In my first book, Confessions of a Video Vixen, I graphically chronicled a four-year abusive relationship with my son’s biological father, Nathaniel, professionally known as Kool G Rap, one of hip-hop’s most formidable artists of yesteryear. There’s no time to go through the whole sordid affair, so for context, here are the CliffsNotes.
When I met Nathaniel in Arizona in 1995, I was just 17 years old; he was 10 years my senior. In 1998, we had a son together. By the following year, our relationship had ended. In December 1999, I left my son with his father while I went to Los Angeles and secured a home for the baby and me. One month later, as my son turned two, I brought our baby back to L.A., where we lived for the next 21 years.
During our time in Los Angeles, my son received no support from his father, financial or otherwise, causing us to depend on welfare through our early years in California. By the time my child was seven, I’d started my career as an author — thankfully, with my first book selling more than a million copies worldwide, we no longer needed anyone else’s assistance.
Every day, I wake up and think about my son’s future — how I can ensure he has a more comfortable life than I had and never has to struggle or worry unnecessarily. I alone am ensuring my son reaches greatness. His biological father is not.
The next 11 years were the same as the five before it. There were no attempts by Nathaniel to connect with or support my son. I had no idea where he lived, so tracking him down was impossible. And considering the physical and emotional abuse I experienced during our time together, for which he was arrested and charged, I had no such urge to reach out. This wasn’t the sort of man I wanted my son to know or know about. [Editor’s note: Kool G Rap has previously repudiated his depiction in Confessions of a Video Vixen and claimed he had no way to contact his son.]
Things changed one day in the winter of 2016 when I received a call from a mutual friend to Nathaniel, who had a message for me: He needed my help.
Nathaniel was being offered a professional opportunity overseas that he couldn’t afford to miss, but his driver’s license and passport had been revoked due to the towering child support sum that he owed. Unbeknownst to me, I held the keys to his ability to travel outside of the country. If I asked the state to close the child support case — a case I had no idea even existed — Nathaniel’s passport privileges would be reinstated, and he could accept employment opportunities worldwide.
Even though our personal history is fraught with trauma, I didn’t see a reason to deter Nathaniel’s career or livelihood. I’d done well for myself, and my son never needed something I couldn’t provide — even during the lean years. He never felt as if not having his biological father around was a slight to his well-being or advancement. Plus, my son had no memory of Nathaniel; I hadn’t even brought up his father until weeks after Nathaniel’s unexpected plea, so there was no love lost. I felt no bitterness connected to Nathaniel’s choice to abandon my son.
Last year, after my current partner accepted a job offer in New York, my son and I moved to the East Coast. Just before we made the trek, I spoke with my son about the prospect of meeting his father now that we’d be living within driving distance of him. It was a topic Nathaniel and I had been kicking around as the date of the move approached. Though I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing him again after all these years, I wanted to give my grown son the option.
I broached the subject a few times in the weeks before and after our move; each time, my son showed no interest in meeting his father. That was fine by me. As my son inches closer to earning his bachelor’s degree and makes plans to earn his first master’s degree, Nathaniel hasn’t worried himself with FAFSA, grants, tuition payments, college courses, or credits. No matter how many times he calls or texts me, makes general inquiries into how we’re doing, or expresses his openness to a visit from either of us, Nathaniel still isn’t as invested in my son’s welfare as he would like us to believe. How could he be? He disengaged decades ago.
Every day, I wake up and think about my son’s future — how I can ensure he has a more comfortable life than I had and never has to struggle or worry unnecessarily. I want him to have every advantage possible when he’s ready to venture out into the world, so I make sure he has everything he needs. I alone am ensuring my son reaches greatness. His biological father is not.
Calling and inquiring isn’t enough. That’s what absentee fathers do when they want to appear involved without actually getting involved. They make no sacrifices for the children they’ve left behind. They don’t skip eating out every day so they can apply those savings to their child’s personal, medical, or educational needs. And when they do eat out, they opt for the pricey steak instead of the chicken, never feeling guilty for splurging, the way many single or dedicated parents do. They don’t prioritize their child’s needs nor try to make lasting memories together.
Fathers who have left their children put their children in danger, often failing to consider the generational ramifications of sending young people into the world without the guidance and protection of a father. These men are the tail, not the head — and they leave some women to wonder why they need men at all.
And that’s the thing about when men leave — often, nobody wants them back, not even their children. Perhaps somewhere in the dark, dank recesses of the minds of absentee fathers is the belief that there will always be a road back to their children, quantified by some unspecified amount of time labeled “later” or “when the kid gets older.” Maybe they think there will always be an opportunity down the line, that men who leave are as valuable as those who never would.
But it’s simply not so.
When Nathaniel left my son — as is true for most absent fathers — he made himself obsolete. Like millions of single mothers out there, I was forced to raise my son on my own. And I did what exceptional mothers do: I stepped the fuck up. I created a life for and with my son that’s not predicated on the assistance or attendance of a man. I forged a bond with my son that translates to us against the world. What we’ve built is an impenetrable fortress of love and trust with no room for fair-weather fathers.
Of course, abandonment isn’t just a man’s game. There are plenty of single or co-parenting fathers who could never imagine walking away from the little people they helped to create. They deserve all the flowers. However, those who do leave should know what many men have come to realize decades after walking away from their offspring: The day will come when they long for a connection to their estranged children. Parents die, spouses may leave, friends come and go, but a child’s love has the highest potential to outlast your lifetime. That potential, however, is not promised to those who abandon their kids.
None of us will make it through this life alive, and the older we get, the more we clamor for our families’ love and connection. Leavers beware — the people you have abandoned may do the same when you finally, selfishly, reach for them. That is a fate of your own making.
As for my son, I think it’s best to leave well enough alone. I did all I could — I presented an opportunity for him to get to know his biological father, and he has refused the offer many times over. The case is closed, and not just on his relationship with Nathaniel, but mine as well. Though we’ve found a middle ground, there’s no need to carry my old life any further into my new one. I harbor no ill will toward him; we can still talk, laugh, and be cordial when we speak. And he’s able to move forward with his life as well. After all, that’s what my son and I want for anyone who hasn’t been respectful of us — for them to move along, and never come back.