I received a Father’s Day gift a little early this year.
It was one of the proudest moments of my life as I attended commencement at Hampton University in Virginia last month and watched my third son walk across the stage to receive his degree. The pride I felt was even more pronounced as I considered the remarkable strides my son had made to reach this milestone in his life.
I didn’t initially meet this particular son in the delivery room at the local hospital. I first met him through my wife’s Boy Scout troop.
Altogether, Ruby and I have six sons. As Ruby puts it, Alex, A C III and Andre are our sons by birth, and Danny Whitlow, Tavarski Hughes and Monte Flowers — the recent graduate — are our sons by love. While serving as mayor has allowed me to render service to the community I truly love, I have seen the more perfect meaning for my life in my role as Dad.
Trust me when I say that this is not a shameless plug for a bigger gift from my family for Father’s Day. Like most fathers, I am resolved to the fact that Mother’s Day will always be a bigger deal. Restaurants are overwhelmed with people on Mother’s Day, but it is not unusual for a family of eight to get good seats at a popular restaurant with no reservation and little wait on Father’s Day. Department stores aren’t filled with people looking for that last-minute gift, and telephone companies won’t be as taxed with long-distance calls placed in and around this day.
To the contrary, Father’s Day is more subdued, partly because dads, stepdads and father figures are not difficult to please when it comes to gifts or gestures of love.
Admittedly, however, the way this holiday is de-emphasized is also a self-inflicted wound caused by fathers who have not been as engaged in the lives of their children as they could be.
There has been enough said on the unfortunate presence of “deadbeat dads” in communities across the country — those who thumb their nose at any level of responsibility and have no real interest in the well-being of their children. We all should lack tolerance for this personality.
However, I have been in enough conversations with families and citizens throughout this community to know that there is another reality for many fathers who are not currently involved in the lives of their children.
Not every father who is uninvolved is disinterested.
Some fathers want to be more engaged, but they perceive obstacles blocking them, such their grief over bad decisions they’ve made in life, broken relationships with their child’s mother, or their inability to provide financially for their children and the shame they feel for this. Many fathers actually have this hollow feeling that the lives of their children would be better without them around.
This is why we all need to truly come to grips with the powerful influence of a father, and that’s why on Saturday, June 30, we will host our second annual “Training Camp for Dads” at the University of Memphis’ Fogelman Center. During this free event, fathers from around our community will be engaged, empowered, educated and applauded.
In the end, fatherhood is not about being perfect. It’s about being present.
CALLING ALL DADS
What: Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is hosting the second annual “Memphis Training Camp for Dads.”
When: June 30.
Where: Fogelman Executive Center, University of Memphis.
Schedule: Registration and breakfast at 8:30 a.m.; camp 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Admission: Open to the public; free with a canned good for Memphis Food Bank.
More information: To register for the event or to nominate an extraordinary father or father figure to be honored at the Hall of Fame Awards luncheon, visit memphistn.gov/fatherhood, call (901) 576-6507, or e-mail Fatherhood@memphistn.gov.
A C Wharton is mayor of Memphis.