Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Requiem for Fatherhood

Renae Smith, NFI's Special Assistant to the President, had this response to a recent tragic news story.

Leonard Pitts, Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, wrote a heartbreaking article yesterday on the murder of Willy Brown, a 2-year-old boy whose father beat him to death in an attempt to teach his son how to box. The man must literally be delusional to think that his toddler was at an appropriate age to learn boxing techniques. Pitts offers some poignant remarks on what this tragedy indicates about the state of fatherhood in what he terms a requiem for the idealized memory of fatherhood. (A requiem is the traditional mass chant for the repose of the dead.)

"So yes, this is a requiem for common sense. It is also a requiem for idealized memory.

"Meaning the communal recollection of fatherhood as the province of strong and tender men who laid down the law and told their stories of walking to school through mountains of snow, who gave you their shoulders as a perch, their truths as a guide, who were never too busy to sip invisible tea from tiny doll cups or have a catch in the backyard as twilight gathered into evening.

"It is an ideal that evaporates like dew in the face of the increasingly common reality of father as callow boy-man who has no idea how to fulfill the role to which circumstance has called him, often because he had no father of his own to teach him.

"[…] And this is a requiem for tomorrow's victims.

"Meaning the little boys and girls who grow up hit more often than they are hugged, left by blind mothers in the care of broken men who have no sense of self, no definition of role, no clue.

This gets at the heart of why National Fatherhood Initiative exists. Too many men respond poorly to their own sense of inadequacy and lack of knowledge on what it means to be a father. We are here to come alongside these fathers and help them learn how to lovingly and responsibly care for their children. We hope for a day when there will be no more casualties to irresponsible fatherhood like little Willy Brown. As Pitts says, “he deserved better.”


  1. I think perhaps part of the issue is that, despite knowing some boys have no real father (even if their biological father is around), many men don't bother trying to be a father-type figure. There are limits, of course, as to their ability to act in that capacity, but it seems as though little boys either have good fathers to teach them how to be men or no one at all.

    As I see it, this is a failing of society in general, but certain organizations, like the church, have failed by and large in teaching boys their future role and how to use their position properly. When these boys become men, but aren't yet married, they are not being prepared to be husbands and fathers. When they are married, they are not being told to start planning for a family before they get one. In short, they're not being challenged to be real men nor given the knowledge of what that even means. The result is either spineless men who avoid responsibility or the boorish jerk who sees himself as a king.

  2. Seek of Truth--How true! Well-said.


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