Author’s Note: If you find controversy or anything you STRONGLY disagree with, attack the forty-nine year old, male, fictional narrator of the story, NOT me. Clearly, all opinions expressed are the opinions of said fictional, male, adult character. Any relation to the views of the author (me) is purely coincidental. Thank you.
My Daughter Loves Me
I remember when I was fifteen and I thought with conviction, “I will be the best parent in the world.” Of course, even then, I knew that by all standards, I couldn’t possibly be. My actual goal was to make my children think I was.
Thirty-four years down the line, I am almost a quinquagenarian, and my sixteen-year-old daughter still, amazingly, tells me that she loves me everyday. And I, still, amazingly, never get tired of it. She is my treasure, my life’s greatest achievement, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating. Sometimes, I actually feel that my sole reason for existence is to hear these words: “Daddy, I love you more than anyone in the world. Yes, even my boyfriend, who you really have to stop terrorizing,” on Father’s Day every year. Of course, she’d only started adding that last bit since she turned thirteen.
I knew, of course, that having a girl would be more work. I’d always believed they were more complex, more intentionally perceptive and harder to please. Yet, I had succeeded and that was all that mattered.
I think about all the people that pity children who have parents that are not very good to them. I constantly tell these people that sensible children will not need their pity. But with a greater intensity, I scorn those who slander children because they don’t show their parents enough “love,” even if said parents are horribly flawed people. The reason is: I believe in genuineness. One is only a deceiver if he displays love where he does not feel it. The whole “love them at all costs because they gave birth to you” mantra of adults, especially African adults, should be behind us by now. For giving birth to you, surely, one’s parents deserve respect. But love? It always has to be earned.
As to the aforementioned decision I made at the age of fifteen, I came to make it after I allowed myself to receive a lesson from my own terribly flawed father: You can learn how to be a good parent both by understanding what to do from a good parent and understanding what NOT to do from a bad one. Among what I learned were:
- Showering your child with no end of material things does not amount to a great show of love. Neither does it compensate for the time you don’t spend.
- Sometimes, the child is right, and I will not be doing myself a favor if I constantly refuse to accept it.
- If I don’t listen to my children, I will grow old not knowing a damn thing about them.
- If I am constantly lecturing, my child will never feel comfortable telling me anything, and again, I will grow old not knowing a damn thing about him/her.
- I should let my child be free to experiment alone…but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pay attention.
- When I am proud of my children, I should tell them so.
- I will never let my children forget that I love them.
True to my word, I have never let my daughter forget that I love her, and she never hesitates to tell me anything.
Till today, I regret not having the courage to speak frankly to my now deceased father to alert him, “Hey, parenting? You’re doing it wrong.” But I know that the reaction would have been kin to this: In the words of Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “What? My foot, my tutor?” The child did not teach the father. It was never done.
But I do not regret putting what I learned from an upraising with him to good use, because today, my daughter loves me.
-Ivana Akoto Ofori