I recently had a child, a second and a boy. He came almost five years after the first, in spite of my dodging tactics. Now that he has come, I have been quite excited, the kind of tearful excitement you feel but cannot fully express. Somehow, the excitement is entirely different from what the majority of people might think. Several of my friends and associates decided to display their chauvinistic worldview with handshakes laced by “you’re now a man,” in reference to the male child. It was to spurn this chauvinism that I decided to name the first, a girl, after myself. Unfortunately, I am not excited – only thankful – that he is a boy. I’m thankful because I now have comparative basis to understand how male and female children act and I can do experimental parenting in some respects, trying to test some ideas I have nursed. My excitement about Charles III is entirely based on the reaction of his elder one, Charlene. Like true soul mates, she and I waited for the arrival of the newborn and when he finally arrived, those who had the grace to watch us reported that we acted as school children.
I approached parenting with trepidation. No matter how much fun lovers may feel towards each other, I think parenting should be approached with a great sense of reflection and responsibility. Deciding to get married didn’t come to me as a life mission. In fact, it was one aspect of human consciousness I never gave much thought about. I still remember vividly having to make arrangements to get married after the initial traditional requirements – paying for the wedding gown, the cake, ordering souvenirs, booking the reception venue and taking care of all other logistics. Then few weeks to the time, I called the prospective bride and told her I wasn’t sure I was meant to get through with the marriage. Maybe if I have the luxury of ever writing a memoir sometime in the future, I would tell the whole story; but suffice it to say that I walked away and didn’t look back, even amidst the tears she shed. I still remember a friend who hadn’t heard the wedding was called off going to the church and sitting through a wedding ceremony on the assumption that it was mine, until she heard different names of the couple being called out. I have been a misfit most of my life in many aspects, but this tag has helped me to know the things that matter. I can talk about it now because I ended up marrying the same woman I walked away from, though three years after. As part of the twist, I’ve been married to her at four different ceremonies. I must admit that experience has been a most binding force of our lives together than any other. So, it was not difficult to give in to her pestering desire for a second child.
I have been asked several times why I walked away then. My answer has been simple: I walked away because I didn’t know why I should stay. Over the past six years of being married, I have tried to pore through my subconscious to understand why I walked away. The closest reason I came up with has been fear of parenting. Getting married is the littlest of my concerns. Marriage is about companionship; same thing as partnership. My background in sociology has been helpful in making me see that when two people are involved in a harmonious relationship they form symmetric bonding and human energies, when well harnessed, can bring about healthier interaction. However, when you throw in a third party, things turn somewhat asymmetric. Now, you have people playing different roles, viz. the man plays husband and father in addition to plethora of other roles outside the relationship and the woman plays wife and mother in addition to several others too. The likelihood of role strain is very much near.
I decided to look too deeply into the decision to marry and focused, not so much on the marriage itself, but on the resultant condition of becoming a father at some point. I was brought up to believe, though erroneously, that having a child is a natural consequence of marriage. This erroneous content of our upbringing has robbed many marriages the joy of each other’s companionship as the society put so much pressure on the couple to deliver on their marriage mandate. Having watched marriages hit the rock and children grow up without bearing, I have been concerned about the task of taking care of a child in today’s morally tasking world in the face of pursuing a career. The crave of materialism has not also helped matters. I believe no child should be brought into this world without being given a good moral compass to navigate the poisonous waters of human choices and consequences. In addition to this moral compass, children must be provided for but never to be made to crave for money or wealth. The greatest wealth anyone can attain is containment. In fact, in these increasingly expensive educational times, having an insurance arrangements that would take care of one’s child in the future when your income or continued employment may not be guaranteed is wisdom. With life expectancy as low as 51 years in Nigeria, it is even more pertinent that our planned parenting be imbued with wisdom each step of the way.
I have been busy watching my daughter play the role of big sister. There is so much attention paid to the newborn and I have decided to let mine focus on the older child. I still remember holding her hands in the maternity section of the hospital that Sunday afternoon to offer prayer of agreement for safe delivery. Through my relationship with the young one, I have come to realize that we actively collaborate with God to bring forth children for a purpose, a process that builds our faith and teaches us so many things. I have adopted the approach that the best way to be a parent is to approach parenting as a child, freeing oneself of the adultness baggage we carry about. Children should be allowed to be children, given healthy worldview and opportunities to be fully that. Parenting as a child is adopting the worldview of the child to look at what the adult sees. For me, freedom of expression has been my primary commitment. I want to offer the children opportunity to say whatever it is that may be on their mind, without hushing them. It is only when I know these expressions that I can understand their thought processes and provide necessary guidance. In approaching this too, I am mindful that many adults need guidance and sometimes a child might provide a glimpse of a direction not thought of. So, I am choosing to be free-spirited, exemplary and loving in encountering the experiential learning process called parenting.