My dad passed on fourteen years ago and I sure do miss him. While he was ill, he told my siblings and I quite a few things: some serious, some hilarious and some spiritual. Here are four of the many things he said during that period.
If you and your spouse speak different languages, try to learn each other’s languages. While my parents were both Igbo, my mum and her sisters spent most of their formative years in Ibadan, so Yoruba was one of my mum’s first languages. Most of her friends were Yoruba, and she was very comfortable speaking Yoruba with her sisters, friends, colleagues and others around her. For years, I wondered how my dad felt about this, as he didn’t speak Yoruba. However, I received the shock of my life when I discovered that he actually understood quite a bit of Yoruba.
According to my dear old dad, avoiding unnecessary suspicion is important in every relationship. Since he didn’t want to be left always wondering what my mum was saying, he ended up learning the language. Taking the time to learn bits of your spouse’s language (even if it’s just greetings) is also a good way to bond and have more in common.
Avoid Long Periods of Separation
Secondly, he also advised that we never lived apart from our spouses. Why? Well, he felt that when a couple spends more time together, then good communication is developed and the temptation to stray is kept at bay. He advised that the only time it was acceptable for a couple to be separated for a long period was for academic pursuits, and that during such separations, frequent communication should be of utmost importance.
Number of Children
He also spoke about the number of children we should try and have. The number of children one chooses to have is very subjective, but personally he advocated that everyone should try and have four children. I guess this would have been easy for him to say since he had six of us. He loved children and felt that children should have siblings, as the bond between siblings is very beneficial. Another reason for advocating four children per family may have been his personal experience of having his children around him at various times, especially during his illness… if one or two had to leave because of school or work commitments, then another would surely be around.
Lastly, he spoke about making time for your family as a father. This was extremely important to him, and he expressed some regret as he felt that he hadn’t spent enough time with us on family vacations (personally, I think we spent loads of time together). He had planned that once he retired, he would take his family on a cruise across the Caribbean islands, but alas he fell ill shortly after his retirement, so we only had time for one final family holiday together at my sister’s graduation. It was a wonderful trip as it was the first holiday we all had together as adults. We made time to meet as a family, discuss our future plans, encourage each other, cry together, laugh together and most of all, enjoy one another’s company.
These days, I see a lot of young men sending the kids off with madam on holiday while they trap themselves at work. I know the bills have to be paid, but come on! You can take three days off to spend time with your wife and children… and I mean your wife Bimbo and your children Sola and Ore, not your “wife” (your personal assistant, Emeka) and your “children” (your work phone and laptop). If you can’t afford a trip to Florida with your kids, take them to Ghana. You can’t afford Ghana? Then please take them to Abuja or Calabar. If you can’t afford that, then why not take them to the village, or just shut down and spend a few days with them at home as a family? Whatever you do, focus on spending quality time with them, without distractions. It may just be an hour kicking a ball at the park with your kids, or just taking them to see a movie… these are memories that your child will cherish forever.
My dad may have felt he didn’t do well in this area, but we have wonderful memories of time spent with him in the East every Christmas, and I remember how he used to come home straight from work to spend quality time with us every day. Nowadays, many men go straight from work to their favourite hangout, down a few bottles of their favourite beer and then go home exhausted, just to eat and sleep. Some give the excuse that they are trying to avoid traffic…traffic ko, go slow ni. Go to your house jare.
I especially remember how after work my dad would get his tape recorder and patiently try and get me to speak into it without stuttering. Whenever I failed, he would say, “Chi, well done, now just try to speak a little slower and breathe after every sentence”. On a wall in our house, he had a makeshift growth chart. Every year he would take us to that wall and measure us to see how much we had grown against the previous year. He would also take lots of pictures of us for our family photo albums, photographs that we all treasure to this day. He was patient, and evenings spent with him were unforgettable.
My Dad taught me what it means to be a wonderful parent in every sense of the word. How will your own children remember you? Happy Father’s Day!