The next generation is the future of this country and what are we giving them to prepare them for the future that they’re meant to lead?
Father’s Day 2019 in South Africa fell on Youth Day, June 16. As the focus of this blog is about our youth, the next generation, I would like to first honour those who take their roles as fathers very seriously and make a plea to those who have abandoned this high calling to reconsider their ways.
For the first six years of my life the man I knew as my father was my granddad. He was a tall and handsome gentleman and although I’m not tall, I have his genetics to thank for my frame. There are lots of wonderful memories I have of my granddad and of us doing things together. He taught me how to work a VCR and would reward me with a packet of simba chips and a guava juice every time I washed his car, the Dutson Stanza. My grandfather was a police general & paid attention to his appearance which meant I also got a weekly haircut & trim whenever he got his. He would also ask me to help him slaughter a sheep, just the two of us – the man was my hero because let’s face it, I didn’t do much of the slaughtering except the auxiliary staff. My favorite quality of his though was his simplicity and that’s a quality of his I carry with me to this very day.
During the first six years of my life I also knew my biological father but I referred to him as ‘ubhuti’ as I thought he was my much older brother. When I turned six, my grandmother sat me down and told me that she and my granddad were my grandparents and that usisi (my mom who I referred to as my older sister) and ubuthi were my parents. From that day onwards things changed for the better, I now had a double portion of parents. I started noticing some similarities and differences between my dad and granddad which I hadn’t noticed before. Like how they put on their belts – my dad would always put the belt on his pants before he wore them and my granddad would put on his pants and then put on his belt (I thought this was a much cooler way to put on a belt because my granddad did it without looking at the hoops). If I grab a shower and get dressed at home, I put on my belt like my granddad but if I grab a shower at the gym in the mornings, I put on my belt like my dad. Another example is how they polished their shoes – my granddad would have his polished every day (he wore the same pair Monday to Friday) and my dad would polish all his shoes on a Saturday morning. When I started working, I had one pair of work shoes and I would polish them on weekends emulating my father. From these examples it is plain to see that children learn a lot in life and pick up their behavioral patterns from their fathers so if you’re an absent father, do you know who is the male influence in your children’s lives? Is your absence in your children’s lives setting them up for a great future?
Among the many great things I learnt from my dad, knowing that I was his son and that he was my dad, the relationship we have has had the biggest impact on me and it continues to do so. What I learnt from him is what he showed me by living his life in front of me and modeling what it is to be a man for me. If you’re not able to live with your children for whatever reason, I encourage you to make every effort to have a relationship with them. Some of the frightening statistics around children who grow up with absent fathers are that if they are not fatally abused in childhood, they will have learning and developmental disabilities and are most likely to end up as criminals. Why should we expect the next generation to be excited about the future when the odds have been so heavily stacked against them by their own biological fathers?
Another important aspect for the well-being of our children that we need to consider as men is our relationship with their mothers. When mom and dad are together it is best for our children. If you have not made a life long commitment to the mother of your child should you be bringing a life into this world which requires a life long commitment from the both of you? When we as men no longer consider the relationship between a man and a woman as sacred, we will surely fail to see the child’s needs as sacred especially when it comes to children needing both parents. This failure to commit to the woman who carries our seed is a contributing factor to two of the most prevalent things that increase father absence from our children’s lives in the 21st century, divorce and non-marital childbearing. Another less known fact about the impact of divorce on men is that the law doesn’t consider their parental rights and the child’s need for both parents as it considers the woman’s rights in the matter. Therefore, as a result we have a lot of men who desire to be active fathers in their children’s lives but are not able to do so. A change in the South African legislature will help to ensure that in the absence of a spousal relationship, both mother and father responsibilities to their children are protected. My friend at Children Need Both Parents is putting in a lot work to help bring about this change so if the importance of fathers in children’s lives is important to you, do all you can to support this great initiative.
While we wait for the legal framework to change, let us as men take control of what we can control. A renewed commitment to be active fathers in our children’s lives because this will give them the social and emotional wellbeing that is often overlooked when we speak of the future that awaits the next generation.