By Jamila Cross, firstname.lastname@example.org
My forward-thinking editor always has me on my toes: “Would you be able to do the sports column for Father’s Day?” I am thrilled, because fatherhood is a topic close to my heart as a single mother of three young boys.
I have come up in the world of organised sport, and being competitive and disciplined is in my DNA; it has given me some of the tools that have shaped the way I engage with and educate my sons. However, I truly believe that my first parenting lessons came from my family home.
I always marvelled at my male companions on the training pitch who all seemed to have had the support, love and attention of their fathers, cajoling, applauding, and mentoring them.
As a coach of young kids, I would also see how fathers would get deeply engrossed in their kids’ end-of-session matches appearing sometimes to live vicariously through their sons and daughters.
I find myself navigating through parenting sometimes with clear conviction, other times I wish I had greater knowledge and understanding which I only seem to acquire by experience—it is said that it is the greatest teacher!
I am fast approaching the middle half of my journey and I find myself now more than ever questioning my male friends about the roles they play as husbands and fathers to their partners and children.
At times it is not always a positive state of affairs, as men struggle experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety, they feel frustrated, stressed, burned out, and even bored with the responsibilities before them.
They turn to work and wealth, busyness and distraction, alcohol, drugs, and pornography as they seek to find significance and purpose in their lives.
None of these things are sustainable, but how exactly does one learn to become a man or father anyway? Proverbs 22:6 states, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
My father has always been a master provider. From an early age, I learnt that working long hours, being in meetings, missing family events was always a sacrifice or excuse for providing. Although he appeared apparently emotionally unavailable, he was committed to securing the financial future of his family. Later in my life, I reasoned that my father, one of ten children growing up in the rural South from a bi-racial family and with a father who died while he was young, must have fought tooth and nail to get himself out of family poverty and never wanted to go back.
Growing up without a father must have laid the foundation for his ability to be a parent to his children. But is this a red-herring analogy? I mean there are examples all over the world of men who had inexplicably difficult relationships with parents, grew up with absent or deceased parents and somehow made conscious choices about the type of men, husbands, and fathers they wanted to become.
Do we let men off the hook based on their childhood circumstances as the reason for their inability to do better once we know better?
Then there are the men who have never biologically fathered children, but are mentors, providers, and duty bearers for those under their care. Teachers and coaches who are considered fathers by their students, who go the extra mile to keep children on the right path.
Male family members in the countless single-female-headed households who provide a strong sense of values, purpose and foundation for young boys and girls who look to them as the head of the homes.
I pray for the men who make valiant efforts to be good parents to their children but feel that they fail in their attempts, time and again—fathers who battle addiction, feelings of inadequacy, and an inability to provide a solid foundation to facilitate their children’s physical and emotional well-being.
I pray for women who play the dual role of mother and father with limited support, and resources to keep their children away from the easy lure of negative influences but feel that they fail in their attempts, time and again.
Father’s Day for me is about the foundation that we lay for our children, lessons to learn from God the Father. This, I believe, is the answer on the parenting journey of whom we should emulate—that God is constant; He never changes; God is faithful; and God is love. Our Heavenly Father is the example for earthly fathers to emulate.
So, fathers, it is your goal and responsibility to ensure that your family’s needs and desires are satisfied, because you are ultimately the head of the family. Happy Father’s Day!
Jamila Cross is a triathlete, former professional footballer for Sevilla FC women’s Club Spain, and mother of three boys Tishad, Akim and Santiago. She is the founder of the Mariama Foundation, a registered non-profit organisation raising the storytelling bar for the Caribbean’s female athletes.