FAMILY FUSION: Fatherhood to ‘dadhood’ (1)
I GREW UP in an environment where it was common for males to run around with several women and scatter their precious seeds far and wide. This was sometimes at the expense of the well-being of their offspring, some of whom grew up not knowing their real fathers.
Professionally, I have seen some of these children, who were so adversely affected emotionally that they had difficulty in calling anyone “dad”. I believe that challenging males to move from fatherhood to what I am calling “dadhood” is very important today in view of the numerous growing complex social and other challenges with which societies are faced. Some of these issues point back to children growing up having fathers but not dads. In this series I will be addressing this dilemma.
Someone made what I thought was a very profound statement that is worthy of more than a cursory glance: “A father is the male parent of the child; its progenitor. They share DNA with the child, but he may or may not share responsibility in the child’s growth and development. Dad is a term of affection and familiarity. Dad is someone who actively participates in the child’s growth and development.”
A dad therefore may be a father but a father may not necessarily be a dad.
Professor Martin Glynn, a lecturer in criminology at the Centre for Applied Criminology, Birmingham City University, in his research entitled Dad And Me, said in 2011 that the absence of dads should be “treated as a public health issue”. He gave his reason from his research by saying that children are affected “on every level; from their education, their self-esteem and happiness to their ability of becoming a parent themselves. It also deeply affects their notion of self, and many develop a swaggering, intimidating persona in an attempt to disguise their underlying fears, resentments, anxieties and unhappiness”.
Moving from fatherhood to “dadhood” necessitates abandoning the thought of just ejecting sperm and creating an infant; or having a night of unplanned selfish sexual pleasure, which may incidentally result in the birth of a child.
“Dadhood” must carry with it a well thought out, thoroughly planned decision, knowing that tremendous responsibility regarding children is involved at the end of the day. These children must be equipped with the kind of emotional, social, mental, physical and spiritual tools by focused dads in order to firmly stand against the merciless winds of a hostile environment into which they will be thrust.
I believe that true “dadhood” will be fostered when a man has:
1. An uncompromising respect for himself. I have heard men confess to having a tough start in life, in that they did not have a focused male model in their lives. But some of these same men spoke of purposely adopting values of honesty, truthfulness, integrity and sobriety that generated in them a great love for themselves. These are the kind of values that governed their lives and enabled them to set and deliberately pursue meaningful goals for themselves before deciding to contribute to bringing children into the world. A man who respects himself would also respect women, especially his wife.
2. An uncompromising respect for women. I am appalled at the nasty and disgusting remarks that males express towards women. Unfortunately, some women rather than put the males in their place, gravitate toward such devaluation. Men working toward “dadhood” would not picture women as sex objects to be used for their own personal gratification and then leave them impregnated to fend for themselves. Potential dads have a tendency to view women as valuable assets to be admired and cherished, not because of what they can get from them, but what worth they as men can add to the lives of these precious women. The chances of these men committing to the mother of their children and their offspring are very great because of the wholesome and genuine love they hold for the mother.
3. An uncompromising respect for children. Dads see their children as seeds to be planted into the healthy secure soil created by the parents. With tender loving care, dads nurture them gently but yet firmly into beautiful “trees” that will contribute to the health of society. Dads discipline without being abusive; listen with the goal of guiding in a positive direction; value their ideas and concepts that are workable for a cohesive family. Abuse of any kind is off the list for dads and helping their offspring to reach their full potential is a perennial passion.
4. An uncompromising respect for society. It is difficult for dads not to see life beyond the immediate family circle. Dads see grooming their children to respect others and things within the society as a priority. Respect is fostered for those in authority like their teachers, police, and the elderly; institutions like the family, church, schools, the judiciary, and government. Children of a true dad will treat others with dignity and respect people’s property; they will respect the right of others to share their opinions and in short, apply the golden rule of doing to others as they would have them do to them.
As a teenager, there was intense peer pressure from my colleagues and grown men to be sexually involved with as many female victims as possible. Boasting of such exploits was the order of the day, for in doing so I would be classified as a man. It was like a badge of honour. I must confess I was scared to submit to that false philosophy and misguided information, because I feared that I may have become a father with no clue as how to handle such responsibility.
That fear, along with a strong belief in God and the sanctity of marriage, created in me a desire to be committed to one woman and a strong goal to be more than a father but a dad within the context of marriage. With the grace of God and strong personal discipline, I have been able, despite the challenges of tremendous temptations, not to deviate from that commitment. Growing into “dadhood” was not easy and I made some mistakes along the journey but God has helped me to be at my very best for my sons and other children he entrusted to my care. Men, grow into “dadhood”. Your children are depending on you.
• Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email: [email protected]