Don’t be a question mark in your kids’ life

My blessings call me dad, Trevor Davies, Africa Fatherhood Initiative

“There are no perfect fathers, only ones who care.” I repeat this to myself regularly, as I walk this challenging and demanding path of raising two young daughters.

My own father was not perfect, but I know that he cared deeply for me and my siblings. He worked long hours to provide for us and always made time for family dinners and outings. As a child, I didn’t fully appreciate his sacrifices and hard work, but now as a parent myself, I understand the depth of his love and devotion.

He was a complicated man. A man of his times in the 1950’s in working class Liverpool. The pub, the betting shop, the machismo. The simmering violence sometimes just under the surface. The shouting matches between Mum and him and yes, the occasional violence towards her and his children. It’s all too easy to remember just this about him.

He had an operatic voice and would serenade mum, he’d take us kids to the Park every Sunday, I remember him snoozing under the Sunday newspaper. Fish and chips suppers in the week, when we’d all be called awake at nearly midnight to feast on his treat.

Being a father myself has been both rewarding and challenging. I have made mistakes and had moments of doubt and frustration, but I always come back to the fact that I care deeply for my girls. I want them to grow up knowing that they are loved and supported, no matter what.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of being a “perfect” parent, but I know that’s not realistic. Instead, I focus on being present, patient, and compassionate. I listen to my daughters, try to understand their perspective, and show them that they matter to me.

I also know the importance of setting boundaries and being consistent with discipline. It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary for their growth and development. I make sure to spend quality time with them, whether it’s playing games, reading together, or just having a conversation.

Being a parent is a constant learning process, and I try to stay open-minded and willing to learn from my mistakes. I also know the value of self-care, as taking care of myself helps me be a better parent.

This means making time for activities that bring me joy and relaxation, whether that’s taking a swimming class, going for a run, or simply reading a book. It also means prioritizing my mental health, such as seeking therapy or talking to a trusted friend when I need it.

By taking care of myself, I am better equipped to handle the challenges that come with parenting, and I can be a more patient, loving, and present parent for my children. Ultimately, my goal as a parent is to raise happy, healthy, and compassionate individuals who feel loved and supported, and I know that starts with taking care of myself.

At the end of the day, I may not be a perfect parent, but I know I’m doing my best to raise happy, healthy, and kind individuals.

The rewards are sometimes immediate – a hug, kiss and cuddle on the sofa, as I pretend that I am thoroughly enjoying watching Peppa Pig, while on the sports channel Zimbabwe are six runs away from victory or Liverpool are one goal down with six minutes to go!

I’ll choose quality time with my daughters over sports games any day. I can always watch the highlights later once I’ve tucked my blessings into bed.

There’s nothing more precious than spending time with the people you love. As a parent, it’s important to prioritize your children’s needs and wants, and for me, that means putting aside my own interests to make memories with them. Whether it’s playing board games, baking cookies, or just having a heart-to-heart conversation, every moment with my girls is priceless. And while I may miss out on some of the latest sports games, I know that the memories we make together will last a lifetime. So, I’ll always choose quality time over any other distractions.

Other rewards take time and not as easily earned. Zuwa, my youngest, after shedding countless tears over homework assignments, triumphantly walks through the door four weeks later, with 95% on her math’s test. Chiedza insists I come to her classroom and pulls me to the back wall where her painting hangs, so she and daddy can proudly muse together.

Raising daughters comes with fears too. I get frightened as I watch my daughters go to school each day. If they go wandering at the shopping mall, I panic until they are back in my sight.

I worry about the world they are growing up in, with so much hatred and division. I fear for their safety and well-being, and wonder if I am doing enough to prepare them for the challenges they will face.

But despite these fears, I am grateful for the opportunity to raise strong, independent young women. I am proud of the values I have instilled in them, and the way they navigate the world with confidence and compassion.

As a father, I know that I cannot protect my daughters from everything. But I can give them the tools they need to face adversity with grace and resilience, and to stand up for what they believe in.

And so, despite the fears that come with fatherhood, I am grateful for the chance to raise daughters who will make a difference in the world.

