There is a moment when you realise that no one else could be a father to your child. No one else would connect in the same way. No one else would see your neonate’s eyes and its nose and its ears and think they look just like his and this, holding a deeper meaning for him, a deeper bond, and an innate urge to protect engulfing him to his core.
Fatherhood begins in the mind. Long before your child is born. Questions swirl in your head as the transition fast approaches. What would you be like as a father? What style of parenting would you adopt? Would you hark back to what you know? How you were raised? African style – discipline at the fore, brutish at times, with love at the very background. Would the love come naturally? And if so would you show it soppily and abundantly, ever resisting the urge to umbrage at a growing child’s misbehaviour and instead opting for patient loving care and guidance through life’s rigorous path?
I was raised in the old ways. Decades after colonial Africa. Go to school and get good grades type of way. No fidget spinners though of course I had okoso which is a small contraption made of a biro lid and a battery cap (both blue in colour) which you spin with your thumb and your middle finger and then watch as it spins on the ground by the pointed tip of the biro lid. Good old days I know! Yet it is clear to me that the old ways are just that: old, in a world awash with modern parenting tips from the Jo Frost ilk.
I must then find my way in the new precious journey. I must find the balance between the old and the new ways. I must learn of fidget spinners, know the Peppa Pig characters like the back of my hand, change nappies with gusto (I do this already to be fair), be aware of films and characters that captivate the child’s mind like Frozen and Elsa so that I may lend voice to singing its songs to and with my child. I must talk with and not just to my child, know that he would learn of things much earlier than I did, and be ready to discuss things and not admonish and seek to quieten his voiced thoughts and innocent words. Yet I must as a guiding principle instil the old African nous in him, its wisdoms and its abiding perseverance in spite of our new cultures of me, me, me and instant gratification for not all that is new is good!
I must give my time, wholly and forthrightly. I must protect and raise, love and guide. For in the end no one else can do this. Not as I can. For I am the father to my child. No one else could be.