There they sat; two men, who seemingly had very little in common. George was a pale white man from Jersey with a Masters in Fine Arts from a big university and Kofi was a very dark Ghanaian who came to the US when he was thirteen. He had a high school education. But there they sat; telling their stories. Men sharing. This is an odd occurrence, because as much as men talk, we rarely share.
Unlike women, who are far more expressive and tend to connect verbally on relationships matters, men make connections differently. If two women had been at the table, the connection of motherhood would have been immediate. Regardless of differences in race, class, ethnicity, socio-economics, women tend to connect on the common bond of family. This is not true of men. Men tend connect on what they do or have experienced.
In the beginning of the conversation, this was the case with George and Kofi. They began by discussing the difficulties they are having with the mother’s of their children and the problems associated with having a child in foster care. But then it happened. They were asked about their own fathers and the connection happened.
George was adopted and his adopted father was not very warm. He struggled with belonging. Kofi grew up in Ghana with his grandmother and aunt. He met his father at 13 when he came to the U.S. It was the first time he had ever called anyone dad. He too struggled with belonging.
As they shared their stories, the dissimilarities disappeared. The two seemingly different men realized that besides “daddy issues”, they both had children with women from different cultures than their own. They both had sons; Kofi’s son is 26 months, George’s son (affectionately called G4) is 6 months. And they both were doing everything they could to get their sons out of care.
One of the most magical moments of this time was when George spoke of how he always tells G4 about the fun they will have in the future. “We’re gonna play baseball together and go to the zoo,” he would tell his son. Kofi encouraged George to continue. “Keep telling him about his future” Kofi told George. “You’re tongue is a pen and you are writing on his soul. In my country, when a baby is born, it is our custom for a father to make him a promise and to whisper it in his ear. Then we lift the baby up to God and ask God to help him”.
Kofi looked at his hands as if he was holding his son. “My promise to my son was that he would never have to live without a father; he would never go through what I went through. Every day, I ask God to help me, to give me strength”. Heaviness filled the room. “Exactly!” George exclaimed, “I don’t want my son to ever feel like I felt growing up—like he doesn’t belong.”
This is what happens when father’s get together at the CV Fatherhood Program. Men find strength and support in one another to help them grow into fathers. Through fatherhood classes, fatherhood support groups, trips, and supportive texting, men are taught their value as fathers and the skills to be the fathers their children need. Keeping men connected to their children, is what the CV Fatherhood Program is all about. When asked what they wanted to do as a group to celebrate Father’s Day, they all stated, “Spend time with our kids.” It looks like George’s statement to G4 is coming true—we are going to take our kids on a trip to the zoo.