We have no reason to celebrate on Father’s Day

The two-year-old Egg received her report card this week, and I think I am the proudest dad in Gauteng.

Not because she is, according to her teacher, an extremely bright little girl with an exceptional ability to grasp the more challenging parts of the “academic” work the toddlers do at nursery school.

I can’t take any credit for that. Her mother, the lovely Snapdragon, is a highly intelligent woman, and I don’t doubt for one second that Egg has inherited any possible academic ability from her mom.

But my own genes have made a contribution. According to the teacher, Egg is not good at sharing. She refuses to use the courtesy title “miss” when she addresses her teacher. She has hand-picked the naughtiest children in her class as her best friends. And she has spent time in the parrot chair – the nursery school’s version of a correctional facility.

“Why did you have to sit on the parrot chair?” I asked Egg.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she replied.

Well, with Father’s Day looming on Sunday, my gender is also on the parrot chair and I’m afraid the universe is pointing an extremely accusing finger at us. And today I want to talk about it.

Us men have a proud history. We have sailed the oceans, discovered continents, conquered space … yet we are failing at one of the most basic expressions of manliness: being good fathers.

Almost two thirds of all children in South Africa grow up without an involved father.

Yes, it’s difficult. There’s a Haynes manual available to maintain almost any car ever built, but there’s no manual for fatherhood.

And, yes, some mothers purposefully exclude fathers from being an equal parent. And very often a dedicated father is unfairly labeled as a “deadbeat dad” because of resentment that has nothing to do with parenthood.

But the sad truth is that we are not very good at being dads.

A third of us can eat our Father’s Day lunches with pride. For the rest, it should be a day of serious introspection. In SA, we are blessed with wonderful mothers. A woman who is not a great mother is a rare exception.

But bad fathers, I’m afraid, are the rule. And that, dear reader, gives us, as a nation, very little to celebrate this weekend.

Dirk Lotriet. Picture: Alaister Russell

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