In his most recent theatrics, Harry blamed a ‘broken home’ for his abuse of drugs and alcohol – in addition to vilifying everyone in his family, and even the media, for the myriad of wrong decisions he has made in his life.
Of course, the only person he has avoided blaming is, curiously, himself!
Why do we seem to have a whole 38-year-old grown-up crybaby on our hands?
What really went wrong?
I can never claim to be an expert or knowledgeable about Harry’s life – but, from the little the world has known about his upbringing and family life, as well as what he himself has revealed, this man never truly grew up.
He is just a child in a man’s body.
I did not write this article to discuss or analyze Harry – as I really do not believe his drama has much significance to us here, some 9,000 kilometers away.
However, there are definitely some lessons we can draw on how to, or not to, raise our children.
Harry’s story brings to the fore a raging debate in today’s Zimbabwe – which has primarily been focused on whether we are raising up weakling children, with special emphasis on our boys and men.
Indeed, we are – as evidenced by Harry’s shenanigans, and how he has turned out in life.
I have always had a problem with those who claim that raising strong boys simply means ordering them not to cry or open up about their feelings.
Some have even gone to the extent of erroneously alleging that being a ‘strong man’ translates to supposed ‘toxic masculinity’ – a term that I find rather bizarre, and at times, never having been properly defined.
Be that as it may, let me start with the issue of boys being raised not to cry.
I must say, that is a common misconception, that has actually led to the grooming of the weak men we come across today.
Being ‘strong’ has never been about not crying or opening up – but, having a mindset strong enough and geared to handle whatever life throws at us.
Let us remember that the mind is not the brain.
The mind is broadly all intellectual and psychological phenomena of an organism, encompassing motivational, affective, behavioural, perceptual, and cognitive systems.
This is the organized totality of an organism’s mental and psychic processes and the structural and functional cognitive components on which they depend.
In other words, the mind is how an individual thinks, processes and handles thoughts.
Therefore, this is where a human is defined as either being strong or weak.
It has never been about crying or pretending to be able to handle what one faces in life.
As such, when our fathers were growing up, their parents never rebuked them for crying – but rather, they were trained to handle whatever life threw at them.
That is what being strong truly entailed.
When their parents shouted, ‘Usacheme (don’t cry)’ – it was not as simplistic as that.
Actually, their generation was geared to the processing and finding of solutions to whatever they encountered in life – instead of just resorting to crying.
This was not a simple command not to cry – but, in their ability to handle life’s challenges, automatically, there was really nothing to cry about.
Let me give an example.
What is the point of demanding someone, who is physically weak, not to cry or complain when he finds the weight of carrying a 50-kilogram bag unbearable?
As a result of his weak physical statute, he might keep quiet in fear of being rebuked or ridiculed for crying – but, that will never take away the fact that he finds the bag too heavy, and will eventually break and succumb under the weight.
Thus, the solution here is not in telling him not to cry or complain under the burden – but, to train his body and muscles to be strong enough to carry and manage such heavy weights.
Once he is physically strong enough – then, effectively, he will have nothing to even want to cry or complain about – since, the weight of the bag will not feel heavy anymore.
The answer, as such, is not even in encouraging him to cry or talk about it – although, we should never despise those who may want to do so.
That is where we miss the point as today’s parents.
We focus on the wrong thing.
In bringing up our children – the attention should never be on urging them not to cry or even encouraging them to open up – but, on training their minds to be strong enough to handle anything they may face in their life journeys.
That means not shielding them from life’s challenges, hardships and pitfalls – so that they learn, from a very early age, how to deal with such difficulties.
Our fathers’ generations were deliberately exposed to what real life was all about so that they would know, and learn how to come up with solutions – rather than moan and mope.
The mind is just like the body – which requires constant and regular exercise, in order to develop and be strong enough to function at optimum levels.
The more one is spared from vigorous physical activities, the less his body will be able to handle physically-demanding tasks.
The same applies to the mind.
Let us be brutally frank with ourselves – today’s parents are raising a generation of weaklings, who are completely unprepared and incapable of handling life’s hardships.
This is not a matter of telling them not to cry – since not expressing their failure in coping will never remove the fact that they are failing to cope.
Besides, had our children been trained and capacitated to handle life’s challenges, they would not have a reason to cry, in the first place.
That is the main reason our fathers never cried.
It was not because they were instructed not to do so – but, had the abilities to effectively deal with whatever life threw their way.
This is why we see such sad people as Harry today – who is symbolic of the children we are raising these days.
It s most tragic watching a grown man crumbling to the extent of going into drugs and being rebellious – simply because he did not feel loved enough as a child, or was treated as a spare to his older brother, who is heir to the throne.
That is why he will never realize that his issues are all within him – and not the world around him, his family, losing his mother at a young age, or even the media.
Pity partying or fault-finding has seldom been a solution for anything!
In Zimbabwe, we daily hear reports of our children drowning themselves in the same world of illicit drugs and alcohol – just because they believe there is no future for them, or can not handle the challenges they encounter.
There are even those who are ending their own lives – on account of being ditched by their lovers or having failed in school.
That is the reason we also have so many incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) – which is what I believe is referred to as ‘toxic masculinity’ – due to men who do not know how to handle relationships or cannot cope with the challenges found therein.
Even I went down the road of alcohol abuse – due to my own weaknesses and failures in handling life, as well as what I was going, and had gone, through.
I also reached a place where I blamed everyone and anyone for the person I had become.
Nonetheless, a time had to come when I needed to face facts.
Admitting the truth about myself was the beginning of my recovery and healing – after which, I called upon my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to save and restore me to the man Jehovah God initially created.
Of which, my God faithfully and lovingly responded, through His abundant wealth of grace.
My issues had everything to do with me, and me alone – in my own weaknesses and failures in handling life, and what it brought with it.
I could have written daily articles blaming my family, my father, or mother, or wife, or even the economy – nevertheless, that would have just been nonsensical and dodging the real issue.
This had absolutely nothing to do with those around me, my family, my circumstances, or the challenges I had encountered along the way.
As a father today, I know that I have a huge responsibility to prevent my son from becoming a replica of who I was.
Fathers have a huge task ahead of them, which they need to take on bravely.
We have become too mothering of our children – instead of parenting them.
There is an urgent need for real fathers to stand up and step in – as our children are in desperate need of us.
Let us not baby our children – but, teach them early on in life how to handle life and the endless challenges it has in store.
Even the legendary musician John ‘Mr. Chitungwiza’ Chibadura once sang, ‘Rairai vana venyu vagokura vachiziva kuti pasi pane mhamo’.
The more we shield and protect them from the cruelties and harshness of life on earth – under some distorted and misguided notion of love – the more they will not be prepared, and the more likely they will crumble in the face of hardships.
Being strong is not seen in not crying, or even in crying – but, in one’s mindset and the ability to handle life.
After that, there will actually be no need for anyone to cry.
By simply ordering our children not to cry is merely setting them up for a major fall – as we would not be dealing with what matters the most – their mindsets and thought-processing capacities.
That is why we never saw our fathers crying – as they knew how to handle and solve hardships they encountered.
- Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected]