When I was 14 years old and in my first year of High School I remember trying really hard to avoid the teachers. There was a particular reason for my attempts at avoidance.
I remember my friends and classmates being told that their facial hair was getting to a point where they needed to start shaving and I was noticing that there was a little more substance to the hair on my face than there had been in the past. I knew that the day was coming when a teacher would pick me out and tell me what the other guys were being told. I dreaded it.
Fortunately I am blonde so my need to shave was a lot less noticable than a lot of the other guys – that would give me a few extra weeks, maybe months, of being able to lay low.
I knew I’d be told I have to start shaving and then I’d have to go home and tell my mom and she’d go and buy me a razor and some shaving cream and then I’d have nobody to teach me how to shave. It seems really trivial now that I know how to do it and, like most guys I’m sure, it’s pretty much second nature to me, but at the time it was a big deal and really had me worried because I had no clue what I was going to do.
I still remember one of my teachers taking me aside and telling me I needed get the hair off my face. His name was Mr Coetzee and he was a really nice guy. He told me in a mellow way and didn’t get too harsh with me. I think he knew it might be something that could be an issue for me so he went easy on me.
So anyway, I went home and told my mom and she went and bought me what I needed like I knew she would. I had all the stuff and I had a vague idea of what I needed to do, but I really wasn’t sure. Now I don’t even know if guys who’s dads were around got them to show them how to shave or not, but I know that at that moment, in the bathroom, I wished that my dad was there to show me. I stood there clueless and lonely. I figured asking my mom would be futile since she had never shaved her face (or ever needed to- thank goodness!). I have a cousin who is three years older than me, and who I looked up to a lot, who had been shaving for a while so I thought I could talk to him, but I thought it would be really embarrassing so I gave it a skip. I didn’t want to ask the guys at school because I was scared they would ask why I didn’t just ask my dad.
I felt really alone at that time. Like a lot of things in my life I taught myself how to shave by trial and error.
What’s the point of this story? Well, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only guy who didn’t have dad around to teach him stuff. I know there are girls who didn’t have dads around to teach them that they are beautiful and how to respect themselves.
Maybe one of my memories is teaching myself to shave and yours is something else, or a bunch of other things, but there is a whole generation of us whose dads just weren’t around for us. We have taught ourselves how to do a lot of things. We are the fatherless.
My question is this: ‘What can we learn from our dads?’
What my dad did hasn’t shown me how to be a good dad, but what he didn’t do has shown me what I need to do to be a good dad.
If I have a son (or more than one) I will teach him to shave, how to pass a rugby ball, how to catch a wave, how to treat girls with respect, how to be a good, strong, kind person and how to be a good dad to his children. I will give him a sense of worth and help him find his identity. And If I have a daughter I will teach her that she is beautiful and captivating, that she is loved and that she should expect to be treated well and respected by boys and that her dad will always do what he can to protect her.
We may be the fatherless, but we are also the ones that can make sure that the next generation – our children – are not fatherless! We know what not to do. We know how not to be. We are the fathers!
Let’s not make the same mistakes our parents did.