Decades II – very much like the original Decade project – explores the wholesomeness of womanhood as lived in ten-year intervals; Girls; Ladies; Women; Mothers; grand and great-grand mothers all. They live the same life we live, experience the same joys and pains unique to their decades and maybe we can learn a thing or two from them. Find the subtle connections that link their lives together and get lost in stories told. Decades II.
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She prayed in the shower this morning,
She prayed for Cinderella’s glass slippers,
She prayed for a carriage pulled by unicorns,
She prayed her beauty away and wished
Ugliness her way because she was so tired
Of her father loving her the way he did.
“What exactly are you saying, Mrs. Ibekwe?” my mum asked the principal in her usual calm, barely audible voice. My dad still hadn’t spoken a word.
I stood in the principals office, fingers clasped in front of me, head bent low, staring at my feet clad in sandals from Clarks. My parents were on either side of me, and I didn’t dare look at them. As far as I knew, I was in serious trouble and this time needed to be spent coming up with strategies for attracting a less severe punishment rather than throwing pointless, pitiful looks their way.
I wasn’t worried about mum. She hardly ever yelled, and never raised a hand on me no matter how upset she got. Dad had forbidden her to. You see, I am my dad’s. I belong to him in every way, and he was responsible for me.
I’m the youngest in my family, and have six sisters ahead of me. Yes, my mum had six girls before me. From what I heard, she had kept trying because father desperately wanted a boy and, when my mum conceived for the seventh time, he convinced himself I was lucky number seven. In a bout of ignorance he went ahead and purchased all things necessary for a baby boy. My mother had secretly had an ultrasound—secretly because father had requested she didn’t—and knew she was not carrying a boy. Did she say anything? No. She loved all the attention she was finally getting, and nothing, not even the truth, would detract from that.
The day my mother went into labour, father was more excited than anyone else, mum inclusive. He beamed from ear to ear as he held my mum’s hand while she pushed; dreams of father-son bonding swimming around in his head. That is, until they announced, “It’s a girl!”, and placed me in his stunned, disappointed hands.
Nothing really changed for my dad. He wanted a son, and he was determined to have one. Nothing he bought was returned. In his eyes, I was the son he had always wanted.
As an infant and a toddler my mum, and everyone else, barely had access to me. I was constantly in my dad’s office with him. He owned his own company and had decided to work from home after my birth. I didn’t go to a creche or kindergaten. My dad was my tutor, and gave me all sorts of activity books to occupy me. I stayed under his watchful gaze, only handed over to my mother when I needed to be fed, changed or bathed. And even that stopped when I turned five.
As my father got busier, he decided to enroll me in primary school. He supervised my extra-curricular activities throughout.There was football practice, and martial arts lessons on the assigned club days in school, and afternoons spent shooting hoops in the backyard, at home.
Though he got busier as I got older, my father never wavered in his love for me. Any spare time he had was devoted to me and, much to the resentment of my mother and siblings, I got everything I requested.
When he deemed me old enough, at about eight, my dad and I started going on camping trips. My mother strongly protested against this and was even more aggravated when even her suggestion to take my sisters along was turned down. My father called these trips training exercises, and they were filled with all sorts of manly activities. He was responsible for my training and upbringing. No one was to intervene in my discipline, but report whatever was perceived as bad conduct to him. My punishments were harsh, but he would constantly remind me how much he loved me, and how necessary they were. I adored these trips, because those were the times daddy would ocassionally refer to me as his “perfect little girl”.
So as I stood next to his domineering frame in the principal’s office that afternoon, it was father’s reaction I was truly worried about. Father’s face hardly ever gave away anger, and I’d never be able to tell if he was angry until he spoke. Since his arrival, he hadn’t uttered so much as a greeting; he just sat there watching. The silence was unnerving. I began to wonder how I got myself into this mess in the first place. I snuck a look at my mum, who was still discussing with the principal. Maybe it was just me, but she seemed a bit excited about me being in trouble. This was her fault anyway.
I was spoilt silly by my dad. I had everything I needed, all that I wanted and much more. Dad showered me with all the love, gifts and attention that he deprived my mum and six elder sisters of. Needless to say, mother was most unhappy about this. All her pleas to father to tone it down fell on deaf ears. As I grew, I was spoilt even more. Father would reward my excellent academic performance with gifts and trips to somewhere new. By my tenth birthday, I had been to places I didn’t even know the names of. It was also when I turned ten that my mother had decided she’d had enough. She convinced father that I was smart enough to skip primary six and move ahead to secondary school. By lacing her arguments with words he loved—discipline, building, physical activity—she managed to bend him, and I was sent off to boarding school.
I didn’t really mind. Sure, it was a bit difficult adjusting to the mediocre environment at first, but all father’s training began to pay off. I made the necessary amount of friends, male of course, to keep me from losing my mind, and became very active in sporting activities. I had only one problem. Girls. I was in a dorm surrounded by them, and I had started struggling with feelings I was uncertain about. A room mate in particular was the center of attraction for these new feelings. Some nights, I’d watch her from my bed after lights out. Watching her reminded me of nights with dad on our camping trips, when he’d taught me how to “take care of myself”. He’d told me this was all I needed to do to show him how much I appreciated everything he did for me. It was our secret, and it strengthened our bond.
So even though I was aware of what my room mate was doing, I was unsure about why it made me feel the way I did. It pushed me to the very edge, and one night I fell. I got up and walked over to her bed as she touched herself and offered to help her out. That was the beginning of our wonderful friendship. We’d sneak out of class and hide in the uncompleted buildings, or take bathroom breaks together whenever we wanted to play. Unfortunately, we weren’t as careful as we needed to be, and we got caught one afternoon during siesta. There was no excuse we could give; both our panties were down and we were deeply engaged when the security guard had walked in on us.
My mind was drawn back to the room by my father’s deep voice.
He sounded calm enough, so I raised my head and looked at him.
“What do you have to say for yourself?”
Show no fear. One of his lessons flashed through my mind. I took a deep breath and opened my mouth.
“Daddy, I’m sorry. But I really like Anari. I didn’t mean to upset anyone.”
My mum started to mumble something about me speaking nonsense and I could hear the principal going on about one punishment or the other. I think I might have heard suspension. But all that didn’t matter. My eyes were locked on my father’s, because I knew his decision was the one that mattered. I kept a straight face, masking my fear for as long as I could, and then he smiled before turning to the principal.
“That won’t be necessary,” he said. And then he turned to me. “Tobi, go pack your things. We’re leaving.”
My name is Oluwatobiloba Akande, and I am my father’s son.
SO THANKS FOR READING. HOW WAS THE PARENTING ATTENTION YOU ENJOYED OR NOT? THE DISCIPLINE VERSUS THE LOVE? MAYBE THE ABUSE? SEXUAL OR NO.
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N.B. The project goes on for the following seven days. Tomorrow we have The Second Decade by @UcheAnne.
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