By Kizzy Katawonga, Uganda:
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he grows, he shall not depart from it” is a proverb from the Bible that is so disturbingly true.
Growing up as a young boy, I noticed how my parents were particularly stricter on my sisters regarding chores and lifestyle. Cooking, cleaning, washing, grooming, proper behaviour, and proper dress: These things were constantly shoved down their throats at every opportunity. Not so for me. In fact I wasn't expected to do too much at all. I used to think it's because I'm the last born but listening to other women's recounts of their childhood, it's clear the same story played out for them too.
I have tried very hard over that past few years to be a good husband and father. To me, it always seems that my wife finds it much easier to know what to do as a wife and mother than I do. It's usually quite a struggle because I remember clearly all the things my mother did but I'm hard pressed to remember what my father did. As I pondered on this I began to realise it's because my wife, like most women, was traditionally prepared for her roles in the home from a very young age unlike myself. I and most other men were pretty much left to our own devices. We were somehow expected to just 'know' what to do as husbands and fathers. Nobody ever took time to teach us how to behave or what we are supposed to do.
It's rather strange actually, considering that the world over, boys have always been given first privilege to schooling and yet never even the slightest thought is given to their real life skills. “Grow up and be a man” is a phrase I loathe. What does it mean anyway? It is thrown about by people without the slightest clue that perhaps we can't do that because nobody ever showed us how to be a man in the first place.
Unlike women whose mothers and aunts were constantly teaching them how to be women, daddy and uncles were too aloof, lost in their careers or drinking to teach us boys how to be a man. Most of our forefathers believed raising children was the work of the woman. Women have done admirably except that it's near impossible for a woman to really teach a boy how to be a man.
So for the most part, we do what we have seen. We go out and work. We go out and drink. We don't embrace our wives. We don't let anyone question our authority. We never cry or express emotions other than anger. We don't go into the kitchen and we certainly don't change the baby's diapers. Nobody taught us what things men do. Oh, we've heard rumours and gotten twisted ideas of what a man is but they mostly revolve around a man being a champion: A champion at sports, at work or in the bedroom.
For years, women's activist groups have fought for the girl child. And they are absolutely right to do so. The girl child needs an equal opportunity to the boy child to succeed in this world. However, the boy child shouldn't be ignored in the process and left behind. Boys need to be taught how to lead, how to manage affairs, how to love women rightly, how to protect those they care about, how to pray and nurture those around them and yes, how to change diapers.
It's very simple, men come from boys and if we don't equip them, how then can we expect them to be men when they grow up?
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