Every year the middle of June means Youth Day and Father’s Day close together or on the same day as in 2024.  As a matter of interest and a bit of fun I decided to look back on some old MARFAM newsletters for this period. I came across June 2007 which had as the theme for the year CHILDREN, GIVE THEM LOVE.  The June theme was “Father-love supports life.”  I even had the temerity to mention youth as parents – some already are, and others are prospective parents. I  asked “What would your child expect from you and what could you be offering your child?”  Many of the youth themselves of course also still belong in families.

Youth month in SA always commemorates June 1976  and I have also been reflecting on the fact that 48 years later the e 1976 youth are likely the grandparents of today. Does history repeat itself?  Do proverbs and wise sayings carry across generations?  In the 2007 newsletter I used some proverbs such as “Like Father, like Son.”  They were my thoughts and I must say I like them, but not much has changed, although a good number of fatherhood projects were started and some have folded again I believe.       

“Like Father Like Son.”    (Extract from Family Matters June 2007)

Do old adages and proverbs still hold water one wonders? Every culture has them; they are the wisdom of the ages. But, whether we approve or not, family structures are both more varied and different too in different places, than they were a generation or two ago. Research statistics and attitude surveys may be more readily available for Europe and the US then for Southern Africa, but it is clear that in very many family situations there is no father present on whom a son can model his behaviour. Migrant work has and still continues to leave women and children behind in rural backwaters. There, especially, marriages are very few, and although traditional and court marriages do happen in many cases there is no stable long-term family set-up. A male migrant worker may have a “town-wife” and a “country-wife” and children in both places. Teenage mothers seldom have the support of the baby’s father. As women move up the economic ladder they not infrequently opt to have a child but do not seek a permanent relationship with the father. However, at the same time very many men and women claim they would like to marry and build a family together and of course many of them do.  The whole situation is however fraught with issues for the men and women themselves, for their children and also for the Church and society.

What can be done and is being done around this situation?

I believe that the SACBC Family Life Desk theme for 2007 with its June theme “father-love supports life” does its bit for awareness-raising and related resource materials are provided by MARFAM some of which are being adopted in some dioceses and parishes. Rustenburg diocese Family Life Desk has started a Men’s Forum. But even with the family life movements and some of the parishes trying hard, we know that we are not reaching enough families and fathers on this subject. There is just not enough cohesion and collaboration in this as in many other church projects.  

At government level, while we as the Church do not agree with some aspects of the family policy which is in its final draft format, we cannot but support “family preservation” as the focus of the Social Development Department Family Life Directorate. So, social workers across the country are a resource that can be tapped into.

On 16th June South Africa commemorates Youth Day, the day in 1976 when youth took the reins away from their fathers and mothers and said, “Enough, you are failing us.”  Have those fathers (now grandfathers) been able to recapture the respect and influence they traditionally had?  How are they modeling to, and influencing their sons and daughters?  What support are they receiving from us?

The “Fatherhood Project” is the brainchild of the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa and interestingly focuses largely on the positive side of fatherhood with many upbeat articles and stories in its regular e-newsletter, stories about health, fitness, father workshops and shared child-care. One article resonated with me which referred to something described as the Atlas Syndrome, a form of burn-out or depression in fathers who try too hard to carry the whole world on their shoulders as the mythical Atlas did.  Some people would go so far as to claim that fatherlove is indispensable. It certainly is a most powerful support for and in families. Fathers, be they biological or step-fathers too, can still be giants and heroes to their children, be role models and figures to look up to and emulate.

One young unmarried father contemplating marriage to his baby’s mother said to me,”I don’t want another man bringing up my baby. I need to be there for my child.” And we, Church-as-family and society too, need to be there for him, to lend our support in turn.  And sure some proverbs and wise sayings still apply.  No matter how skinny, the son always belongs to the father a Kenyan proverb.  When one has not had a good father one must create one Friedrich Nietzsche. And the Bible in the book of Proverbs give us plenty of sound advice. A wise son loves discipline; a mocker will not listen to reproof.  13:1. A wise son is his father’s joy, A foolish son his mother’s grief. 10:1.   Toni Rowland  “” extract ends.

 It would appear that little has changed but gender based violence has definitely become a greater priority. I don’t see that being dealt with from a “fatherhood” perspective, or even a family one.  A small initiative to address VIOLENCE IN  FAMILIES from FAITH ACTION remains in the doldrums while my current focus is more on BECOMING ECO-FRIENDLY FAMILIES. In fact any activity that promotes family collaboration and co-operation can help keep children and fathers together. And still a favourite slogan of mine, from parenting in Marriage Encounter days, is “the greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.”   TR   FAMILY WEEKLY 19 June 2024


June 19.  Deacon Samuel still enjoyed meeting with the youth. “Now girls, no showing off any more.”  The boys teased the girls mostly about how they looked but the girls challenged the guys on how they acted.   “Remember the singer Jub-Jub, he was a real show-off and where did that get him; jail for killing innocent schoolchildren with his street drag racing.” “It’s the same in church.  Some people go to show how holy they are but are they really?  Let’s take this really seriously because it also concerns an eternal reward.”

Reflect, share, scripture:   Beware of practising your piety before men in order to be seen by them.  For then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 6:1-6.  Pope Francis: When people become self-centred and self-enclosed their greed increases.   The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume.  Obsession with a consumerist lifestyle, above all, when few people are capable of maintaining it, can only lead to violence and mutual destruction. LS 204.  ACTION AND PRAYER.Should dress code be an issue in church?