The upbringing and well-being of children is the responsibility of parents and caregivers. Prior to Father’s Day, there’s this subtle message on social media disguised as jokes to remind people how to navigate this day.
Some seek to neutralise the candid posts from those who relate negatively to their fathers. The discussion of the matter of absent parenting (read fathers) will not take leave of absence because it’s Father’s Day. Continually, we will always camp here until we change behaviour, seek healing, break the cycle of unhealthy patterns and/or do better for the generations that are to come..
The youth of South Africa are just becoming more disgruntled about the state of affairs – but when has that ever stopped the president of the country from delivering a keynote address on the day as an act of commemorating the heroic efforts of those who came before us? Amidst all the lamenting, he will stand on that podium and say all that many are not interested in. Do I think he is tone deaf? That is a topic for another day. Has KFC stopped making that horrid gravy because of how much we air our dissatisfaction about it? No, because they probably have data on people (weird ones) who like that thing.
I hope the analogies link to where I’m trying to arrive: on father’s day I will never not celebrate my late father. I will use the day to honour him for the important role he played in my life because it means a lot to ME. I am also aware that it is a privilege many of my peers were not afforded, so I know it is not my place to monitor how they choose to express their grievances on what the day means to them. That to me would feel like I am invalidating their experiences. I know for sure many are bleeding.
Still, I do not see it taking away anything from those who deserve to be praised. The recent unfortunate Enyobeni incident brought again to the fore how much of a role the distorted family structures in townships play, with many placing the blame on the parents’ lack of discipline for what happened to the teenagers who lost their lives that evening. We cannot ignore the impact of the normalisation of substance usage as the most popular form of entertainment for all occasions; even funerals have an “after tears”. Children are most likely to emulate what’s being presented to them by their elders. It is not only the parents who are complicit, but society at large. Solely making it the problem of an isolated family is inadvisable because at the end, all the kids get to socialise together. So this matter is not something that can just be swept under a rug on just that one Sunday, people are not just sucking it out of their thumbs – this is what people are experiencing.
They are triggered and it is their reality. And social media is not anyone’s residential address; it is a public platform so you are most likely going to come across a lot you don’t like to hear and there’s nothing you can do about it. I believe we have to open up channels to this conversation, and constructively advise on how better we can correct the errors of our parents.
When I wrote a piece last year on Father’s Day that can be accessed here (https://live.fundza.mobi/home/fanz/essays/to-learn-my-father/), I showed that in as much as my father remains the only man I’ve ever loved, I have also not exempted him from criticism. There’s a lot he could’ve done better, and a lot more he could have worked on. Our complex relationship affected many areas of my life. I have also encountered many others who reacted worse, and resorted to extreme measures to cope. These things land differently for a lot of us, hopefully one day we’ll get to a point where it is not stained with pain or resentment. For all the fish that continue to swim, I will still applaud your efforts because I see the generational curses you are breaking.
Ideally these conversations also gives those who are falling short a learning opportunity – if they are truly open to it.