The Curious Case of Children

Nobody loves their absent parent more than children. In fact, the less time and less anything they do for little humans, the more they love them. I genuinely cannot grasp it. Is it a yearning for the unknown? Is it a built-in reaction to want that part of your DNA that is not there? Is that why people go to ‘Utatakho’ and ‘Khumbul’ekhaya’ despite the fact that they are raised by incredibly loving people? Do I perhaps not fully relate because my parents are a little bit too present?

The past two days have seen a fraction of the nation (the few with social media) go into a furor of sorts about dead beat dads, child maintenance, absent parents and so on. It was heart-breaking to see the comments from women, it was even more alarming to see that despite men knowing better, a significant amount of them are not doing better at the child raising thing, men are still volunteering to be ABSENT parents. I have written about this before ( and it seems that this particular topic is one that is not going away anytime soon, too many women are raising children on their own.

I have no idea why the world and, too often, we women, are so courteous towards men. Actually even the law states that women cannot deny men parenting rights (or something ridiculous like that), which means that a man literally has the ability to be absent or present as and when it pleases him (unless of course there is a standing agreement on the division of parenting rights, visitations, child support, etc.). This is problematic, mainly to the child’s primary caregiver. Women the world over are encouraged to allow part-time sperm donors or fathers if you may, to have access to children – apparently, it’s the right thing to do, it’s not about mothers “it’s about children” they tell us. WHAT??? This simply means that not only do I carry the responsibility of being a mother, but I also carry the additional and very unnecessary burden of “protecting a man’s image in the eyes of a child”.

What a burden this is. To have to lie to an innocent child that “Papa is busy, maybe he will come tomorrow” when, yet again, he doesn’t show up as planned. To have to wipe the tears of a crying child when a promise of a new toy is not fulfilled. To have to change your plans because said “father” has not arrived to take the child out as promised and now the outing still needs to happen. We are tasked with the impossible responsibility of constantly wiping tears and correcting disappointment of children because, on that particular day, this child didn’t deserve the courtesy.

Go through our lives toiling, denying ourselves certain luxuries and indulgences in order to make sure that a child is well taken care of and given the best and the next thing you know, you see this guy posted a picture, stolen one at that, with a caption “my son”. Whaaaaaat? When last did you see the child or even send R50 for a Happy Meal? I swear this is all hilarious, despite it being a painful reality for way too many women. My next favourite thing that happens is the urgency with which the child needs to be seen, on the odd occasion, and plans must be changed to accommodate this person so that a child can get his annual dose of “daddy time”. Modimo. The suffering that children undergo? What a painful thing to watch, what an even more painful task it is to explain to the child that he actually doesn’t want to see you, without hurting their feelings. Some mothers, we lie. We lie to protect men who can’t be bothered to spend R10 on a phone call to hear of the wellbeing of children they actively participated in making.

Our wonderful, innocent bundles of joy. The apples of our eyes who genuinely deserve nothing but magic are treated so so terribly, purely by virtue of not being given their absolute all by their fathers. Alas, they love them. Very very much. In their eyes, absent fathers are superheroes who are just not there because moms are just unkind. You can give a child the absolute best in every sense of the word, you could re-marry and have a magnificent stepfather actively raising the child, but they will continue to adore their absent father. What a phenomenon. What a horror.