, your children, in their own way and time, pluck from you every good thing they will need on their journey.

Continue to BE YOURSELF, love them unconditionally, and on a daily, even hourly basis, tell the most high how grateful you are to have been chosen for such an important task.

Happy Father's Day

About our MyBrownBaby contributor: Derrick D'wayne Barnes is the author of seven children and young adult books, including the saucy MyBrownBaby favorite, the Ruby & The Booker Boys series. He's given his insights about fatherhood on, and is an incredible role model for brown babies everywhere. He lives in Kansas City, MO, with his wife and their three sons. Read more about him on

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  1. Oh I love this, I'm going to forward it to my husband right now! Thanks so much for this nugget of truth.

  2. I have no doubt your sons will be well prepared for life. It's funny, our older sons are 23 & 20, and my husband keeps trying to catch up on what he thinks he missed. I tell him, let them go, they're done. And they have his cell phone number if something comes up. Thanks for the wonderful father's day post.

  3. Happy Fathers Day! As a father of 3 boys, one 18 now, I can say you speak wisdon amd truth. And because you are there, your boys will be fine!

  4. I agree and would like to add that sometimes we can teach our children in the moment. No, we can not teach them 'everything'. Each of your boys will embrace life in a different way based on their own perspectives and how you have raised them.

    They will each have different experiences with questions and confusion. When those questions and confusions arrive, then we can address them one by one as lessons in life. We can then take those opportunities and teach them.

    They will then take those lesson and apply them to future lessons of life, with our continued guidance, until they can stand on their own to figure life's lessons out.

    I am a single parent of one girl, age 21 and three boys, ages 19, 17 and 15. Their dad is very involved in their lives. We have experienced their individual perspectives and confusions. We take them one at a time. They are doing quite well.


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