“If anything happened today and I became a single father I would do whatever it takes to see my children grow. I want to see them when I come home every evening.” He said. “What if your work schedule does not allow. What if you travel a lot?” I interjected. “I would still do anything to grow with them but I would not take them to a boarding school.” He said. This was a random discussion with a friend on the effects of boarding schools on young children.
In my submission most children in boarding schools below the age of ten could be justified by having single parents whose work schedules are not predictable. They also did not have a close relative capable or willing to take care of the children. He however disputed my submission. His strong resolve reminded me of an old colleague. He once missed a senior management meeting. In my opinion then, that was not a meeting to be missed. In his defense he told me, “There are roles that I do not delegate. One of them is taking and picking my sons from school.” This was despite working about 200Kms away from home.
The other day a friend woke up to an interesting morning. He had spent the whole week preparing for a board meeting. On the day of the meeting he saw a message from a colleague to the CEO. “I will not attend the board meeting because my son is unwell and I need to accompany him to hospital with my wife.” The message stated. In response the CEO stated, “That is okay go and be with your son and wife.” I a culture that overvalues work those two men deserve a medal. These thoughts gave me a reason to celebrate fatherhood. It reminded me of fathers who never miss a school event to support their children. Fathers who remind their children how great they are. Fathers who walk their children to schools and most importantly fathers who model what they want their children to become. Fathers and father figures are our first heroes. They give us identity and set the compass for their children lives.
Seeing fathers fight to stay in their children’s lives gives me hope in the next generation. The number of men also being chased for child support also makes me sad. In a defense to this scenario of absent fathers someone told me, “Men have no maternal instincts that is why one should not expect them to care.” I almost jumped out of my skin. I wanted to call all the men I know. Men who have had sad days because they could not see their children. Men who look back and wish they had the courage to tell their children that they love them and care about them. Men who have endured so much just to see their children grow and be a part of their lives. They may not have anything maternal but they have something paternal.
My thoughts however are that we have the wrong definition of fatherhood. The current men and women also witnessed the wrong definition of fatherhood. Fatherhood that was only defined by one thing; Financial provision. In my opinion this is the most misconstrued definition of fatherhood. This is why we interpret child support as fatherhood. This is why we will not allow children to enjoy a day with the ‘absent’ father because they do not offer any financial support. Fatherhood is much more than that. Think about it, what do you remember the most, the amount of school fees your parents paid or the day they visited you in school? Chances are you remember the day they visited irrespective of what they brought with them. If they never visited, then you also remember those empty days.
This reminded me of a fight a friend once had with the father. The father always paid school fees on time. This ensured one had no reason to come home until the end of the term. The father however did not believe in school visiting days or any other visit. My friend was constantly hurt by the lack of emotional support. She decided to raise the topic with the father. In the fathers defense he was paying school fees, providing food, clothes and other necessities. In my friend’s submission she knew orphans who got an equivalent from the government and well-wishers. In bitterness she continued “There are children from poor backgrounds who depend on bursaries but their parents never miss a school event. Education is a right even the government provides for it but emotional support is a privilege.” The father went quiet for a moment; reality had finally sunk.
Fatherhood is not an obligation to pay bills it’s a privilege to participate in a young one’s life. It is playing a role that cannot be filled by others. It is shaping a child in all aspects. These aspects include;
- Emotional development – Children look to their fathers to lay down rules and enforce them. They look to them for emotional and physical security. A fathers’ affection and support promotes a child’s mental and social development. It instils a sense of wellbeing and self-confidence.
- Setting the bar for relationships – Young girls depend on their fathers for emotional support. A father demonstrates what a good relationship with a man looks like. If a father is loving and gentle that is what the daughter will relate with. If the father is strong and heroic that is what she will relate with. Model what you want her to look for in her future partner. A father should be his daughters first love.
- Model their sons character – Boys model themselves after their father’s character. They seek approval from their father from a young age, they imitate their behaviors. That is how they learn and function. If a father is caring and treats people with respect, the young boy will grow up much the same. When a father is absent, young boys look to other male figures to set the “rules” for how to behave and survive in the world. A father should be his sons first hero
Stop telling them what to do they are already watching what you are doing, consciously or unconsciously.
“The quality of a father can be seen in the goals, dreams and aspirations he sets for himself and his family; Imagine who you want your kids to become and Be That.”