I grew up without a father for most of my crucial years. I was soon becoming a woman -- growing comfortable in my skin -- yet I never knew what it felt like to be unconditionally loved by the man who called himself my father and me his daughter.
The word, "father" felt like a distant memory -- unfamiliar and intangible. I could never quantify it, for I would never come to know or have relations with the man who I had come to resemble. The only common thing him and I shared, was our appearance. "Strange, is it not?" I thought to myself. Here I was, in front of the mirror, as I brushed my teeth I stared at my reflection, carefully examining every feature -- trying to find him in me -- but nothing. Of course, I had believed that I did not need a father, I knew not of who he was or how he looked like. "You can't miss someone you've never met, right?" I thought to myself again. I was wrong.
As I grew into a young woman, the love of a man was something I had avidly been searching for. Unaware that this desire to be loved by a man came from the absence of my father, "love" presented itself to me in all the wrong forms: I was confronted by young men who were just as broken as I was. In each other we sought to find what we had been missing our entire lives. For me it was the love of a father, for them it was the guidance of a father -- to walk the path of manhood with them. Missing a father figure, these young men were shaped by their circumstances -- knowing only what they were exposed to: To them, "love" was defined by the number of women one kept, the number of women one slept with and the number of hearts one shattered. I simply did not care. In each of them I sought to find him and when things turned sour, I became bitter and started believing the, "all men are the same" saying.
But how could I expect that much from people who were just as wounded as I was. "You can't make homes out of human beings someone should have already told you that" -- as I remember this quote by Warsan Shire, I realize that indeed at times when we are broken, we go searching for that part of us that is unfulfilled elsewhere, hoping to find comfort -- forgetting that where we search may also be ruined and hopeless. I write this not because I seek pity, but because I hope our fathers will soon realize that their presence is needed. Men, your sons and daughters need you. Children are broken and are becoming broken because of your absence in the home. I hear many people say, "It takes a real man to raise a child," but that should not be the case: Raising and loving your child unconditionally is a duty you must abide by. It should not be something admirable to do because so many men have chosen not to. Men of Africa, your sons and daughters need you. Your sons wait for you to show them that the value of their manhood is not defined by the number of emotional and physical scars they have left on women. Your sons wait for your leadership, your guidance and to walk with them on the path of childhood and into manhood -- help them define what it means to be a man of value.
Men, your daughters need you. Your daughters wait silently -- lying awake at night -- hoping to one day see you become that man for their mothers so that they may know what it means for a man to respect, love and realize the worth of a woman. Fathers, your daughters need you to help them see that they are worthy of love that is kind, pure and honest. Your daughters need you, so that they may one day hope for a son and daughter who share your values because you were a reflection of what she needed to see.
Buyelani emakhaya. Abantwana bayanidinga. Umntana udinga uyise njengoba edinga umama. Buyelani (Come back home. The children need you. The child needs a father just as much as he needs a mother. Come back.)