Becoming a Father: A Timeline
Or, A Ridiculously Incomplete List
of Police Brutality & Male Violence
1992: I watch LA erupt in flames & violence while singing my son to sleep alone in my
apartment because my girlfriend worked the graveyard shift to support us.
Sometime in the late 70s: When I’m nine or ten, I build Lego cars so structurally sound that I
can throw them down our hallway & they hit the ground hard but still stay together. They don’t
break. Or come apart. This will be the only thing in my life to remain whole.
December 1990: I stand at the door of my childcare provider who runs an unlicensed
daycare center, which is all we can afford. She tells me I’m holding my three-month-old son
wrong. I say, But he likes it, balancing him like a football on my forearm, fat legs, fat arms
dangling. This is my first interaction w/ parenting & the outside world. Some version of this
conversation will repeat ad nauseam over the next 20 years.
1971-1975: The years in which my biological father is first incarcerated & during which my
mother decides to leave him, & everything he comes w/, behind.
1492-Present Day: Young child after young adult killed by colonialism & capitalism & police &
patriarchy & the misguided belief in violence as communication between men. Reinforced on
football fields & in street corner arguments. Legitimized during stop & frisk & probable
cause. Taught by after school detention & remedial classes. This is institutional through
banking practices & housing regulation & hiring policies. This is the legacy I survived. My
father didn’t. What have I passed on to my child?
Summer 2001: I watch my 11-year-old son learn to skateboard while perusing articles in a
parenting magazine about fathers pushing babies in fancy strollers & wearing denim jeans I can’t
afford. I will feel deficient & slightly disheveled for the next decade.
Sometime in the year 1993: Standing at my front door, I’m told by a police officer serving me
papers to drop out of school & get a job to support my family. Like a real man. Like a proper
citizen. I’m rocking my son as he tells me this. I’ve told that story so many times, I’m no longer
even angry about it. Lesson learned: never trust cops.
2009: Oscar Grant.
2010: I tell my 20-year-old son I love him over a prison telephone as he waits for arraignment.
2012: Alan Blueford.
2013: I boast to a young man in my basic skills writing class the best thing that happened to me
was becoming a parent. He’s a parent as well. Still a teenager. He says, I hope I’m around long
enough to enjoy it like you. I don’t know how to respond. I feel foolish.
2013: Andy Lopez.
2014: Alex Nieto.
Oct 24th, 2017: A young man hits a transient person in downtown Oakland w/ a bat after an
altercation. The person dies. The young man sits in a prison cell this very moment. His two kids
will survive because of their mother & because of how strong women are (can be) (have always
been). Walking home a day later, I pass the street memorial for a young man killed a few months
earlier on Fairview St. by another young man. I wonder what must their mothers, their fathers,
feel: Anger? Despair? Impotence? I can’t shake the tragedy of it all. I don’t know how to write
about all this violence. I want to hold my son, but he’s an adult now & I don’t see him that often.
But I can’t quite let go of him as boychild, wild & free. Or as teenager, wiling out & mobbing
streets like he owns some kind of property rather than just his bad attitude.
Constantly: I feel that this manhood I fear so much is my responsibility.
June 2016: My son takes me to get a birthday dinner. After we talk Raiders & his hustle & his
engagement, I ask my son what he remembers about being young. He says, Normal shit. I say,
You know we did as best we could. He says, Yeah I know. I always knew you loved me. I say,
How? He says, You never left.
Summer 1990: My girlfriend & I sit by her apartment pool in Reseda, California. I’m rubbing
tanning oil on her shoulders. We are 19 & 20. I say, Do you want to get an abortion? She thinks
about it. She looks at me. She says, What if I don’t? I say, Then I guess you’ll be a mother & I’ll
be a father.
Tomas Moniz edited Rad Dad and Rad Families. His novella, Bellies and Buffalos, is about friendship, family, and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. He’s the recipient of the SF Literary Arts Foundation’s 2016 Award, the 2016 Can Serrat Residency, the 2017 Caldera Residency, and others. His debut novel, King Pleasure, is looking for a home. He has stuff on the internet, but loves letters and penpals: PO Box 3555, Berkeley CA 94703. He promises to write back.