Father and child relationship is rewarding, but equally challenging

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
Father and child relationships are very important. Ex-US president Barack Obama once said, "every father bares a fundamental obligation to do right by their children". /123RF
Father and child relationships are very important. Ex-US president Barack Obama once said, "every father bares a fundamental obligation to do right by their children". /123RF

As I was ruminating about the fathers and sons dialogue I attended, which was held at The Glen Methodist Church on Father's Day, my thoughts transported me to the story of one of the men who was present at the dialogue.

His father's absence has troubled him a great deal. I must make a disclaimer, I don't know enough about the story to make a clinical conclusion or assessment, but I had a feeling it was multi-layered.

It reminded me of former US president Barack Obama who made what I consider to be an apt statement: "Every father bares a fundamental obligation to do right by their children."

This underpins the fundamental role of fathers in their children's lives - the effects of their absence are too ghastly to contemplate.

This young man stood up to say this about his father "he is an idiot, I hate him. He is a woman basher".

He went on to tell us that after the death of his other siblings in a gruesome car accident, his father told him that he wishes that he was the child that died in the accident.

He added that his father calls him a flop and that he is an underachiever. At a point, he believed that this man was not his biological father, because of the deep-seated hatred he experienced from his father since childhood.

He could not rationalise how a parent could think so low of their own son.

The narration of his painful journey taught me that if people are allowed non-judgemental spaces to tell their stories, often through their tears, we can make great progress.

Perhaps compassionate understanding could be the best way to land a hand, sometimes people just want to be heard and their pain validated.

I also learnt that patience is one of the greatest gifts you can give to those that are hurting. Time - that is what some long for, the most. I learnt that listening with empathy, can too, be a healing tool. There are times when I am deeply concerned that we listen less and talk more.

We also listen with the intention of responding without processing what is being said to us.

Father and child relationships are often rewarding at the best of times, but equally challenging and painful at the worst of times.

Many told and untold stories of children attest importantly to moments of profound resilience and the strength of the human spirit.

This young man is a typical example of what resilience is all about, because under difficult and emotionally excruciating circumstances, he has chosen to not be like his father. He has chosen to become what has never known.

He has chosen to be a fully present, in-tune and sensitive father to the wellbeing of his children, paying close attention particularly to their emotional wellbeing and ensuring that he shelters it, as much as he can - largely due to the pain he has felt as a child.

These experiences take us through raw emotions and deep grief, but importantly these experiences also take us through moments of profound self-reflection and taking responsibility.

The dialogue that I attended on Father's Day offers men and boys opportunities to delve deep into their pains, tribulations and frustrations. .

This dialogue, as beautiful as it was, is an anomaly, a once in a while event that occurs as a result of days such as Father's Day.

Such events should instead, be a usual occurrence and should be widely available because of their cathartic effect. How I wish that such dialogues would happen 365 days a year, so that we never focus on violence, fatherlessness and abuse during Father's Day or 16 days of activism.

I hope that our political leaders are listening and we become a responsive society and not a firefighting expedient society.

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