Being the father I always wanted

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Artwork created by local artist, Leila Fanner
Artwork created by local artist, Leila Fanner

From the Human Factor: The moments we become parents: Personal stories of love, fear and hope.


I grew up living in a single room that we shared among the 12 of us. I remember, as a teen, waking up crazy early so I could wash in the tub with some privacy.

I always wanted children, to bring life into the world, but I wanted to be ready for it. I had to get a job, build my mom a house, have my own bedroom first.

I was very responsible. I was 32 when I heard I was going to be a father for the first time. I had mixed emotions about that – I was excited, but I also felt scared. I realised my lifestyle would have to change; the little money that I was earning would have to be diverted and shared.

I couldn’t wait to see my firstborn, Onalenna, on the day of his birth. I couldn’t wait to hold him in my arms. I yearned to be a good father. I had had a proper upbringing but came from a broken family because there was no father.

As a boy, there are some questions that you cannot ask your mother, and as a young man, you need your father’s authority and guidance. When I saw friends of mine with their fathers, it was hard for me; it made me wish to have a father.

I wanted to be sure this son of mine wouldn’t go through what I went through – he would have a father. Today I am a father to three children: Onalenna, who is now 12 years old; Esaleone, who is four; and my daughter, Goabaone, who is two.

Also read: 'It was the most rewarding sight': Local dad shares his wife's amazing birth story

I am no longer with my children’s mothers and that has some implications for me as a father. It is hard to say goodbye to my children, and I can’t help feeling that they are meant to be with me always.

You miss out on things – you get those calls: ‘Hey, you won’t believe what your son said or did today’. Luckily, I do have a good relationship with my children’s mothers. We talk, attend church together, go out together, sometimes I even stay over.

But one of my biggest fears is that my ex-wife finds a lovely new husband who develops a more meaningful relationship with my children than I can, given that I don’t share a house with them. Or what if he moves them to a place far away so I cannot see them often?

I worry that my children will one day resent me for leaving their mothers, and them, in a way.

When you get married, you don’t get married to get divorced, but I did not want to stay in a relationship for the sake of the children. You know, when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that is affected. My ex-wife and I have both become wiser through this experience.

WATCH: This short film about a dad doing his daughter's hair has us in (happy) tears

We agree to disagree. When you have issues, you can’t deal with parenting.

There is no manual that gives you guidelines on parenting. You look at where you come from and see what you can do better. I have just built a house for my mother and children – it has 11 rooms. But money alone is not love.

You have to have a relationship with your kids and be your children’s hero. I want to be the kind of parent that when they struggle with something, they will say to their mother, ‘let’s talk to daddy’, and I want my daughter to be able to say, ‘I want to marry a man like daddy’.

I want them to be proud of me.

This article forms part of DGMT’s Human Factor publication. Issue 2 explores the power of parents as their children's first educators and their right to continue to champion their children’s education throughout schooling.  Read it online or request a printed copy at dgmt.co.za/the-human-factor  

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