What is Authentic Manhood?

mochadadWalking through my old neighborhood, I noticed one of my old friends, Vando, walking toward me.

“What’s up, man,” he said as we shook hands. A few years had passed since I had seen Vando, but his weathered face made it seem as if it were decades.

“Nothing much,” I replied. “What’s been up with you?”

“Same ole, same ole,” he said. “Just trying to survive.” I knew all about his means of survival. Petty theft, pimping, and drug trafficking kept his pockets full of cash.

While we reminisced, I learned the fates of some of the neighborhood boys we grew up with. The ones who weren’t dead or in jail were quickly on their way towards one or the other. Only a few of us managed to slip through the cracks.

Since we last saw each other, I had graduated from college, got married, had kids and moved to the burbs. Vando, on the other had lived in the same house and hung out on the same corners that we did as teenagers. As I gazed into Vando’s dark eyes, the world I worked so hard to forget became real to me again, and I began to see traces of my former self in Vando’s weary face.

Before meeting Vando, books were my escape, taking me to places that transcended the poverty, squalor, and despair that surrounded me. Through my books, I could be an astronaut, detective, or brave knight. But the life Vando introduced me to proved to be more alluring than my pristine fantasies. Our escapades were filled with excitement and danger. We mostly engaged in typical juvenille deliquent activities such as shoplifting, vandalizing, or fighting with other boys. But one day, things took a turn for the worse.

Vando and I were loitering on a corner when he noticed a girl walking by. His demeanor turned grim, his body grew tense. Suddenly, he broke a huge branch from a tree, ran to the girl and started beating her. Tears mixed with blood poured from her face as Vando pummelled her – each blow producing a sickening whap against her flesh.

Afraid Vando would kill the girl, I grabbed the branch causing Vando to glare at me with rabid eyes. I was frightened, but I held on refusing to allow him to beat that girl anymore.

“Let’s get outta here,” he said after several minutes. Vando dropped the branch and we ran to his house narrowly escaping some men who were chasing us.

Once we were safely inside, Vando told his grandmother, “If someone knocks on the door, don’t answer it.” The gentle woman nodded quietly and continued watching television as if she had experienced this situation before. Vando and I ran to his bedroom and crouched in the darkness without uttering a word. We sat for about twenty minutes before we were startled by police officers’ banging on the front door.

“Just chill out,” Vando said coolly. “Don’t say nothin’ and they’ll leave.”

After a few minutes, they did leave. When they were gone, I turned to Vando and asked, “What’s wrong with you man? Why’d you beat up that girl?”

“She lied on me. She got what she deserved.”

I wanted to tell Vando that no one deserved such brutal treatment; that he was a cold, heartless animal. However, I said nothing because I didn’t want Vando to think I was soft.

After that night I avoided Vando as much as possible. Whenever he asked me to hang out with him, I always gave him an excuse. He eventually got the message and left me alone.

With Vando, I was able to tap into the raw masculinity that boys long for. But I was misguided as many young males are. I thought that Vando was teaching me how to be a man. All he was teaching me was how to be a criminal. as

I realize that my sons will most likely encounter Vandos in their lives. It is up to me to provide them with an authentic version of manhood so they will not be enticed by this pale imitation. I have to show them the importance of being compassionate, respectful, and kind. Most importantly, I have to teach them to express their emotions in positive ways. My example will be their sword and shield in the battle for their hearts and minds.

I think I may be on the right track. The other night, my 5-year-old son, N, said, “My dad is the best man I know.” If he can still say this 20 years from now, then I know that I will have been successful in my role as a father.

Stay Strong,

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Join the conversation:  How do you define authentic manhood in today’s society?

About the author
Frederick J. Goodall is the founder of Mocha Dad - a parenting website focused on fatherhood. He is passionate about parenting and helping men to be great dads, husbands, and role models. You can contact him at fjgoodall@mochadad.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mochadad
  1. That was very powerful, thank you for sharing it with us. I agree, boys NEED fathers. Mothers do a fantastic job but don’t always fill that void of a great male role model. I would like to extend that a bit and state that girls NEED fathers just as much. They have their own trials to contend with in which fathers help. Congrats, you are doing a fine job.

