This weekend a very terrible, terrible thing happened! Oh my word, I can’t believe that I am going to force myself to recount it. It was around 4pm when it happened. My son and I were home. When all of a sudden, out of nowhere it happened. We sat frozen and looked at each other. Not saying a word we glanced back at the tv screen. It was the dreaded buffer wheel! We had lost our internet connectivity!
We calmed ourselves from the panic and did the mandatory router reboot. Nothing happened…he looked at me as to say dad do something. His arsenal of troubleshooting was spent the moment he clicked on the modem reboot button.
I was raised by a single mom. I think she did an awesome job, so there was never a point in my life where I felt I had missed out for not having a dad. Until when moments like this happen. My son is 8 going on nineteen. Kids today are so independent that when situation like this comes up, I milk it for all it’s worth. Like Captain Dad Underpants (hey it was boys day, the only thing we had managed to accomplish that day was to brush our teeth) we were still in underpants and tshirts. There was pizza on the Xbox, we figured the heat from console kept the pizza warm.
I stopped scratching my butt and casually pumped my chest out, chin up, hands on my waist and looked yonder. Yes I said yonder. I could have sworn this whole incident was being narrated by Morgan Freeman in my head. I said son! He said father! Don’t be afraid” I said to him. “I will take care of it”
He said how? And I said nothing! I had no response…no one ever asks Superman to lay out his plan of attack, but I see my sidekick has very little faith. 20 minutes of fiddling with wires I gave up and called support desk. I was caller 26 in the queue. My son at this point says to me ” I have never been this bored in my entire life!” Not only had I failed as a parent but those words also insinuated that I had failed as Super Dad. He asked me every five minutes when it would be fixed. It was the most agonizing 30 minutes of my life.
A world-record-breaking near two thirds of South African children grow up in homes without fathers, and our country has the distinction of having one of the highest global rates of single motherhood.
Research conducted in the past five years by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the South African Race Relations Institute (SARRI) found that 60 percent of SA children have absent fathers, and more than 40 percent of South African mothers are single parents, compared with 25 percent in the US and a developed world average of just 15 percent.
We have generation of children who are brought up without fathers. Whilst moms are picking up the slack, but the question begs to be asked; where are the dads?!
Let’s be clear there is a difference between a single parent and a co parenting single mom.
I am addressing the absentee father pandemic.
You are far more likely to be raised in a single-parent household if you are both black and poor, the SARRI study found. Single parenting correlates strongly with class and race. Yes, poverty disrupts familial stability anywhere in the world.
So yes we can blame poverty, apartheid had a great role to play too causing men to leave their families behind to go mine gold in the city.
Whilst these two causes are still relevant today but I think we can agree that they are no longer a prevalent cause of the absentee dad.
What is more troubling is that it turns out fathers are important in the “cognitive development, intellectual functioning, and school achievement.
Children growing up without fathers are more likely to experience emotional disturbances and depression.” Says the SARRI report.
The report goes on to say;
Girls who grow up with their fathers are more likely to have higher self-esteem, lower levels of risky sexual behaviour, and fewer difficulties in forming and maintaining romantic relationships later in life. They have less likelihood of having an early pregnancy, bearing children outside marriage, marrying early, or getting divorced.
Boys growing up in absent father households are more likely to display ‘hypermasculine’ behaviour, including aggression.
Role modeling is imperative for how children grow up and adapt into society. Whilst I think I turned out ok, that could largely be because I have a great mother. Not many kids are as lucky. So we know the importance of dads modeling the super hero. But this does not answer where have they gone.
I take my son to school every morning and it is a bit of a schlup but I have grown to love it. His Kombi picks him up from his mother’s house and drops him off at my house 2km away. Don’t ask! I then drive with him to school 5km away. That 15mins to school (it would shorter but there’s traffic) has forced me to be a present parent in my son’s life. When I say present I mean being actively there. We do spelling, he reads for me and I check some of his homework. There are a lot of dads who are physically there but are actually absent. I was one of those dads. I would get home late and my son would be asleep and leave early and he would still be asleep. I was a phantom dad.
Ok so far we know the are absentee dads, and we can now add phantom dads to that list too. We can also add to that list the deadbeat dad.
Now this is the dad that is an active non participant in a child’s life. He fails to pay his child’s maintenance, school fees etc. I think we all know this guy so he is not worth wasting words on.
But I think there is a last sub category of dad, the dad that never had a dad but now has a son. I fall in this strange category. Because I never had a male role model to speak of, I have absolutely no clue how to be one to my son. The other day he comes to me and says his wee wee is sore. My first inclination was we need to come with a better and more manly word than wee wee. He pulls out his wee wee and says look! Oh…k, it looks ok I say. I see this apple to didn’t fall from the tree I pat myself for the endowment I bestowed upon him. He says press here this is where it’s sore! As if being tazed out of my daze, I’m like what?! Now folks, no male has ever touched my male member nor have I ever touched another. I was not about press his! Is that even legal?
So we have absentee dads, phantom dads, deadbeat dads and we also have dads that are there but have no clue how to raise men or women. And as the situation stands we are raising more kids that will too be in the last sub category.
I personally can’t offer any solutions to this scourge. One thing I do know is that I am there for my son. Whilst I’m not Super Dad Underpants, but present dad will have to do for now. Hopefully I set a good enough blueprint that he can use to build the next generation of supermen.