Valentine’s Day is a billion-dollar industry and it’s not hard to see why. Most of the marketing around the holiday is geared towards women, and it’s generally a hot topic of discussion—you may even have heard the jokes about how Valentine’s Day should be renamed “Single Awareness Day.” Generally speaking, there tends to be two extreme sides of the V-Day spectrum: Either the cynics who talk down on the day or partnered folks happily flaunting their tokens of love.
Regardless of whether it’s partnered or uncoupled perspective, the focus is always on the woman. However, it’s time to think about Black Love in a different way, and focus a bit on Black fathers. It’s not just about showing them love, but shaping the way that Black men (and families) view themselves and the concept of receiving affection.
“In general, gift giving holidays, such as Valentine’s Day are imbalanced, with more focus on women receiving,” says S. Tia Brown, LMSW and co-founder of RSGTherapy. “It’s because women do things, such as give and nurture life, in incomparable ways. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t space to embrace, support and be loving on amazing dads.”
Brown suggests mothers work with their children to create family rituals of doting on dad because of the importance of showing appreciate and because it opens more people up to the idea that it’s okay for men to be vulnerable and outwardly express emotions.
“This isn’t just behavior that we’re modeling to show the father some love, but we’re also modeling healthy habits for the children moving forward,” says Brown. “What does it look like to show a man love? What does it look like to show appreciation and what does that reciprocity look like? It doesn’t always have to be the same but we’re trying to teach young boys to understand that you’re supposed to receive gifts and be emotional and loved by your family. We’re trying to model reciprocity and love languages for our girls as well. ”
There are a lot of ideas to pull from that won’t break the bank. For example, Dr. Racine Henry is a New York City-based couples’ therapist who encouraged her 6-year-old daughter to select a card for her father and they plan on making him breakfast in bed.
“It’s important to me that he’s celebrated whenever possible because he struggles with doing nice things for himself, and he deserves it,” says Henry. “He’s a better dad then either of us had growing up and I think it’s important to make distinctions between him as a person, as my husband, and as her father.”
Small gestures are often the most memorable.
“No one’s expecting the latest Jordan’s, or a new smartphone, or stock options,” says Brown. “Buying his favorite things that you can afford to show a small token of love. If he likes a local store, you can maybe go there and get him a little something that the child has picked out, letting the child spend some of his or her own money. Ten bucks can go a long way in certain places for something just to show that daddy deserves a little love too.”