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IF I was also asked to spell the word, “father”, at a spelling Bee competition, I would spell it: M-O-T-H-E-R. Father! Because my mother is the only father I have grown up to know.

Today, as a 26-year-old man, I know that there is always one less celebratory day to stress about.

However, it being a day I should not stress about, does not eliminate the pondering I have of how it could have been if my spelling of a father was F-A-T-H-E-R or D-A-D or D-A-D-D-Y.

Would he appreciate an expensive bottle of whisky or brandy? Would he have been the kind of dad that a wrist watch was going to make his day even more pleasant?

I wonder, would he have been the kind that would appreciate an Orlando Pirates or Kaizer Chiefs jersey or not even a soccer lover at all?

But as Sunday, June 18, Father’s Day approaches, I am, as I have always done over the years, going to look into my mother’s eyes and say: “Thank you for being such an awesome father to me. Your lack of masculinity did not make you less of a father to me. You play the role of being a mother and a father exceptionally well. So Mom, Happy Father’s Day.”

It does not make me feel like I have a father. I do not. And sometimes that reality of an absent father pains meThe older one gets, the most frustrating it is.

As a mentor of teenage boys, I have had the privilege to meet some of their fathers. I must say, very few of them have present-active fathers.
So it is always refreshing when I get a chance to meet their fathers for a chat.

They are amazing fathers.There is something that distinguishes the lads who are fatherless like myself from those who have presently active dads.
So through these very few young men and their fathers, I get a chance to be hopeful. I know for a fact that there are good fathers out there.

I know that not all boys are going about life without a template of how to be a man from home. Sometimes it is a template of how not to be.

I often say: “I make being fatherless the coolest thing in the world.” What I mean by that is, I will not let my father’s absence turn me into a monster. Instead, I made a pact with myself that I am going to be the best man I can possibly be and eventually a great father, God willing.

It would be such an injustice to not acknowledge all the wonderful, amazing and cool fathers out there. It is not all doom and gloom. I am happy that your daughters, too, see an example of a good man who treats his children and wife with respect. I am happy that through your participation in the lives of your daughters, they will know not to be involved with men who are trash. Your sons, too, will know not to be trash because you have shown both the treasure that you are as a father.

I do not doubt that there are many of you good and responsible fathers out there. However, I happened to grow up in a village where the absenteeism of fathers is conspicuous.

It leads some of the boys in my village to acknowledge their masculinity as a passport to disrespect their mothers and live uncontrollable lives. Of course, it isn’t only your absence as a father that makes them so disrespectful.

I turned out quite well, even if I do say so myself. However, had you been around, they would have probably been more submissive to your masculinity. They would fear doing certain things in your presence.

As some of you would be showered with gift on Sunday, I would like to say to those who plan to be fathers and those who are fathers already, your presence in your child’s live means so much to him or her.

To those who are like me, I know this is how we will always spell Happy Father’s day: H-A-P-P-Y M-O-T-H-E-R-’S D-A-Y. Because to us, our mothers are the only fathers we know.

A Happy Father’s Day in advance.

Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement (YMM). E-mail, [email protected]; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala