Memoirs of a Father

 So it’s been a long long time since I last wrote..over a year..but I have a very good reason for taking a sabbatical..I became a father for the first time. Yes,  if I’m really honest.I had planned to write this a while back..but I felt inexperienced, I felt like since I was still learning to be a father, writing about it will almost seem patronising. Even now.. I still feel like I’m not qualified to write this but heck..it’s my take on it…my experience.. So please forgive my naivety.

Like most young couples, my wife and I decided to try and enjoy life before finally settling down to have kids. So we spent our first couple of years of marriage traveling and spoiling ourselves silly..we bought expensive gifts for each other..and we had time to argue about everything and anything.. I don’t know exactly when we decided to have a baby but we felt like it was the next step further in our marriage. If I’m honest, it was mainly because my inlaws, my mum and great aunt were already on our case…asking questions like when is our grandson coming ?.. Are you guys having difficulty conceiving a child? The questions lingered. I think we just got tired of explaining ourselves… And in a moment of genius, we spontaneously decided that we were now ready to be parents.

Fast forward to the moment her water broke..I had just finished a few weeks of night shifts and was trying to catch up on my sleep to allign my bodyclock with the rest of the world when my son decided to make his grand entrance..He was 2 weeks early. I remember thinking that perhaps this was a false alarm..Maybe just maybe..a few more hours of sleep could suffice..i was already drifting again when my wife started screaming in pain..  her contractions had started..  then the adrenaline took over..
Fast forward to 12 hours later.. Our son was born..nothing prepared us for what was to follow..

I remember the first moments of his birth..I was excited.. Exhausted… Relieved…Paranoid and Disorientated. Yet, as I held him in my arms.. Close to my bare chest..I remember thinking that I would love and protect this child until the day I die. I called close family members and friends to share our joy. I was incoherent.. Later, some of those I spoke to told me that I sounded like I went through labour myself..my wife totally agrees to this.

Nature is amazing, the magic of childbirth as God intended it is frightening. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what my wife went through, labour without anaesthetic.. Yet even as a helpless bystander I felt all the different emotions of being human..from laughter to tears..fear to exhilaration. And in the end..a mysterious layer of love was unearthed within me.. More powerful than anything I’d ever felt before..a fathers love. Gentle but fierce..I mean I’ve only just met this little man..Yet I could die for him before I see any harm come to him..It suddenly dawned on me that I was responsible for a new human life..I felt unqualified..like i was an imposter in my own life.

I was so determined to make everything perfect..so I rushed home to tidy up our tiny flat before our new family member arrived..I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours.. I wasn’t thinking straight.. Oh my gawd..the room is not sterile.. The room temperature isn’t suitable.. We need to sterilise all the bottles..his baby clothes havn’t been ironed.. And I should have learnt how to strap the car seat..yes the car seat..oh my gawd!oh my goodness! Panic had set in.

It was in the middle of this confused and incoherent state that I began my journey into fatherhood. We didn’t know what the heck we were doing..I mean I stayed up all night just to make sure the baby was sleeping and breathing fine..I was convinced that he was too fragile to make it through the first few nights..And on too many occasions.. I fell asleep while we had guests in the living room waiting for me to come back from putting the baby to sleep..I went to the shop many times and forgot what it was I came to buy. But as time went on, I learnt to go with the flow..sleep when the baby sleeps.. Take one day at a time..Ultimately I learnt that the life of this child was not in my power..I started learning to trust God to look after our son rather than me thinking I was doing it all by mere human might.

Now bear in mind that as the man of the house, you’re expected to be calm and keep your cool even when all hell is breaking loose..I was the opposite. I investigated every rash..Google was my best friend.. And I called all my doctor friends to get expert advise.. I was so determined to make sure that no harm would come to my beloved son.
Looking back now, I am beginning to understand what it means to be a child in God’s eyes. That His love for is so fierce..and He would stop at nothing to see us comfortable.. That is why the Gospel says that if we being human and evil know how to give good gifts to our children.. How much more would our heavenly father who is all Holy without blemish give to us when we ask of Him… In another verse it goes on to ask which of us would our children ask for bread and we would give him or her a stone? I will go even further to say that fatherhood is the closest thing any human can experience to being like God.I mean,thats the one time we as humans share in the story of creation..bringing new life..nurturing it..and being responsible for the day to day upbringing of that new-born until they become independent.

