By: ProVerb | Mon 29 Jun 2015, 15:14
Rapper and SA Idols host Proverb reflects on being a father and shares his take on Father's Day.
My wife, bless her heart, packs the lunch boxes for my two rascals to take to school every day.
She makes the effort to pack a balanced lunch box and always includes fresh fruit. Recently my six-year-old son Kgosi's teacher took note and he was awarded a certificate acknowledging his healthy lunch box.
We then took a conscious decision to not only pack healthy lunches for the kids but also make sure they eat healthily at home.
Many of us, and I'm very guilty of this, have the nasty habit of watching our own health and just letting the kids eat as they please and giving them sweets and fizzy drinks as and when they request.
I even have the bad habit of rewarding them with sweets when they complete their chores or do well at school.
I've come to think differently and now sweets are strictly on weekends and perhaps even when there's a birthday in the class but even then, we monitor their sugar intake and ensure that they drink lots of water as well.
I've always thought kids don't have health issues to worry about and their bodies are designed to handle all the junk better than grown-ups, but I know better now and see things differently.
Take-aways are also less frequent and if we do go out as a family, I always include a side order of veggies just to balance things out.
When I was a laaitie, all I wanted to become when I grew up was a doctor - like my dad.
I knew nothing else except that I should become a doctor. Needless to say, when life didn't quite pan out that way, I was left miserable and without options, or so I thought.
It's only when I left school back in 1999 that I was exposed to the world and the variety of career options that are out there and I began to explore.
First I did IT and later Sound Engineering which saw me work as a technical producer on radio and I've been in the entertainment industry since. Now my portfolio is so diverse: I'm in TV, production, transport, property and a few other business interests and I often wonder how my life would've panned out should I have pursued medicine, one thing is for sure, I'd be miserable.
My little girl, Ditshupo (9), tells me regularly that she'd like to become a "Singing, dancing, doctor who designs" and my response is always: "Yes you can be my girl and you should go for it.
We are the generation that knows that the days of traditional career paths are gone and now one can think out of the box and pursue what you really love and wish to do for the rest of your life.
I'm raising my kids to believe they can do whatever they like and I do my all to expose them to as much as possible. Whatever interests them, we fuel their curiosity and explore it together. This way, they know they have no limits.
My wife and I also make a conscious effort not to belittle their ideas but rather to support their thinking and encourage them to continue dreaming and broadening their imagination. My son, Kgosi (6), wants to be a pilot.
Whether he genuinely wants to be one or that's just the thing he heard somebody at school say, is not the point. The point is this is currently what he thinks, so every now and then we go and sit at the airport and just watch planes take off and land. Whenever we travel together we try and find an opportunity for him to interact with pilots or cabin crew so he can ask them questions to his heart's content.
The toys we get him are to help keep him excited about his idea and the books and literature is also in line with his vision. Should he wake up one day and have a new idea, we'll follow suit and support that too.
The point is to create an environment where the kids are free to think without any limitations or prescriptions from us parents but rather for us to expose them to as many ideas as possible. We've all learnt as adults that happy people are more successful and ideas are not to be killed but executed.
Friends or folks
I'm friendly with my kids, as I imagine all parents are with their kids, but this is not to be confused with being their friend. There's a very clear distinction between being friendly and being friends.
I love my kids but I also make sure they know I'm their father and the disciplinarian and the lines are not to be crossed. I’m not unreasonable but I'm quite strict and stern when I need to be, especially when they get out of line.
This is not to say I'm not loving and I don't have fun with kids, I do and we play together and enjoy ourselves. The rules in my household are quite simple, if you listen to your mom and I and do what we ask and behave, we can have fun and play. The inverse is also the same, if you're naughty and don't do what you're supposed to you will be disciplined.
Their mother and I also make sure that we're consistent with our messaging and we speak in one voice, this is to make sure we run the household effectively and efficiently and we constantly communicate to make sure our team is solid.
Kids will always try and manipulate the system when they identify a weakness or if one parent responds differently to a situation, so it's imperative that we're in sync.
The danger with being their friend, is that ill-discipline can kick in and as a parent you're disempowered to remedy and this can spiral down to disrespect and do damage in the long run.
The key is to let our kids know that we love them unconditionally and want only the best for them and thus have to guide and teach them until they are responsible young adults who can make their own decisions.
For her ninth birthday, my wife and I decided to get my daughter a cell phone, this after I swore to keep my kids away from such things for as long as I could.
The question I know many of us parents grapple with is: how do we keep our kids' innocent and free of any danger all while giving them all the advantages that life has to offer and exposing then to the latest and best?
On the one hand, technology robs them of natural social interaction and, if not supervised, can expose them to all sorts of online atrocities. On the other hand, technology is the way of the world and certainly the future, and exposing them to technology is advantageous for their education and development. There's also the obvious advantage of being able to communicate with them at a moment's notice and vice versa.
This can be a conundrum for parents but I think the best way to proceed is supervised exposure; show them how the Internet works but also monitor the situation closely at all times.
Technology also allows us to set restrictions on devices and Wi-Fi access. This way we don't prevent our kids from keeping up with the world but we also chaperone them through this new world, staying ever alert to any dangers and preventing over exposure.
We also need to empower them to make the best decisions by discussing the dangers and threats because we may not always be in the position to advise them, especially if they have access elsewhere like school, libraries or friends.
As parents, we need to be in our kids business until we've embedded the right tools to enable them to navigate technology on their own but also ensure that they don't get lost in this world and disconnect with real life. Or what say you?
Let's be honest
I think we need to be honest with our kids. We need to protect them from false information from the world and empower them with the truth.
This applies to the smallest, most significant information, right across to the more serious, more intimate details of life.
The other day, my nine-year-old daughter, Ditshupo, lost a tooth and proceeded to put it under her pillow for the "Tooth Fairy". My wife, I mean the "tooth fairy", fell asleep and forgot all about the tooth, much to the disappointment of my child in the morning.
Ditshupo then asked me: "Does the tooth fairy really exist?" I convinced myself that I was retaining her innocence when I responded: "My child, if you believe the tooth fairy exists, then she exists." In hindsight, I think I missed an opportunity to be honest and frank with her. If she is old enough to wonder and ask, then she is old enough to know the truth.
This will boost their confidence and they will learn to question more and stimulate their curiosity about life. Most importantly, they will trust you to be honest with them and furnish them with the correct information.
The danger of not being honest, especially with more serious questions, is that they will get wrong or skewed information from unreliable sources and/or friends. Honesty also opens the lines of communication and your kids will share their uncertainties and trust you to be honest and caring. So if they ask, I say let's just be honest.
A Father's Day twist
We just celebrated Father's Day and as I was being showered with gifts and being spoilt, I couldn't help but wonder if this is the correct way to observe this day. I actually think it should be the other way around and I should be spoiling my kids and thanking them for trusting me with this great responsibility of being their father.
Inversely, I think their birthdays are when the parents should be celebrated. A little weird, I know, but my logic is, if it's my birthday, surely I should be thanking my folks for giving me life.
Father's Day then, would be when us fathers thank our kids and their mom for this amazing privilege. This, of course, would then apply to Mother's Day as well and the kids' birthdays would be when we the parents blow out the candles on the birthday cake.