BE THE FATHER to your children

men-only

Kenya is losing young men at a rate unseen, probably since independence. Every day we are fed with news of a young man or a couple of them killed by police as suspected robbers; others are killed by mobs for the same reasons. On our roads, young men (and women) are dying in droves for drunk driving while others are killed in fights over alcohol or women. Every situation you can think of is a possible death trap for our youth.

Where I live, we have in a span of three months buried two 19-year-olds who were shot dead by police (they were, as is the norm, labelled “suspects”); we have buried a 24-year-old and a 25-year-old, one was stabbed by a friend after a gambling game went sour and the other was killed in unknown circumstances. Another 20-something-year-old was knocked to his death by a speeding car and I can only imagine how many more have been buried in that duration in other parts of the country.

This begs the question: When we lose the most productive and promising segment of our society, the one that ought to give us hope that indeed our society has a future, where is our consolation? Even more depressing are the statistics of those who are suffering from incurable diseases and drug addiction, which renders them less productive.

Where are we headed as a society? But is that even the right question to ask?

A friend recently told me that if you are living downstream and every time you stand by the stream you see a child carried by the water every twenty or so minutes, the prudent thing to do, if the problem persists, is not to keep saving these children but to go upstream and find out who or what is throwing the children into the river. Otherwise, your house will be full of rescued children and soon you will have no capacity for more, and many children will die. Hence addressing the root cause would help curb such misfortunes.

So, rather than ask where we are headed, the right question to ask probably would be: When did the rain start beating us?

Psychologists point to family. They tell us that a child’s upbringing in the first 12 years impacts the rest of his life. And they tell us that children – especially boys – from broken families tend to get into crime and disorder in adulthood. We are further told that boys of single mothers or those brought up by grandmothers are more prone to getting into crime and anti-social behaviour in their teens. In short, psychologists say that a child needs to be brought up around a father in order to develop into a balanced and responsible adult. Where the father cannot be present for various reasons, they advise for the mother to introduce the child to a father figure (a friend, an uncle or a religious leader or teacher) who will mentor him.

This is not in any way to suggest that mothers have no positive influence in the upbringing of children. No! We salute all of you mothers especially the single mothers who go through a lot to raise their children. What we are told here is that the way society is, fathers or men have a lot more influence as role models, disciplinarians and providers to families than can be wished away.

And that is the reason I have written this to you fellow men. I want you to pause and answer these three questions: First, where are the children you have ever sired (in your marriage and/or outside it)? Secondly, who is their male role model and what are they learning from them? Lastly, ask yourself, “Am I being a father to the children I fathered?”

These questions will take you to the root cause of our current predicament as a society. If every father answered these questions and decided to do the just thing for their children from now on, I believe many boys and young men will be saved. I believe many will live to be fathers themselves and responsible ones.

My fellow men, we must go upstream and find out why our young men are drowning. We must examine our hearts and minds and find out whether we have in any way contributed to their drowning. If yes, what are we going to do to ensure not one more youth is lost?

Have a thought-filled month. Happy Father’s Day!

Published June 2015