Looking at my 13 month old toddler today brings a smile to my face…nothing prepared me for this love..his laughter ,smiles and the gibberish he mumbles punctuates my daily routine without fail..i play my part from the flanks..celebrating his every milestone as if he just won the world cup..He knows now to expect a clap or cheer everytime he gets down from the sofa unassisted. The same way i know that God is seated in the heavens and cheering my every small achievement..and He’s ever ready to lift me up when i fall.
Yes, it is the single hardest thing I’ve ever done..but it is also the most fulfilling..this experience is an ongoing process with many inherent lessons along the way..I havn’t even scratched the surface yet.

Advertisements

What is your Motive for success?

Motives for Success

Have you reached a place or point in your life when you feel tired of doing it your own way? A certain time in your life when you feel tired of struggling, fighting, striving and battling to prove your worth to everyone else. The exact moment when we begin to feel this way varies depending on the individual but it is usually prompted by a life changing circumstance or tragic loss. In my case, it was after my father died.
People say life begins at 40. I believe that one major reason for this notion is that for most people nearing 40, they’ve finally learnt to be comfortable in their own skin..they know their strengths and weaknesses..no longer are they compelled to compete with their mates financially, physically or even by comparing the reaches of their social circles. Life has taught them the hard way to run their own race. However, If you still haven’t grasped this important life lesson after 40 then you most probably never will.

We learn from an early age that success is generally celebrated and our folks encourage us to strive to be successful. From the playing fields to the classrooms, we see the rewards of winning. We learn that anything short of this sweet success in certain areas of our lives will result in dire consequences for our future.

I watched a lot of wrestling growing up and in this particular sport, winning was everything. It wasn’t so much as just winning but the manner with which the wrestlers won. The tougher the test, the sweeter the victory. So we sit engrossed at the tv watching our favourite wrestler get beaten nearly to the point of no return until as if by some miracle the tide suddenly turns and strength returns to our ‘main man’ allowing him to pull off an astounding victory. In my little 5 year old mind, I had won that fight.. I participated in the victor somehow.. Now try explaining to a 5 year old that he is not really as strong as his fictional hero.

I remember my primary school days in Northern Nigeria. I was 7 years old and didn’t think much about paying any serious attention to excelling in my school work. I knew how to play football, table tennis (more like on-the- neighbour’s-concrete-floor-tennis with a stick propped on 2 milk containers as the netting). I even perfected the art of making my own toy cars from ‘gongoni’ (empty aluminium containers) and carving the tyres of my toy cars from old flip flops and worn out sandals. Yes, as an African child, you had to be creative and imaginative to enjoy your childhood. We didn’t rely on Disney for our entertainment, we had folklore stories told by our elders under the full moon at night to fulfil those needs. These activities might sound like fun to those who have never lived in the developing world, but as kids,we had to improvise to beat the boredom.
Life was bliss until that speech and prize giving day (to commemorate the end of an academic school year) of my primary 1 class. My report card that year stated that i was too playful, easily distracted and that i was sitting comfortably in 28th position out of the 33 pupils in my class. I had red ink all over my score cards and failed nearly all my subjects except for C.R.K (christian religious knowledge). I loved my bible stories and besides it was compulsory to attend catechism classes every evening after school. I didn’t worry much about my report card until i came home that evening to see my dad waiting in the living room with a ‘koboko’ (horse whip) in one hand and my report card in the other. The 14 lashes that followed changed my life. I limped into my bedroom afterwards in tears only to see my siblings in hysterics. They were laughing at how i screamed ‘papa biko nu’ (papa i beg you) and described in detail how I yelled louder with every stroke. My elder sister was happy, unlike me, she came 2nd in her class and she was top in Mathematics that year. She had prizes and certificates to prove it and dad even promised to buy her an extra special pair of shoes to reward her endeavours. I envied her, i wanted to get the respect i deserved from my father.. I wanted to win my own prizes.. I hated that infamous ‘koboko’ that i feared more than any disease known to man…most of all, I hated being mocked and jeered at by my siblings… Little did I know that a huge chunk of my age of innocence was washed away on that fateful day.

