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Helping dad in the kitchen

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For some of us who are fathers, showing up during birthdays, special occasions and holidays can be hard. It’s challenging when the hustle hasn’t been going well and funds are low. It’s hard when you have to navigate seeing your children being raised by a man you don’t know well, or when seeing your children also means facing the reality of a relationship that ended—badly. Disappearing seems like a better option, but it’s not.  These are some of the many reasons brothas go ghost during the holiday season. We don’t go ghost because we don’t care about our children. We don’t go ghost because we want to hurt them by not being present. We care. We love. We hurt. We often go ghost because the weight of the shame of  things not being where or how we want them to be— especially financially—makes us feel that not being present is best for everyone. But I’m here to tell you something: It’s not.Your children need you. They need you to honor and respect their mothers by showing up and being a partner. They need your presence. They need your love.

And there are so many ways you can show them you care—even if it means not having the new Yeezy’s, not having access to your little ones on the exact holiday, curving an argument or having to watch your ex with someone else. It’s all about quality time with your kids. Taking the time to let them know they are part of your purpose, adored and important. Here are some ideas.

1. Show up and Help Out

One of my friends had an uncle for years who was struggling financially. He often didn’t have the money to buy presents for the holidays. Nevertheless, he was there every year, helping to set up the house before everyone arrived, running errands and making sure everyone had what they needed. He always had great stories to tell and he also kept us in line. His presence meant everything to his children.

2. Play Games, Cards and Crafts

Traditions, like playing games such as spades, Pictionary or chess during the holidays always lead to memorable moments. It’s a time to catch up, connect and pass along some skills, like how to NOT to renege. Even playing video games is a way to bond with your kids and discuss other things going on in their lives. Quality time is priceless.

3. Teach Them How to Cook

While we always talk about Black mamas who can throw down, there are more than a few fathers/brothas who can throw down, too. So why not plan to cook something with your kids? Especially if you have a “signature dish” (most folks have at least one). Making meals together is a Black family tradition and there is nothing better than collaborating on something that tastes good, evokes pride and is of service to the family. 

4. Watch a Movie Together

Netflix n Chill isn’t just for couples. Movie time is a great way to bond with youngsters, find out more about what they like and address issues—like dating, bullying and peer pressure—via pop culture. There are so many great holiday films that you can watch together. If you don’t have a streaming account you can borrow flicks to check out.

The point? If you’re invited to an event for your child, show up. Show up and show your love by respecting your little one’s mother and extended family. Your presence and support can help them have a beautiful and memorable day. When kids grow up they don’t talk about toys, they talk about moments. Be part of their memories.

Yolo Akili Robinson is the founder and executive director of BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health).