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Fathers and daughters: the Greg Jones model

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by Jonetta Rose Barras, DC Examiner

Greg Jones and I are sharing a few laughs. I’m reminding him of those e-mails he and others with Black Men Raising Girls Alone used to send out. Some messages hinted of desperation: “Does anyone know where to purchase a training bra? Actually, when should you purchase a training bra?”

“I’m so glad that stuff is behind me,” Jones says with a chuckle. His daughters were 7 and 16 when he became the custodial parent; the girls’ mother made the decision to leave the marital home.

“She’s a really good mother, now,” Jones says.

On a day when the joys of family are magnified, Jones is celebrating his parental achievements and preparing to launch a new phase in his life. His oldest daughter is 28 and out on her own. The youngest started college this year. And, after putting his career on hold, he’s leaving for a brand-new job with Union Bank of California in Los Angeles.

It’s all good.

Members of BMRGA will miss him. So will I and others involved in the fatherhood movement. He was an inspiration.

Black men often get knocked around — sometimes for good reason. During the presidential campaign, candidate Barack Obama chastised them for leaving their families, “acting like boys.” Fatherlessness isn’t just a black phenomenon. But, a disproportionate number of African-American children — more than 60 percent — are growing up in households without their biological fathers.

The problem isn’t always that men don’t want to be with their children. Sometimes mothers, for purely selfish reasons, block the development of healthy father-child relationships. And judges continue to believe that women make better custodial parents. Fathers rarely get custody of their daughters.

“The fact that [my daughters and I] weren’t separated is my greatest joy,” Jones says. “I knew I was going to fall apart if I weren’t able to keep my girls.”

Society seems to have accepted the concept of the absent father. But, few people can imagine a mother walking away, especially from her daughters. It happens more often than we care to admit. And not unlike fatherlessness, mother absence can have a devastating effect on the children left behind.

“You learn how to cook. You figure out how to buy a bra,” Jones explains. “But the aspect of them not being able to come home to their mother every day, that takes an emotional toll.”

Jones, a very religious man, says that prayer got him through the rough patches. The advice he gives other fathers facing the enormous challenge of raising daughters alone is to stay connected — to your children and to God.

For 10 years Jones led BMRGA. The group of mostly men holds regular meetings, comparing parenting notes, energizing each other and celebrating the good fortune of having their daughters with them — especially on Christmas Day.

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Written by Symphony

December 29, 2008 at 7:48 am

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