I was recently asked to contribute to an article which asked Dads what being a father meant to them. I love these types of articles which allow me to put my heart on paper and give life to my passions. Amongst other things I shared that:
“It means I will seek to be connected to them, to their hopes and dreams and stand by them, even when they aren’t realised, yet. It means I wake each day with a hope that their tomorrow depends on what I build in them today.”
Being a Father is the single biggest privilege I have and the greatest journey, challenge, frustration, joy and responsibility in my life.
My day started with a “Dads Day” held by my son’s school where we listened to songs, played soccer, made bird feeders, drank coffee and ate boerewors rolls. As mornings go, this was a good one. But as I walked onto the field, flanked by over a hundred dads, present, engaged and loving on their kiddos, I was reminded of another day this week, a day where the voices of the fatherless were raised in deafening silence, asking, begging, demanding an answer to the question, WHERE WERE YOU?
Yesterday I was privileged to attend and share at the launch of Impilo’s new campaign giving voice to the 3500 children abandoned every year. It’s called Born to Make a Difference. Go and check it out!
This morning stood in grave contrast to yesterday. Today I ran with dads and sons, connected, belonging, loved, while just 24 hours ago, I walked through a field of 3500 baby grows, representing the number of children abandoned every year in South Africa, the 3500 surviving children!
So what role do we as Father’s play in this, what can we do, how do we affect change? As I shared my heart yesterday, I couldn’t help but notice the sea of faces, almost entirely female faces. Where are the Dads? Why do we find ourselves in a world where child protection, children’s rights advocacy, the protection of the innocent and most vulnerable seems to be a job for women? Perhaps it is a little unfair to render child services a female dominated space, but in my experience, those writing about, those running children’s homes, the social workers, the advocates for children’s rights and those making the most noise for these little ones, are women.
So here is my challenge, we, men, Dads, need to Correct, Protect and Direct.
Ordinarily, we see this word and assume discipline and perhaps it does require some discipline, OURS! We need to correct the imbalance, we need to correct our poor representation, we need to correct the reality that leaves a mom on her own, that leaves a woman vulnerable, that makes it “Her problem”. We need to correct the toxic masculinity that ignores how woman are treated leaving some to tolerate and endure abuse, trafficking and rape. We need to correct our own! We need to correct the culture that allows a woman to fall pregnant, regardless of the situation and have them be the ones who need to “handle” the situation. We need to correct the definitions of what makes men, men, so that our sons grow up knowing what is expected and what will not be tolerated. We need to hold “us” to account.
We need to protect our children, specifically our sons, from the toxic messages that allow them to believe that there is only one way to define masculinity. Gone are the days where you needed a 4×4, a shotgun, a cigarette, huge muscles and several women on your speed dial. The greatest gift a dad can give his son in my experience from interacting and counseling 100’s of boys over the years is your PRESENCE. Not simply physical, but an attentive presence that settles in their spirits that Dad is here, Dad is yours, you are His, I am proud, I am invested and I’m not going anywhere. It guards them, it allows a protective shielding to cover them which galvanizes them to the harsh elements they will face growing up knowing that there will always be something between me and something scary, his name is DAD and he is always for me, with me and proud of me.
Looking across that field of empty baby grows yesterday I wondered, what can we do? I felt helpless, I felt powerless. But then reading the article I gave my voice to, I am reminded that I am not alone, there are many Dad’s and men who would move heaven and earth to make a difference, and nthey do! Perhaps we need a groundswell of support, an awakening, visible, vocal and unrelenting. Perhaps we need, as men, to take to heart the words of Willam Ernest Henley:
“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
Let us as Men, dad’s brothers provide the direction, let’s dream, let’s decide that no longer will we remain silent while 3500 children go without a hope every year, let’s decide adoption or foster care is something we can give ourselves and our families too, lets agree today that should we find ourselves more fortunate than others, we’ll not build a higher wall, but a longer table.
Let us take a stand and declare with adoptive love that even though I did not cause the pain, I will take responsibility for the healing that needs to happen.
HAPPY FATHERS DAY:)