Yippee, it’s Father’s Day. And it is also the season of the FIFA World Cup. What a brilliant coincidence we have here this year. After all, football and fathers go together. The bad news is that many men, fathers inclusive, abandon fatherhood during football seasons as this and hang their passions and mood on the performance of their football teams. Strictly speaking then, some men are absentee fathers, not just physically but even more, psychologically at this time.
Many people (men, especially) see the football season as excuse from duties and responsibilities they owe to other members of the family. In the build up to the World Cup, just as it happened four years ago, there were several jokes going viral on the internet giving notices and warnings to wives, girlfriends and female family members about how they should conduct themselves so as not to get in the way of the men who are fanatical football fans. The rules of conduct include surrendering the TV remote control; not blocking the views of the men as they sit with eyes glued to the TV and not to ask ‘silly’ questions or make fun of the man’s temperament or team when they are not doing well.
The good news with this season however is that due to the time difference between Brazil and Nigeria, most of the matches would be played when it is night, sometimes very late at night in Nigeria. On that score, one expects the men to stay home to watch. This is more so as the security situation in the country does not support spending time at viewing centres for fear of terrorist attacks in some major cities. Staying at home to watch the games should effectively take care of the problem of fathers who often keep late nights.
I mention late nights and fatherhood because I have recently been involved in getting information from wives and young persons on what they love about their husbands and fathers and what they hope to see these men change about their lives. One of the key issues the women and youth focused on was presence or lack of it in their lives by their husbands and fathers. One particular respondent was not only worried that the husband stays out late but that he even fails to share information about his movements with the family, even in this time of insecurity.
Another area of concern for many respondents was the failure of fathers to befriend their family members enough. And this is a veritable point. Many fathers simply don’t know much about their children. They don’t know about their progress or lack of it in their academics or social life. They don’t know what interests their children, what gives them joy, excites them or even scares them. Apparently many fathers only see their roles as limited to the provision of finances to meet family needs. But education for instance goes beyond merely paying school fees. As fathers we need to find out how studious our children are. We must find time to play with the children and go through their school work including homework. We should talk more with them about their teachers and friends in school and know more about what is happening to them.
While it is good to work hard to provide for our children and the entire family, we cannot overlook the greater responsibility of fatherhood which requires physical and psychological presence in the upbringing of our children. That cannot be replaced by anything else. Our country needs role models in different areas of development. Men, as fathers must rise to the occasion and fill these needs through exemplary conduct in every field of endeavour, starting from the home. This will go a long way to rescue our future from the precipice that we seem to be perched upon currently.
If we don’t do so, we will be buttressing the oft quoted statement of Philip Whitmore Snr, that ‘any fool can be a father but it takes a real man to be a daddy’.
Happy Father’s Day and, yes, enjoy the World Cup, responsibly at home.