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Good fathers vs bad fathers

TUMIE MODISE
A good father makes all the difference in a childís life. Heís a pillar of strength, support and discipline. His work is endless and, often times, thankless. But in the end, it shows in the sound, well-adjusted children he raises.

Father’s Day was yesterday, the day on which good fathers are appreciated. Underline ‘good fathers’. We can deny it all we want; fact is there are a bunch of bad fathers out there, lots of them. We all know them; some are our own fathers, our grandfathers, uncles, brothers and even neighbours. You just know a bad father when you see them. Same applies to bad mothers.

Forgive me for saying this, but as a nation we are fast becoming notorious for celebrating poverty. Successes and personal achievements are frowned upon. It starts with the way we exchange greetings. When someone asks about your wellbeing, you are likely to tell them about your near death experience with piles, how empty your kitchen is, how drought has affected your livestock and crops and how your children are not performing well at school. It is always about the negatives, never about the positives and this has now become part of our culture. And strangely, people love this line of greeting.

A headline in a newspaper screamed last week; “It’s not my fault that other people’s fathers were lazy!” What followed, well, very predictable. The usual defensive rhetoric; my father is not a lazy man’.. my father although poor has a good heart and taught me manners…I have never known my father and my mother raised me well… my father may have not been rich but he was not a thief blah blah blah, on and on they went, the usual avalanche of excuses laced with swear words and insults.

Lazy is lazy, hard work is hard work, very thick line in-between. We may be reconsidering how family should be defined. We may be confused about gender roles. We may be struggling with knowing how to parent well in a complicated time. But in the midst of all this confusion, there is a growing consensus that what children need, at least, is clear. Children need their fathers and their mothers, but their fathers more for protection in this hostile unforgiving world.

On the one hand, more and more fathers are absent for all or significant periods of time for one reason or the other. In primitive ages, the most needed

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skill-set for men was clear and relatively narrow, largely revolving around the jobs of fighting and hunting. Bringing a hare home after a week, never mind that the hare was found sickly and immobile under a tree gasping for last gulps of air, earned a man great respect in his family. It mattered not how the meat was obtained, what mattered was that the family would have a meal that day.

Admitedly times have changed; hare meat is not a delicacy anymore and opportunities aren’t exactly limitless. The breadths of skills needed today for survival are much wider. The modern man must both be a warrior and a diplomat, a woodsman and a scholar.

We all need both hard skills and soft skills; skills we use everyday and skills we keep in the back pocket, just in case. I say ‘’we’’ because this means some women must now also play the role of father where fathers have pulled disappearing acts.

Now when somebody points out what we already know to be true; which is that some fathers fall short in providing for their families, we deem that piece of undeniable truth as insults, as gross disrespect. We are not saying they are oxygen thieves (maybe some are), we are only saying they don’t rise up to their responsibilities and that’s frustrating.

 Meanwhile, many TV sitcoms and animated shows continue to portray fathers as dolts or, at best, well-meaning but misguided large children whose wives have to mother them as well as their offspring. If an alien in another universe happens to tune in to The Simpsons, Everyone Loves Raymond, Family Guy or even Makgabaneng, he (it?) will come away with a rather skewed idea of how men function? They even dress them in large rompers.

We need fathers to step up, to realise that their job does not end at conception; that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child, but the courage to raise one. So the guy has a point, it can never be anyone’s fault when some fathers choose not to fend for their families while others do. The lazy must just snap out of it already.



Tumy on Monday

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