To be a father today is to straddle the space where ancient meets modern. There is the traditional notion of fatherhood: strict, laying down the family worldview and its accompanying values that will guide our children through life; but there also is the modern concept of fatherhood in which we are closer and more accessible to our children than it used to be in past generations, even when I was growing up. Today, for example, we tend to be physically closer to our children in terms of hugging them affectionately, especially in their younger years when they tend to need emotional support. We participate more in their activities in school or sports and the arts as well. My happiest moments have often been spending time with my children on walks or riding bicycles, or visiting them in their boarding schools when they were young teenagers in secondary school. I was close to my own father, though, even in the more traditional context, perhaps because I was the first son and knew it was my “duty” (and that of his other children as well) to carry on his legacy.
Children these days tend to be more independent in their thinking. I think we must make space for that without abandoning our duty to our children to give them protection and guidance in life, especially when they are very young and inexperienced. Independence is not the same thing as wisdom!
But regardless of style and generation, I believe that the substance of fatherhood remains the same. And that is that the father is the head of his family, and should be a good example in terms of values to his children. A father should love his wife as the mother of their children. He should be an inspiration to his family as much as he can be.
Sometimes, in today’s world, roles may seem to shift a bit, especially if the father is not the main breadwinner of the family. This can be challenging because of the cultural conditioning we have received, especially in our African society. Part of being a father in today’s world is being able to adjust to this kind of situation when it is the case, although I think that here the burden is also on the wife to play her part to ensure this does not become a problem.
But hey! Fatherhood is good. I am a man that likes and welcomes responsibility and leadership. I just hope and pray to God that I’ve done well for my kids as a father, because there is no more important responsibility a man has with his children, whether he was born in 1930 or 1990.
Prof Kingsley Moghalu