“I am pregnant”. Three words that I have learnt not only brings so much excitement, but also so much scare, worry, anxiety, anger and any other emotion that arises from uncertainty of a future redefined. I used to believe that it was a woman thing to flee from this truth but with a lot of literature and what have trended in the recent past on Kenyan social media, read ‘deadbeat’, every party in who participated in the making of this new creation, except the creator Himself flees for a moment from the truth of this defining moment. The question is how many come back. Many times, women do come back, and in their own feeble ways learn to tread through life and live, not only for themselves but also for their children. For fathers, the reactions range from excitement to denial to indifference. For the purpose of this article, though, how many fathers choose to come back and be loving daddies? What are the consequences of this one choice?
To have a loving father, according to Sharon Jaynes, is a longing that is etched in every child’s heart. She tells of a girl who lived in a children’s home, who really longed to be adopted, and who could not wait to have a dad she could call her own. The longing was so much that went she was adopted, she told everyone who cared to listen that she had a dad. And it became her defining moment and realization that every child does need a father to grow to become a great adult. It does not mean that if they are absent they won’t grow, but they are very vulnerable.
In the movie “courageous”, the character of the sheriff one day brings a report to his members of staff that research is showing fatherless children are several times more likely to get into trouble in life, including crime. He goes further to encourage them to spend time with their families. This excerpt from the Character of Adam Mitchell drives the point home… “As a law-enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand the deep hurt and devastation that fatherlessness brings in a child’s life. Our prisons are full of men and women who lived recklessly after being abandoned by their fathers, wounded by the men who should have loved them the most. Many now follow the same pattern of irresponsibility that their fathers did.” This I could have treated as “a movie punch line for the story behind” but my own further reading reveals that it is true; children’s lives are being shaped by the presence or absence of their dad. Parents have a major effect on their kids. When kids feel rejected or unloved by mom and dad, they’re more likely to become hostile, aggressive and emotionally unstable. Parental rejection also can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and negative worldviews (Ronald Rohner, The Director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut, 2014). Rohner goes further to explain that this is true for both parents. But in some cases, dad is a more important factor than mom. Behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment are all more closely linked to dad’s rejection than moms. Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers. He (Rohner) and his colleagues detailed their findings in May in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review (2014). Gary Chapman in his book The Family You Have Always Wanted explains that he has often encountered people struggling with what has been called “father hunger” manifested in anger, depression, and confusion. This situation results from too little quality and quantity of fathering as a child and too little intimacy between father and child. He analyses this situation as arising from three kind of fathers, that is; the absentee father, absent from death, divorce or desertion; the present but not available father who lives in the same house as his wife and child but is too busy to have time for his child and; the helpless fathers, who have no idea whatsoever on how to build a relationship with his child or children, a trickledown effect of not being fathered themselves.
Fathering is a gift and a responsibility. The Catholic Catechism says, “The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents.” (CCC#2214). In the book titled Why Fathers Count: The Importance of Fathers and Their Involvement with Children (Men’s Studies Press), Sean E. Brotherson and Joseph M. White, the editors and authors of the first chapter, say that the presence of a father has a positive impact in many ways as children with fathers have fewer behavioral problems, obtain better academic results, and are economically better off. In the write up, Why Dads Matter by Father John Flynn, LC, children need more than ever the presence and guidance of fathers in family life. According to a recent collection of essays, a significant body of scientific research clearly documents the vital role a father plays in the formative years of a child’s life, the science of fatherhood, why dads matter, 2014.
