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The place of a father in my life

Readers Lounge - By Caroline Njoroge | June 21st 2020 at 12:50:00 GMT +0300
Amidst the many distractions, fatherhood must be taken with the seriousness it deserves (Shutterstock)

What is it like to be or to aspire to be a father without having an example of what it means to be one? And how can such a man deal with the wounds of growing up without a father and push aside any feelings of bitterness to be the best father he can be?

We listen in and shares the thoughts of men who had different experiences with their dads (or none at all)

According to an article published by The Standard in 2015 – Crisis: Pain of fatherless Kenyans - 6 out of 10 Kenyan women are likely to be single mothers by their 45th birthday while some are so bitter with their exes that they do not want children to meet their fathers.

In an era where there are many distractions, fatherhood must be taken with the seriousness it deserves – for it makes or breaks the men and women who must take on the responsibilities of raising the next generation and determines the caliber of people that take up the baton.

But what is the place of a father in a man’s life? Perhaps seeing things from a man’s perspective will help women better understand the relationship of a man with his father -- whether present or absent.

My father was empathetic but I found him to be too assertive, not giving much room for negotiation. Brian Aseli

Brian Aseli, TV Host

My relationship with my dad has been a bitter-sweet experience. There are some things I did not understand when I was growing up but now, looking back from an adult’s point of view, I understand.

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There are many virtues I picked from my father. He was empathetic; I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t paying school fees for some two or three children that were not his own. He ran a children’s home too not because he had much but because he had a big heart.

The one chapter I remember having a serious fall out with him was when I was in high school. I performed well at drama and music clubs, but didn't do too well when it came to regular subjects, I remember my father insisting that I repeat a class, and to my young mind at the time, the shame that came with that was too much to bear.

I found him to be too assertive, not giving much room for negotiation. I wanted him to support what I was good at, art, but he wanted me to have a good education. I didn’t see the point of studying things that had nothing to do with my passion but now that I am a university graduate courtesy of his insistence, I see the difference.

He taught me by example that a man ought to always provide for his family and protect those he loves, especially the love of his life. I’ve learnt how to treat women from watching how my dad treats my mum.

I would not be the man I am if I did not have the kind of father I had. Now that I am all grown, I can tell what a gift I have in a present father.

Simon Mbevi, Relationship counsellor, mentor of men, Executive Director Transform Nations, Co-founder Mavuno Church Kenya

Fathers matter a lot. I know from experience the kind of hunger that losing my dad at eight left me with. I needed a man to look up to, a model, a voice that calls me out, a guide as I take steps into masculinity. I lost that to death, and it affected me in more ways than I can explain.

That void saw me struggle in my identity and confidence. I felt ‘not enough’ numerous times. I longed for affirmation from older men. When my music teacher (elderly male) told me that I could become a lawyer, I went for it.

I wept after he hugged me for good performance in an exam. My heart longed to connect with a father.

So, when I meet men broken from absent fathers, I know, I understand the struggle, the void, the need for a point of reference in manhood. Because I’ve walked the journey.

Fathers matter a lot. I know from experience the kind of hunger that losing my dad at eight left me with. Simon Mbevi

James Kariuki*

For the sake of my parents and the immediate community they must continue to live in after the article gets published, I request anonymity – to avoid stigmatisation of any kind.

I remember as a child confronting my mother and asking her why dad hated us so much. With my sister standing alongside me we earnestly waited for a sincere explanation. She looked at us and with great tenderness, she said, “He’s just busy with work, he doesn’t hate you.”

I was 12. Re-living the boyhood chapters of my life, I see an emotionally distraught child, one who feels rejected by his father; that he has to be perfect to be accepted. One who blames himself for the rejection he feels, looking within to find the problem rather than seeing it without, that he was not the cause of another man’s behaviour.

But tell that to the mind of a 12 year-old who is looking for identity, acceptance, and some sense of direction in life.

There are times when I felt like I was paying for mistakes I had made, obviously, this resulted in low self-esteem, a constant need to be better, not for myself but as a silent scream to be noticed. The struggling boy grew to become the struggling man. This translated to how I related to the larger society in my adulthood – that never ending feeling that what I had to offer couldn’t possibly suffice.

I thank God for an all-round present mother who has often acted as the voice of reason in my life. But in truth, there is still a gap in me that needs filling. As supportive as a mother can be, no woman can truly replace the gaping hole created by the need for a father figure in a child’s life.

I have had to come to terms with the emotional trauma and pain that comes from an absent father, one who’s there and not there. Physically present (at times) but detached in every other way. Coming to terms with this, has helped me to be true to myself in seeking for help, if I don’t intentionally seek the path of healing, how will I raise my children without passing on the cycle of pain?

I recall a time when I almost slid into depression. I was my 20’s and I felt like such a failure. Nothing was working out and I couldn’t figure out why my path felt like such an uphill journey. I was falling apart. So, I called my mother. Ideally, I would have sought the perspective of a father – a solid male figure. But I did not have that luxury. So, I called my voice of reason and told her what was going on. Daddy issues don’t just affect women, men have a fair share of their stories too. We just don’t talk about them.

My father is to me the ultimate example of what a man ought to be. Dennis Omukunde

As it is with all things we consider crucial, I would say that it is important for men who would be fathers to seek out wisdom on good parenting, whether in books or direct mentorship. None of us has the whole script, and so we must learn from others even as we develop our own parenting style, that we may understand what holistic fatherhood looks like.

I would also say that forming or being part of groups where people share their parenting experiences is a great asset as men get to learn from each other and ask questions.

From where I sit, I would say that the father-son bond is vital in molding a boy’s understanding of what it means to be a man.

Dennis Omukunde, TV Producer

My father is to me the ultimate example of what a man ought to be. My mother is a nurse, this means that there were times she worked night shifts. I’ve watched my dad change napkins (we were of that generation) even when there was a house help present, wash his children, clean clothes when he was on leave.

He worked an 8 -to-5 job but always made room for time for his children. I’ve seen him take on responsibilities that were not his own and care for others, that taught me empathy and responsibility.

He is a present father. I’ve never told him this but I’m proud of him and the man that he is. I am the man I am to a great extent because of him.

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