How does one define a role model? For me it is someone whose qualities and achievements you admire. It made me think of the link between qualities and achievement; good qualities often lead to achievements, but not always because luck comes into it.
I asked my friends who their role models were, and it was a telling response that few could name a role model they look up to.
Perhaps it is age, when you are young, you have posters on the wall of sportsmen, musicians, political figures, but as you grow older it is hard to name a role model that you aspire to be like.
To ask someone who their role model is, is like asking them what their weaknesses are; humans admire qualities that we don’t have, like patience if you don’t have it.
If you asked any boy who their role model is, they reflexively say their father is; however few of my friends are even close enough with their fathers to seek advice.
It is ironic, young fathers are sometimes making the same mistakes that their fathers made; not bonding with their sons, being a stern and distant figure, an authority figure to be feared and not loved. When you think of life, you think you will get to 18, then you’ll be on your own, able to make your own choices, but all my friends have realised that fathers are more needed in adulthood than childhood.
Three good friends of mine lost their fathers recently, one to cancer, two in accidents, but the effect was the same; they were all torn up by so many things they wanted to tell they father but never did.
The most tragic was a friend whose father had battled cancer for years, he sat and tended to his father, washed him, fed him; and yet there was still this brick wall between them. His father only let his guard down for a second and said “you’ve turned out OK, you mother would have been proud.” My friend wanted to ask “what about you Papa, are you proud of me?” That is our culture, patriarchal, cold distant, ever to criticise and never to compliment.
One has to wonder how long this can go on, and whether the consequences of generations that are estranged with their fathers is going to do us good.
Africans are often torn between the modern and the traditional; maintaining values while gaining modern skills. Modern parenting is a very hard process; one cannot just beat your way to good parenting, so it is a constant negotiation process between children and parents.
Quite often mothers are the ones who handle the day to day work of raising kids, so fathers have a bigger gap to fill.
The Bible says how the sins of a father can follow descendants for generations; even in the world of psychiatry, generational patterns of behaviour can be repeated over and over.
When I look at my male friends, none of them is on good terms with their father, they might respect them, even fear them, surely they love them but they just aren’t close. Not close enough to ask advice, not close enough to ask for a reassuring hug, and certainly not close enough to talk freely.
And after all that, some men of my generation come home and ignore their kids, and bury their head in the newspaper, tell the kids to shut up whenever they laugh and play. And the cycle goes on………..