So what do fathers do that impact the children so much? Gary Chapman explains that a child’s self identity, level of motivation, sexual identity and pattern of relating to other people will be influenced by the father’s words and treatment. They will come to believe they are valuable, good, or worthless by the messages they receive. He outlines that:-
A loving father will be actively involved in the child’s life by taking that initiative to be a part of the child’s life, not waiting for the child to initiate so that he responds. A father’s love for his children is often expressed in the sacrifices they make, whether in times of crisis or just in the everyday choices of family life. This implies giving up of self for the benefit of the child either on the way or already here. Most dads who abandon ship when they realize that their sexual encounter was fruitful usually lack this maturity to transition from the self to the us. ;
He will consciously create time to be with his children meaning he will not do everything else then when there is extra time he can be with his children, he goes out of his way to make sure that no matter how busy and demanding life’s hassles can be, and his children will not be the losers. What’s most important, Padilla-Walker says, in Why Dads Matter is that fathers realize they matter. Quality time is important. That doesn’t mean going on fancy vacations, it can be playing ball in the backyard or watching a movie with your kids. “Whatever it is, just make yourself available and when you’re with your children, be with them”;
He engages his children in a conversation, getting to know what is going on in their creative minds, molding their character, perfecting that which is good in them and correcting the wrong, cherishing their achievements and motivating them when they seem low. This they may not get an opportunity to learn if they do not talk to the child actively;
He plays with his children. This forms the fun part of fathering. Gary Thomas in his book sacred parenting says that in a family, there is a place for discipline, sacrifice and commitment, but an equally important space exists for enjoyment. In all that enjoyment is sharing life with the child or children. It is a time for laughing, using the imagination and creating worlds of fantasy;
He will teach his values. These are taught by the way we live; he will provide for and protect his children i.e. meeting the basic needs of food, Clothing and shelter. Some fathers have taken to fleeing responsibility for providing for such needs which has led to very bitter and frustrated children who end up believing very little of themselves because they believe they were not worthy enough that is why they were abandoned by their father;
He loves his children unconditionally, not because they have good grades or performed well in sports or cleaned up his room, but because they are his children and even in their lowest they need to know daddy still loves them.
In this interaction with his children, a father instills in the child that which will enable them face life confidently and purposefully. He enables the children to discover the best of themselves and actualize it. In these interactions, any negatives are weeded out while positives are cultivated. In these encounters values are instilled, virtues nurtured and vices condemned. It does not mean that all children who have grown up without a father have turned out bad. It may imply that while the biological fathers fled, a father figure stepped out and bore the responsibility and nurtured these children to become great persons. It could also mean that these fatherless children drew inspiration and the necessary love needed from their heavenly Father and with the help of their mothers and became their own persons.
Adam Mitchell’s speech in courageous sums up the message I want to convey in this article and goes thus…
“As a law-enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand the deep hurt and devastation that fatherlessness brings in a child’s life. Our prisons are full of men and women who lived recklessly after being abandoned by their fathers, wounded by the men who should have loved them the most. Many now follow the same pattern of irresponsibility that their fathers did. While so many mothers have sacrificed to help their children survive, they were never intended to carry the weight alone. We thank God for them.
But research is proving that a child also desperately needs a daddy. There’s no way around this fact… I now believe that God desires for EVERY father to courageously step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children. But more than just being there providing for them, he is to walk with them through their young lives and be a visual representation of the character of God, their father in heaven. A father should love his children, and seek to win their hearts. He should protect them, discipline them, and teach them about God. He should model how to walk with integrity and treat others with respect, and should call out his children to become responsible men and women, who live their lives for what matters in eternity. Some men will hear this, and mock it. Or ignore it. But I tell you that as a father, you are accountable to God for the position of influence he has given you. You can’t fall asleep at the wheel, only to wake up one day and realize that your job or your hobbies have no eternal value, but the souls of your children do. Some men will hear this and agree with it, but have no resolve to live it out. Instead, they will live for themselves, and waste the opportunity to leave a godly legacy for the next generation. But there are some men, who regardless of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did NOT do for us, will give the strength of our arms and the rest of our days to loving God with all that we are and to teach our children to do the same. And whenever possible to love and mentor others who have no father in their lives, but who desperately need help and direction… In my home, the decision has already been made. You don’t have to ask who will guide my family, because by God’s grace, I will. You don’t have to ask who will teach my son to follow Christ, because I will. Who will accept the responsibility of providing and protecting my family? I will. Who will ask God to break the chain of destructive patterns in my family’s history? I will. Who will pray for, and bless my children to boldly pursue whatever God calls them to do? I am their father. I will. I accept this responsibility and it is my privilege to embrace it. I want the favor of God and his blessing on my home. Any good man does. So where are you men of courage? Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord? It’s time to rise up and answer the call that God has given to you and to say I will. I will. I will!”
I need to say no more.