Father’s Day is celebrated this Sunday; but apart from the obligatory cards and presents what does this day really represent? What does it mean to be a father in the twenty-first century? What does it take for a man apart from being a biological necessity to be a true father figure to his children?
As most men would quickly acknowledge, nothing quite quickens the process of their own maturity and growing up quite like becoming a dad. Managing to survive on the minimum amount of sleep at the onset of fatherhood is quite a feat in itself and realising that it’s no longer all about ‘me’ is a huge eye-opener. Being able to go down to a child’s level and recognising, understanding and addressing their doubts, fears and concerns is what being a good dad is all about. Having the wisdom to know when to draw the line; when your child needs to be let loose and when it is necessary to hold him back, the ability to dish out punishment without abuse and the good sense to realise that little eyes and ears are following your each and every action. Acknowledging that making mistakes is part and parcel of life and while every father would love to have the perfect child, it is an unreal and cruel expectation. Besides, looking back we have all been through some senseless and at times dangerous stuff and still managed to survive.
As opposed to the mother who shares a natural and instinctive bond with her offspring, a father’s role is perhaps even more difficult and at times might be felt as is surplus to requirements. But a true father figure has never been as relevant as now to a child’s welfare and formation; with the fast onset of the digital age and the rush towards globalisation, childhood is becoming shorter and shorter and the need for fatherly guidance even more important. With traditional roles blending into each other, the father is no longer simply the one who provides for his children and perhaps kick a football with them on a Saturday afternoon. The skills required for catering for the well-being of a child are now all encompassing; from catering to the child’s most basic needs right through their emotional development.
There is a fine balance every father must achieve, every day, on his voyage through fatherhood; knowing that as soon as you’ve come to grips with one aspect of bringing up a child, another even more difficult hurdle pops up… As soon as you’ve mastered the art of bottle feeding and changing a nappy, you’re thrown in at the deep end with potty training and weaning. No sooner are the terrible twos done and dusted, that in a timespan that feels no longer than five minutes, you’re having to suffer the consequences of teenage angst and raging hormones. So, it goes on until the time comes when these little people you have nurtured so carefully throughout the years fly the nest. But, what better way to describe the challenges, the trials and tribulations as well the satisfaction of being a dad than an actual dad? We speak to John* whose witty take on fatherhood is something most dads can identify with. This is what he had to say…
You remember those terrifying zombie creatures from World War Z? Look around you and you’ll see plenty of those (albeit milder versions) all around you. Not to worry, they’re just new (and even not so new) dads suffering from various stages of sleep deprivation. This tiny baby is wreaking havoc with your sleeping patterns for most of the night, on most nights. Thing is, dads get the short stick when it comes to very young babies – you can rock, cuddle, sing to it all night long and still not manage to soothe a fretting baby while a mother simply takes out her boob, dangles it in the vicinity of its tiny mouth and hey presto! Peace and quiet is restored. Nappies become a source of lengthy conversations between you and the other half, as you dissect each and every deposit your baby has done during the day and believe you me, that’s a lot of deposits.
But this will pass as your baby grows into a toddler and that is the time for dads to really come into their own. A whole new world of adventure awaits as you revisit your childhood with your child. You can now start hiding in closets again, set up sheet tents in the living room, kick a ball around the yard without having the good lady wife remind you on a loop about the unfinished DIY jobs you need to do NOW around the house. From here on you are the centre of your child’s universe, so enjoy the ride as it won’t last forever. By the time they reach early adolescence you’ll be all but redundant as your child slowly discovers the big, wide world out there.
And then comes teenagerhood… What happened in the span of a couple of years? The swashbuckling pirate (you) who taught the wondrous child how to swim, build a sandcastle and dribble his way to the goalposts is now relegated to the sorry status of ‘my old man’ even if you’ve only just a hint of a beer belly and your hair is more salt and pepper than silver fox. Your taste in music, which you’ve always believed to be refined, is now considered obsolete by your cool offspring and your car, your pride and joy, is nothing more than a taxi to ferry said offspring from point A to B, with plenty of diversions to pick up/drop off even more hormonal teenager friends along the way. But this is nothing compared to even more sleepless nights, worrying about their education, career choices and late-night partying. But this will also pass, as the teenager becomes an adult, and then and only then will it become apparent how good a father you had been to your child…
But all in all, fatherhood is the ultimate test in a man’s life journey, nothing is or will ever be quite as scary an accomplishment… Hopefully you are your children’s superhero for many years to come but as the Amazing Spider Man once said, “With great power comes great responsibility”, so yes, being the man determining your children’s future is a huge responsibility indeed!
*Interviewee name has been changed