Category Archives: parenting

Fathers and Sons

“Dear Son,

This type of conversations ususally start with “things were so different in my time” or “you people of this generation have it so good”. These are cliches I wish not to go into. I would rather begin by telling you that this is a conversation I wish my father had with me. I also sincerely hope i dont mess up the message I want to pass to you by allowing my desire to protect you override my desire for you to have a fulfilled life.

The world today is not so different from what it was yesterday. Cultures are still clashing, people are still trying to define what is moral and what is just, teenagers are still trying to experience life and do so without putting themselves in trouble. The challenges you face today as a teenager have the same fundamentals as the ones older people passed thru’.

As a teenager you may think the most important thing is to get a driver’s license or be able to go to a bar and order alcohol. That couldnt be further from the truth. The most important thing for you in this stage of your life is to find out who you are and be true to yourself.

Remember where you come from and the values your mum and I  tried to teach you. As you go about trying to be ypur own person, try not to be a “crowd pleaser”. Learn to assert your individuality without being arrogant. Learn to be an example of what is good among your peers without  being seen as opposed to your friends. Once in a while your peer influence will win you over, dont make a big deal out of it. You may do some wrong things you never imagined you are capable of ,learn from them and move on.

Be careful of the company you keep. Dont associate with people engaged in activities you have no interest in. Dont insult and abuse girls when you think you have a right to or because others are doing it. Respect them and be a voice for them whenever you can. Dont be a bully and dont encourage or befriend bullies as you know bad friends corrrupt good manners. Always speak for the little guy even when everybody is out for his blood. It pays to see things in a panoramic view and not a parochial one.

In this era of being politically correct and morally wrong be careful about what you say and how you say it. Don’t ever be shy about what you believe in, calmly and clearly make your stand known on specific issues. Don’t insult or abuse those who do not share your beliefs and dont shove your beliefs down everybody’s throat. People are allowed to have their own  beliefs different from yours.

In your quest for independence you will become more argumentative with your elders and even more confrontational. Learn to tone it down and balance the need to be heard with the need to respect your seniors. We will not agree on everything but with my benefit of experience I will have more insight than you in certain things. You just need to understand it and not make it a fulcrum for unhealthy exchanges.

Its not easy to find yourself but if you are dilligent enough you can be successful. At your age you will think you have a lot of years to live so you can do what you want. That will be a very wrong impression to have. Learn to live each day as if its your last. Show love, show respect, impact lives positively, reconcile with aggrieved friends and never end the day without doing a proper examination of your life for that day. In that examination note your wrongs and find ways to do better if you have a tomorrow.

No matter how angry we make you as your parents, never believe we dont have your goodwill in mind. In this stage of your development a lot of things will become irritating to you, like your little brother wanting to follow you everywhere or you having to babysit your twin sisters when you could have been out with friends. Its all part of “playing” family because you dont stand alone. You are their father when am not around so take that responsibility with all the seriousness it deserves.

Growth and development comes with its own responsibility, never think the teenage years are free of them. You will do your house chores and help out as much as you can in making the family run smoothly.

Theres so much I need you to know and I wish that you will know but I cant tell you everything. Somethings you have to learn for yourself, some wisdom you have to acquire from experience.

Of all the learning that you will do, its important that you know, understand and believe with all your heart that your family is the bedrock of your existence. No matter how hot or cold or unhealthy it gets out there, we are always here for you. I might be in “father mode” when you feel like talking. Be patient with me and allow me to help when I can. Your brothers and sisters may seem little and bothersome now just remember you were once like them. They may seem too demanding, all they need is just attention .

I and your mum love you son, we may never say or show it enough but just remember that we are always here for you. We have tried to teach you values that will guide your life for a long time to come and we trust you to make your mistakes learn from them and go on to become the great person that you are meant to be.

Love Dad.

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DISTORTED REALITY

There are a thousand and one reality programs airing on televisions stations worldwide and many more jostling for airtime on television channels. From Big Brother ©to Survivor© to Panic Room© to Fear Factor© and so many others too numerous to mention, all are seeking for our attention.  For every ten reality programs that get air time on stations twenty or thirty more had been rejected. Individuals and families are accepting to have the camera follow them 24/7 for a reality show that they   hope will entertain the viewership, get them some financial benefit and probably make them celebrities in the long run.

With all these, one is bound to question if there is reality in these programs or just an advanced level of make believe. What the viewers want to see determines what you showcase as “reality” in the reality program. So as advanced as we think we have become in intelligence and knowledge we are still being deceived into watching fiction only that now we have given it a new nomenclature; Reality TV.

When families participate in these programs it creates a problem for those watching who want to use them as role models and the ideal of what a family will be. So families start working to unattainable goals that end up causing rifts in the fabrics of the family because the goal set is not only unattainable but unrealistic. Without trying to be judgmental, a lot of these programs cut off unsavory family issues which they believe will not enhance the entertainment value of the program and yet it is these issues that make a family.

That argument you have with your Dad not about your girlfriend or getting a drivers license but about his decision to cut down your allowance because of your flouting a particular rule or the debate about not wanting to go to Harvard Law but wanting to pursue a career in writing. These are the things that make a family; these are the blocks upon which families are elevated.

For growing children and especially teenagers it creates a perception disturbance in their lives. Trying to marry the “reality” of reality TV with the reality of their own homes, it creates a distortion that reflects in their relationship with their parents and siblings; when they begin to make demands of their parents and siblings that have no basis in reality.

Among individual reality shows the problems are the same or almost the same. When a person’s character strengths and positives are constantly glamorized, they are made into demigods with no failings. That is a pretty high standard for that adolescent who is trying to find his feet in life and really define who he is. It makes him learn to cover his deficiencies instead of understanding that it’s the quirks in our characters that make us who we are. So he learns a life of pretense, building a façade round his life that makes him at some point to lose the identity of who he is. Tell a lie for a long time and it starts looking like the truth and eventually becomes your truth.

Our realities are being defined by these shows and its causing a misperception of reality for us. What is my reality and how is it connected to the reality of the world? These shows have inadvertently focused on and exaggerated the entertaining aspect of life and done away with the negative, the base human nature, and the primitive instincts that make us who we are. It has removed our minds from the freedom to fail that creates geniuses out of us and gives us courage to dare to change the status quo.

A generation grows up thinking that the life of family “A” on reality TV is how life should be. A home where there are minimal to know disagreements, where every quarrel is settled to everyone’s advantage, the children and the parents are always on the same page or most of the times are.

Glamour and entertainment is what the world is about today and so individuals and families are being remolded to fit that paradigm and what better way than through misrepresented reality. To be sure, not all reality programs are bad some have something good to offer and even for the crassly bad ones there still maybe one or two things to learn from them.

It’s high time we log out from this black hole of reality misrepresentation and see these programs as nothing more than fictional programs which are no more than the Lord of the Rings or the Star wars or the Gladiator movies.

We knew they were beautiful works of fiction and we enjoyed them for what they were, because nobody tried to sell us a load of goods that they were “reality shows”.

Keep thy heart with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of life. (Prov.4:23)

Vacancy……. fathers wanted

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.”