How does it feel to be a father?
I’ve been asked this question so many times it would be a trespass not to answer as best as I can. Most times I just say it feels great! Because the answers would warrant an entire blog post. So here the blog post is.
Being a father starts way before the expected due date. As you watch your wife’s (or girlfriend’s) body change and her tummy take on a life of its own it dawns on you. Very soon there’ll be a new kid on the block. Sometimes I’m grateful for 9 months prep time because nothing prepares you for the disruption a new child brings. No amount of parenting books, Google answers (God bless Google) or advice can adequately prepare you. You just wing it as it comes.
So many people don’t realize this. The way they give advice is like, haba! You’re supposed to know this thing now! You must do this ooh, you must do that ooh. I’m sorry we didn’t pass our parenting electives at college. The stress of sleepless nights, lack of vacation breaks, the general attentiveness and constant vigilance required of a new parent adds to the crankiness quotient and amplifies everything negative. You always remember those who talked down on you, those who stayed for visits longer than an hour, those who made faces when you jumped the queue with your baby in hand, and those lecherous men who shrieked “Give am breast!!!!” while your baby fussed over a needed nappy change.
Just stay away from first time parents OK? Seriously, the distance between my fist and your jaw was never that much to begin with.
We will be going on our first family trip together soon. Booboo has a box bigger than ours put together. His water cannot be hard or unsterilized. His bottles must be clean. The teats on his bottles have to be the right size so he doesn’t choke on milk or get tired of sucking before his tummy is full. We’ve packed blankets, shawls, flasks, toys, clothes, baby carrier and will add a stroller at our destination. I wish we could take his favorite TV shows with him.
Traveling when you have a kid (even staying out late) is a totally different ball game. It’s more work than fun. So when I see single people who say they are so bored they want to get married and have plenty of kids I just shake my head and I’m like They know not what they do.
Now about the kiddies DSTV, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality of Jim Jam. Brothers and sisters I’m now a fan of Pingu and Gracie and her family want to play with youuuuuuuuuuu. The dad in Pingu is so cool. He allows little Pingu go off on little harmless adventures with his friends and always lovingly welcomes him back home. It’s in sharp contrast to the traditional spank-first-ask questions-later-or-simultaneously African parent tradition. I’ve even been slightly alarmed by the philosophical questions asked by the What’s the Big Idea? show. I mean, some adults have never even thought of answering some of these questions.
I have become more patient as a dad. I realize that everything is new at some point and even learning to sit properly takes time. Learning to appreciate pepper and sugar is harder than getting a Ph.D. Learning to bathe yourself is harder than calculus in relative brain capacity terms. Riding a bicycle? Let’s not even.
I have also become more impatient with things I consider inconsequential to the cycle of life and the grand scheme of things. This extra 100 naira suya, will it help my daddy skills? No? Please be gone. I don’t even have the strength to argue certain debates anymore. If it’s not valuable to the lives of my future children you can paint your body purple, that’s your time and your business.
It’s funny. I’ve become bolder because now I represent a household and have people to live and die for in a responsible way. I have also become more paranoid because I realize how fragile life is and how it can end any day for any number of petty reasons. I’ve become gentler. And much more blunt. I sleep much shorter. And also much deeper. It seems everything has changed and at the same time nothing has changed. I can explain it and at the same time I can’t really explain it.
The day Tanure was born it was a planned delivery so there was none of the Nollywood drama of racing to the clinic at 2 am with a woman in labor in the boot. I was calm in the corridor, waiting. Then he was wheeled out. He was already asleep and trying to pretend life was all the same.
“Are you the father?”
“Congratulations! He looks just like you!”
I already know from the underlying tone of the congratulations that I am being hailed extra because it’s a boy and now I have an “heir to the throne”. I chuckle to myself because it’s crazy the expectations society places on itself, not me. Never that deep. Never that. First it’s you are carrying last in class, then it’s you’re not tall enough for your age, then it’s you play too much, then it’s your mates are graduating from university, then it’s your mates are getting married, then it’s your mates are having children and you want to add ooh you don’t have a boy yet? to the mix?
Where does it stop?
Oh your child is not as big as my child. Oh your child’s clothes are not as fine as the other children’s. Your child is not yet married? Your child hasn’t given you grandchildren? Ooh you’re already 70 and you’re not a great granddaddy yet?
Where does it stop? It stops now please. Let somebody breathe please. Every man with his own race. Every woman with her own pace.
May God provide children for all those who desire to have and cherish them. And may He give us the wisdom to carry the responsibility of bringing them up with equanimity and grace.
This is where the Parents series on Stories ends, people. Thank you very much for coming with us on this journey.