Books are aplenty to lend ideas to fathers on how to be a good Dad. Articles abound with tips on the same. I found myself browsing through yet another such article the other day. And as I did, I heard a little voice inside me responding to what I read. Here’s how it went.
Tips on how to be an awesome father:
First: Eat regularly together with your family. Not my father.
Second: Read to your children often. My father never did that.
Third: Discipline with firmness tempered with love. Nah. That’s my mother’s job, unless she thought things needed to be reported to Dad, if us kids got too much out of hand.
Fourth: Spend time with your child. Not my father. By the time he got home each night, my father would be too tired to do anything, except get ready for prayer and bed. Father did the only job he could do, driving a bus that earned him a little income, but enough to see us through.
Fifth: Share household chores with your child’s mother. How could my father, when he was absent practically all day?
Sixth: Respect your child’s mother. Oh, yes. That’s my father.
My father showed his respect towards his wife by totally trusting her. Finances, discipline, school matters, washing diapers, attending family functions, you name it, mother did them all. Mum would report to Dad anything that was worth reporting at night, particularly if something needed urgent attention. One cool thing about Dad – he never complained if mother got herself something sweet, like clothes or jewelry. Never. I am sure it was because Mum never overspent; she knew our family’s spending limits well. I admired the way they worked things out together as parents; they knew what each had to do. They had their share of disagreements, but deep inside, us kids knew they adored each other.
The thing is, Dad was away at work from dawn to dusk. Every day. If he didn’t, there would not be food on the table, no doctor visit if someone fell ill, the school fees would not be paid, us kids could not have attended school. Simple as that. But if you were to ask me and all my four siblings, none of us would say he was an absent father. Thinking back, I realised Mum was the key. She had a way of making sure we felt Dad’s presence. Mum had a habit of sneaking in references to Dad. In our daily conversations, Mum would say, “What would your father think?”, “Save some food for your father”, “Be sure you hang your father’s clothes well”, or, if she sees something delicious, “I better grab some for your father. He loves them.” Through my mother, I learned that my father was to be respected, loved, revered, even in his absence.
I wrote this not just in memory of my late father, but for all the Dads that do not fit the stereotype of what it means to be a good Dad. The best Dad might not look like one, sound like one. We tend to put people into boxes, but there are exceptions to the rule. People are not stereotypes, mothers and fathers are not stereotypes.
There are fathers out there who do what they have to do, leading lives that are less than ideal as fathers, because they do not have a choice. It does not make them less of a father. Some of them may be absent for months at a time, it is hard for everyone – mother/wife, father/husband and kids. But they make do, and something about them ensure that their children still think the world of them. The best fathers might not look like one, or sound like one.