“Why?” I wondered gingerly reading the card the young guys had written. One of the best things about being a father nowadays is the fact that you get written feedback from your kids. Feedback in the sense that the father’s day cards – readily packaged- have humorous lines like “Wear this card to show your position of authority in the family”- plus a badge jeering- “I am the Boss.”
A joke; because that kind of culture is no longer promoted in this part of the world. It’s normal to see males constantly ridiculed in TV adverts.
I mean the royal boss is female for God sake. The back of the card warned –“just don’t forget to give the badge back to Mum tomorrow.”When I was a boy – growing up in Africa- a father was a feared person. You hear him coming up the road you start shivering. You do something wrong your mother makes threats. Babako akija utakiona. So you spend the whole time pleading with your mum “not to tell him.” The consequences were not pleasant.
The young voice (on the said Sunday, five days ago) was explaining how it is: “So sad for some of my mates, who live with their mums. They never get to see their dads. I wonder if they will write a card.”
One thing you should know dear reader. Most Africans I know here in London always complain how divorced fathers get a bad deal. One Kenyan colleague has been fighting in the courts for years for a chance to have his son at least sleep in his house during weekends. The mother, (defended by courts and the law) gets the right to decide these things.
“She is angry with me because I have another girlfriend. But this is between her and me. The child shouldn’t suffer as a consequence.”
Dad’s day is therefore not just for the ego of the fathers but a chance for children to express their love for their male parents.
One secondary girl told me:“When I was little I used to think mothers were the only good people and that fathers are rubbish. I used to see kids with their mothers. I would see one dad coming to school to pick up a child- which was odd. I thought he was probably a policeman.”
According to studies carried last month in British Columbia, California, Riverside and Stanford universities in the USA- being a father or mother makes people more fulfilled.
Professor Professor Elisabeth Dunn from British Columbia University said the May study proved that while previous research has shown parents as being miserable these findings proved otherwise:
“If you went to a large dinner party...the parents in the room would be happy or happier than those guests without children,” Professor Dunn (below) explained.
A noted pioneer of studies into fatherhood, sociologist, Professor David Popenoe adds: “Fathers are far more than just second adults in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is likely to bring. Fathers have a direct impact on the well being of their children.”
One of Professor Popenoe’s books published in 2009 is about the impact on children who grow without fathers.
The horror of fatherless children is especially visible on black youths who join gangs in the UK and USA. These gangs eventually commit crimes and murders and research has shown that gang leaders or fellow members become a substitute father figure and a sort of superficial family.
One of the reasons given by black women who raise children without fathers is that the man was unfaithful. As a result women cut off contact to avenge, punish or revenge. This might work for the two adults but is disastrous to children.
Meantime some fathers have been said to neglect their duties as parents. This is slowly changing as young fathers begin to be more aware of their roles in the development of their offspring.
Adventure TV presenter and ex soldier, Bear Grylls (pictured), who has become a hero for boys in his “how to survive in the wild” programs told the respectable Sunday Times last week that being a dad is hard because one has to juggle work, mortgage, children. The era when all a father did was bringing in the money while the mother took care of children is slowly vanishing in this part of the world.