African / Boys / Children / Fatherhood / Men

Fathering Matters, Actually



I have struggled to write something for Father’s Day.

Although it’s true, I didn’t feel like I would be saying anything new by saying how empty of meaning the goddamn day is since capitalist consumerism ideology got hold of it. Is there really anyone who needs to be told that the day has been hijacked by feel-good neoliberal market fatherhood ideology, if it ever was just about recognizing how fathers matter.
Like Mother’s Day, birthdays, Christmas, Easter, and the rest of the holidays, public days, special days, and any other day when your nearby shopping mall is open and there’s a greeting card for it, Father’s Day is an opportunity to give or get a gift. Personally, this year I got a gift all prematurely greying and bald men of a certain status know well. A pair of PJs from Woolworths. I didn’t know whether to cry or hug my adorable wife and child. I was in mind to right away start on script for a movie with the title ‘Why did I become a father?’
Seriously, though, it could be worse. I could be an international playboy having meaningless sex and sleeping naked on Egyptian cotton sheets. This is as good as it gets, consumerism, a grey beard and loss of hair notwithstanding.
It may be comfortable misery, but it is good, actually. But it is good in a way the best admen for Woolworths will never be able to put on a newspaper supplement I suppose.
The best part of it all was that my son and I spent the better part of the weekend leading to yesterday, Fathers’ Day, together. The mother was away with her friends for a girls’ weekend away. I don’t think she deliberately planned it that way. She and her friends chose the long weekend during which the Day fell for their get-together. So we spent time the weekend together, the boy and the father. And we made up for the weekend when I was away and he spent it with her.
Thing is, I don’t like spending time with my son. That would be something of a lie because it is incomplete and, yes, rather empty of feeling.
Spending any time I can with him has become like walking to me. I need him for the health of my life. As I say to his 4-year old big brain (that’s what he says when he has done something surprising to me and I let him know: he points to his head and says, ‘big brain’) when he complains too much, fathering him is what I do. Being a father is the job that I go to my other job for.
It’s obvious that I remain fascinated by this whole fathering trip, personally and professionally. My connection to this person we are raising is all-absorbing. I constantly wonder how he is going to turn out. I constantly ask how what fathers and mothers do matters in the long run. What difference do different parenting styles really make. What the role of genes, money, schooling, hugs, books, and tv is when compared to what parents do.
I don’t have any definite answers to any of the questions about fathers. I hope I am not making it beautiful and easy like a television comedy. But this is what I think. Fathers matter. Not impregnating a girl.  Fathering, in the sense of being there, being present and close by in spite of all the crap, that matters. This is, in my view, what African men who have brought offspring into the world need to do, need to think as their primary jobs: connect with your child.

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