Growing up in the impoverished dormitory township of Chitungwiza, some 30 km south of Harare in Zimbabwe, I understood from the tender age of 7 years, that in the midst of all the daily financial struggles we faced, I was one of the richest kids on earth through the simple gestures of support that my parents showed me. My father, now 83, was a shop floor factory worker on a minimum wage and my mother, 15 years younger, never saw the inside of a classroom, as she was an orphan. With nine children to feed, my parents compensated for their financial lack with extraordinary emotional and psychological support.
My mom fought hard for me to get the best possible education available. I remember one day, when I was in grade one, she went to the headmaster to ask for a month’s grace period on my behalf, while my dad looked for school fee funds. Mr Goto maintained a hard-line stance.,. In that moment I was touched my mom’s tears and the pain she felt for me. It was as if my feelings were transferred to her and she knew exactly what I was going through. She held my emotions and processed them as if they were hers, which brought healing to my soul. After a lengthy conversation, Mr Goto finally agreed, but by then I had already made my first major decision in life: I was never ever going to fail at school (her desire for better education for me would not let me). A promise I have kept to this day.
As with most children, I longed for my dad’s approval of the things I did. One such thing was playing football. I had a deep passion for the game and was good enough to be a key player of a local football club for primary school kids. Even though results differed from game to game, one thing was always constant: the presence of my dad, Philemon, in the stands. The sight of him in the crowd was the most inspiring thing to me, and it still is to this day. His mere presence in those moments, taking time away from his tiring factory shifts, meant the world to me. He would sometimes come wearing his dirty greased overall, a sign that he clearly prioritised watching me play, coming straight from work not wanting to miss a moment’s action. Well, I am neither a psychologist nor a professional footballer, but I can tell that those simple moments are what made my character as a man. They instilled in me resilience and a sense of self-worth that money could not buy. Within those treasured memories is an enormous, deep-seated, and powerful force from which I draw energy whenever I am faced with difficult circumstances. Without saying a word, my dad taught me a critical lesson in fatherhood: have time for your children, be present and be in the moment of what they are doing. A feat I am trying to replicate with my two kids.
It is only when I joined Ububele that I got to conceptualize and understand the theoretical framework behind what I experienced from my parents. Though ordinary people, my parents had an innate and intuitive understanding of cultivating our psychological and emotional faculties as kids while somehow shielding us from the harsh economic realities we were confronted with. It is no surprise that I recently called them, just to say thank you for being there. If all of us parents, especially men, can do the same and give both time and attention, it will surely be a better world.
Ububele’s parenting programmes equip you with the necessary tools required to enable you to not only understand your past, but also to build better emotional and psychological infrastructure for your children.
By: Costan Rungano
Finance and Operations Manager