Instadad With a Black Filter

Ok, this is a serious post. It’s not that deep, but I have been moved to write and post it. I’ll resume jokes and banter very shortly.

A few people have asked me why I am a so called ‘InstaDad’. There’s some that of course who love it and some have their criticisms; ‘Why do you post pictures of your children on the internet?’ And that’s the question that is interesting. Why do I risk all the so called dangers of posting pictures of children online? Well there’s a good reason. It’s not the only reason I do it, but a good one. Let me explain…

I grew up in Bristol, the product of a white mother and a black Jamaican father. Back then I was labelled ‘half cast’, a term that makes me cringe to this day. After my brother and I were born our parents moved to a fairly nice street in a decent sized house with all white neighbours. My Dad was ‘bringing the houses prices down’ apparently – nice! But such was the day and age where that kind of comment was a serious concern for the so called locals. My Dad was the first ‘coloured’ guy to moved to the street and we were certainly the first little brown children running around, so it must have been a shock to them!

As a kid I was blessed enough to go on many holidays, day trips, family meals, parties and other gatherings. On Saturdays my Dad would take us to the park to play football. That little kick about turned into my Dad developing a full youth and adult football club over 13 years. Saturday and Sunday evenings were about chilling on the sofa with Mum and Dad before bed. If we misbehaved my Dad would somehow be involved in the discipline, mainly because my brother and I couldn’t help laughing half the time if Mum told us off, because she was so nice! Birthdays, Christmases, school plays, talent shows, parents evening – Mum and Dad would attend. Childhood was great, and fairly normal, or so I thought.

I grew up in a mainly white area, with mainly white friends and went to a majority white school. Apart from a few friends with divorced parents, everyone lived with their mum and dad. It was just a part of life. “My Dad’s bigger than your Dad” was a common phrase thrown around the playground without a second thought.

As I grew up I started to meet people outside of my small world and notice other family set ups. Friends who lived with people other than their parents, friends who moved around a lot, friends who lived with mum and visited dad some weekends (the worst weekend ever for me because they weren’t allowed out to roam the streets!) and some friends who didn’t have great relationships with their dads. These family set-ups spanned all races, I had white friends, black friends, mixed friends, Asian friends etc.

I remember talking to a friend at college about my Dad, I think we’d fallen out over some trivial matter and I was complaining about how unreasonable he was (usual state of play), and the friend said to me, ‘I don’t even know my Dad’ – wait, WHAT?! Rewind. Come again. Did he just say that? It took me some time to understand what that actually meant. I questioned him on what he’d said, and quite clearly he meant he didn’t know his dad, like at all. He knew his name, had some vague memories of him coming to the house when he was little, but he didn’t know him. That hit me hard and took me a while to get my head around. I’d grown up with my Dad being there every single day, sharing countless memories, good and bad but this guy, he had zero memories. Zero input from his dad. Zero contact. Zilch.

As I got older and met more people, this type of story became a common theme and didn’t shock me in the slightest but what still remained a mystery to me was what brings a dad to not want to be in their child’s life? However, the one thing that stood out was that the majority of these stories came from friends, including my wife, with black fathers.

It’s not a new conversation that there is a higher level of fatherlessness among the black community than other races. In the UK, studies have found that if you are an African-Caribbean child, you’re twice as likely as your white British counterpart to be raised in a single parent household. Based on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in 2011 65% of black children were raised by one parent – almost exclusively the mother. That figure speaks volumes and we need to go way further to understand its origins and the true meaning, something that I’m not even touching the surface of in this post. What the publicised figure also does though, is mask the number of black/mixed race fathers who are as engaged as their white counterparts.

While I’m not saying that this is a problem exclusively attributed to the black community, because of the above there is a severe lack of positive stories and positive images from fathers in the black community. Put simply, they are less visible.

Instagram and blogging is an amazing way to demonstrate creativity, show talents, promote a cause or just simply show off, so what better place to start to break the cycle hey? During my short time on Instagram I’ve taken notice of some awesome Dads, there are too many great ones to name but look at the highly successful @father_of_daughters, @daddownload and @london_dad, to the famous dads like @tomfletcher, to the group of Dads I’m currently having Whatsapp banter with; @dadvgirls @dadultlife and @dadofmadlads, all projecting positive images of present and engaged fathers.

So back to the question, why do I post pictures of my children on Instagram? Apart from the fact that they are stunning and I want the world to know, the dad community are coming out in force and InstaDads are a growing influence, so if I can have fun, meet fellow dads, be inspired and increase my reach to project a positive image of fatherhood (black or otherwise) one square tile at a time, then I’m all in!

Time for banter and jokes to resume!

Love and blessings.

Follow me @thisfatherlife

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