I have been asked a few times which of my parents has had the greatest influence on my life? I am closest to my mum but an all through-and-through daddy’s girl. During my undergraduate years, whenever I was talking to my dad on phone, I will finish to queries from my room-mates or class-mates if it was my boyfriend. There was always few minutes of convincing before they believed it was my father. Once actually, a lecturer whom I was teaching assistant to, insisted he spoke to whoever I was on the phone with to convince himself that was indeed my Dad. 😏
Of my parents my mum is the no-nonsense, say-it-as-it-is disciplinarian. I remember all the ‘Masoa yɛ dzen” (really painful squats Ghanaian parents devised as a sort of punishment) I had to do for spending my after-school trotro fare on ice-cream. My dad is the calm, let us talk it out and reason together kinda guy. His idea of punishment was missing out on a friend’s birthday party or a school trip that you had been talking about for months. I however cannot forget my one and only physical discipline from him. In junior high school, my siblings and I spent almost all school holidays with our cousins. As I was the eldest, I was always put in charge when the adults left for work. Once I went for my dad’s belt to show my ‘big girl’ status in disciplining the kids. After my shenanigans, I unfortunately forget to hang the belt back in the usual place, Dad came back home and saw it; he asked, I lied that I was only using it to ‘threaten’ them. I doubt he believed me, so he warned me never to touch his belt again. Yep, your guess is as good as mine: I did go for it again and I once again forget to put it back. He came home to see his belt lying around and there is no need recounting what happened after this. Suffice it to say, my life-long hatred for my Dad’s belt began and continues.
My extroverted, straight-forward nature is definitely my mum. My wit and sarcastic streak is still her. My dad is the kind and generous one (too generous really). Book-long, my dad too. I am very grateful for the parents I have been blessed with (I have not always felt this way, there are days I cannot imagine any more difficult pair- these are the times, they tell me “Ebɛyini abɛto” to wit, my parenting days are close and I will live to experience same). In a series of conversations with my dad recently about raising his children, I asked specifically if he thinks he has been successful in raising girls in a different world than the one his sisters and mothers were raised in. He said he has done the best he knew how. I decided to ask a few of my Facebook friends (fathers of girls) their opinion on this as well and so I asked them some of the questions I asked my Dad (MOA). I reproduce here their exact answers (I have color coded the responses to make it easier to follow).
1. How are you raising your daughters differently from how you were raised?
MOA: Lack of most basic amenities fostered anxieties, shyness, self-doubt and most importantly low levels of confidence unlike periods lately. However respect for authority was the order of the day back in those days.
MM: The most important aspect of parenting for me is for my children to be better people than me This applies to both sexes. For them to have bigger hearts than I do. For them to be compassionate beings and care for their fellow humans. For them to be free thinkers and speak their minds however difficult a situation might be. To this effect, I reckon parents must always be calm around their children, even in bad news situation. Let them be themselves and encourage them to tell everything that worries them, to constantly share their ups & downs with you. Provide a support avenue too so they don’t feel intimidated if they have to share bad news.
JK: a. I communicate more with my daughters. I call them on their way to school in the morning since I leave the house before they do. I call them when I am leaving the office to come home. When I come home I spend a few mins asking about their day. Before bedtime we exchange hugs etc and I ask them to have a goodnite’s sleep (conversations with my mum were rare unless it revolved around questions about school etc which needed answers to). I think my first real conversation with my mother was when I was in Form 4 but even then it was about a sick cousin. Mum communicated only when it was necessary to communicate).
b. I am more playful with my daughters. From silly stories, to silly dances, to chasing them around the house, not a day goes by with one of these moments. I also drag them to indulge in my hobbies like soccer. So they have grown to like Chelsea, they know the names of the EPL teams, etc. I do remember occasionally playing oware and ludo with my mother but it was much later in life.
c. I encourage my daughters to be very assertive. To speak up but in a respectful manner. To not be fearful of me as a parent. I think I grew up “fearing” my mother which mixed with my personality and created a bit of timidity in me. I remember my mother accompanying me to Daboase district to begin my national service at the age of 21. I was always under the wings of my mother and it took a very very long to learn how to be able to speak up for myself. It is a still a struggle. I am raising my daughters to be assertive, independent and cultivate a habit of being their own advocates. I believe that if you don’t speak up for yourself, no one will.
KAK: I try to hold conversations with her.
AY: I am definitely not lashing her as much as I was, and I look forward to being able to communicate more with her (especially verbally).
EY: Not by much. My parents were good parents so am sticking to the same principles. She has more privileges though
2. How are you raising your daughter similarly to how you were raised?
MOA: Respect of authority and growing up in a peaceful home.