I worked harder in school, played less and i even asked my dad to pay for extra lessons after school which he happily obliged. I had a point to prove. At the next speech and prize giving day, I was surprised to come 3rd position out of 33. My teachers and classmates were shocked…my dad was smiling at me when I showed him my prize, I think he was secretly congratulating himself but in fairness, I know deep down that the ‘koboko’ deserved most of the credit.

From then on i was hooked. I craved the rewards and accolades that came with my burgeoning success. I beamed with confidence in and out of the class room. I even grew taller and more handsome and soon had a few girls admiring me in school. I was enjoying my new found success and was nearly carried away when I fell for one of my secret admirers. That was until my sister found one of our many love letters tucked away in my school bag, the impact of the hot slap I got from my mother that day deserves to be told in another story. Distractions aside, I eventually graduated top of my class in primary school.
The next stage was slightly harder but I was confident enough in my abilities and again I worked my hardest to make a name for myself in secondary school. From debating society to the basketball and football team.. I was there. Heck, I even joined the cultural dance team to boost my reputation until a close friend begged me to quit.. He convinced me that it didn’t suit me when in actual fact I couldn’t dance to save my life.
For most people, your success might come from simply being beautiful..being good at your job…being good in sports..or just for being born into a wealthy family. For me, I was good in school.
Because we have grown to be so competitive and aggressive in our pursuit for success, we crave for people that lavish us with praises, we spend most of our youth trying to prove a point. Subconsciously, we gravitate towards careers that yield the most money, friends that celebrate us the most and choose challenging circumstances that will almost put our very lives in danger to showcase how amazing our talents are. As long as we are still succeeding, life is good. Then comes the tragedy that rips the very foundations of this narcissistic culture and exposes how vulnerable we truly are.
Something changes when we loose loved ones, for most young men the loss of a father leaves the biggest void. One reason for this empty feeling could be because we no longer have someone to measure up to, to prove ourselves to.. Whatever the reason, the emotional and psychological impact of any sudden loss sends shock waves down the very foundations of our entire existence. These events will happen to us all no doubt. It’s how we deal with it that will make or break us.

Now there is nothing wrong with being motivated to succeed. It is God’s will for us all to bear fruit. But any fruit that starts to take the focus away from the master will eventually be pruned. The bible says that he who The Lord love, He chastises…
I realised that the only way to get back on my feet was to give God back the glory. Our very lives and entire purpose here on earth is to bear witness to His name. So take courage in knowing that wherever you are now in the journey, successful or not, rich or broke, we all have a part to play. Quit comparing yourself to others and just be the best you that you can possibly be. Do your best each day and know that God will always be proud of you.

“…..In our sleep pain which we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon our hearts until in our own despair and against our will comes wisdom by the awful grace of God” – Robert F Kennedy

