Sunél’s Blog | The most important things in life

Sunél Veldtman, | 18 June 2021

When Danish soccer player, Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field during the Euro 2020 clash with Finland last week, first on the scene was his captain, Simon Kjaer.  Before the medics even arrived on the field, Kjaer cleared Eriksen’s airways and turned him on his back. Kjaer then comforted Eriksen’s wife in the stands, before leading his team back on the field to finish the match.

The Danes lost 1-0. Kasper Hjulmand, the coach, admitted the result was irrelevant but was proud of the way his team got through it.

“It was a really tough evening, one which we’ve all been reminded what the most important things in life are. It’s meaningful relationships. It’s those people who are close to us. It’s family and friends. Everything, everything, everything – all thoughts are with Christian and his family,” the coach said after the match.

“I could not be more proud of this team, who take good care of each other.”

This incident is a beautiful illustration of what leadership can be at its best – showing the way by walking it yourself; being the example and taking care of your people.  It is a beautiful reminder of what it can mean to be a man in our time.

On Sunday we will celebrate Father’s Day in South Africa. I suspect that many fathers these days wonder at the change in dynamic between the traditional roles of men and women. If men are no longer expected to be the breadwinners (because women now aim for financial independence) or the protectors of their families (because women should take care of themselves), what are their roles?

The Eriksen incident captures what that role is: growing and having meaningful relationships.  This is not specific to just men, but I write this blog with a view to Sunday.  As captain Kjaer and coach Hjulmand showed us, it’s about people who take good care of each other. Especially within the broader definition of family: those who are part of our circle.

The greatest gift a father can give to his child, I believe, is a meaningful relationship. It’s not money. It’s not a great education. It’s not a car on their 21st birthdays or an investment portfolio. It’s the knowing that I am loved and seen by my dad and that my dad allows me to see into him too. We can give children all those other material things, but if we don’t give them this, we leave them wanting. It’s from the strength of a meaningful relationship between father and child, that children can build forth on their father’s legacy. And if fathers get that right, meaningful relationship with their child, then it is a legacy worth building on.

So on this Father’s Day, take what is so freely offered by your child – the desire to have a relationship, to be seen and loved – and love meaningfully, in return.   This is what it means to be a father – yes, that is not all of what makes a good father, but it is a significant, fundamental part of it and forgives much.  Leave this as your legacy. First, before other things.  Send your child forth knowing that they are loved and seen and allow them to see you.

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