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  • Malisa Payne

It Takes All Kinds of Dads

It takes rural dads, urban dads, worldly dads, small town dads; it takes dads of all kinds to raise up the children of our great country. It's a huge responsibility; one that was never intended for any sole father to lift alone. Dads need to work together as a collective, raising their hands of influence over the care for the unified upcoming generations.

My husband, Brian, is a great dad who was raised by another great dad. He grew up in southern rural Georgia and spent a lot of time on his family farm. Brian’s dad, who we affectionately call Paw Paw, instilled many great qualities in him. He was raised to respect others, work hard, and value family. Farm life was an option for Brian, but he had other plans. He would eventually start a career as an active duty military attorney, and in this setting gain the title father. Brian's environment for raising children has been very different from his dad’s. Nevertheless, he pulls from his experiences of small town life to gift our children with ideas of simplicity--enjoyment of nature, long talks, and care and commitment to one's neighbor.

What he does in his unique arena for raising children is try to expose his children to many different places and people. Brian has even been able to share the gifts of his upbringing with friends of many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, who in turn share their own special stories of childhood.

We have learned the value of humility, patience, and care for others from African-American dads. Our friend John is always working on building up communities and caring for those less fortunate than himself. He and his son are so generous and get so much joy from sharing what they have. It never fails that when we hang out with John and his son Trey, Trey will give one of his toys to a friend. I have seen him part with some of his most prized possessions. And when the gift has been passed on you can see the gleaming grin on Trey's face. He gives with pure joy.

We have learned the value of absolute gratitude and utter happiness from immigrant fathers from Vietnam to Africa. Cuong, an immigrant father friend of ours, loves this country so much that it is contagious. He notices and appreciates things that we often take for granted. The laughter of some of our immigrant father friends fills me with happiness, and illustrates how much appreciation they have for this life.

As we raise our children together we are able to pass on so much more to them than we ever could on our own. As we live life in community we expand what our kids learn about the many ways to love, live, and respond to the world.

As a collective fatherhood we can pull from one another and support each other and our children. Playing a real part in raising children together requires putting forth an effort to seek out fathers to share the journey with. You could visit a church of a different ethnic group. You could invite a fellow dad at work to join you on an outing with the kids over the weekend. If you run across a dad from a different background at the playground, start a conversation. Keep working to build a colorful and unified community--one that ultimately becomes a true extension of family.

Are you a D.C. resident? Here are some exciting local events to check a fatherhood collective: - Hispanic Children’s Performer - Children’s African American Heritage Celebration - French Free Play for Kids


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