Our Complicated Grief Over Kobe

Doug FrenchFatherhood on Friday

Five days after the helicopter crash heard ’round the world, we know a lot more about Kobe Bryant the Father. We know the main reason he traveled in helicopters so often was to preserve family time with his four daughters, the youngest of whom is only 8 months old. We know he would have had five more daughters if he could, because he thought of himself as a “girl dad.” We know that as soon as ESPN’s Elle Duncan relayed that anecdote, fathers all over the world began sharing photos with their daughters tagged with the mega-viral #girldad hashtag.

We also know that among the less-world-famous passengers was John Altobelli, who mentored hundreds of junior college kids during his 27 years, 700+ wins, and five national championships as coach of the Orange Coast College baseball team. And amid the trappings of helicopter traffic that let you thumb your nose at the sclerotic traffic below, Mamba and Coach Alto were just a couple of dads gearing up to watch their daughters play hoops.

Lionizing Kobe is complicated. From a distance, his prodigious talents and matching hubris on the court polarized him as local hero, but an easy villain for Laker haters. Off the court, his fame and wealth and charisma have done much to paper over his near-divorce and the 2003 sexual assault case that he settled out of court, with an apology that “serves to push against the idea that [rape] survivors lie.” Revisiting this case has engendered many conversations with our kids about consent (see our first Porchlight Post below). 

But one of the more compelling images this week was of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe’s brother/rival/teammate/frenemy with the threepeating Lakers in 2000-02. “Shaq Diesel” is the life of the party wherever he goes, but as he processed Kobe’s death on the set of NBA on TNT, this jovial, enormous mound of Extra sobbed on national TV about how much he takes for granted, how he focuses so much on work, and how “I don’t talk to you guys as much as I need to.”

His grief is important, because he showed we all feel it at some point, and when we do it’s important to reach out share it with people you care about. We hope a lot of young boys saw that and learned that occasional heartache is part of life, and there’s no shame in revealing it when you need to.  

IN THE NEWS

Idaho’s Governor Little has issued his executive order for paid leave in order to retain workers in state government–and eventually, in the state itself.

Japan’s environment minister Shinjiro Koizumi is the first male Member of Parliament to take time off to take care of his newborn son.

People are still talking about when Camila Cabello sang “First Man” to her dad at the 2020 Grammys. If you missed it, it was amazing.

Lynda Steele started “Furnishing Fatherhood,” which helps non-custodial dads make their residences more habitable and comfortable for their children, after she met many such dads in the National Guard.

After his daughter died from a heroin overdose, Kevin Simmers retired from the police force and built the woman’s rehab facility she dreamed of creating.

Once a month, a group of firefighters, police officers, and businessmen known as the Flash Dads shows up unannounced to help elementary school kids who might need a little encouragement.

In Singapore, stay-at-home dads face derisive comments and indirect and implied criticism, often from family members who say they’re “wasting” their potential or “mooching” off their wives.

When the dad of three young kids needed a kidney transplant, the head of lower school they attended was a perfect match: “I just wanted them to have their dad.

During Super Bowl Week, our friends at National Parents Organization sponsored “From Fatherless to Fatherhood,” a panel on how to find your stride as a dad if you grew up without one.

PORCHLIGHT POSTS

“I don’t know if we’ve ever really talked about sex outside of procreation. It was a little disorienting that Kobe Bryant’s death had me charging into this discussion with my kids.” — Roberto Santiago, Kobe Bryant and Teaching Consent

“Since seemingly the remainder of the sports world is shocked and in grief, maybe my lack of an emotional reaction is somehow robbing him of appropriate modeling. Maybe I should be different.” — Steve DeBenedetti-Emanuel, Kobe, My Son, and Role Modeling Feelings

“After the waves have crashed all around me, the fathers in my life, now easily in the hundreds, have been a beacon and a foundation. A place where I always feel safe to be myself.” — Jess Sanfilippo, Fatherhood Saved My Life 

“On average, there are 1,000-10,000 searches in Google for the topic of Dad Survival Kits. That’s a lot of dads aimlessly searching google desperate for help.” — Ariel Echevarria, Dad Survival Kits: What They Don’t Tell You.

“I can hear it in his voice — his agitation to get off the phone, to not listen to me. My father will vanish. I just know that fire inside him cannot be put out this time.” — Crissy Van Meter, In My Father’s Final Year, He Was Not My Father

‘GRAM OF THE WEEK

 

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