Sol Guy learned a lot about fatherhood while he was filming his personal documentary, The Death Of My Two Fathers. The biggest lesson? That being a good father isn’t about being perfect, it’s about looking inside yourself to become a better example for your children.
“Fatherhood is more about self-discovery and growth as an individual than it is imposing that upon your children. I’ve strived to be more—I’ve pushed forward because I had good examples,” said Sol.
His biological father, William Richard Guy, carried the heavy burdens of growing up in a single-parent household in an America that didn’t accept Blackness. And even though he left his wife and children behind for a new life in Canada, he was still a good father in Sol’s books.
“My father… just did [his] best the whole time and maybe that’s enough…[he was a] constant learner, [and a] constant seeker, and [he] had the ability to admit when [he was] wrong,” said Sol.
When William Guy discovered that he had kidney cancer, he filmed six tapes for his son to watch when he died. It took Sol 20 years to have the courage to watch them and when he did, it changed his perspective on fatherhood.
“In watching my father’s tapes, I realized [that]…you want to be the best example you can [since] we all model what we see, however that doesn’t mean being perfect. In fact, the flaws, mistakes, and growth are also great examples.”
William Guy wasn’t a perfect father. He left his young wife and kids behind in Kansas City in pursuit of a new life. By holding a magnifying glass to his dad’s journey, Sol saw parallels between his dad’s choices and his own. He took the opportunity to come to terms with the decision his father made to leave his first family and Sol’s mother.
As a result, Sol made peace with his own mistakes, namely being unfaithful to his wife and their resulting divorce. He acknowledged that it was a mistake, and examines how the instability of the relationships in his family’s past contributed to his bad decision. But he’s determined to be better in the future and to share his story with his children so that they can be better versions of themselves for their own children one day.
“I think understanding our roots gives us a foundation to build upon. It’s a lot to think you know where you’re going, but if you have an understanding of where you’ve been, you’re more equipped to face what arrives. So I believe that understanding our story and being self-reflective prepares us for what could be,” said Sol.
Emerging from making the documentary, it became clear that the time spent learning about his heritage was worth it. Families create cycles. What we don’t heal, we pass on.
By making the initial tapes, William Guy gave his son the gift of healing and an understanding of why his relationships were so unsteady. By dedicating three years to making his documentary as a letter to his children, Sol passed on the same gift. He expressed his regret for not being there for his kids and, by bringing attention to unhealthy patterns in their history, hopes they can address any hurt from the divorce in order to grow and have steady relationships of their own.
“I hope my children understand their story and more about where they come from. I hope that they know how deeply loved they are. I hope that they see my faults as opportunities to grow,” said Sol.
By going through this difficult journey and exploring his past with honesty and vulnerability he took the steps to be the kind of person that he wants his children to grow up to be.
“The immediacy of being a new father makes you feel like you have to put something into a child when in fact you have to be a reflection—of choices, of values, of accepting your mistakes, of growth, of humour and fun.”
Sol may not have been the perfect dad, but he learned that it’s not about being perfect. It never has been. He learned that everyone is flawed, but as long as you’re doing your best to be a better example than you’ve been before, for yourself and your children, you are doing enough.