Last weekend, I embarrassed my daughter. She had a sleepover, and I kissed her in the presence of her friend. Every night, before the children go to bed, I kiss them on the cheeks and say, " I love you."
Yes, I am that dad. I am that affectionate father who smothers his children in hugs, kisses, and other expressions of love.
Every day before my family leaves for school, everyone gets a hug and a kiss. My daughter receives three kisses on her cheeks. When I visited Ethiopia, I saw adults kiss children first on the right cheek, then on the left, and then once more on the right. This gesture is one of many ways that Ethiopians demonstrate love. I am sharing that practice with my children.
With the news of Alexis Crawford's murder and the start of the Khalil Wheeler-Weaver trial, I am cherishing this time with my daughter more. Preliminary evidence suggests that Crawford died after a fight with her roommate and her roommate’s boyfriend. Khalil Wheeler-Weaver appeared in court this week due to suspicion that he killed three women and attempted to murder a fourth young woman.
It’s difficult to imagine how Crawford’s parents and the parents of the women in the Wheeler-Weaver case are dealing with the deaths of their children. I am sure that they are experiencing unprecedented pain. In each of these recent incidents, it appears that sex or some form of intimate relationship preceded the murder.
As a loving and caring father, I pray, hope, and work toward ensuring that my daughter never endures sexual or other forms of violence. I wish that I could wrap her in my arms and shield her from all dangers, but I know this type of protection is impossible. She needs space to grow into the woman she is destined to be in this world.
I have similar concerns for my boys. It would also hurt me to learn that they are the victims or perpetrators of sexual or other violent crimes. I believe my roles as a father include demonstrating love, encouraging a spiritual foundation, providing protection, reinforcing positive values, and meeting their material needs.
I believe Crawford's parents and the parents of the other young ladies did their best in raising their children. It is not their fault. We live in a world where crime exists. While there is a significant amount of beauty in this life, we also must acknowledge the ugly challenges that impact our communities.
As leaders, it is our responsibility to invest in programs that can impact violent crimes. Mentoring a young person can reduce their chances of believing that killing is the best response to conflict. If your schedule is full, but you have the financial resources, contribute to a local violence prevention organization.
As fathers, we are required to put forth a limitless effort to serve as models for positive behaviors in our homes. Such actions may include disrupting masculine normative practices such as limiting affection to our romantic partners. Do not be afraid to kiss your son or daughter and tell them they are loved.
Remember, every day we have with our children is a blessing. This week, I want to encourage you to discover three ways to demonstrate love at home and in your community. Tell your daughter and your son that you love them. Spend a few minutes of your time talking with a young person.
We will not be able to prevent every crime, but we can do something.