It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
My father has always been my hero. Born, Alan Stern Cooper, on the 13th of April 1956, in Schweizer Reneke, on what was the family farm, my father’s world was irrevocably changed when at the age of 12, my grandfather was killed in a car accident. As the only man in the family, he rebelled before being sent first to Treverton, a boarding school in the Natal Midlands from where he went on to do his national service in the navy.
It was in the navy that he learnt discipline but also cultivated his lifelong passion for the outdoors and surfing. He would go on to study forestry at the University of Stellenbosch before doing a Masters in Landscape Architecture through the University of Pretoria.
It is from my father that I have inherited my visual creativity and intense love of nature. His love of the grand space that can be creatively and tacitly sculpted into insightful and purposeful landscapes. inspires me.
I think the father’s critical role in the development of daughters is underrated and misunderstood. In my life, my father has always been one of the most important people. He has been central to my emotional well-being, often being my source of wisdom and counsel. As the only real masculine role model in my life, he has always been the benchmark for male affection, support, and involvement.
As my first male role model, he has set a sense of “what is normal” in relation to other men and future male relationships. The male role model in one’s life sets a normalcy of what future male relationships will be like. My relationship with my father has in some or other way been a template for my relationships with men now. This positive learning in regards to gender relations is what has given me a positivity in negotiating the world, in my own skin. I have so many memories of my father it is hard to choose just one. I have memories of spinning around waiting for my dad to catch me before I fell, to sitting on his shoulders and being knocked around by waves in the sea. I remember thinking that my dad was the best and that one day I would marry someone just like him.
Because of the father I have, I have a solid sense of self. His quality time and interest in me, as well as his influence over my life, has shaped my self-esteem, self-image, confidence and opinions about men. My father was an equal partner in caregiving. From day one, my father was a hands-on presence in my life. In my teen years, my father and I struggled to re-establish our relationship in a new role, with complicated issues, however, my dad has always tried to support me.
My father showed interest in all my activities, from Netball to Karate and Art. Direct involvement and encouragement from my father have made me the secure and confident in my own abilities. He involvement made me feel valued and that my agency mattered.
Through my mother and father’s relationship, my father has shown the type of respect necessary in any relationship but most importantly in the way a man treats a woman: emotionally, physically and spiritually.