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Iyanla's Letter for Fatherless Sons: A Call to Action for Fatherless Sons

Posted by on May. 7, 2013 at 11:03 AM
  • 19 Replies

Iyanla's Letter for Fatherless Sons: A Call to Action for Fatherless Sons

Iyanla Vanzant

When my young son's teacher asked to see me, I reacted defensively. I was a 17-year-old girl thinking: "What had he done this time? What am I going to do with that boy?" The conversation was a rude awakening. "Your son pulls his pants down when he uses the bathroom," the teacher told me. "He doesn't know how to use a urinal." I turned my face to hide the tears of embarrassment. In that moment, as I explained our situation, the realization hit me like a ton of bricks: I am the mother of a fatherless son. Listening to the corrective measures offered by the teacher, it became clear that I was training my son from my perspective as a woman. There were some things that I just didn't know—and others I had failed to realize.

When a boy doesn't have a father to show him the way, he can never be quite sure about the manhood things he needs to know. He's never really clear about how strong is strong enough, how soft is too soft, or how much doing and giving is enough, from a man's point of view. A boy needs a man to teach him how to push forward and when to pull back. A man can demonstrate to a boy when to stand up—and for how long.

When a boy doesn't have a father to guide him, he's not sure when to speak up or when to shut up. A man who did not have the input of a father is never quite sure about what other men will think about what he has to say. When a boy doesn't have a father to show him the way to being a man, he's never quite sure who a man is or what a man does. A woman may cry when she's afraid, scream when she's angry, eat chocolate when she is depressed or off balance. What does a man do? How does a man handle turmoil in his mind or heart?

When a boy doesn't have a father, he grows up never feeling quite sure about himself, his life and what is expected of him. He may overcompensate, undercommit and, in some cases, just give up rather than fail. He may grieve silently what he missed and what he may be missing. He may quietly long for the love of a father. He may believe he lacks that special something that makes him worthy of love.

For years, I watched my fatherless son struggle. I cried about his failures. I took credit for his success. Like so many mothers raising fatherless sons, I made his life about me, failing to recognize there were things he needed that I just didn't have to give. It wasn't a failure on my part or his part. It was simply a reality, a truth that neither his father nor I considered.

My son's story is a familiar story. It is the story of hundreds of thousands of boys growing up without fathers, with only their mothers' perspectives of manhood to lean on. Some of those perspectives are clear, powerful and loving. They work well to shape a boy's mind and heart. Others do not. They are perspectives filled with anger, disappointment, vindictiveness, fear, shame and guilt that is impressed upon a boy's soul about who he better or better not be as a man. All too often, these are the perspectives that pave the road to prison, drugs, domestic violence and arrested manhood development.

Shall we blame the mothers? Shall we call the fathers guilty? I suspect that neither would be a good fix. What needs to happen quickly is that parents must become responsible and accountable for the lives that God has placed into their hands. The mother of a fatherless son must keep the door open. The father of a son must learn how to, and be willing to, walk through the open door to his son's heart and life. All boys need to know what it feels like to have a man—a father—love them.

Get resources for fathers and support for fatherless sons


Read more: http://www.oprah.com/oprahs-lifeclass/Iyanlas-Letter-for-Fatherless-Sons_1#ixzz2ScSyd9QM

by on May. 7, 2013 at 11:03 AM
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futureshock
by Ruby Member on May. 7, 2013 at 11:04 AM

Did anyone see this Oprah Lifeclass tv show about Fatherless Sons?  It was really good.  It was an audience full of men raised without dads and their perspectives on life, etc.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on May. 7, 2013 at 11:07 AM


Quote:

Dr. Iyanla Vanzant has always encouraged people seeking to heal their emotional pain to look deep within. Now the personal growth guru has partnered with Oprah Winfrey in an attempt to address societal ills that are a product of a widespread form of individual suffering: the growing number of fatherless sons.

Calling it a crisis, this Sunday on OWN at 9 p.m. EST, Winfrey and Vanzant will present a two-part special edition of Oprah’s Lifeclass that speaks to the millions of people currently hurting because they grew up — or are growing up — without a dad. Vanzant hopes Oprah’s Lifeclass: Fatherless Sons will empower viewers to soothe these wounds and help ameliorate the many problems communities struggle with that have been linked to a lack of fathering.

Dr. Vanzant spoke to theGrio in depth about the goals of Oprah’s Lifeclass: Fatherless Sons, and how the role of fathers is more important than many realize.

Oprah says during Oprah’s Lifeclass: Fatherless Sons that the issue of fatherless sons is one that you most wanted to take on. Why?

It’s a topic I think that we all experience, but we don’t really talk about with a solution in mind. Everyone talks about single moms. Everyone talks about the difficulties we see young men going through.