  2. That was very powerful, thank you for sharing it with us. I agree, boys NEED fathers. Mothers do a fantastic job but don’t always fill that void of a great male role model. I would like to extend that a bit and state that girls NEED fathers just as much. They have their own trials to contend with in which fathers help. Congrats, you are doing a fine job.

  3. Hi! I just found your page and I am loving it! The way I see it, ideally there should be two parents involved in raising a child (obviously sometimes this can’t happen). A father is just as essential as a mother. Try as we may, a mom can’t teach her son how to be a man as accurately as a dad can. It’s like teaching the theory without having practical experience. Therefore, dad needs to do that. Dads are also important to girls because the father-daughter relationship is often sets the tone for a woman’s relationships with men. Also important is the relationship between the parents. The best gift a child can get is having parents who love and respect each other. Viewing a healthy relationship will show what real love looks like and is, as opposed to the misconception that ‘love hurts, et cetera.’

  4. Hi! I just found your page and I am loving it! The way I see it, ideally there should be two parents involved in raising a child (obviously sometimes this can’t happen). A father is just as essential as a mother. Try as we may, a mom can’t teach her son how to be a man as accurately as a dad can. It’s like teaching the theory without having practical experience. Therefore, dad needs to do that. Dads are also important to girls because the father-daughter relationship is often sets the tone for a woman’s relationships with men. Also important is the relationship between the parents. The best gift a child can get is having parents who love and respect each other. Viewing a healthy relationship will show what real love looks like and is, as opposed to the misconception that ‘love hurts, et cetera.’

  5. He no doubt will be. You’re setting an example. I live in a ROUGH neighborhood. My son sees many things I wish he wouldn’t. He always tells me, “I do NOT want to be naughty like those boys, Daddy.” Boys DO need their fathers.

  6. He no doubt will be. You’re setting an example. I live in a ROUGH neighborhood. My son sees many things I wish he wouldn’t. He always tells me, “I do NOT want to be naughty like those boys, Daddy.” Boys DO need their fathers.

  7. What a story you have! Thanks so much for sharing it. You are right about the need for children to have fathers (or at the very least a strong father figure) in their lives. My dad was such a good influence on me and my siblings. It is important for children to know what authentic manhood and authentic womanhood look like. After all we are the people they will imitate.

  8. What a story you have! Thanks so much for sharing it. You are right about the need for children to have fathers (or at the very least a strong father figure) in their lives. My dad was such a good influence on me and my siblings. It is important for children to know what authentic manhood and authentic womanhood look like. After all we are the people they will imitate.

  9. Raw masculinity, more like a raw psychopath.
    The wild cats without a moral foundation that I grew up with usually had serious problems at home. I’ll say that I became more aware of authentic masculinity in my father, the very few fathers in the neighborhood, some teachers and older responsible male adults.

    I will add that I find it interesting when I hear the words that are now tossed around to define manhood in America. Right now there a few people actively trying redefine what it means to be a man, and the roles that men play in relation to women. There’s a serious clash between the cliches and stereotypes that are consistently presented in television and magazines and what’s discussed amongst people concerned with young men lagging behind academically and engaging in criminal activities. Young men and women are presented with so many opposing examples of manhood and definitely womanhood for that matter. So the question that comes to my mind is how will mothers and fathers raise their sons to become men? After all, how often do we hear the phrase, boys will be boys or he’s just being a man. What are people really saying and what does it say about manhood? —-(hey MochaDad, my mind was just traveling off topic)

  10. Raw masculinity, more like a raw psychopath.
    The wild cats without a moral foundation that I grew up with usually had serious problems at home. I’ll say that I became more aware of authentic masculinity in my father, the very few fathers in the neighborhood, some teachers and older responsible male adults.

