Tuesday, 18 October 2016

THE WORLD’S WORST FATHERS

PICTURE: JEZEBEL

My mind keeps flitting to this year’s Father’s Day and an incident that happened on Twitter.

While most people were praising their fathers, this girl (whom I won’t mention) shared a thread about her abusive father and how he isn’t, for lack of a better word, shit. She wished her mother a happy father’s day for being both father and mother to her and her siblings and prayed her father rots in hell.

People were angry that she deigned to say such things about her father. One guy in particular was so mad, he started a thread of his own. The crux of his thread was that HE didn’t want to hear about her father being horrible, that she should have kept it to herself and worse, that she was a useless child for airing those things about her father.

I was livid at the guy (and other people like him) for bashing the girl. I wondered why it was okay for them to praise their fathers on their own timelines but it wasn’t okay for the girl to call out her father on HER timeline. I remember tweeting along those lines and saying that everyone had a right to whatever emotion they had and it was wrong to shut people down because they do not look or think like us.

Today however, the incident has me thinking about the reasons why that girl spoke about her father like that. I played all the scenarios of fathers I have met and been told about and I couldn’t help but conclude that there are some really horrible fathers out there.

So…here is my list of the world’s worst fathers;

          1.     THE ‘BREAD LOSER’:

If the bread winner is one who takes care of the family, the ‘bread loser’ is my word for one who doesn’t. People know that in many homes, the mother is the breadwinner of the family. She works or trades to ensure the family is catered for while maintaining the ruse that the father provides the money. Now, I am not hammering on men who CANNOT take care of their families – probably from illness, disability or recent job loss – but men who WON’T take care of their families.

There was this time in film school when we were doing emotional exercises and one of the acting students shared her experience. In her words, she was glad her father was dead. Many people balked at that statement but I wanted to know why.

Thing is, her father had been a deadbeat father. He never provided any of their basic necessities, choosing to spend whatever he made on himself. It was so bad that at his death, they had nothing! They were forced out of their house and their properties reclaimed to settle his debts. They had to live in an uncompleted building for months until someone took pity on them.

Hearing her talk was about the hardest thing I could do. The pain was so raw that there wasn’t a dry eye in that room. And though some of our course mates said she should never had said something like that, I understood.

You cannot imagine how horrible it is to have a father who lets you go hungry while being the man-about-town in bars and clubs or who makes you suffer the shame of being driven from school EVERY TERM for school fees. Or having a father who spends money on clothes and cars but who doesn’t care that you are wearing rags. Or even having a father who spends money eating grilled fish with cronies every night while the family eats Miyan Kuka every day. 

These kinds of fathers deserve to be on the list of the world’s worst fathers.

          2.     THE CASANOVA;

These are the fathers who chase and date anything in skirts; or trousers. Everyone knows they are philanderers, flirts, womanizers or just plain licentious. Their wives and children bare the shame for these men who seem to have no shame. These are the ones who bring in their side pieces into their matrimonial homes and beds when the wife takes a simple two-day trip. They are the ones who dishonor their children with their unabashed lack of restraint and strength of character.

There is this friend of mine whose father is a professor. Each new academic year brought him a bevy of fresh undergrads for his taking. When the guy was in 300L, he met a girl who, coincidentally, was one of his father’s side pieces. After the initial anger, he and the girl became friends. I was shocked when he told me that. I wondered at his decision until he explained. ‘My father doesn’t care two-bits about us. He gives us a basic allowance and when something new comes up and we need more money, he tells us he has done his part. I know he spends a lot of money on his girls; they even brag about it. So when I became friends with the girl, I told her how he treats us. She came up with the idea that whenever I need something, I could pass it unto her and she would get the money from my father. And true to her word, when asking for her allowance from my father, she would add the amount I needed and that was how I got by in school.’

Horrible right? No! This guy NEEDED to get basics for school; basics that his father wouldn’t give him but would give a girl he was fucking seeing. No wonder he had to do what he could to get some money.

Some of these men may not openly disrespect their families but they are still Casanovas. How do I know? I have been propositioned by men whom I knew were married and whose children could be my age and even older. I have hung out with friends at bars where obviously married men were groping women who were OBVIOUSLY not their wives.

