The Truth about Fatherhood
Back in 1979, my father gave his sperm to aid in my creation. That was the last gift I ever received from him. Now as I look into the eyes of my own son, I find myself thinking about what it means to be a father, and what gifts I will pass onto him.
Firstly, I don’t think there is any difference between the role of a mother and a father or any other senior family member. My mother raised me with the help of my grandparents, my aunts, uncle and various members of the community. I am living proof that it takes a village to raise a child, and I don’t necessarily believe that absentee fathers are to blame for all the ills of our nation’s youth.
A role model is a role model regardless of their sex, and to place such blame on males only would be unfair. There are as many deadbeat moms as deadbeat dads. Just as there is a difference between a father and a sperm donor, there is also a difference between a mother and an incubator. In parenting, responsibility is shared.
‘Just as there is a difference between a father and a sperm donor, there is also a difference between a mother and an incubator’
Personally, I give my all for my kids, and by kids I’m referring to my biological and non-biological ones. Yes, I have many non-biological children. Ranging from nine months to 20 years, they look up to me for love and guidance. From my sisters to my cousin to my godchildren, and even my stepchildren, they allow me to grow as a father. Biology is of no concern to a “real” father, in my opinion. It’s not the child’s fault that they don’t have my genes, and that doesn’t change the amount of love, guidance or care I am willing to provide for them. Fatherhood has nothing to do with biology.
I have been a “father figure” for more than 20 years and a child for at least 18 years, so there are a few things I think are important to the parenting process that I don’t really see today. I remember back in the day when we were taught respect for our elders. Anyone older than you was authorized to discipline you verbally and physically.
Back in those days, children were like a community project, and bet your bottom dollar children knew how to ‘have behaviour’ even when not under the direct supervision of their parents. I remember getting licks from the neighbour, and then getting licks from my mother for making the neighbour have to give me licks. All the psychological nonsense that says corporal punishment isn’t good for children has led to the decay of that community discipline. I give all authority to any adult to discipline my children for wrongdoings – granted of course that they don’t go overboard.
A child’s development is heavily influenced by those around him or her, and so it’s important for them to have role models. Too many times, we expect the people on TV to motivate and inspire our kids. I labour continuously to be the person I want my children to be. I try to encourage my children in anything that they are interested in, and moreso I try to show them how far a positive attitude can take you. It’s not always easy, but if I don’t give them the proper tools for life, then it means I have failed as a parent.
‘Too many times, we expect the people on TV to motivate and inspire our kids’
While I’m all for education, I always try to ensure that my children are well rounded. I don’t want to be one of those parents who limit their children’s social activities so that they do well in school. Children can perform well with a balanced set of activities – educational and extra-curricular. I also don’t want to be one of those parents who see their child slipping in school, and excuse it by saying, “not everybody have head for books”. All children have the potential to do well, and that’s my purpose as a father.
When my children see the things I can accomplish through hard work, I think it encourages them to work hard as well. Children emulate your good and bad qualities.
You could say I’ve been practising for this role from early on. Back in the day, when my younger sister didn’t like reading, I simply sat down next to her watching Kung Fu movies and Anime with subtitles. She became so interested in what was going on that she asked me to read out the subtitles for her. Eventually, she didn’t need me to read it for her at all and now she reads more books than I do. She has also started to learn Japanese, but the point is that it’s our job as parents to find creative ways to help our children overcome their difficulties, and not make them fall into the trap of limiting their own potential.
What I’ve learned as a father is that our children’s future is more important than our personal desires. A good father is willing to make personal sacrifices for his children, and put their needs first. The more love you give them, the more you get in return. Fatherhood is the most rewarding job in the world.
As parents, we’ve got to equip our children with the tools they need to succeed. It doesn’t matter how much work that entails because the rewards far outweigh the efforts. When they succeed, it’s a reflection of who we are as nurturers. We don’t necessarily inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children because they are the ones who truly help us to understand what matters.
Author bio: Michael Richards is a graphic designer, animator, entertainer and film maker who also has a way with words. Check him out at his Facebook page.
Image credit: thenewblackmagazine.com.