    I will add that I find it interesting when I hear the words that are now tossed around to define manhood in America. Right now there a few people actively trying redefine what it means to be a man, and the roles that men play in relation to women. There’s a serious clash between the cliches and stereotypes that are consistently presented in television and magazines and what’s discussed amongst people concerned with young men lagging behind academically and engaging in criminal activities. Young men and women are presented with so many opposing examples of manhood and definitely womanhood for that matter. So the question that comes to my mind is how will mothers and fathers raise their sons to become men? After all, how often do we hear the phrase, boys will be boys or he’s just being a man. What are people really saying and what does it say about manhood? —-(hey MochaDad, my mind was just traveling off topic)

  11. Authentic manhood is a rare and difficult thing to find these days. Having to explain to my son (and daughter)why some men leave their wives and kids, why two men are kissing each other, and why it’s not cool to walk around with your pants sagging, (and so many other topics) makes things difficult. Authentic manhood doesn’t come easy. You have to be willing to put in the work to do the right right now. And falling short of that (like we all do), having the ability to admit our shortcomings.

  12. Authentic manhood is a rare and difficult thing to find these days. Having to explain to my son (and daughter)why some men leave their wives and kids, why two men are kissing each other, and why it’s not cool to walk around with your pants sagging, (and so many other topics) makes things difficult. Authentic manhood doesn’t come easy. You have to be willing to put in the work to do the right right now. And falling short of that (like we all do), having the ability to admit our shortcomings.

  13. Great article. I will say that while it is important for our sons and daughters to have strong fathers and other men of principle in their lives, women can and do raise sons and daughters successfully. I have two friends: one has 2 daughters and 2 sons and she raised them solo in the ghetto and all have graduated from college, two are property owners, one is working on a doctorate and one teaches elementary school and still lives at the family home. Another sister I know has raised 3 sons successfully as a solo mom. Two are in college and one is in high school.
    A caring, principled, conscientious parent can do the job. It’s not easy but it can be done.
    One of my friend’s husbands, had a mother who basically put him on lock-down for a year when he tried to go gang-bang. He was allowed to go to school and come home. He had to wash, cook, and clean and write weekly book reports. His mother worked in the evening and she didn’t take no mess.
    However, your point is well-taken and I’m glad you have created this forum.

  14. Great article. I will say that while it is important for our sons and daughters to have strong fathers and other men of principle in their lives, women can and do raise sons and daughters successfully. I have two friends: one has 2 daughters and 2 sons and she raised them solo in the ghetto and all have graduated from college, two are property owners, one is working on a doctorate and one teaches elementary school and still lives at the family home. Another sister I know has raised 3 sons successfully as a solo mom. Two are in college and one is in high school.
    A caring, principled, conscientious parent can do the job. It’s not easy but it can be done.
    One of my friend’s husbands, had a mother who basically put him on lock-down for a year when he tried to go gang-bang. He was allowed to go to school and come home. He had to wash, cook, and clean and write weekly book reports. His mother worked in the evening and she didn’t take no mess.
    However, your point is well-taken and I’m glad you have created this forum.

  15. Wow. Love your blog!

    MD, my son is 11 and daughter 9. By the time I was my son’s age my father was on his 3rd marriage with 11 kids from 5 different women. It’s different for my kids. I’m around and active in their lives helping coach sports teams, helping out in their classrooms, and most importantly showing them how to have a great marriage through my relationship with their mother. When I ask my kids how much their mother and I love them, they spread their arms as wide as they can and say “This much!” Like you I hope they still feel that way in 20 years.

    Kevin Decker
    The ROR Guy

  16. Wow. Love your blog!

    MD, my son is 11 and daughter 9. By the time I was my son’s age my father was on his 3rd marriage with 11 kids from 5 different women. It’s different for my kids. I’m around and active in their lives helping coach sports teams, helping out in their classrooms, and most importantly showing them how to have a great marriage through my relationship with their mother. When I ask my kids how much their mother and I love them, they spread their arms as wide as they can and say “This much!” Like you I hope they still feel that way in 20 years.

    Kevin Decker
    The ROR Guy

  17. I am glad you realize how important your presence is in your children’s lives and that you are willing to remind other fathers too.

  18. Wow. That is a life that is so foreign to me. At the same time though, I see the impacts of single parent households all the time… it’s just as devastating, but in an entirely different way. I’m so glad your son is learning from you, and I can only hope my son learns as much from my husband. Great post.

