Sunday, 15 June 2014

3,477 days a dad: Figuring out F.A.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D

I will not start off by stating the obvious, that today is Father’s Day, you must have heard that already though it is not overly trumpeted like Mother’s Day, which is marked in May, was. And this contrast kind of reflects on how many people perceive the roles of these two parents.
While many tend to praise their mothers, they swing the other way when it comes to their fathers. For those, whose fathers were deadbeat dads, I would understand. At times it is surprising that people who shared with a roof with their dads, have anything but positive to say about them.

Some claim that their fathers were aloof, physically present but not unavailable. But if we begin to look at it from another angle, we will begin to understand our fathers and that they were from another generation. The expectations on them as fathers are different from what is expected from us.

We can now hold hands with the baby mamas or mothers of our children as we attend antenatal sessions, go into the labour ward, pick up our brood right after the midwife has cleaned up, and carry around those brightly coloured oddly shaped baby bags. And even be around for the immunisation jabs. For our fathers, the closest was just outside the labour room then he would probably hold the baby a few days, weeks or even months later. But from that day he had to hustle for baby to have milk and the mum and other business is taken care of.

And that is what fathers do; we take care of business. We make sure our people have food on the table, have clothes on their backs, and have a roof over their heads. This is essentially what it is, this is what we do, this is our responsibility. If not for anything, this single factor is enough to celebrate and honour our fathers and not only on the third Sunday of June.

Even before I became one, I always remembered this line by Laurence Fishburne’s character in the film, Boyz-N-the-Hood: “Any fool with a d— can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.” Thankfully, unlike the son he was talking to, I was not a teenage dad or even got one in my twenties. I guess I was not a fool with a d**k, but the constant question I am faced with is whether I am the real man raising children.

This is question I do not have an answer to; I wonder if my father also experienced such self-doubt at times like I do. He seemed to be always in control, to have all the answers, and to the right thing at the right time…in his quiet, laid back way.

As I grew older and understood him more, he seemed to have evolved into this philosopher-prophet. Some of the things he told me still ring true eight years after his demise. By that time, he related to me as more of a brother than a father. But we had not got round to talking about fatherhood. By the time he passed, I was a father to a two-year-old, he was a grandfather courtesy of me, my brother and my sisters.
Probably I would have learnt from his wealth of experience or probably not. May be this is about figuring your way through the maze. Like with many things in life, there is not formula to such situations. We just find our own way, just as the bird does when it flies from the nest.

I was first thrust into this fatherhood thing 3,477 days ago. It was an exciting time, I had eagerly waited for that moment for several months. But somehow the little one chose that time I left the hospital to catch some shut eye to pop. Since then, I have been back to the labour ward thrice. Yes, antenatal sessions, brightly coloured oddly shaped bags, immunisation jabs and all. With four sons now, I hope they will look back and say our father did right, just like I say my father did right. And that is the greatest gift I can ever receive on any Fathers’ Day.

Also published in Daily Monitor, June 15, 2014