Today, my father turned 80. This in itself is an achievement. The fact that he has remained healthy, able to walk, talk and even exercise, makes it even more so.
I deliberately keep from discussing my family on this blog, but today, I will deviate from the norm because I have an important message to pass across. I will decide if this remains.
Growing up, my father was very involved in my childhood. Not just mine, of course, there were 6 of us and he was as equally involved in everyone’s life. One of my earliest memories of my father was of him giving me a bath. He made it fun, unlike my mom who was very efficient and practical and faced her task with the purpose of getting it done properly and quickly.
My father was domesticated, changing diapers, caring for his babies, washing his clothes, cleaning floors, heating up food (his cooking took too long, abeg! So he would heat up food and make things like Eba e.t.c.). Allow me to share a memory with you – some 20 years ago, we traveled to our home in the village and we got into the task of cleaning the house. Everyone pitched in. And I mean everyone! As you know, Igbo people have big houses in their villages. We were no different (I told you I was typically Igbo).
My dad usually would not sweep because the dust would affect his sinuses. So we were a tag team, I was sweeping and he was either scrubbing or mopping. As was normal for him, he had a dust mask on and looked pretty ridiculous. A female relative that was resident in the village came in and was so shocked to see him cleaning that she clapped her hands, did a mini jig and all at the same time exclaimed: “Hei! Are you now the one sweeping the house?” (if you understand Igbo, click below to hear exactly how she said it).
And my dad responded immediately: Yes, go and tell them I am the one.
My young chest swelled with pride at this man that would not allow people’s perception of what his role was, influence him.
I mean, my dad was the sole breadwinner and for a long time, my mother was a housewife (no small task!) who had no income. For a lot of our men, they think this buys them an automatic pass on any housework or “women” work.
My dad didn’t ever fail to take us out during public holidays – boxing day e.t.c. We would go to amusement park e.t.c. As a matter of fact, while I was in boarding school (the first three of us went to boarding school and were away at the time), I was told by one of my younger siblings that they begged my mom to tell her husband to please give them a break. That they were tired of going out. Silly kids! I knew of kids who were never taken out by their dads.
My dad is the sort of dad that went out of his way to do things to make our lives easier. When I started Natural Nigerian, both my parents allowed me to overfill their house with box upon box of products. To give you an idea, at a point my things were so plentiful they overflowed to other rooms. It wasn’t the tidiest of arrangements but I was their daughter and they allowed me to inconvenience them. I remember them both staying up with me just before a meetup, getting my labels on bottles. As a matter of fact, once my parents noticed that my business would require certain herbs, my father started planting them. Unbidden. Because I am his daughter and that is what daddies do.
A few months ago, I had the most annoying conversation with a person who said that “daddy is always daddy, no matter what daddy was”. Basically, the moral of her speech was that it was okay to lower one’s expectations and that one had to love one’s daddy no matter what. I was not annoyed with her, far from it! Her own experiences colored the advice she doled out. I was annoyed that she had a father/parents who had imparted to her that low expectation of what a father should be.
I grew up with a father who surpasses (yes, even now), ALL expectations. This makes my expectations very high.
Why am I sharing this story?
I read all the time that ALL Nigerian men cheat. Whenever I say that my father was always faithful to my mom, there are dissenting voices. “You were a kid, how would you know?” While I
would like to counter with “If you were able to realize at a point in your life that your dad was stepping out on your mum, how can you disbelieve that I realized at a point in my life that my dad never did?” but for the sake of peace, I usually respond with “My mom is not the sort of person to help a person hide their shortcomings, especially if it is directed towards her.” Which is true. I am not saying that my perfect father was a perfect husband…it is difficult to be but fidelity was never an issue. It is possible. It is possible.
I know people that have fathers that outsourced their fatherhood or just didn’t think or perhaps even know how to be fathers. I know people my age that are shaping up to be like that.
Where I can, I encourage those that want more for themselves and their kids. Be the best you can be! It is not impossible to be that person. Forget that “the boys” would think you under the thumb of a woman or not manly enough. If you bring children into this world, they are your responsibility and not just a financial one.
With this post, I am trying to say:
- Men, Women, People: Do good by your kids. They notice.
- Women: Encourage your men to be all they can be. Do not assume that “All men must cheat.” Granted, it is getting easier and easier for men to do so, but it was also pretty easy during my father’s time.
- Women: Do not lower your child’s expectations of what they should expect from a father. Even if those father’s are not in a child’s life, I do not believe that one should settle for crumbs of attention.
- Parents: Be careful how you bring up your children. Impart to them a sense of responsibility for those they bring into the world.
My parents are pretty awesome and if that was not your experience, I hope you are able to set things right with your children.
Happy Birthday, Daddy NN.