So you have just finished waiting on a long line at Macy's for hours and you finally get to sit on ol' Santa's lap to plead your case. For most kids, this Christmas' wish may be the one that's guaranteed to find its way under the tree. Santa maybe a bit flaky when he makes promises from street corners and expressways, but he typically pulls through when he is asked while he's chilling in Macy's.
But what happens when St. Nick is asked for one of the most popular, yet complicated, gifts of all time? According to an English survey of 2,000 parents, the tenth most popular Christmas request is for a dad.
This isn't entirely shocking to me. But it elicits two reactions:
1) The anti-holiday folks are wrong about all the noise they make over consumerism and materialism.
If anything is indicative of the spirit of the holidays, it is the child experience. If lil' Susie were asking for the 2012 Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 that she saw her friend's dad drive to open school night, then they would probably have a valid point. But when our youth, and perhaps even teens, are asking for a gift with a beating heart and arms to be hugged with, then maybe we all need to hold off on the self-righteous criticism.
2) Perhaps what was once to be expected needs to be viewed as an asset or blessing.
The second point is one that I often need to step back and do some self-reflection on. Across the world, 16 percent of children are raised in a single-parent household. In good old America, the number is 35 percent. But what is even more daunting is the fact that 67 percent of African-American children grow up in single-mother households. The consequences of growing up with one parent really needs no explanation, but just to cover a few bases from my past research and personal observations, children who grow up in single-parent households face higher high school dropout and absentee rates, are more likely to rely on federal nutrition assistance programs and have behavioral issues. And on an even more extreme scale, whenever a tragedy occurs, like the recent mass shooting, the first person people question are the mothers. But the first thing I ponder is what their relationship was like with their father.
And then there is me. I am a 23-year-old black male from East New York Brooklyn, which 75th precinct has consistently led the City in murders and robberies. I don't know the numbers, but I have seldom seen a man walking with his son around my parts. Yet, my family, a mother, father, and a sister who's one year older than me, live smack down in the middle of the East. My father and I go fishing, have watched every single boxing match since Mike Tyson's days, shoot hoops, and blast hip hop together. All of our aunts, uncles and cousins come over to our house for Christmas dinner and seasonal festivities. I guess people would call us the "all American" family. For me, this is just they way things are supposed to be; being a father is a duty, not a luxury or burden.
But a few million children, especially black and brown children, beg to differ. What I have once thought we can all count on is now considered a blessing, or the hottest Christmas gift Santa can deliver. Although the survey is from Britain, I face the realness of it every time I walk down the block or hear about another former classmate getting into some mess. Of course, there are things that our government can do top protect our youth and at least give them a chance of succeeding. If it weren't for some government assistance programs, the children who grow up in single-parent households would be far worst off. But that love of a real human being can only be obtained through a much needed change, or reverse, of the times. For many black and brown youth, the Church has filled that void for the longest. But for those who fall by the wayside, they need a timeless Christmas miracle.