MM: I don’t recall any similarities at all. I actually don’t even model my parenting on what I went through as a child.
JK: Hardwork was drummed into my ear on a daily basis so I am inculcating that value into my daughters. Mum believed that education was your one way ticket out of any life’s circumstances. I am therefore raising my daughters to take their education very seriously. I was raised to be respectful and treat others right and I believe I am raising my daughters with those same values.
KAK: Building in her the love for reading
AY: I am insisting on discipline and cleanliness.
3. What do you think are the particular challenges in raising daughters generally? Are your particular challenges the same or different?
MOA: Ensuring that they don’t bow to peer pressure.
MM: I’m blessed with a boy and a girl (and I’d like to think I’ve seen enough to understand the two sexes), and I grew up around a lot of girls. I understand girls are generally more emotionally charged than boys and that boys can hold and control their emotions a bit better.
Surprisingly, both sexes have strong emotions, but express them differently. Granted, girls are generally much more vocal and impatient with their emotions. The gap between my children is 18 months (boy 7, girl 9 as I write). Girl is emotionally more advanced possibly because she is older, and I think she is more sensible too. For some reason, I worry about the boy more. He is much more daring and will experiment and push his boundaries, given the opportunities. In a man’s world, he who dares often wins, so it is a good thing. But there are dangers with that philosophy. Having said that, life is a gamble, and I took a lot of chances in life myself. What does not kill you can make you a better person.
JK: I want to raise my daughters so they are independent and assertive and be who they want to be. But I have at the back of my mind the culturally set expectations of them as daughters who will grow up to be women. I worry how best those two can be reconciled and not necessarily clash. I think constantly about their puberty ages, their college years, when they begin to have a sense of who they are, who they like or do not like etc. I find myself worrying more sometimes because they are girls and feeling as though they need more protection from their father than if they were boys. That is my challenge – strong independent assertive daughters who are counter cultural but not anti cultural, who are bold enough to explore the world. I want to be the father who protects his daughters but does not become and overbearing helicopter dad. I was in Ghana when I called to ask how the kids are. My wife said they were out riding their bicycles in the neighborhood. I panicked. My 9 and 7 year olds alone, in the neighborhood, riding their bicylces?
Mum never said much but if I think back to the things mum yelled about and warned about, I think the challenges are in a number of ways different. Broadly speaking mum worried about me just as I worry about my kids in terms of the challenges. I think the challenges mum faced was, how to keep me out of trouble – no smoking, no drinking, no women. I also hated school as a kid so that was mum’s headache, how to keep me in school.
KAK: Changing her diaper in a Men’s public rest-room! Lol! Just kidding. I think it differs with age of daughter. I believe challenges are similar to sons until about she gets to about 10 years. Fortunately I understand my challenges are very normal
AY: Being aware of and sensitive to their different needs
EY: My daughter is only six so its hard to see any real challenges different from raising a boy.
4. What is your vision/purpose for your daughter?
MOA: Be spiritually aware, enjoy good health, have peace of mind, be emotionally stable, prosper, have ideal relationships and flourish in all aspects of life.
MM: This is really for her to decide. Ultimately, I wish for her to be a happy person. Whatever makes her happy, I’ll do for her whilst I live. When she flies the nest, I want to be able to reflect back and say to myself that I provided the best possible guidance and opened enough doors for her in the process. The rest is her life. She is extremely demanding and knows precisely what she wants in life most of the time, even at her age. She fascinates me with her attention to detail. I’m cautiously optimistic she’ll be just fine in defining her own visions and ambitions.
JK: I want them to grow up to be God fearing and successful women in whatever they choose to do. I always ask them what they will like do in future and when they have said things like art, I look at them and say what about political science. They look at me and ask “ but daddy what is political science?” All in all, I just want them to do their very best, put God first, get a good education and do not let their gender limit them in whatever they want to do.
KAK: I envision her growing up to be well learned and confident but also with a kind heart and a desire to impact society positively.
AY: To be a disciplined, God fearing, successful and excelling woman of virtue
EY: I want my daughter to be happy so my vision is to support her dreams and not impose my own vision on her. I just want her to do well in anything she sets her mind on.
5.What is your favorite thing about you and your daughters’ relationship?
MOA: Open relationship. Frank discussion about issues.
MM: She is a loving and caring person. That’s what I value most about her. She can read people from afar. She knows my mood and knows how to handle it.
JK: Our silly moments. When I make up stories and they believe me and then I end up laughing. They always will say “are you having a daddy joke day?” sometimes they will run to their mum to verify my stories.
KAK: Funny how she tries to repeat what I say to her and the way she follows me around.
