“One of the most difficult tasks to accomplish in American society is to be a solid caring and loving black father. To be a good black father, first you have to negotiate all the absurd attacks and assaults on your humanity and on your capacity and status as a human being. Second, you have to provide materially and economically as well as nurture psychologically, personally and existentially. All of this requires a deep level of maturity. By maturity I mean a solid understanding of who one is as a person and a sense of sacrifice and courage.”
The above opens an essay written by Cornel West, a Harvard professor of Afro-American studies and religion on fathering by the black man. But I want to expand the context of his essay “On Black Fathering”, to include all races and nations.
One of the worst calamities that have befallen us as a people is absent fathers. It is a situation that has led to an unimaginable number of people growing up without their fathers. The loss of fatherhood has become so part of us that we don’t even ask or look for them anymore and we have suffered for it.
Fathering a child seems to have become a lost art, a medieval culture which we read only in history books. Nowadays men are no more than sperm donors who want no responsibility to the offspring: no wonder women are seriously clamoring for and defending reproductive rights as the woman’s right.
To be a father is an art, it’s a vocation and a calling, but society and men has made it irrelevant with a generation that neither knew their fathers nor missed them. Women are trying to fill up the vacuum left by these fathers but they can only do so much.
Studies have consistently shown that children raised by both parents or who come from stable homes have better prospects than their peers who come from broken homes or single parent homes.
It’s an issue that cuts across all cultures nations and races. It is neither an American problem nor a Chinese problem; it is not a British problem nor is it an African problem. Learning how to be a father through cultural transmission and translation is lost even in societies where they ere prevalent before. There is no transmission of the culture of fatherhood as there is for motherhood among women. In the African culture for instance, as a growing girl your mother gives you tit bits on how to keep a home and take care of your children. The effect is that for a woman who listened well growing up, she has all the knowledge or a large chunk of what she needs to be a wife and a mother. For the men on the other hand it’s a different kettle of fish.
More often than not, you have a father who loves you but can’t show it because he knows not how. He is rigid and appears stern because for him that is the mien a man/father must have. So he unwittingly drives the children away because no child wants to stay with an unsmiling father.
We don’t know how to be fathers and that’s the truth of it. The father is stereotyped to be the disciplinarian and the mother the defender of the kids, the father is unapproachable and the mother is everybody’s friend. Well its time we start again to learn how to be good fathers.
In marriage and out of marriage fathers are needed to help raise fathers of the next generation. Young men have to learn, that if you sire a child you must take responsibility. And that’s the starting point, responsibility to the mother and the unborn child. Accept first that this is your offspring and not come up with weird and mysterious accusations of “I wasn’t the only guy sleeping with you”. Babies are made from sex so each time you have sex, understand that there is the possibility that this will result in a baby. If that is uppermost in your mind, then you will strive to have “responsible sex” and be ready to deal with the result.
In marriages too, fathers are missing. Yes there is the need to provide economically for your family. But that should not be an excuse to abdicate your fatherhood responsibilities and leave the woman to be both mother and father. She will braid Jane’s hair and help jack build a volcano for his science fair. And you O man you think your money is what they need, think again.
There is a shortage of mature and responsible fathers the world over. Children are missing the morality mark and are growing up with no/limited sense of what is right and wrong, because they were raised based on the worldview of one parent while the other absconded.
For men who want to be fathers and those who are already fathers, it is time to start again to rebuild what has been lost in a generation of fatherless children. We should strive not just to be fathers but to be mature, responsible and affectionate fathers
I end with the words of Cornel West who said in the same essay referenced above: “the most important things for ….. fathers to try to do is to give of themselves, to try to exemplify in their own behavior what they want to see in their sons and daughters and most important , to spend time with and give attention to their children.”