  19. Wow. That is a life that is so foreign to me. At the same time though, I see the impacts of single parent households all the time… it’s just as devastating, but in an entirely different way. I’m so glad your son is learning from you, and I can only hope my son learns as much from my husband. Great post.

  20. Great post. Men do need their fathers to show them the way. From a woman’s perspective, daughter’s need their father’s too. My father taught me the most important person in my life is”me”. He used to ask me when I was younger, “who is the most important person in your life”? I would answer “you are daddy”. He would say, “no, YOU are the most important person in your life, and don’t forget that”. He truly was my shining star. He lived each day with moral, strength of character, showing his children right from wrong, which every child needs in their life.

    Parenting is the most important job you will ever have.

  21. Great post. Men do need their fathers to show them the way. From a woman’s perspective, daughter’s need their father’s too. My father taught me the most important person in my life is”me”. He used to ask me when I was younger, “who is the most important person in your life”? I would answer “you are daddy”. He would say, “no, YOU are the most important person in your life, and don’t forget that”. He truly was my shining star. He lived each day with moral, strength of character, showing his children right from wrong, which every child needs in their life.

    Parenting is the most important job you will ever have.

  22. I applaud you for being there for your son. As an earlier poster said I hope my daughter meets someone with a strong and involved father in their life. Great post!!

  23. I applaud you for being there for your son. As an earlier poster said I hope my daughter meets someone with a strong and involved father in their life. Great post!!

  24. Wonderful Article. I just found your site by accident and wanted to post what a wonderful post. I love LOVE seeing strong men stand up for their children by being their and teaching them along side their wives. Its even more satisfying to see when it is a man of color. All to often the stereotypes of African American men plaque society to think it is impossible for a black man to be a good father.

    I am going to have to share your blog with my husband. He will certainly appreciate this blog. We are a multicultural family, me being latina and my husband being african/american and we busted our asses to get our kids in a quite suburban type neighborhood. The other side of that is soon after moving here we seemed to be the spectacle of the small town, but now almost 4 years later our area has become more diverse.

    Anyhow wonderful post and good for you for sharing that African American men can stand by their wife and raise their children. :) That makes me happy.

  25. Wonderful Article. I just found your site by accident and wanted to post what a wonderful post. I love LOVE seeing strong men stand up for their children by being their and teaching them along side their wives. Its even more satisfying to see when it is a man of color. All to often the stereotypes of African American men plaque society to think it is impossible for a black man to be a good father.

    I am going to have to share your blog with my husband. He will certainly appreciate this blog. We are a multicultural family, me being latina and my husband being african/american and we busted our asses to get our kids in a quite suburban type neighborhood. The other side of that is soon after moving here we seemed to be the spectacle of the small town, but now almost 4 years later our area has become more diverse.

    Anyhow wonderful post and good for you for sharing that African American men can stand by their wife and raise their children. :) That makes me happy.

  26. This was excellent. I too grew up ‘in the hood’ and have since escaped to build a life for myself and raise my children in the burbs. There are pros and cons to the life lessons learned in each place, but I think I definitely have an easier job than my parents did.

  27. This was excellent. I too grew up ‘in the hood’ and have since escaped to build a life for myself and raise my children in the burbs. There are pros and cons to the life lessons learned in each place, but I think I definitely have an easier job than my parents did.

  28. My husband and I were discussing this topic last night. As the parents of 4 boys, we would like for them not to look their “friends” for guidance, but to us. This world we live in now is so complicated for adults, we can only imagine what the children encounter.

    Hugs and Mocha,
    Stesha

  29. My husband and I were discussing this topic last night. As the parents of 4 boys, we would like for them not to look their “friends” for guidance, but to us. This world we live in now is so complicated for adults, we can only imagine what the children encounter.

    Hugs and Mocha,
    Stesha

  30. I must say I am a stay at home Black father of mixed race children and I cannot agree with you more. If it wasn’t for my father I know for a fact that I would have turned out the way I did. It is very important to show your sons how a man is supposed to act.