We’ve made a joke about it in songs. We talk about “baby mama.” We talk about “baby daddy.” We don’t talk about the baby. Fatherless sons are the babies in the midst of the drama between the mother and the father. And they’re dropping out of high school. They’re ending up in jail. They’re killing each other. All of these things are going on. We just seem to have our hands tied. We have to talk about the impact on a young man’s life when his father isn’t there.

We have to talk about the humanity, the human qualities, of what happens when a child has a missing parent.

While watching a preview of the show, I was really struck by how emotional the men were. Do you think audiences will be surprised at the depth of emotion men reveal?

Yes, because America is a society where we love to talk about the problem. We never talk about the impact of it. We talk about the high incidence of incarceration among minority males, and now teenage males. We talk about the situation in which young men are not coming out of high school and going into college. We don’t talk to the young men.

We love to talk about things, and see how horrible it is, without looking at the actual humans in the midst of it. How many times have we asked the fatherless son, “how is this experience impacting your life?” We don’t do that.

You take the men on the show through a process to heal these wounds. What do you hope people at home will take away from watching this healing?

There are a couple of things for me. I hope as many missing fathers as possible see this show, so that they understand their responsibility in their sons’ lives, in their children’s lives. I hope that mothers see that, while they are doing the best they can, that there needs to be another level of healing, not for them, but for their children.

Women who have fatherless sons have to reach a place of understanding and compassion and willingness to have these men in their children’s lives. Father’s leave for a variety of reasons, but one of the reasons that they don’t come back is because they don’t know how to deal with the mothers.

Do you think women will be surprised that the show addresses the role they might be playing in creating what you have called the fatherless son epidemic? 

I hope they’re surprised, shocked and horrified. I really do. I hope they are surprised at hearing from their sons, because, as a mother who had a fatherless son, I never asked my son. I made the choices and decisions about how his father would interact in his life. I did that.

I also hope that women will be a little more conscious about this willingness to have children with men who aren’t ready, who aren’t committed. They go into relationships for their selves and their needs, and never really consider the impact that it’s going to have on this male child.

Now of course, there are all kinds of ways fathers leave. Through divorce, through separation, through irresponsibility. So, I’m not putting the full weight and responsibility on women. But then there are the women who have children with men who really aren’t committed and aren’t ready. We have to look at that part.

On Mother’s Day, OWN will air a companion show focusing on the over 10 million single mothers in the U.S., and how they can best raise fatherless sons. What can we expect from that episode?

Hopefully, how to keep the door open as a mom, when you have a son. It’s difficult. And they [the mothers] ask the hard questions. “Okay, my door is open, but he doesn’t honor his word.” “My door is open, but he doesn’t show up.” “My door is open, but he’s made a choice not to walk through it.”

So, I hope that women will see that this is a multi-faceted challenge, but there is a role that we can play to at least a greater possibility: That even a man who has left, will come back.

African-Americans have been more deeply impacted by the fatherless son epidemic. Do you think there is a more specific message for this group?

Other than go back and get your children? Go back and get your children. It is doable. Go back and get your children. I think that that’s critical.


futureshock
by Ruby Member on May. 7, 2013 at 11:08 AM


Quote:

 

 

To many men and women of all backgrounds you are an iconic presence of wholeness and healing. How does it feel to be such a strong example, especially as you have shared your own healing journey through your books and other media?

I don’t think of myself that way. I’m really not attached to the labels. I don’t think I’m iconic at all. I just think that I’ve been given an opportunity by life, the universe — [and] Oprah Winfrey (laughs) — to say out loud what people talk about around the kitchen table about these things.

There are hundreds of thousands of women right now talking about the fact that their children’s father isn’t in their life. But nobody is saying it out loud. And no one has the solutions. What I hope to offer are the healing solutions, the greater possibilities. If that makes me iconic, then I accept it, but for me it’s my life ministry, the work that I’ve come on this planet to do. It’s the reason that I’ve had the experiences that I’ve had. That doesn’t mean I have the answers to everything, or that I know everything. But I do know that what we’re doing now isn’t working. I know that, and I can speak to that. I know what worked and what didn’t work in my own life, and I can speak to that.

So, I think that’s what it is for me: Let me just say out loud what nobody else is saying.

In a portion of Oprah’s Lifeclass: Fatherless Sons, it is stated that a mother can’t be a father. That is interesting, because every Father’s Day, a lot of black women will thank their mother for being both their mother and their father, which often elicits strong disagreements from black men. Can you elaborate on that statement?

Fathers protect, fathers provide, fathers perform. In the absence of a father, a mother can protect, a mother can provide. A mother cannot perform the roles a father is expected to perform, because she’s not a man. My right hand can’t do what my left hand can do. It just can’t happen.

There are some things that a father gives both a male child and a female child that a mother cannot because she’s not a male. If you look at the energy of it, a male is very different. Classic case: A father will take a boy child or a girl child, throw it up in the air, and catch ‘em on the way down. That teaches the child that, “I’m secure,” that, “I’m safe,” that “I can go into unknown, uncharted territory, and I’m gonna fall, and that’s going to be okay.”