Daughters who have such fathers grow up believing that all men are cheats, thus affecting their future relationships with men. This is because most girls define their ideal man by the standards their fathers set. Sons on the other hand learn that is okay to philander. They learn that women are not to be treated with respect or honor, thereby increasing the probability of repeating the cycle when they themselves get married.

Such fathers have to be the worst.

            3.     THE WIFE BEATER;

If you didn’t grow up seeing your father beat your mother, you had an awesome childhood.

Many African men do not see anything wrong in beating their wives. She does something wrong - and that perceived wrong could be anything at all - and he throws the blows. Many an African woman can attest to the fact that her husband has hit her at least once. What is annoying however is how ‘normal’ it all is.

In my old neighborhood, one of my favorite persons – let me call her Mama Sisi - was in an abusive marriage. Her children were my mates and thus, friends. Papa Sisi used to beat her like crazy because she hadn’t given birth to a boy. He would beat her to a point when she was spitting blood, limping and nursing bruises for weeks. One day, he beat her so bad she collapsed. That didn’t deter him. He pulled her out into the streets; naked. That neighborhood was for middle class citizens so the houses were quite private. Yet this man beat her from their compound and then into the streets. One of our other neighbors – let me call her Mama Nazo - ran out and covered her. Papa Sisi got mad that she did that and hit her; another man’s wife. Papa Nazo and their sons set on him and beat him to a pulp; and then got the police to arrest him. It was a happy day for those of us who loved Mama Sisi but as our neighbors hailed the beating Papa Sisi received, I looked at Sisi and her sisters and saw that they were awash with shame. They helped their mother up and went inside.

These girls were not just ashamed that their family drama had become neighborhood gossip, they were ashamed that they had a father like that. And because their mother always told them ‘that that is how men behave’, subconsciously, they were preparing themselves to be married to beasts too. If these girls marry a man who hit them, they would understand. And that is just wrong.

But is the effect only on girls? No. Boys see their father hitting their mother and believe it is okay to hit women. More times than not, such sons start by hitting their sisters and then graduate to classmates, neighbors and eventually, spouses. This doesn’t happen all the time but in most cases, the cycle continues. In other instances, they hate their father and hold murderous rage against him, which may transfer to a life of crime. It is a way of getting back at their fathers.

         4.     THE CHILD ABUSER;

There are so many ways these fathers abuse their children. Some abuse them physically in the name of discipline but there is a GREAT DIFFERENCE between discipline and abuse. You cannot use razor blades to cut a thieving child and say it is discipline. You cannot flog a child until their back is a crisscross of welts and say it is discipline. You cannot punch children in the face and say it is discipline.

This reminds me of a time in 2004 when we had just moved into our neighborhood. We hadn’t built our fence at that time so we could see what was happening in the houses around us.

There was this man who had a kid from someone he had been dating. When he found out about the kid, he was already married to someone else. Kid was seven, maybe eight years old at the time. The boy’s mother died so he had to come live with his father.

The first day I knew something was amiss was when we woke up one morning to screams from the boy. We all rush outside to see the father flogging his boy with something that cut his skin open each time it landed on it. Neighbors moved to stop him and he grew even more violent, telling everyone who cared to listen that the boy is HIS SON and he didn’t tell anyone how to raise THEIR CHILDREN. Even though some people left, others still tried to stop him. He told the boy to tell them to leave him or face even worse punishment. This little boy, hiccupping, begged the people to leave his father alone. That was one of the most heartbreaking thing I had seen in my life.

When his father left the house, my sisters and I went to the boy and asked what had happened. He said his offence was eating out the food his step mother kept for his father because he was hungry. For eating food, the boy’s back was designed with cuts!

We started sneaking food to him or small change so he didn’t have to suffer as much. It was however, too little. His father continued to beat him for any and every reason; and that was when the step mother wasn’t beating him.

The beatings continued (almost daily) for years until his landlord demanded he stopped abusing that child or leave his house. Long story short, they moved from our neighborhood and I don’t know what has happened to the boy since then.

Apart from physical abuse, there are fathers who sexually abuse their daughters. These men rape their daughters and some even go as far as impregnating them.

Then there are those that emotionally abuse their children; the ones who make their children beg for affection or those who constantly put them down. These are just the worst!

           5.     THE ABSENTEE FATHER;

Almost as bad as the ones listed above are the fathers who are not there at all, the ones who get a woman pregnant and deny the child is theirs, the ones who carry on with their lives and new families while the child suffers or the ones who, even after being found by their love-child, refuse to have that child in their lives.