These may be fears most fathers experience, but they should not be! I look at the figures on gender-based violence (GBV) with despair. The growing spate of rapes and child abuse unnerve and anger me, and I worry about my daughters’ futures.

According to a recent Gender Link’s study called The War@Home: Findings of the GBV prevalence in South Africa, over 77% of women in Limpopo, 51% in Gauteng, 45% in the Western Cape and 36% in Kwa-Zulu Natal report experiencing some form of violence at least once in their lifetime both within and outside their intimate relationships. This is indeed a war on women.

I also look at figures from the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), which show that in South Africa an estimated 46% of children by the age of twelve are growing up without an active father in their lives.

Evidence shows that this high rate of fathers’ absenteeism translates into young women who are more vulnerable to sexual violence, transactional sex and early pregnancies.

Furthermore, the social and economic consequences of young women raising children on their own, missing education and work opportunities, trap women in a cycle of poverty.

This begs the question: How can we help the women of today and tomorrow?

Nothing will change unless we radically re-examine what we are doing to combat this war against women.

This is where the personal act of raising children becomes a political act of commitment to positive change. My fears will not abate if I give up on tackling GBV and if I abdicate my responsibilities as a father and a man, leaving this struggle solely to women.

There is a need for more men’s support groups, because these spaces are missing from our current women-only approach to tackling GBV and child abuse.

By creating men’s support groups, we can encourage men to openly share their experiences and emotions without fear of judgment or shame. These groups can also provide education and resources on healthy relationships, communication, and conflict resolution.

Furthermore, including men in the conversation and solutions surrounding GBV and child abuse is crucial in creating lasting change. Men can become advocates and allies, working to challenge harmful societal norms and behaviors.

It’s important to note that men’s support groups should not be a replacement for women-only spaces, but rather a complement to them. Both are necessary in creating a more equitable and safe world for all genders.

Overall, addressing GBV and child abuse requires a community effort, and men’s support groups are a vital piece of that puzzle. It’s time to prioritize and invest in creating these spaces for men.

These spaces also need to collaborate with women in order to broaden our work on gender equality and ending GBV. There also needs to be increased willingness from women’s movements to open up debate, because without dialogue there is no solidarity. To change society for the better, women and men must work together.

It is imperative that men change their individual attitudes and behaviours. We need to be clear about what we want to see in young men and this vision demands that men and fathers be at the forefront of driving change.

Fatherhood is not just about fathering children. President Obama is often quoted, “Any fool can make a baby in five minutes, but it takes a man to be a dad!” Fatherhood is lifetime commitment to an everyday endeavor.

For me, part of this commitment is never forgetting to thank my children for making me a Dad, because there are many fathers who do not appreciate this role. Absent fathers, do not know what they are missing, but their kids and single Mums who do!

Any society where large numbers of men fail to nurture their children through childhood and into adulthood is a failing society, despite any other successes.

The role of fathers in nurturing their children cannot be understated in the development of a healthy society. A society where a significant number of men fail to take responsibility for their children’s upbringing and well-being is a society in danger of failing.

A father’s presence and influence is important in a child’s life, and when absent, can lead to negative effects such as emotional instability, lack of discipline, and poor decision-making skills.

The success of a society cannot be measured by economic or political accomplishments alone, but also by the quality of its families and the upbringing of its children. Therefore, it is essential to encourage responsible fatherhood and support systems that promote active engagement of fathers in the lives of their children.

Let’s keep up the commitment to being good dads and driving positive change. There is nothing more magical than truly loving your children, your children truly loving you, and having your children sincerely calling you “Dad”.

As I continue on this journey of fatherhood, I remind myself that caring is what truly matters. It’s not about being perfect, but about showing up and being there for my girls. And I know that as long as I care, I can help guide them through life’s ups and downs, and be the father they need and deserve.

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    Children without involved fathers, or a significant older male father figure, are at great risk of both perpetrating and becoming victims of violence - both as children and adults - and of becoming victims of substance abuse; teen pregnancy; poor academic achievement; mental health problems and delinquency.

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