Two of my high school friends became teen mothers. In both instances, the boys ducked, leaving them holding the baby.
Fortunately, the girl’s families took over the care of the children, giving them love, an education and a surname.
One of those children, now all grown up, is on a search to find his biological father.
His declaration has left a smarting family who justifiably can’t understand why, after they gave him “everything”, he now wants to find the person who rejected his very existence.
This article is dedicated to this young man and countless others like him. The children some man left behind.
“A real man,” my grandfather used to say, “takes care of his own.”
And he led by example, educating all his children at a time when only boys attended school even though his own education had ended at class two.
He started a small trading business that grew and at the time of his death in the mid-90s, he had left an equal inheritance of land and property for his children, both male and female, we, his grandchildren, and our children. He has been dead for almost 20 years but continues to take care of his own.
I thought of my grandfather’s words last week on Father’s Day and the many children out there, both infant and adult with aching voids in their hearts because some man has refused to take care of his business.
It is a recurring theme, with different casts, playing out in villages and cities across the world. Boy and Girl get together. Girl gets pregnant. Boy makes a beeline for the door. After all, it’s her problem.
Or Boy and Girl get married. It doesn’t work out. Boy walks out and leaves girl to take care of the children.
He can start again with another girl somewhere else. In both instances, he got away scot free. Or did he?
His DNA walks around somewhere even though he deleted Girl’s number from his phone and the memory from his mind.
Beyond these scenarios is a child who grows up wondering, “Who was he? Why didn’t he want me? How could he just walk away?”
Now, there may be valid reasons why men walk away from their offspring. For most women, maternal instincts come naturally, and they want to care for and protect their child.
It may not be the case with paternal instincts, and some men can walk away and not spare their unborn children a second thought.
Also, in instances of abusive and dangerous fathers, it is probably in the best interest of the child that they are kept far away.
Unfortunately, there are too many men who walk away simply because they can.
Our society seems to encourage this behaviour. Parents are unwitting accomplices when they fail to demand that their male children take responsibility for children they have fathered.
Responsibility does not have to mean marrying or staying with the mother of your child, but it does mean caring for that child’s welfare enough to provide love and maintenance.
If you don’t have a job but are old enough to have made a baby, then find one.
Simon Mbevi writes in Dad is Destiny: “Fatherhood is both a great opportunity and an awesome responsibility. A God-given opportunity to shape someone for life. An opportunity to determine the morals, values, faith, culture and the orientation of a human being, or at least lay the foundation thereof. It is a responsibility that only the brave will seize and keep at it for the long haul.”
Fatherhood is an act of courage, not passion. It is more than simply giving a child a surname.
It is staying around even when one is frightened out of their mind and unsure of their role, and where that is not possible, staying involved in a child’s life.
At a very basic level, this involvement centres around provision. But fatherhood is more.
As Mbevi writes, a father is also a protector, a priest and a prophet who calls forth his children’s destiny.