Friday, 29 January 2016

What are fathers good for?

What are fathers good for? I often wonder the answer to that question myself. As a father of three and married for 16 years, I think we fathers are the most bewildered group of people. At the risk of oversimplification, a mother's role is clearly defined. It's already set in the womb at her birth. Their reproductive organs have done most of the definition for them. They are wonderfully created to give birth to a life, nurture that life during her crucial growing years, love her unconditionally, encourage her in all she does, and show maternal resilience when they are called to do so. Full stop.

You can say that a mother's role starts at one end of her umbilical cord and ends at the other because while doctors can easily snip it off, the maternal bond is never broken. It in fact grows from strength to strength over the years. That's the definitive role of mothers. That is what they are good for and they are naturally indispensable. I dare say that those living owe them an immeasurable debt and gratitude.

Now comes the third wheel, the clumsy fathers. With apology, let me be crude. Don't let that erect-able organ fool you. Unlike mothers who are born with a nurturing, life-giving womb, we fathers are born with a hose that stands ready to fire at a moment's notice or arousal. Honestly, that intemperate organ has been the start and the end of most of our misery. Wars, murders, jealousy, and Machiavellian plots are waged and committed because of our lack of control of it. And when it comes to stretching it, we often stretch it to breaking point. Full stop.

So, what are fathers good for? We can't breastfeed, hug with maternal warmth like mothers do, encourage with tender loving care, love without manly boundaries, and play with the kids with sweet abandonment. Even changing a diaper takes forever.

Alas, after all's said and done, I guess we fathers still play a role in our children's life and it is no less important. I can think of three and here goes.

1) Be a blessing to your kid by blessing him always. When Jesus came to river Jordan and was baptized by John the Baptist, this was what God the father said to His son in its proper rendition, "This is my blessed child, in him I take delight." Here I wonder, "How many of us earthly fathers said that to our own children?" Do we bless them by telling them that we take great delight in them? Or do we give them the snort, the smear, the shuteye, the sidelong glance, the head shaking, the face-palm, or just the silent treatment? Whether we see it or not, all children are hungry for their father’s attention and approval and it is a blessing of immeasurable value when we extend that blessing to them instead of withholding it or worse, turn them away. The effort to bless is almost negligible but its transforming value is priceless. As fathers, that is the power we hold over our kid. We can transform them for good by telling them that we take great delight in them regardless of what they have achieved or failed to achieve or have yet to achieve. Or we can curse them into perpetual anguish by our insensitivity, nonchalance or disapproval. In fact, to bless is to speak well of, and like sunlight and rain, our words carry potential of growth and resilience in their young spirit.

2) Protect the marriage at all costs. It is said that in every marriage, there is the seven-year itch. But in today's quick satiation of wants, seven years is just too long. It is more like seven months or less. For some, it is a daily battle of hive-like itch and the scratching never stops. Temptations abound like locusts during harvest time. The truth is, there is always someone better out there - be it physically, or even character-wise. It is said that we marry our parents, that is, we are attracted to qualities similar to that of our parents and our parents, needless to say, are far from perfect. We are no different. A marriage is only made in heaven during the wedding day/night when the wedding bells of marital woes toll for the unsuspecting couple. Marital monotony soon comes with the dragging of a day, a month, and a year. Romantic love in a marriage is a myth and what counts as rock-solid faith is to conscientiously put in the time, effort and dedication in making the marriage work. The labor of love is often times more of the labor than that fleeting lovely-dovely feeling. We fathers (or husband) must elevate the marriage vows above ourselves, above our appetites, and above our capricious desires. We must protect this sacred vows by constantly reminding ourselves of it, never taking it for granted, reinventing our passion weekly, romancing with our spouse in more creative ways, deepening the intimacy via sharing the good, the bad and the ugly, and at all times, striving to be honest with our better half. Nondisclosure is often emotional betrayal couched in the flaccid labels of politeness, it's-for-her-own-good, or she-wouldn't-understand. A love that is conditional is a love that is self-serving. So there are surely many better persons out there, but there is only one that you have made a sacred promise to and however imperfect a father and husband you are, you nevertheless keep that promise to her.

And finally...

3) Be a farmer. I'll make this point a short one (I try). I think we are all familiar with the act of sowing and reaping. Yet what we often overlook is the process in the middle. That silent, unseen labor of delay gratification. You see, it is easy to sow, and the reaping part is no doubt its eventual reward. But it is the waiting, believing and working on what you have sown that is the toughest. What I have learned about life is that it seldom fail to reward the one who persists to the end (who runs and completes the race). In season or out, a farmer patiently sows, hopefully waits and deservingly reaps. There is no short cuts to that or to fatherhood, to parenting, to marriage or to success. The best example a father can be is not to just bringing home the bacon or ensuring that there is a roof over his family's head. Those are important no doubt. But the best example he can be to them is to stick it out to the end in fatherhood and in marriage. And if the marital vows can be summed up in 5 words, it would be this: "I'll never fail you guys." Of course fathers wear their pants one leg at a time and they will inevitably disappoint. But it is not the disappointments that mar him as a father. It is in his giving it up midstream. And a father who perseveres to the end brings home the greatest gift to his family and marriage. It is a gift of unconditional love. In a nutshell, that is what fathers are good for. Cheerz.

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