20131109-032527.jpg

20131109-033306.jpg

CANCER

CANCER
When you hear the word ‘ Cancer’ what immediately comes to mind? Its safe to assume that for most people it’s the illness that will be most popular. For every major organ in the human body, there is a specific kind of cancer associated with it. From skin cancer to bowel cancer and even blood cancer otherwise known as leukamia. They all seem to have one special characteristic- Uncontrolled proliferation.
If you’re into astrology, the word Cancer will also remind you of the emotional crab.. People born in june and july .. the Sensitive, kind, considerate and Loyal Cancerian.. ( I was born in July ). How ironic is it then that the greatest human killer disease that still has no guaranteed cure is also named after this innocent zodiac sign.
I’ve always been fascinated by science as far back as I an remember. This fascination prompted me to study Molecular biology as my first degree in University. Cell biology in particular fascinated me the most because until you observe what actually makes the human body tick at cellular level, you may never fully grasp the beauty of the creator that put us here on earth. With all due respect to science and it’s theories on evolution, I just can’t believe that we all evolved from a unicellular organism but that is another story.
Now, perfection is of upmost importance in cell division which in turn leads to all forms of human growth and the slightest anomaly during DNA copying could lead to mutation/s. These mutated cells could divide and also lead to cancerous cells.
Carcinoma cells or cancer cells results when a group of normal cells decides to break away from the normal genetic code and multiply sporadically until they put the life of their host in fatal danger. Though, it has to be said that not all of these cancerous cells form tumours that are malignant. Fascinating ? Now think about this…
Many things in life are cancerous. We may not know it or choose to believe it but cancer permeates the very fabric of our society. Anything that takes up the resources we have earmarked for other relevant areas of our lives can potentially become cancerous. It can stymie our growth or derail us completely from our destiny or life long ambitions, dreams or goals. That seemingly innocent decision to drop out of school or an innocent gambling addiction could be the slight anomaly that puts us in bad shape and result in a domino effect of subsequent bad choices which would ultimately result in derailing our true destiny and unachieved potentials.
But just like these things are unavoidable and uncontrollable sometimes…(as the French would say ‘c’est la vie’) there are some simple lifestyle changes we can make to reduce the chances of things that cause any form of cancer on our lives. From quitting smoking to regular exercise and healthy eating to more holistic applications like more self control and discipline could help us stay away from the poor choices that lead to the downward spiral of the evil of cancer.
So what happens when you’ve done all these things…lived right, exercised, and made healthy food choices and decisions all your life and still find yourself ravaged by one of the many forms of cancer? The bible says you should stand. .. “…when you have done all these things, stand!” Some of the best people that have ever lived and made the most significant impact in relief have all suffered shortcomings or very unfortunate circumstances in life. They refuse to let these things change them or wallow in self pity or victimisation mentality but they fight to the very last breath to beat their various forms of cancer. Show me a man who has survived cancer and I’ll show you a man who refused to give up the zeal to live. My point is this, cancer comes in all it’s different forms but unless we are determined to wage war with all those things that slowly eat away our grip over our circumstances, then we may not live long enough to enjoy life in all it’s glory and live to our highest potentials.
So, my question for you today is this; what is the one thing that is fighting you for control over your life? What is your Cancer?

20130930-104701.jpg

Inside the Big Fish…

Sooo….. I’m finally here. Like most things in my life i have tossed and toiled with this idea of starting my own blog for many years up until this moment. I can’t quite give you a definite reason why i wanted to start writing but i just knew i had it in me to write.  As a teenager, i wrote countless poems and love letters to many girls i’d like to call ‘specials’ , but it seems that as the years have gone by, my knack for pouring out my emotions into words have been reduced to some desperate mumbling on my Facebook status. I am determined to change that.

As a child, i was fascinated with the story of Jonah in the Bible. How he was sent to the people of Nineveh to warn them of the impending danger of not repenting from their sins. As the story goes, Jonah in all his wisdom as a prophet of God decided to flee from God’s Presence by going the opposite way to Jaffa and then sailing to Tarshish. His ship was caught in a fierce storm and was at the point of sinking when they realized this was no ordinary storm and cast lots to reaffirm their suspicion that Jonah was to blame for their predicament. Jonah was subsequently tossed overboard into the sea where a ‘Big fish’ swallowed him up for 3 days. I repeat, 3 days. Now, i don’t know about your educational predispositions but as a science student, I was taught that digestion begins in the mouth through the enzymes in saliva mixing up the food nicely to form a bolus that is swallowed and the stomach begins to do the rest. Am I right? I used to imagine life inside that big fish and my childhood fantasies even went as far as wondering how much lighting is in there..it must have been slimy …surely it must be warm (even though this big fish must be cold-blooded and live in the depths of the ocean notoriously cold) hmm .., wonder what other things Jonah would have found in there..maybe he found other smaller fish to eat inside the stomach… how much room did he have inside this fish?…surely he must have lost track of time….did he ever think he would make it and at what point did he begin to give up hope of ever making it out alive?…did he think of his family and friends? As a child, the rest of the story didn’t really interest me apart from what it’ll feel like living in the belly of a Big Fish.