Still talking the emotional exercises at film school, one of my course mates talked about his father. His father abandoned his mother when she pregnant. As the boy grew, he asked his mother for his father and each time, his mother shrugged him off. His mother, exasperated, only gave him his father’s name when he nagged her life out. This guy ran away from home, his father’s name in hand, as he went in search of him.

After months of connecting the dots, he found his father. In his words, it was the happiest day of his life. He dressed up, went to his father’s house and introduced himself.

He didn’t expect his father to hug and kiss him but what he got was definitely not what he expected.

His father knew of his existence. He knew that he had a son who was a young man now but HE DIDN’T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH HIM. Refusing to accept what his father told him, he tried to talk some sense to him but his father kept pushing the knife in deeper. Things got heated and the guy was sent out of the house. His heart broke. His spirit broke. His drive broke.

He kept trying to reach his father and each time, he was rebuffed. For months, he had to deal with self-confidence issues, constantly asking himself if he was good enough and one day, he broke. He cried. He let himself hurt. He let the pain take over him. And then he decided it. Wasn’t. Worth. It.

He is almost thirty and his father has not done anything but a couple strokes that led to his birth. He thought of wasting time waiting for his father to SEE HIM or moving on with his life and being the best person he can be. He chose to move on.

What do all these examples add up to? Quite simple I would say; there are many people who had/have deadbeat fathers and they have a right to their grudge!

People don’t want to hear others lash out at their parents because of cultural or religious reasons or because their own fathers were/are good. The Qur’an (2:83, 4: 1, 6:151, 29: 8, 31: 14-15) and Bible (Exo. 20:12, 21: 17, Deut. 5:16, Prov. 1:8, Col 3:20, Eph. 6: 1-4) talk about honoring parents, with the Qur’an even going further to say one isn’t permitted to raise their voice against their parents or even be upset at them (Qur’an 17:23). If there were scriptures for our traditional religion and cultures, like isn’t it about time African religions have their own book of scriptures, I would have quoted them too on honoring parents.

The question is, how can one honor a father who is described in any of the categories above? How can one respect such a man? I know the Bible clearly says parents SHOULDN’T PROVOKE their children to sin (Eph. 6:4). Aren’t the classifications above provocations? Why then should a child respect or glowingly praise such a father? Why then should people DEMAND that they either praise such a father or shut the hell the hell up?!

The answer reminds me of our biggest problem; EMPATHY! You shouldn’t have a bad father to understand why people with bad fathers are angry. Your father was great; good for you. You had a wonderful childhood; even more fantastic. Your father is an awesome role model; bravo! But you need to understand that many people didn’t/don’t have that. Many people have never experienced the love your father showed you. Many people would rather die than be like (or be with someone like) their father and just like you have the right to rave about your father, they have the right to cuss their fathers out.

I am from a really dysfunctional family and so, naturally, it is easier for me to understand people who have gone through similar things but I also have friends who come from normal families but STILL UNDERSTAND the hurt. The reason? Empathy!

In a society where people are urged to sweep things under the rug, it is admirable that people are coming out and discussing the issues that bug them. Yes, we have been told to cover bad issues, especially bad family issues but if we don’t talk about them, how can move on and get better?

I had a lot of issues with my father growing up. There were many times I hated him and wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. A time came that I even left the house because I just couldn’t be associated with him but then I talked about it, poured out my anger, prayed to GOD to help me forgive him and then moved on. Now, I can gist with my father and discuss plans for my life. And last year, for the first time since I could remember, I hugged him. Yes, it was awkward and felt weird but it was the start to acknowledging that his attitudes no longer held sway to my emotions. That was growth for me!

It is about time we stop trying to put a gag on victims of dysfunctional fathers, families and societies because it doesn’t sit well with you. I am NOT SORRY to say that you don’t matter in the equation! You don’t matter in a person’s pain or hurt or sorrow. If you don’t want to hear it, UNLOOK! Scroll past! Unfollow the person! But don’t you dare try to shut the person down!

And if your father was horrible, find someone reasonable to talk to, cry, let the hurt boil over, break down, go on a rant on social media but remember to come out of it; stronger, wiser, scarred but healing and best all, forgive the hurt and move on.

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