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Being present and engaged – my experience as a father

As we celebrate Father’s Day on 19 June this year, it is fitting that we start to reflect on our role as fathers and what contribution and support we have provided to our children and communities at large. As many fathers would say, we have had a lot of experience as we grew up and drew much inspiration from our own fathers. They instilled in us the fear of God, with strong morals of living peaceably with each other and giving those in need food, clothes, and learning materials.

I come from a family of seven (six boys and one girl); all of us have been educated and hold very responsible positions in and outside of our country. My father told me to never pay evil with evil, to learn to be patient, kind, caring, tolerant, and forgiving. The virtues I learned from him continue to be my core values today.

Today I am blessed with two children who are the joys of my life and in them I always find happiness. My children are the source of all that I have achieved in life and when I am stressed, it is my children who always make me smile. They ask me to share two good and one challenging moment from my day at work. My younger son will always do this when I get home, and when I share my day with him he will say, “Dad, it’s not gonna go easy but rest assured that God is with you. What you are going through is not strange,” and then he will sing and dance for me. My son will always say, “I really want to be like you in the future and I hope I will be able to support more young people and make this very evil world a better place for us all to live”. He would take my clothes and shoes and give them out to his friends and would always say, “Dad I really think you do not need all of these shoes and clothes and don’t you know that there are lots out there who need just one of these clothes and shoes that you have in this house.”

My career path in the YMCA has made a significant contribution to my thoughts about transformative masculinity and how one perceives men’s role in the home and workplace. Raising children was one of the hardest, but most responsible and satisfying tasks I have faced. It is also one of those tasks for which no one receives formal training to adequately bring up a good child.

I have observed over time that someone’s knowledge of how to bring up a child usually comes from their surroundings and their own upbringing. This may result in patterns from the parent’s own social experiences being repeated and passed on to their children.

As a father, I have been one of the most influential role models to my boys. I have always ensured that I give compliments and show respect, kindness, honesty, friendliness, hospitality, and generosity to my children.

As a responsible father I always express unconditional love for my children, as well as provide them with the continued support they need to become self-assured and happy. My principle is to set reasonable expectations for them and tell them in plain words what I expect from them.

I love my boys for what they are to us; they are a real blessing that God gave us. It is good when I watch them do things at home that remind me of my own childhood days.

I do not have riches to give to my children but I will always provide them with the best education and I will always show them the way of the Lord. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Children are gifts from the lord and it is incumbent on every parent to ensure that they take good care of their kids in a way and manner that will allow them to become useful and productive citizens.

Discipline is crucial when bringing up a child. All children need and want reasonable boundaries. Through discipline your child learns which kinds of behaviour are acceptable and which are not. Setting boundaries for children’s behaviour helps them to learn how to behave in society. Discipline is difficult to deal with because it demands consistency as the rules have to be applied every day.

My children’s greatest need has been quality time with me. Finding time to spend together as a family can be difficult, especially as job demands increase. Despite all of our very tight and busy schedules, we have arranged daily time to ensure that the family is together and that we discuss and plan as a family.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this year, let me say that a real father is one that is always stays present in his children’s lives, shows them love, always teaches them to be tolerant, and helps them to stay true to who they are and what they believe in. Let’s be true role models so that our children will live fulfilled lives that will light the paths of others. Let every child be happy and have access to the opportunities they might need as they grow up.

Happy Father’s Day to you all.

By Christian Kamara, National General Secretary, Sierra Leone YMCA

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