Monday, June 15, 2009

Fatherhood: A spiritual journey

As we celebrate Father’s Day in 2009, I salute the fathers featured here for their deep connectedness with their children. The joy that radiates through their every word speaks to a keen sense of kinship and bonding.

From the delivery room to the first day at university and other important steps in a child's life, the fathers featured today all mention the importance of 'being there' for their children. Not just for these milestones, but participating fully in their everyday lives. By developing rituals based on a commitment to responsibility and legacy, their voices on fatherhood will resonate for generations to come.

When days like Father's Day come around, I feel an uncomfortable shiver running down my spine. Crass commercialisation dims the evolving character of fatherhood in modern times and often shrouds the real reason for all the hype.

It will be a beautiful day when ritual celebration of our fathers is frequently expressed as tangible accents in our lives and not reserved only for special days. Today, we honour them; we listen in recognition of their soul-deep gratitude for the children in their lives.

African perspectives
TV producer and presenter, Christophe Bongo is a proud father who relates the story of how his daughter's entry into the world was one of the most poignant moments of his life.
He shines with a bitter-sweet smile as he reflects on his approach to fatherhood.
"It's about responsibility. As Africans our responsibility as fathers is so profound. It's not only about financial support; it's about relationships and full involvement in our children's lives. From the way I relate to my wife, the way I speak to my mother, I teach values through the way I behave.

"Fatherhood is also about leadership. I'm handing over the torch that I received and passing it on to the next generation," states Christophe.

Marc Gbaffou, a food technician and chairperson of the African Diaspora Forum, echoes Christophe's sentiments about leadership and responsibility.

"At a young age I was taught that to be a man means assuming responsibility. Don't wait for people to do things for you, lead and show the way. I'd like to see my children being decisive and accountable for the decisions they take by seeing the way I run my life."

The notion of legacy is a golden thread that runs through Marc's dialogue on fatherhood.
"I would feel very proud seeing my children achieve things I couldn't achieve. The biggest challenge for fathers in Africa today is also the biggest opportunity, [it is] to build Africa. In teaching our children how to create resources through building communities, we will all be stronger across the African Diaspora.

"In Africa, the family is a social and divine institution," says African patriot, academic and former Senegalese Ambassador to Southern Africa, Samba Mburi Mboup.

As he describes his experience of fatherhood, Samba recalls how he bathed, massaged and sang lullabies to his children. He remembers how he also carried his children on his back. He fondly attributes his strong bond with his children to an inherited approach passed on from his late father.

"My father was a patriarch and while he didn't carry us on his back, he had a soft heart for his children. Often, we (men) make the mistake of thinking our children's education sits with their mothers. Neither one can do it alone! Both should work together in a spirit of unity and stability."
Strong relationships
When comparing his role as a father to that of his father's era, Samba states that strong relationships with children of today are more important than ever before.

He cites the works of Martiniquan philosopher Frantz Fanon as he asserts that each generation comes with its own mission. They may live up to it or betray their mission, but they have an evolved awareness that can also teach a parent who is open to learning from their children.

"Fatherhood, in my experience, is a unique privilege and spiritual journey," he says.

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