If you’ve ever seen the movie, Hitch, then you have some idea of what Paul Carrick Brunson’s job is like as a matchmaking professional. And it’s no surprise that as a husband, father, certified life & relationship coach, TV personality, host and leader in the non-profit world, Brunson has his hands full.
The published author spends long days and nights making matches, spreading love, and rebuilding schools in the U.S. and Caribbean.
But despite all the accolades on his resume, none of them are as fulfilling as that of his most demanding role: fatherhood. In his spare time, he and his wife, Jill, and their sons, Kingston (6) and Liam (3), enjoy the every day fruits of having a loving household, and there is nothing sweeter than that. Brunson even gives us a sneak peek into his family life every so often on Instagram, so that we’re able to see the joy he experiences daily.
In an interview with theGrio for our #ThisIsBlackFatherhood series, Brunson shares some of the realities of fatherhood, how it’s changed him, and the responsibilities that he faces raising two Black boys.
theGrio: What does fatherhood mean to you?
Paul C. Brunson: Off the cuff, I would say that fatherhood is deepening of my life experience. It stretches you physically. You change cognitively, you change emotionally, you change spiritually. It has given me a completely new perspective on not just life, but really a new perspective with my relationship with life. Walking into it, I was walking in with the impression that I was going to feel this weight over me when my son gets here, like I’m going to feel it. This impenetrable weight. But it was, quite honestly, freeing. Now, there is someone else that is here in the world that I can impart everything that I have learned, and he can carry the ball even further. It’s this limitless feeling, and that was pretty empowering. And that’s my impression of being a father for the first time.
TG: So talk to me about raising two sons. Do you feel a weighted responsibility raising two Black boys and who will grow to be Black men?
PCB: Your question was real interesting because my oldest is 6, and my youngest is 3. My oldest who is 6, is in kindergarten. I remember talking to his teacher about how most of his peers who are in kindergarten are not necessarily aware of race. They’re barely understanding gender right now. First grade is when it really sinks in. But raising Black, I think it’s important to impart in them early. See, my son knows he’s Black, and is very proud that he’s Black. The reason why I wanted to impart that early, is partly because the school that they go to is predominantly not Black. But the challenge that I think Black parents, in terms of raising boys, is that a lot of the incoming content that is coming to these kids, that we don’t necessarily think that they understand or see, but they clearly did, suggests that we being Black people are less than.
The challenge is that we have to preempt that type of information. Those types of impressions, that type of data, if you will, that is basically attacking the minds of our kids. And so, where I begin, is where we begin to help. Now, in terms of boys, when it comes to Black boys, it becomes a whole other dimension. For example, there was a special day at my son’s school that they could bring in toys, and there was a note on there that they could bring in water guns. And with my boys, I have this kind of “no gun,” “no playing with gun,” “no type of gun affiliation,” whatsoever, and it’s not because for no other reason. I feel for them playing. You know, Tamir Rice, is what I fear. And so the point there is that, there are so many nuances that come with raising a Black child, and it’s elevated in 2017, in the United States.
TG: What do you want the legacy to be?
PCB: Well, I thought a lot about this. And I think being a father has made me think about this, because I wasn’t thinking about this before. For me, it’s real simple. It’s how can we level up? That is the best way that I can describe it. We as a nuclear family, we as an extended family, we as a community, we as the world. “Level up” is a derivative of all of these games. Taking it to the next level. How can we expand on the knowledge we have on the family, or the “we,” whatever the “we” is. How can we empower ourselves? How can we do better. It’s real simple.
Just last night my son was asking me about the difference between bad, good, and great, and if it’s OK just to be good. Just last night I had this conversation And I told him, that our responsibility in this family is to strive for being great. But the key is not in that we are to reach greatness, but we are striving, that is our intention. And I told him that as long as that is his intention, and you land in the good category, or if you land in what people consider bad, but your intention is to be great, that is something that I can be proud of, and that is what this family is about. When I say legacy, that it what I think of.
TG: What advice would you give to new fathers? And fathers who might be celebrating their first Father’s Day, and are kind of new to this?
PCB: Everyone likes to give advice on everything. Everyone likes to give advice for new dads. The problem with advice is that advice is very tactical, and it’s really based on the situation. So if someone gives you advice, that advice may not work for me because my situation is different. My skills might be different. Advice doesn’t typically transfer, in terms of success. And that’s in every category of our life. But what does transfer is counsel. Counsel is when someone can help you to rethink how you do whatever it is that you do. Advice is, let them tell you what to do. Counsel is let me help you rethink what you do. Counsel is a higher level of knowledge sharing or mentoring, and the best advice I can give, is get yourself some counsel. That is the best advice I can give, because your situation will be… all these dads, their situation will be unique. But if you can get someone to rethink, think deeper, or think in a new way how you do your parenting, that is going to help you to become the best parent you can be.