AY: Our hugs and kisses, and how she quickly gets in line when I speak with a stern voice
EY: Complete trust. She trusts me and vice versa. It’s impossible to describe our relationship.
6. In what ways are you and your daughters alike? Different? MOA: Alike in humility and finding ways to help the less fortunate people. Different in me being more of an introvert.
MM: Caring, but I find she is more caring than me. Reading people….She is so good at it.
JK: Alike – hmmm they both have a frown on their faces when they get hungry. My older daughter L, is a bit emotional like me. We want to live in peace with everyone and we easily get hurt by the things people do or say. Liza is however different- she likes to stay out of trouble whereas in primary school I was always in trouble. Liza is very athletic and me, lets just say in the next life I will be. J is very assertive unlike me when I think back to when I was 7. She is also athletic. Very goofy and silly and witty with all the wise cracks and silly jokes. She is like me in the sense that she is extremely shy in group settings and does better one on one.
KAK: Alike – We have quite a number of physical similarities. Dimples. I see traits of her being ambidextrous like I am. Different – She demands too much attention.
AY: We both like laughing and kissing and being by ourselves and reading and in tidiness. Different- I cant say yet.
7. Do you think dads of today have it harder or easier?
MOA: Will be harder today on account of proliferation of information and not knowing what the little ones are up to. MM: Harder because life is more sophisticated and much more challenging. The world is fast becoming a much smaller place with technology being the enabler. We see the world on a global level, and that is a bigger challenge.
JK: I am not sure. I just think the world today is very different with the kinds of exposure our kids have and how accessible things are. But I am not sure if it is any easier today than in the past. Maybe just different.
KAK: I like to think it’s harder especially as daughters grow. Mainly because there are more influences than in years past. Internet, TV, handheld devices, tablets etc.
AY: We have it easier in terms of benefits of advancing technology, but we have it harder in terms of finances.
8. What do you enjoy most about being a dad?
MOA: Seeing your kids grow to become responsible and take their rightful place in life.
MM: Being able to provide unadulterated love to another human being that share my genes and lineage. That I will put myself in harm’s way just to ensure they are safe and well is something I just can’t explain. That is what I enjoy most about being a parent – Those qualities you can’t explain in life, those that are both mysterious and deep and do not make sense. Those are what I find to be most touching. The little things like seeing my love for them being reciprocated. Being loved back. Being around my children and playing silly games. They are great company.
JK: Hearing my daughters yell ‘Daddy!’ and rushing to the door to hug me, every single day when I get home from work. It makes you feel like YES, I am their dad for real. Providing and caring for my daughters. Knowing that their basic needs are taken care of is just pure joy. What I enjoy the least?
KAK:To see a child grow from a helpless baby to an opinionated toddler is challenging and exciting at the same time. Not many things come close to that.I have always loved responsibility. Had pets all my life. Had a following in SSS. Being a dad, I get to influence a life right from beginning. Let’s see how this goes.
AY: Seeing my children smile at me.
EY: Using my daddy voice like, “stop it before I put my hands on you”, then watch her give me the puppy look that melts my heart all the time.
9. What do you enjoy least about being a dad?
MOA: Powerless to intervene to correct a bad situation.
MM: What I hate is the worry. You worry about them getting hurt, because when they hurt, you hurt twice as much. How they will turn out in the future, I hate to think about that. The what if’s. What if I’m not there for them? These are constant worries & fears. I look after myself as much as I can so I can be around them long enough to complete my parental duties.
JK: Watching them growing and knowing that somedays some silly little boys will be chasing after them. I try not to think of that lol
KAK: The agony of seeing a sick or suffering child
AY: I enjoy the good times, and I abhor the bad times (like when I have to pay bills or when they are unwell)
10. How have your expectations of being a dad been different from/similar to what you anticipated?
MOA: Expectations have been largely met.
MM: I never thought I could love other people as much, if not more, than myself. Looking back, I don’t think anyone could have prepared me for this kind of love. It’s no ordinary love. It’s one of those that no one can even begin to explain, and you only find out when you get there. It’s a different dimension of this thing called love.
JK: I am not sure it has been different. With everything our parents said to us, you always knew parenting will be hard work. I think it is the specific situations I did not anticipate but you always knew that once the kids dropped, you were in for a jolly good ride.
KAK: Well I didn’t expect this much energy from a girl. lol! She is restless
AY: I wasn’t expecting to be a dad…
EY: I had no expectations before becoming a dad. It’s been a good experience for me though. Best thing I ever did. Best moment of my life.
PS: This is just Part 1 of many in this series. We shall have more daddy-daughter, mother-son, daddy-son, mother-daughter, grandparent-grandchild, aunt-nephew stories etc… (You catch the drift) 😘😘😘