Father’s Day was celebrated two Sundays ago. At our church, the provost asked all fathers to stand up and commended us for the large attendance.
During the day both in social media and through word of mouth, messages wishing fathers a Happy Father’s Day were passed from one person to the other.
One of my favourite messages was a quote quipping that fathers do not change as we grow up, it is our view of them that sometimes does.
Several months ago, we explored the role of parenting and the place of the education system. Father’s Day focused me on an aspect of parenting that is spoken about a lot nowadays.
Increasingly, parents are being confronted with serious challenges from their children. These challenges range from withdrawal from conversations, truancy, poor performance in schools, lack of discipline to drug and substance abuse.
In conversations with several colleagues over the past months, I noticed that many parents were grappling with these issues.
A friend even quipped that if there was a school where they taught parents how to deal with the issue that come up from their children, he would quickly enroll.
Where is the problem? Is it that modern children have become more difficult or are the parents ill-prepared for their roles? What exactly is the source of either of these situations? What role has context got to do with the challenges?
As I sat through the church service, whose key theme was dealing with drug and substance abuse, I reflected on the role of fathers in society. Many fathers bear the greatest brunt of the nature of our society, with its immense pressures.
Pressure to make ends meet has resulted in robot and absent parents, with the greatest culprits being fathers.
Whether in schools, church or children’s social events, the number of fathers who are too busy to attend these functions is on the increase. Go to a school education day in a typical primary school and you will notice that mothers easily outnumber fathers.
Later when these children develop behaviour that is unbecoming, blame is passed to their teachers, their mothers and the education society. However, we fail to realize that the lack of focus by fathers is a huge contributor.
As another message from a child to his father read, they need to follow in their father’s footsteps. To do so, however, these footsteps must be evident and worth emulating. It requires everyday creating those footpaths so that the young generation may follow.
As we reflect on the role of fathers, it is important that being a father figure is not just in the household. There are many spaces for influencing the young generation. Mentorship is another area. Many adults come into contact with children and the youth.
However, as opposed to mentoring them, we are quick to judge and ostracism them. We fail to realize that children require help in growing up. They need to be taught how to be good citizens.
Mentorship is taxing and painstaking. It requires a deliberative and patient disposition. Many older people are not good at mentoring.
For society to deal with the many challenges facing it, for us to raise the next generation of citizens we have to invest in mentorship programmes. These should be at homes, in religious institutions, and in educational spaces.
In the traditional societies, apprenticeship and mentorship was part and parcel of the society. However, today’s rat race society has replaced quality time with trying to make ends meet. This approach has to be reversed if we are to build a strong foundation for a sustainable society.
It does not pay to meet the financial needs of your children and have enough for their future, if that future is a hopeless future. Hope is not bought in a shop. It is nurtured through speech, through inspiration and through character building. To do so requires daily investment.
Fathers and mothers play complementary roles in upbringing of their children. When one fails to undertake their tasks, there is a gap in the growth of the child.
It does not pay to argue whether mothers are less or more responsible than fathers. It is more important to seek synergies.
The challenges of modern parenting are such that unless both mothers and fathers adapt to modern challenges and collaborate in resolving them, we will continue wondering what happened to the modern child without realising that it is parents who are unable to cope.