Prevalent…widespread and pervasive is the problem of “fatherlessness” among the young people with whom I am currently working in South Africa, but I don’t think the problem is uniquely a South African one. Many of my students in the U.S. have “daddy issues” as well, and this is not necessarily gender specific although the female students are more forthcoming and “typically” affected by the problem. The loss of a parent through death is tragic as in the fathers (and mothers) lost in the carnage of 9/11 and its resulting decade of war. Loss through death, whether accidental or through illness and disease, makes an indelible mark on the children who are left behind.
There are millions of orphans in sub-Saharan Africa due to the ravages of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Those, however, are not the “fathers” to whom I address my concerns here. These absent, missing or in denial “fathers” are those who walk away from their children, with no sense of conscience or responsibility. They have planted their seeds and moved on, and for “whatever” reason, they do not care to be a father to these children they have created; it is an endemic problem.
Mothers are left to be all things to these children and that itself is problematic, but more insidious is that these young people are left with the question, “Where is my daddy? “ Then the feelings of abandonment, lack of self or self worth, the search for love in all the wrong places, lack of commitment, fear of relationship, hurt, anger and so on all come flooding in the door.
For some of these kids the question is, “Who is my daddy?” And that question brings on an entirely different set of problems, conditions and pathologies. Although I recognize that there are social conditions that are contributing factors to the generational cycles of fatherlessness that exist within our society, I cannot excuse as normal the behaviors that systemically allow these men/boys to relieve themselves in meaningless (to them) sexual activity and take absolutely no responsibility for the devastating consequences their momentary pleasures have on the lives of the real children left in its aftermath.
It makes me sick and tired when I hear story after story and see the rivers of tears cried by the children who grapple with the daily truth of men/boys who refuse to be the fathers that they should Be-come. They impregnate a woman or girl with their sperm, their DNA and walk away. It is a shame. but they feel no shame. We must raise our sons (and our daughters too) to be better than this…my mother used to say, “Don’t lay down with someone you are not willing to get up with because whatever you plant might take root and grow…”
We now have a “forest” of fatherless children. A generation of children who will have to turn this thing around…and we must help them in whatever ways we can. I am calling on the “Village”! Elders! Spiritual Leaders! Nurturers! Healers! There are fathers out there who must help these children who are without a father. There are men/boys out there who must turn around and face the children they have left behind— To whom much is given, much is required! Talk to me!
Up Next Week: The SPACE in between