My memory of seeing female-led homes being on the rise dates back to when I was a little boy. Not a single fortnight passed by without a young man dying in our village and living behind a widow and orphans. This forced the mothers to play both roles of a father and a mother. Strangely enough, even the mothers whose husbands were alive were not spared either!
We grew up with desiring to have a father who would do the following:-
- provide guidance and direction
- speak positive things into our lives
- teach us from personal experience
We were not looking for a perfect man. In fact, we would have easily learned more from the failures of Othorong’ong’o who met his wife on a Wednesday at Akala Market. Othorong’ong’o used to wear a cowboy hat, had a permanent toothpick dangling from his full lips and knew how to correctly fill up the Daily Nation crossword puzzle.
We also admired how he could dance and perfectly sing to General Defao’s Famille Kikuta, Koffi Olomide’s Julia and London Beat’s I’ve Been Thinking About You. Even though I had long forgiven him for marrying Nyar Sakwa instead of the most beautiful I had seen him kiss on our way from Kajomoko Primary School, I desperately wanted to learn how to be a man from him.
Instead, he never seemed to have a minute to spare. And with time, we walked the same destructive path he had walked; leaving a number of confused, pregnant and heart-broken teen mothers in our wake. The best he could do was brush us off unless his wife needed someone to fetch water, split firewood or buy bread and milk at Kambare Market.
Many years later, I still see the same trend. The only different is that it is becoming worse than it used to be before. Women are becoming used to playing the role of a father and a mother, which points out to how low we are sinking as a community, nation and world. Much as we may applaud our women to be strong go-getters who are able to get the job done, it is also affecting our children more than we can ever imagine or fathom.
Different generation of fathers, same script
There are many homes where either the man is physically absent as a result of death or he is working far away from home. There are other instances where the man can be present but spiritually and emotionally absent. Such a man may engage himself in a number of activities that includes but not limited to:-
- work as he seeks to provide for his family
- watching football matches and sports betting
- mastering PlayStation and gaming
- drinking and being an expert in political matters
The result has been so devastating, the family unit as we used to know it is rapidly disintegrating and decaying. Not only is this a problem facing our nation, but the whole world in general. While researching for ‘Fathers at the Forefront of Gender Equality‘ which I was going to present to fathers drawn from Kwale and Kilifi counties, I remembered to include Agence Courage by General Defao.
Little did I know that the song would enable the 70 fathers who turned up for the presentation to share their own experiences growing up without fathers. While our children may have graduated to new emerging musical heroes, the issues that affected us as young boys still abound. In fact, they have become more pronounced. If there was a time that men collectively needed to take action, this is the time!
How to reclaim victory from a losing position
Most of the men and fathers I have met failed to get the right nurturing, guidance and direction from their own fathers. While it is not as easy to give that which you lack, we can always start from somewhere. I look back to the presentation I made in Kilifi to 70 fathers, and would like to point out that it wasn’t an easy thing to do.
Most of the things I am learning about fatherhood are as a result of working with boys. It is a high calling that demands of the very things I wished I would have experienced as a young boy. Were it not for the power of the Holy Spirit at work, I wouldn’t have the strength to address fathers leave alone work with boys who thirst for the active presence of a father.
I believe we have the responsibility of becoming the men and fathers who will break the cycle of fatherlessness. We should teach our children and those who need father-figures how to expect the best from themselves, how to dream and achieve dreams as well as how to relate with other people.
Our efforts will be like planting trees whose shade we don’t expect to sit under. However, the fruits of our efforts – whether they happen today, or tomorrow or when we are long gone out of this world – will sweeten the lives of our future sons and daughters.
Here is an exercise to help you start off.
Take a piece of paper and write down the word ” F A T H E R (from top to bottom).
Write one word for the kind of husband and father you would like to be for each letter. Start with the letter “F.” Then move to the next letter “A” until you finish the word “FATHER.” Here’s what I wrote down…
F – Faithful, friendly
A – Attentive, amazing
T – Trustworthy, treasured
H – Honest, helpful
E – Earnest
R – Real
After you have done this you can move to the next level asking yourself the following questions:
What if every boy and girl had a father who did the things you have written down?
Would the problems we are facing right now be prevented?
What kind of son or daughter would you raise?
What would your children begin to believe about themselves?
What kinds of choices would they make for themselves and how will it impact families, region and community?
By teaching our sons to have dreams of becoming better men who are full of love, compassion, character, integrity and respect not only for themselves but for other men, women and girls, we will be able to start transforming our children.