21 June 2020

WHAT FATHERHOOD MEANS TO ME


Fatherhood was and is always a big thing to me. I love being a father, I desperately wanted to be a father. For 16 years. So, when it came, it was bigger than winning the lottery.

I have two daughters, so I am the only male in our family of four. I have tried to take this responsibility quite seriously as I realise that I am a template, not only of what a father should be, but also of half the human race.

Coming into fatherhood rather late meant that, perhaps, I have been a bit more intentional with the responsibility. I planned a lot of things before my children were born. We have family meetings so they can learn to be confident. We go for walks, the theatre and cinema so that we can have family time together. I have a reminder for family quarterly holidays. Not always possible. But I have taken them to the National Portrait Gallery, the Natural History Museum and a few other museums which I can't remember. Our holidays are strategically planned to be an educational experience. We take in lakes, waterfalls, botanical gardens etc. I even took them to the University of Cambridge, and while rolling on the grass, I informed them this is the university of choice. They were five at the time. And they have totally forgotten this experience.

Although there is no fatherhood manual to follow, a few principles have guided me. I want them to know that fathers must be present, so I have had tried to re-engineer my work as a trade-off. The simple logic for me is that once children go to university at 16-18, that is it. So, it makes sense to get optimal advantage from this period when I have them 100%. Because I know that presence is not enough, I cook, do the school run and homework, we go for picnics, I wash, dry and iron their clothes. I enjoy doing all these and I hope they do too. I do not like DIY, neither do I claim to be the archetypal physically strong dad, but I have taken to doing the odd things around the house and I oblige them by carrying them each time they request I do.

My wife and I are no tiger parents, we do however want them to have an idyllic childhood. And this for me means memories, so I try to create as much as I can. That's why we have Sunday roast every week and games night too. It's also the reason for the holidays and the hours of video and audio recordings I have made of them.

Although we freely talk about most things, we have shielded them as much as possible from the matter of race. But they are no fools. They are aware of the killing of George Floyd, and we have had to answer difficult questions as diplomatically as we could.

I was away as the coronavirus was spreading, but I got back just in time before the lockdown was announced. This meant that the last three months have been a time of being together 24/7, learning together and trusting together. I would have been devastated had I not been able to make it back before the lockdown. I recognise this period is a challenging, even tragic time for many, and I hope that they can begin to find some comfort in the days and months ahead.

I suppose my principal role as a father is to provide anchor and love, both of which I have found in my heavenly Father. I am trying to model Christ to them. I often fail. I shout "go to bed" when I see them faffing around at 9pm. They waste no time to remind me of the Biblical instruction that "fathers should not exasperate their children." This is one of the perils of making them read the Bible daily. I know how very important faith is becoming to them. I place my hands on their head in prayer every night. Even if I am busy when they go to bed, they expect and know I would come to pray for them. I also have to create new stories most nights. This is their preferred bedtime reading. If I claim a lack of inspiration, they would offer me a plotline. They pretend to love my stories even when it is evident, I have lost the plot.

I am aware other peoples' experiences are different. I am also aware of the many limitations I have and the many times I have failed. I am aware mums are indispensable. I know that whatever I bring to the table, my wife's is double. But I feel the dads who read this must know they have a role to play too. We must not miss out the rewards of being a responsible father. We must not make our children miss out on the memories a responsible father can create.

Last night, my daughters got me to do 10 press-ups . This morning, on Fathers' Day, they brought me breakfast in bed (cover picture). This afternoon, they are baking a cake for me (they will eat most of it), and they have given me a 30-minute private performance of Little Red Riding Hood with their own twist, complete with about 15 dolls. I enjoy being a father. I believe it's one of the greatest privileges of life. Certainly, the greatest of mine. PostcardfromLagos



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