Columnist

Jay Simpson, a former Champaign Central High School and Purdue basketball standout, writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at jsimpson@news-gazette.com.

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Single mother, two boys, low income, very  little help. This was my life growing up in Champaign-Urbana.

My mother, Eulawnda  Biggers, is the epitome of a strong woman. I witnessed her get us through hard time after hard time and never give up. Given some of the obstacles we were faced with, you would think giving up was the only thing left to do.

But not for her. She made whatever sacrifice was needed — like missing meals so my younger brother and I could eat, working two and three jobs so she could afford to buy us clothes and shoes, and spending her last dollar to make sure I could attend any sporting event I had.

It’s sad to say, but single-mother households are becoming normal, especially in the Black community. So many of our youth have had to or are currently growing up without a father. That can really damage a kid.

Imagine being the only one out of all of your friends whose father isn’t in your life. Embarrassed, ashamed, confused — these were just some of the emotions I felt as a kid, wondering why my parents couldn’t make it work like everyone else.

All of my aunts were single mothers, too, so they would have each others’ back if one ever needed help with the kids or around the house. I grew up with a lot of my cousins and all we had to look up to was our mothers. They gave us great examples of what sacrificing was and how to really put the child first.

Although we appreciated all of the lessons they taught us and love they showed us, there are some things a woman just simply can’t teach. A father is needed. Which is why some young men grow up and don’t know how to do certain small things, like treat a woman with respect, or know how to actually build a bond and spend quality time with their children and not just buy diapers and a pair of shoes here and there.

They’ve never seen it done. Never seen their mother treated how a woman is supposed to be treated. Never seen a man take care of business around the house. Never seen a man love and protect.

It is becoming a cycle for young Black men to be absent fathers.

I believe some want to be there, but they just don’t know where to start. It is up to men and active fathers such as myself to help break this cycle. We have to lead by example and not just by word of mouth.

There was once a time when I wasn’t the best father to my children. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be; I just didn’t know how to. Everything was so new to me.

I was young and scared, to be honest. I knew I was responsible for a life other than my own and I didn’t know how to handle it at the time.

I had to learn to be a father on the fly and had some difficult times along the way. But I wouldn’t go back and change that experience if I could because it made me into the wonderful father I am today.

I know it won’t be easy, but it is something that needs to be done. Children need both parents, and mothers have been holding down the fort alone for far too long.

It’s time to step up, fathers.

Jay Simpson writes for The News-Gazette. His column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at jsimpson@news-gazette.com.