Father’s Day

Source: Father’s Day – The Zimbabwean

Today is Father’s Day and we are celebrating the role that fathers have played and do play in our lives. I am fortunate in that I can trace my family, through my father, back to 1335 when my ancestors lived and worked in Scotland. In those days we were an integral part of the revolt against English domination and control.

Eddie Cross

Ultimately we lost the struggle for independence and as a consequence the family moved to Ireland where they were part of the Protestant Church being established there in competition with the established Catholic Communion.

My Great Grandfather was a young Irish Baptist Minister in Belfast and decided to move to South Africa in 1877 to take up the position of the Minister of the Baptist Church in Grahamstown. He married my Great Grandmother who followed him to the Eastern Cape once he was settled. They raised a large family and all of their children went on to play a role in the life of South Africa.

My Grandfather grew up in many homes in South Africa as his father and mother moved from Church to Church across the length and breadth of the country. Not much money but well educated parents and access to local schools meant that all their children grew up with a clear understanding of Christianity and what real family life meant in that era. G W Cross was a character and like his ancestors always played an active and informed role in the life of his adopted land. He was well known for his love of poetry and literature and many of the intellectuals of South African society were friends. At the same time, he was fully aware of and engaged in the political and economic life of the country.

These traits rubbed off onto his children and my Grandfather Graham Cross, became a man with a fine legal mind. He married a lady whose family had migrated from Australia and they also had a large family. He became a Magistrate and like his father, they were always on the move as he was promoted and sent to new Districts as a Magistrate, Senior Magistrate and then finally as Chief Magistrate of South Africa.

Like his father he was well known as an intellectual and well connected to the struggles and strife that characterised South Africa at the time. Like his father he became a friend of the most powerful local political leaders of that time, including General Smuts who played such a key role in both global and local politics and events. Even so, he raised all his children with a strong sense of what is right and wrong and gave them the best education that he could afford.

My father was one of those children and finished his education at Pretoria Boys High School where he obtained a Matric and then left school to start work at the age of 17. He had a photographic memory and would have made a marvellous Professor of history. As with so many at that time there was little choice of career and he joined the local Branch of an American oil company. During the Great Depression he was told that he would have to move to Rhodesia or face being laid off with little chance of finding alternative employment.

It was a good move and he rapidly established himself in the City of Bulawayo in the oil industry and in the love of his life, which was the theatre. He met my mother in 1938 and they were married a year later. She was a widow and had three children which he took on as his own in every way, giving them the freedom to use their fathers name when they chose to do so. I was the first of two children born to this union and grew up in a family of 6, often short of money but always with a deep sense of security and stability.

My father, like many, became an alcoholic in the 50’s and it is a testimony to his strength of character that when he appreciated the seriousness of his problems, that he simply quit alcohol and from then onwards I cannot remember him drinking. After smoking for nearly 45 years, when his doctor said to him that if he did not stop, it would kill him, he simply stopped smoking and that also was until he died nearly 20 years later.

All his siblings went on to play an important role in their differing spheres of influence in South Africa and abroad. In the cattle industry we say that your best measure of a bull’s effectiveness is his progeny. By this measure the Bulls in the Cross family were virtually all champions.

I met my wife at a Church youth group and we were married in 1963 and have remained married to each other for over 57 years. We have raised two children and both are now mature adults, with families of their own and have done well in their chosen spheres of life. Our grandchildren are all well rounded young people doing well at school and all very different. Unfortunately for the first time in history, they are a minority. For the first time that we can identify, stable, secure families of a man and a woman in a legal and human relationship, are now a minority across the globe. This will have serious consequences.

There is first the Biblical view of the family and marriage. Those of us who claim to be Christians must recognise that we are in a tough position. The Bible makes it clear – Mankind was created man and woman and the family is no human idea, it has always been the very basis of society. If you believe that the world is a created entity then you have to follow that truth all the way, Mankind is also created and what’s more, the Bible makes it clear we are created in the image of God Himself.

This a critical issue, because it means that the right place in which to raise children is in a stable man and women based family. Nothing else will do the job as well. I have worked with young people for most of my life in the Church and I know from personal experience that fractured marriages damage the children that are caught up in the crisis. Do not let anyone tell you that it does not affect the children, it does, and in every way; the children of such situations are less stable, less sure of themselves, find it more difficult to build a stable family for themselves, have difficulty in relating to others and they underperform in all key areas, leadership, academics and even sport.

I simply do not understand the drive in the media and in Government, to lean over backwards to justify aberrations that differ from these principles. Same sex marriage is not a marriage at all – if the main role of marriage is to raise the next generation. If this is not the case, then what is the main purpose of mankind itself? It is not to build empires and wealth, to be more powerful or to invent ever more intelligent machines. Ask any man at the end of his life about his achievements and he will tell you that the most important thing in his life is his family.

Then there is the idea that single parents are OK, that they can have children and raise children as if this was “normal”. Ask any girl who is over 15 who the most important person in her life is and it will be her father. When she goes through puberty, her first love affair will be with her father, the only person she can trust not to abuse that early affair. It is always a magic time for both of them. Ask any boy who he wants at sports day when he scores a try at rugby; it is Dad. If you are not there it will affect many things that happens in their lives.

If you do not accept this, then just look at history – study the lives of anyone who has really contributed to mankind in any significant way and you will find that they were raised in a secure home where mother and father loved each other and stayed faithful to each other. Examine the experiments involving raising children in institutions. The novelist, Rawlings, is spending her very considerable fortune on taking children out of institutions and placing them with families because she understands that this is the only way to raise a child so that they can live productive lives.

That is why in both Russia and China as well as in all other religions of the world, the family is the only recognised relationship in which to raise children. They know, nothing else works as well and if our society is going to be able to compete in this increasingly competitive world, this is not an issue any of us can take lightly. In Africa where the family is under threat from migration and some aspects of our culture, this is an issue that every African father must take seriously.

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