What does it mean to be a good Dad? Nabila Cowasjee tackles one of the biggest challenges facing us all in our increasingly complex world.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. We seldom live in ideal situations, but we can start by agreeing that effectively supporting children requires more than one person and that each child, no matter what gender, needs a father or a strong, enlightened masculine role model.
The experience of "Father" leaves indelible marks, so dads must consciously demonstrate truth and knowledge in practical ways, reaching beyond their own current understanding and beliefs, to successfully support a future happy, healthy society for their children.
Traditionally, fathers have been providers, responsible for a necessary culture of material values, acquiring concrete security conscious legacies. At the same time, less tangible parenting responsibilities were left to women. But the increase in two income families means women, too, are actively and unconsciously involved in expressing materialism, leaving children in danger of being denied adequate access to emotional and spiritual matters. By not living and talking about a greater choice of values, we prevent our children availing a wider palette of opportunities from which to paint their own responses to life.
Fathers must actively and creatively grow their understanding of how they contribute and educate themselves about different parenting techniques required for sons and daughters.
John Gray in Children are from Heaven believes that boys and girls come into this world equally trusting and caring, but as they experience neglect or the pain of unmet needs, girls react by trusting less and boys begin to care less. Boys need extra trust, acceptance and appreciation to stay motivated and compassionate, whereas girls need heavy doses of caring, understanding and respect.
Girls must be allowed to be vulnerable and dependant and know that parents will be there to protect without judgment or loss of caring. When attention and listening is withdrawn, girls feel powerless in getting their needs met. They then begin to operate like boys, needing more space and displaying habits of high independence because it's too painful to need support but not get it.
When a father is too trusting of a girl's ability to handle things, she can feel abandoned or rejected. Daughters who have been inadequately fathered will find it hard to trust again if they have felt neglected, unheard and unprotected.
Boys need dads who support their instinct to seek new challenges by reassuring them that everything is okay, that they are believed in and their ability overtly recognised with minimal criticism.
A good father encourages his children to embrace new habits of equality and is willing to communicate about current injustices. A tragedy of mankind lies in parents not talking to their children about what is important. If we only talk about surface trivia, our children are rendered unable to communicate or act on issues concerning love, life, truth and death. Ignoring the ugly, incessantly playing happy families isn't evolutionary.
Talking has traditionally been the domain of women, but fathers now, too, need to take responsibility for communicating their feelings and expressing ideas and thoughts. Dads must speak to their children honestly about things that have previously been taboo.
Despite millions of brilliant minds and spirits that are holding up our world, it's still a grim place. Wars are still fought, violence erupts consistently in our neighbourhoods, people suffer needlessly from incurable diseases and children die of starvation. The world is suffering from an overload of heavy harmful masculine paradigms and has become deaf and blind to the healing qualities goddess energy brings.
Those of us who understand metaphysics and the idea of "As above, is below" will have a light switched on when I propose that our planet today mirrors this imbalance of masculine and feminine energies. She is exhausted, showing signs of severe burnout. Like a woman unexpressed, unheard, dismissed, disrespected and abused, she's cracking up. Bushfires that plague our continents are her anger. Flash floods that wipe out communities are her tears. Volcanic eruptions and devastating earthquakes are her suppressed voice that longs to be heard. El Nino is her hot flashes, night sweats and panic attacks. The overuse of chemical fertilisers on our food, our nourishment, is a metaphor for the increased incidence of breast cancer caused by toxin overload and hormonal imbalances. The crazy practice of silicone breast implants has its parallel in the push for genetically modified food.
Mama Earth's lungs are collapsing from exposure to passive smoking via cooling towers and greedy gas guzzlers. Her skin, the ozone layer, now prematurely thinned by an excess of masculine solar rays, leaves Gaia parched and wrinkled with drought, desperate for clean water to soothe her chapped epidermis. Yet the powers that be continue to argue for short term, botox, cosmetic solutions or indeed move on to more hip, sexy, but scary, solutions like desalination or sewage recycling. Her bloodstream, our rivers clogged with pollutants, sluggish, and tired has slowed down her heart; our hope.
So what does this have to do with fathers? I am looking for a light at the end of this tunnel. A light that addresses this imbalance so I can rest easy at night and at least hope that future generations will inherit a world less burdened, where mistakes aren't repeated, where lives can be orientated towards fulfilment, community, sharing, caring and joy.
It's automatic to focus on women as beacons for the wellbeing of children because they hold a whole bunch of keys that contribute to the creation of a happy, healthy, wise future generation. But dads you hold a crucial one, too. As women and hemlines have risen shouting for equality, they have also contributed to, and compounded, the over abundant masculine model. Women have been mistakenly trying to fix the disparity, in Pallas Athena style, in yoga warrior poses number one and two, thighs strong, prepared for bloody battles. Like our planet, women are fighting for their lives, succumbing to a range of illnesses and stresses because we are so deep in slumber we think reform must be forged in a masculine way. Until the feminine is truly revered and understood by man and woman, the future of our kids will always be at risk.
A good father becomes a bad father when he fails to honour, respect and protect the mother of his children. Barry Long in Raising Children with Love and Justice says if a man cannot truly respect and love a woman, then he cannot love his children rightly: he will give them the wrong idea of love.
Fathers need to convey the difference between sex and making love to a woman to their sons; the difference between passion and lust. Directing a child's attention to the psychic beauty that resides in all living things, the smell of flowers, the feel of the earth, the wisdom of the weather develops a respect for our planet and all its bounty, and builds a child's ability (especially a boy's) to connect with the real sensation of love in its deepest manifestation. It creates a societal value system where sex is not the end line, where immediate gratification will be replaced by a closer, deeper and infinitely more satisfying relationship with everything.
As the French proverb says "Ce que femme veut, Dieu veut" - "A woman's will is God's will." We need fathers to champion this cause and be guiding lights in the impending darkness. A meeting must be convened and female lunar nurturing energy shared with trustworthy men to on sell. Women must continue to speak up, but rather than emulate the hairier sex and struggle to pull heavy metal swords from scabbards, we need to pass out light sabres forged from wisdom, to willing dads and get them to fight for kith and yin.
Effective parenting is a partnership, a process of agreements and solutions that support a healthful marriage of masculine and feminine processes. So token sperm donors move over, and wise, wannabe heroes brandishing torches ignited with passion born of a desire to lighten our little ones' load, brave enough to fight battles on behalf of all of humanity, step forward. Those who dare to resurrect Magdalene's lost legacy will receive, instead of shiny medals, healthy happy fearless women, daughters who step into womanhood, beautiful, strong and safe. And sons and future fathers will hold their heads high, proud of their dads, abundant with riches far greater than their grandfathers ever knew.