  31. I must say I am a stay at home Black father of mixed race children and I cannot agree with you more. If it wasn’t for my father I know for a fact that I would have turned out the way I did. It is very important to show your sons how a man is supposed to act.

  32. What a frightening story. But there really are men (and women) like that in this world. Its a Blessing that your children have a role model in their lives such as yourself. But i know there are many children who dont, and all we can do is come together as a community and do what we can to hep out. Sad. :(

  33. What a frightening story. But there really are men (and women) like that in this world. Its a Blessing that your children have a role model in their lives such as yourself. But i know there are many children who dont, and all we can do is come together as a community and do what we can to hep out. Sad. :(

  34. This is truly an inspiring story. Somehow, I think your kids are going to do just fine. You know way too much to let them go wrong.

  35. This is truly an inspiring story. Somehow, I think your kids are going to do just fine. You know way too much to let them go wrong.

  36. Wow. I remember the Vando’s and Vandette’s in my neighborhood and shutter at the thought of my kids having to deal with them.

    Great, powerful post.

    Winks & Smiles,
    Wifey

  37. Wow. I remember the Vando’s and Vandette’s in my neighborhood and shutter at the thought of my kids having to deal with them.

    Great, powerful post.

    Winks & Smiles,
    Wifey

  38. Great post Mocha Dad. Both parents are such a big influence on their children. We have to set examples. Perferably good ones. I wince every time my kids do something “not so good” and I know they probably learned it from me.

  39. Great post Mocha Dad. Both parents are such a big influence on their children. We have to set examples. Perferably good ones. I wince every time my kids do something “not so good” and I know they probably learned it from me.

  40. WOW. Great post. Very… intense and touching, I guess. I’m so glad you’re teaching your son well. ;p

    Here via Daddy Dan.

    & yeah… doesn’t necessarily have to be the father, but boys need a stable male force in their lives, for sure.

  41. WOW. Great post. Very… intense and touching, I guess. I’m so glad you’re teaching your son well. ;p

    Here via Daddy Dan.

    & yeah… doesn’t necessarily have to be the father, but boys need a stable male force in their lives, for sure.

  42. You sound like a wonderful father. Sadly not all kids have that option and although I totally agree with the fact that fathers are very important in a child’s life (I have two boys myself) I have to add that it also depends on the TYPE of father. If its a man like Vando then it would be best to exclude him from their lives as it could cause more disruption in their lives. Yet they still need a father-figure. Thankfully I have been blessed with some wonderful men in my life but not all women are as lucky and those women should be applauded for doing the best that they can! As a poster above said, single moms, whether by choice or not, have the power to raise good men so that they in turn can become the fathers they did not have!

    Thank you for being so open in your posts.
    Ms. Latina

  43. You sound like a wonderful father. Sadly not all kids have that option and although I totally agree with the fact that fathers are very important in a child’s life (I have two boys myself) I have to add that it also depends on the TYPE of father. If its a man like Vando then it would be best to exclude him from their lives as it could cause more disruption in their lives. Yet they still need a father-figure. Thankfully I have been blessed with some wonderful men in my life but not all women are as lucky and those women should be applauded for doing the best that they can! As a poster above said, single moms, whether by choice or not, have the power to raise good men so that they in turn can become the fathers they did not have!

    Thank you for being so open in your posts.
    Ms. Latina

  44. I’ve been there, Mocha Dad. In a month or so, I will go back to my Old ‘hood for two weeks. I will run into my homies — the ones who are not dead or not in jail. I haven’t been back for 5 years. I am looking forward to it right now, But I know I will get the blues seeing my brothers who never got out, never grew up or never did anything with their lives.

  45. I’ve been there, Mocha Dad. In a month or so, I will go back to my Old ‘hood for two weeks. I will run into my homies — the ones who are not dead or not in jail. I haven’t been back for 5 years. I am looking forward to it right now, But I know I will get the blues seeing my brothers who never got out, never grew up or never did anything with their lives.

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  48. I love being a father…best thing that ever happened to me!!  Thank you so much for sharing, it was awesome to read your post!

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