Lessons learnt from all my fathers

2012-01-21 00:00

AT the end of my matric year, my friends and I had a discussion about where we would be in five years’ time. Everybody had a clear idea of where they would be, but I could not see away forward for myself, short of a miracle. A miracle did happen as you can tell, but over the years I figured out that my self-doubt came from not having a father who was there for me.

Being renowned for doing something great and being wealthy always seemed more attainable than my dream of having a happy wife and children and never getting divorced. I need to learn how that happens, but to do that I’ll have to recall lessons learnt from my friends’ fathers and add my own flavour because

I have seen a variety of family structures and they’re all unique.

My friends’ families are my only source of what a normal family is like and I have especially studied their fathers. An inspirational moment of my youth was when I was given a lift home by a friend’s father. Mr Ntshangase dropped his son off first,and as he was leaving, he addressed his 15-year-old son like a grown man and said: “Ntshangase!”

My friend was clearly used to this because he saw nothing strange about it when I raved about it to him later. I noticed when Bab’ Ntshangase started addressing me as a man, calling me “Ndoda!”

Mr Smith, who raised his children on the game reserve that he manages, lives with his wife Titch who is a horse enthusiast and she taught me how to ride. I love how they raised their sons, one of whom is a very close friend, to be very polite, self-assured and respectful to everyone, regardless of their age. The only thing they don’t tolerate is stupidity. My friend speaks perfect English, partly because his mom is an English teacher, and he also speaks excellent Zulu like his father. I find it funny when Mr and Mrs Smith flirt like a new couple.

While in high school, I paid a visit to another friend’s home when his parents were leaving for the  weekend. It was my first meeting of his parents, and Mr Amein had surprised his wife with flowers.

Another family had Saturdays where everybody was involved in sport: the dad was a coach and the mom would sell refreshments. Years later, Mr Tommy told me “a man should measure his success by how happy his wife and children are”.

Mr Mahlaba, like the men mentioned above, treats me like a son and even a friend at times.

Then there’s Mr Safla and his family. He always talks to me about how he started his family business and its ups and downs. I remember howDrMartinLutherKing’s “IHaveADream”


speech was on their fridge, and how the parents

supported their children’s relationships.

PJ’s dad left them in the United States after

completing his studies and he struggled for

years. When he finally made it he sent for PJ


My own dad is teaching me how not to deal

with a family, and how to avoid his mistakes.

He says his sons are like his little brothers. I

guess there are lessons in everything.

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