In the last couple of weeks, I’ve found myself having different conversations with young boys/men between the ages of 15 and 24. While the conversations have cut across diverse topics, I’ve observed a common thread that is giving me quite a bit of concern.
I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of these boys to open up and have “deep” conversations. It was almost as though they just needed to exhale, and I allowed them to do just that. I believe what helped was that I offered them a safe space free of judgment and shaming. As they talked, I couldn’t help but observe the anger and resentment each of them felt. So, I probed a bit deeper and deduced that there were some real ‘daddy issues’ at play.
A non-clinical definition of ‘daddy issues’, is when a person has an unhealthy or absent relationship with their father. This may be as a result of abuse (emotional or physical); absenteeism (physical, mental or emotionally); neglect; being overbearing or controlling.
While a lot of jabs about daddy issues are directed at females, the guys are not immune. My take is that the men are probably worst hit but because they have a way of bracing up and forming “hard guy” when some of the symptoms manifest, a connection is not made. The reality is that daddy issues can occur in both guys and girls, it just manifests differently.
Some of the reasons for the anger these young men felt, ranged from the way they saw their dads treat their mothers, to what they considered wrong choices their fathers had made which had put the family in precarious situations particularly financially. Others were resentful because life was not turning out the way their dads told them it would. “Go to school, do well so you can get ahead in life”. Well, they did! Went to school, got good grades but all life seems to be throwing to them are lemons. “Why didn’t my dad tell me the truth about life?” one asked.
Seriously, in my opinion, the odds are stacked against our boys. In a society of rising unemployment, increased focus on women empowerment, social media that says “you’re less than a man if you don’t meet certain standards” and a world that is not yet comfortable with boys wearing their emotions on their sleeves, what chance do they really have? Little wonder the issues of depression and suicide stare us in the face daily. While some have taken solace in drugs and alcohol, some have resorted to fraud, violence, and rape – which all further worsen the situation.
I think what hurts me the most is that many dads appear totally oblivious of the effect their actions or inactions have on their children particularly their sons. We need to break this cycle. We need to help our young men. A mother can love, nurture and care but there is still a void that only a father or father figure can fill.
Dear Daddy’s, your children particularly your sons need you. They need the real, authentic you. Not the person who because he has bottled so much up constantly erupts at the slightest provocation. They need you to give them a balanced perspective about life. They need you to inspire hope. They need you to show them how to care for their families by the way you care for yours.
I am begging for the sake of our boys who are destined to be great men with proper guidance, for the sake of our daughters who would be in relationships with these men either as work colleagues, girlfriends or wives, for the sake of the next generation who would have them as fathers… Can we have more present fathers? Fathers and father figures who are ready to do what it takes to raise productive well-balanced men, even if it means unlearning some of the parenting methods they inherited from their own fathers.
You see, the goal of parenting remains the same, but methods must change.