Where Is Daddy ?
Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see. — Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood.
As I stepped out of the hospital ward with our new born some years ago, a good friend of the family met me and my wife at the hospital car park. She told us “Congratulations. Your lives have been changed forever”. I did not get the import of her statement but I took it to heart.
Little by little, her prophecy started unfolding. I could not go out with my lovely wife whenever. Every decision in the house was centred around this little fella. Rooms re-arranged, toys toys toys, floor space created, social life annihilated etc etc. The minority leader ruled supreme.
At about that time, I had to travel on company business. The thought of my son was on my mind. “Would I sincerely love him?”, “Can I be someone he would want to become?”, “How will I fit into his life?”. Many questions, few answers.
It was obvious my demeanour during the trip showed because a total stranger who had the opportunity to sit with me noticed. She asked me what was on my mind and I, like a pressurized pipe, unleashed my thoughts on her. She told me not to worry as things will come naturally. She went on to conclude that for the mere fact I was thinking about it showed that success was 50% achieved. I thanked her for the flattery and she took me on a long seminal speech authenticating the reason she said so. That gave me hope.
Fatherhood is a great responsibility. It is not an arbitrary function. It is not what you are because you are the sperm donor. A father is someone a child is supposed to see every day. A father is not a guest. A father is someone that is available. Availability creates an avenue for interaction and bonding. That process engenders a relationship. Let me say it again; A father is someone a child is supposed to see every day.
Children are supposed to be raised by both parents. The father has his job cut out for him. Same for the mother. Daddy’s job is not just to provide but also to steer the ship in the right direction. The job of steering the ship is the most important and obviously the most taxing. It involves vision setting, resources provision, tending to the flock, amongst other things. Doing that job over Skype, get as e be.
The holy fear of your father activates a sense of responsibility. “I will report this to your Dad when he comes back from work” has always worked wonders since 1856. All in all, a father is not someone whose modus operandi for bonding and interacting with the family is via Skype. Your kids need to see, feel and touch you. I know it is difficult but if it is hard, do it hard.
Dad, in all you do, have an “A” for effort at being around. It might not be the easiest of arrangements but the kids need you more than you can ever imagine. If you don’t , please don’t be jealous that it is only mummy that the kids call 15 years down the line. The truth is that you were not there to form a relationship and hence you are reaping what you sowed.
Building a relationship requires time. This is one place where the quantity of time is where the quality of time spent is derived. Time is required for the foolish nothings. Kids forget all the toys but they remember experiences. I can never forget the day my Dad played football with me. I was about 5 but that experience is eternally etched in my memory. Man !!! it was like one of the holy angels of God came down to play.
Mothers, especially African mothers are adept at their jobs of providing a great atmosphere for the family to thrive. One of their greatest attributes is resourcefulness. They have become all things to all in the family. Their resourcefulness is out of this world. And in so many cases, they have the added responsibility to run the unit. That entails operations management, financial engineering, food technology, budget management et al.
Children need to be taught. Who will teach them if you are not around? The idea of giving out instruction has been proven not to work. Since nature abhors vacuum, the street takes over and when kids advise kids, you can fill in the blanks. Remember back then in school, you excelled in the subjects that you loved the tutors. Same for family life, thy kids will tell you nothing if there is no relationship with thee.
I once watched a documentary on CNN about the success of Asian kids in America. One of the attributes that contributed to this was that those kids came from families that both mum and dad were present and living together (stable family unit).
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Most of those parents were not even educated but they were involved in the lives of the children. They checked on school work that they had no clue about. They attended social events that they had no idea of. They allowed the kids to bring home their friends in order to know what was going on in their lives. They did many things to provide care, discipline and direction.
Other races in the American society have not been so lucky. The unavailability of a two parent home has had its long term effects and toll on family life and the society. The mothers have done their best but at times, the kids raised themselves. And you already know what happens when kids lead kids. You can predict the outcome when that leadership is spiced with pubertic hormones and tendencies.
Don’t get me wrong. Most times Daddy was not around for legitimate reasons. He got promoted and worked out of town. The only job he got was out of town. Most times the reasons were job related. In his quest to provide, he was not around. Sometimes life happens. Jail, illness, death, personal circumstances etc. But all in all, Dad was not around.
Sometimes Daddy is not around because, at age 9 I was shipped to boarding house. If the boarding house is inevitable, then it is what it is but if boarding house = outsourced parenting, then you might not like the result. I hear the argument about the child being independent. It is good o but the problem is that kids use their independence to disconnect from the family. Have you noticed that? The child learns to live without you or rather exclude you (parent) from his moral circle but bonds more to his clique. Independence of thought and mind is good after a relationship has been formed.
A good education is great but it does not replace the role of Daddy.
One of the privileges I had was to be raised by both parents. This was against all odds. My mum was from another tribe and we resided in my dad’s town with his kith and kin. So you can imagine what she went through to stay in the marriage. I thank her always for that. Dad always wanted to have a stable family and he did things to the best of his abilities though at times the best of his abilities was not good enough for no fault of his. We coped anyway.
The presence of my dad chased away all the demons that whispered evil thoughts to me and my siblings. When we heard the sound of my Dad’s Honda Bike as he made his way home, we had to part ways with those demons. The demons showed themselves the next day after my dad leaves for work. The thought of my mum reporting you for any crime (perceived or real) kept you in check. To be fair to my dad, he was not into your business but you must be within sight when he is home. When he is home, all of us are on reset mode. Everybody is in their best behaviour whether it is a pretense or real. The consequences of not being on your best behaviour were grave and predictable and so you get yourself into this inner dialogue and resolve to live according to the demands of the state.
When growth is only calculated economically, then we are bound to be doomed. The quest for money never ends. A career can push you here and there but remember that raising your kids right is more important. Remember that cancer is also growth but it is non-complementary and one dimensional. When this happens, abnormal growth occurs. Parents should do their best to stay together. Don’t engender non-complementary family growth. It provides a good model for the kids and provides stability in their lives.
In closing, I will say that the man that cannot read has no advantage over the man that does not read. A child whose father is in jail has almost the same opportunities to bond as the child whose father is never around. You get my drift.
Let me touch a raw nerve….Abeg if you want to emigrate, go with the family. Biko.
Let’s not invent fatherlessness. Let’s not populate the fatherless generation. It is already tough for both parents to live in the same town especially because of jobs. Please don’t add to that. See the impact of fatherlessness and see if this is what you desire.
63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) - 5 times the average. 90% of all homeless…