Gabie Castaneda says she doesn’t always have ready-made answers to some of the questions her two children grill her with almost daily.
As a single mother of boys ages 6 and 7, Castaneda, who works as a medical assistant at a Tulsa urology clinic, sometimes grows frustrated with being unable to talk to them about subjects like sports or how their body functions in certain areas.
More importantly, she can’t teach them how to grow into men.
“It’s frustrating and annoying,” Castaneda said. “When they ask guy questions, or where their father is, I don’t know how to answer them.”
For mothers like Castaneda, the MVP Fatherhood Weekend founded by Tulsa attorney Damario Solomon-Simmons is a three-day program held at north Tulsa’s Metropolitan Baptist Church, 1228 W. Apache St., that is specially designed to mentor minority boys from single-parent homes.
Starting Friday and ending Sunday, men from Tulsa-area schools, surrounding communities and celebrities such as former Oklahoma City Thunder basketball player Etan Thomas and national social commentator Boyce Watkins, share advice regarding the basic fundamentals of manhood.
According to Solomon-Simmons, more than 100 boys will learn how to tie a necktie, be instructed on the proper way to shake hands and how to safely interact with police officers. “Without fathers in the home, the statistics show that boys have a high dropout rate, are more likely go to jail and even die at an early age,” Solomon-Simmons said. “Young men need positive male role models in their lives.”
When fathers are involved, their children learn more, perform better in school and exhibit healthier behavior, according to the National Center for Fathering.
The father of Castaneda’s children is currently living in California, Castaneda said, and the only men her boys are exposed to are in church or through friends.
In order to provide a father figure, she signed them up for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma and other mentoring programs. The program helps her boys, who she said struggle with confidence and long for a father.
However, those options haven’t always yielded the results she’s hoped for.
“My oldest has been on the waiting list for Big Brothers Big Sisters for a year,” said Castaneda, who lamented the lack of men in the program. “I wish there were more programs for younger kids.”
On Friday night, a single-mothers-only seminar was held during the MVP Fatherhood Weekend that encouraged women in similar situations to ask questions, talk about the challenges of raising sons alone and receive much-needed guidance from counselors.
“I’m glad that this (event) was made available,” Castaneda said.
“I can teach my sons so much, but I can’t teach them how to be a man.”