Day 0 is the ushering of a beautiful, pure and new life. A feeling of euphoria compounded by a continuous awe. The miracle of life made manifest.
New life creates wonder. Forces you to pause. To stop and stare. Wow - over, and over, and over again. Making you think about our place in the stars and how one has landed right before us.
I’ve thought a lot about this day. How I will begin. How I will proceed. How I will make changes. How I might fail. How I might succeed.
There are no books, apps or institutions that can offer guarantees. No amount of Tik Tok “hacks” and “tricks” can supplement parental intuition. Fatherhood is experiential, offline and naturally difficult.
By clearing out the noise that comes with modern parenthood, we can focus on the signal: fatherhood in it’s simple raw form. To understand it’s inclinations, instincts and the nature of it’s spirit.
We can think about fatherhood as a whole composed of virtues, principles and intuition. Virtues we can ground ourselves with. Principles for protection from harm. Intuition as a compass.
I’ve taken some time to compile these virtues and principles. They are a synthesis of learnings from my life’s experience and observations up until this point of what I think could work. Along with many long conversations I’ve had with my wife about how we want to raise our child.
And whether all this works out or not - well time will tell.
Having clear positions on virtues are akin to driving with clear directions. Without virtues, the journey is aimless and the destination unpredictable.
To possess the proportionate etiquettes required when interacting with parents, grandparents, siblings, children, elders, strangers, relatives and even adversaries.
To have foresight on the trajectory of possibilities that can be partially determined by where you decide to raise your child.
To seek the perfection of beauty inwardly and outwardly, with the material and the immaterial.
To be a part of a healthy community that offers pathways to stewardship, friendship and mentorship. I once heard this proverb “The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth”.
We have a responsibility to make children feel welcome, feel warm and let them know that they are loved and cherished. Otherwise they may seek it somewhere else.
To remain calm during times of distress has proven to be an invaluable and underrated attribute to possess for both child and parent.
Acknowledging a child’s inclination towards goodness and actively developing it through constructive dialogue, leading by example and acts of service.
To practice gratitude for life and it’s respective blessings.
To understand the past and the events that led to today. I once heard in a song “History doesn’t repeat itself, it rhymes”.
Being able to see patterns of history in the present is an effective way of avoiding mistakes of the past.
To be a steward of the earth, not simply a resident. To feel a sense of responsibility towards our environment and all its respective inhabitants.
To be in a place with moderate space, comfort and sufficient green space.
To know where you come from and who your ancestors are in order to instill confidence and certainty and to prevent confusion and the development of an inferiority complex.
As my father says, “You must know where you come from to know where you are going”. Practically this means regular trips to the homeland to become acquainted with the language, the customs and the culture as a means to create a stronger sense of origin.
My father recently obtained his family lineage that spans 41 generations back in time. If we haphazardly assume that the average generation is 25 years old, this means that my child will be able to come to know approximately 1,025 years of lineage.
To protect the privacy of my child until they can make informed decisions themselves about their own privacy. In the interim, this means not posting any identifiable media of my child on social media. As much as I would like to, there are too many bad actors online and offline to risk exposure.
To protect yourself from harm, by means at your discretion without shame or guilt.
Technology is a tool that requires moderation, safe distance and thoughtfulness. As a technologist, I’ve been deeply concerned with seeing children immersed in their devices. Social media and algorithms are exceptionally dangerous and require parental guidance.
To acquire a worldview that is comprehensive in understanding different perspectives, problems and people other than your own.
If virtues are directions, then principles are stop signs. To let us know when we should pause, stop and course correct.
Reason, not coercion
Forcing people to think and act is unwise because it’s not sustainable. It fails to instill “why” someone should not think or act in a certain way, which results in regression when the coercion fades away.
Civil conversation, not gossip
How gossip has become normalized is amazing, in the most horrible of ways. It’s generally inconspicuous hiding itself in convenient forms. Some may think that by being “modern” unlike those before us, that we are immune to the plague of gossip. This is simply not true, and it’s very much possible we do as much as they do - if not more.
Gossip tears away at the fabric of social cohesion in families, relationships and life at large by brewing animosity. It’s the antithesis of truth, which is ideally open, upfront and transparent while gossip operates behind closed doors: conniving, sinister and secretive. We would be much better off with more civil conversation and less gossip.
Arbiters, not victims
In Ancestors and Victimhood, I talk about how my grandfather persisted after the genocide in the Zanzibar revolution in 1964. How he affirmed his selfhood, his dignity and his identity despite the physical and linguistic erasure of his people. How he resisted the casting of a victim. If he can do it, then so can we especially when we hardly endure a fraction of their suffering.
I think for me, everyday will be Day 0. Everyday I will take stock of my principles and virtues. Add what’s beneficial and subtract what’s harmful. I don’t think I have it all figured out. I have much to learn.
Although it is beyond the scope of this article, it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge the role of motherhood. Motherhood is at least 3x more impactful than fatherhood.
What a mother endures for her child is unparalleled to fatherhood. Seeing what my wife did to give birth to our child along with the knowledge of what my wife and our mothers did for us in raising us - it puts me in a position of deep reverence, gratitude and appreciation. They are heroes in their own right.
We can have as many virtues and principles as we like, but without practicing them and bringing them to fruition they are nothing more than great ideas in an ivory tower.
Easier said, than done.