jonah-in-the-whale

Many of us live in the belly of this same ‘Big Fish and just like this childlike mindset we do not even realize it. This Big Fish could be like moving abroad and living in the west where all your dreams come true ( as most people still think in the developing world), a rewarding career, a marriage licence or even your own family. Let me explain, I left my country to live in Europe at 21 and since then i have come to enjoy the many things that life in the west can offer. But unbeknownst to many, living in the west can be a trap, a dream killer, morality devourer, a highway to hell. I know people whose lives have changed for the better while living abroad but there are also countless untold heartbreaking stories beneath those expensive Gucci sunglasses Ada wore in her pictures on Times Square NY, or Carl’s latest picture in front of House of Parliament and Big Ben. Some may even have very rewarding careers with huge financial incentives yet they are lost as a goose in a snowstorm. Needless to mention the many rich bankers that commit suicide on weekly basis due to work pressure, or stress or even a breakup. There’s nothing sadder that being stuck at a job you have no passion for but yet choose to do for the financial gratifications..knowing fully well that your dreams lie elsewhere. Reminds me of the look on the faces i see on the morning rush in London Underground Tubes and buses…that is another story.

We might even know of marriages that looks as good as gold on the outside, but an afternoon spent with the couple in question will dissuade you from ever offering up extra prayers and offering to God to hasten the arrival of your spouse to be. I heard a comedian once describe marriage as a city under siege, those in the city are trying to escape danger while those outside the city can’t wait to get in it. Personally, i think that’s nonsense..but it does have a catchy ring to it, especially for those in unfulfilled relationships..it might be your ‘ Big Fish’.  Even being born to a certain family and parents can be like living in a ‘Big Fish’. Where you do so many things to please your family and folks and deep down your own dreams are buried deeper and deeper. Most life choices are already made for you so you just have to go with the flow or risk being a pariah. Now I’m not talking about choice of what to wear or what school to attend…no. I am talking about who to get married to, choosing friends based on race /class and generational-hand-me-downs masked as traditions/culture that have no relevance to you whatsoever like ; Do not trust an Ibo man..they are all the same, Yoruba people are dirty, Hausa people think like sheep etcetera. Depending on your family or origin, you will find that most people have built up these prejudices that no one can say for sure where they come from but sadly most people believe it.

In many cases, these scenarios are not of our own making like being born into a family that is overbearing and over-controlling. But in most case, we get caught trying to flee from the inevitable. What was Jonah thinking? you’d ask…the very same thing you are thinking. The one thing that drives all these different scenarios is fear. The fear of death..fear of rejection..fear of lack..fear of being lonely…fear of being misunderstood. In Jonah’s case, he feared being rejected by the people of Nineveh but is that enough to run from your dreams and destiny? Living with these fears and learning to cope with what life throws at us is the definitive standard that separates us all. I, for one, am still learning to master this fear and summon enough courage to fight back and take what rightfully belongs to me. But i know it won’t be easy..it might take a lifetime. Just like Jonah, i am even beginning to wonder if i will ever see the light of day and yes..I’ve lost all time frame and five-year-plans to me now seems like a historic relic. I want to think of now. And how my very next breath can be my last or it might be the very first breaths to  my new freedom.

In the end, Nineveh was saved..Jonah became depressed and suicidal and asked God to take his life. I would have thought that Jonah would revel in his new-found freedom and give thanks daily for God sparing him from the Big Fish but how quick did he forget. We are all like Jonah in many ways, we know what we ought to do but we choose to ignore. Time and time again we are saved from trouble but we are almost too quick to forget and again we almost find ourselves longing to go back to the very things,people,places or decisions that almost just killed us.

”….if i had to choose between picking the happiest times of my life or the saddest times of my life, i’ll choose the saddest times because when we are happy we forget our God whereas when we are sad He is always very near to us” –Katherine Of Aragon