Mothers never throw their children up in the air! (Laughs.) They just don’t do it. Because our propensity is to do the softer, the gentler, the more nurturing kinds of things. We don’t even have the energy to do it the way men do it. There’s an energy that a mother can’t bring. There’s a mind set that a mother cannot bring, because she’s female and not male.

Doesn’t mean she can’t protect her children. Doesn’t mean she can’t provide for her children. But she can never, as a female, perform the things that are specifically performed by a male. She just can’t do it. Doesn’t take away from her what she does. But she can’t do what a man does.

After your show on fatherless sons, will there be a show about fatherless daughters?

They’re called “daddyless daughters.” A boy needs a father. That’s a role. That’s a demonstration. That’s a model.

A girl needs a daddy. That is an energy. That’s a position. That is a place in her heart. Very different. But yes, we will do something on that.

About your other show, Iyanla: Fix My Life – people are so curious to know if you have reached any form of resolution since your falling out with DMX after he appeared on that program. You taped a beautiful open letter to him, extending an offering of healing. Has there been any communication between you two?

No. One of the things that we’ve discovered in the taping of Iyanla: Fix My Life is that the more willing the guest is to do the work, and to do the healing, the greater the resolution. And for his own reasons, as well as the obvious reason of his substance abuse issues, he just isn’t willing. And that’s okay. The seed has been planted. Sometimes you plant a seed, and it takes the tree two, three years to grow. The seed has been planted.

But it’s all contingent on his willingness, and right now he’s not willing.

Who will be coming up next on Iyanla: Fix My Life? What do you think of Lauryn Hill as a candidate, given all she is publicly going through?

I only look at issues. So if her issue is something that speaks to the hearts and the minds of the viewers, that’s fine. We don’t do Fix My Life for celebrities, and Fix My Life for normal people. We do Fix My Life looking at the issues. And that’s what we’re fixing. The issues. So it doesn’t matter to me whose name is attached to it.

I was really struck by what you described as your ministry: Your shows and your books as a spiritual path. How do you stay inspired spiritually?

I have a daily spiritual practice. I have a life, because there’s a force, an essence, an energy — some call it God, some call it spirit, some call it “source” — that’s greater than me. And each day it is my responsibility as a living being to tap into that source, to be connected to that energy.

And that is why what I do every day is about manifesting, about demonstrating, the energy of that source.

That’s what makes my life a ministry. That’s what makes my work a ministry — connecting to and demonstrating the essence of that source.


LuvmyAiden
by on May. 7, 2013 at 11:08 AM
1 mom liked this

That is awesome. I don't usually like Oprah either.

krysstizzle
by on May. 7, 2013 at 11:10 AM
2 moms liked this

Because the only man in a boy's life is his father, right? 

*eyeroll*

What a silly, constricted viewpoint. 

And I don't believe in god.

ETA: and there are many, many men who are 'fathers' that are teaching their sons to be misogynistic assholes. Or racists. Or any other number of unsavory types. 

lizmarie1975
by Gold Member on May. 7, 2013 at 11:10 AM

I feel her pain. For so long, I've felt guilt over not providing a father that loved my son. It wasn't my fault that his father left and left for good. His father knew my home addresses (just 2), my work address & phone number, and my cell phone number (I've only ever had this one) and the only time he ever called was to ask if I would agree to terminate the child support agreement because he didn't feel he should have to pay for a son he didn't see.

Notice, he didn't express any desire to see him...just to stop paying $25/month for him.

Each time, my son had some problem, I've blamed myself.

ETA: I was lucky that brothers took on helping to look after my son, providing that male bonding experience.

Donna6503
by Platinum Member on May. 7, 2013 at 11:15 AM
1 mom liked this
I think this problem, is a lot bigger problem that society will need to deal with in the near future.
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futureshock
by Ruby Member on May. 7, 2013 at 12:41 PM
1 mom liked this


Quoting Donna6503:

I think this problem, is a lot bigger problem that society will need to deal with in the near future.

I agree.  It was really an emotional experience to hear from these men.  The hurt they are carrying around with them is huge.

Peanutx3
by Ruby Member on May. 7, 2013 at 1:03 PM
1 mom liked this

Sigh


Peanutx3
by Ruby Member on May. 7, 2013 at 1:04 PM

You have nothing to feel guilty about.  You still provided your son with father figures in your brothers.

Quoting lizmarie1975:

I feel her pain. For so long, I've felt guilt over not providing a father that loved my son. It wasn't my fault that his father left and left for good. His father knew my home addresses (just 2), my work address & phone number, and my cell phone number (I've only ever had this one) and the only time he ever called was to ask if I would agree to terminate the child support agreement because he didn't feel he should have to pay for a son he didn't see.

Notice, he didn't express any desire to see him...just to stop paying $25/month for him.

Each time, my son had some problem, I've blamed myself.

ETA: I was lucky that brothers took on helping to look after my son, providing that male bonding experience.



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