Shush… Don’t Call Me Daddy

“You look like you would do well with the toddlers.”

“Huh?” was all I managed. The door shut behind me and I was immediately swept away by the pervasive odour of soiled diapers in a room full of fragile little 1 and 2 year olds. Toddlers with snot running down their noses playing in some sort of organised chaos on a custard yellow tarpaulin. Right. Where to begin?

“Uhm… excuse me?” I had approached the older gentleman who had assisted me in my first diaper change. “I’m new here and I’ve just been deployed to the toddler section. Would you let me know what it is I should do?” I thought I had been clear enough but the man looked perplexed. Before his evident worry became my own he seemed to calm down and nodded.

“In this room I am not the authority, she is,” the man led me to the young woman who had taught me how to register babies in the first place.

“It’s you!” I remarked excitedly. “Well, seems like I am at your service. What should I do?”

She smiled at me. I guess my enthusiasm wasn’t misplaced. “Pick a kid and play with ’em.”

I returned the smile and went to town!

“Hey there you cute lil goo goo ga ga! What’s up? What your name?” As I asked all these essential questions my voice’s pitch only went higher and higher. Eventually I was just an unintelligible as the kids I was trying to communicate with which bizarrely made me more approachable to them. I guess somehow we ended up speaking the same language. I knew in that instant I had found my place of service.

If it wasn’t evident then it became even more so when in trying to escape my ghastly “I’m coming to get you” face a young man fell on an even younger, smaller girl. Now you have to understand that a kid under 2’s motor functions aren’t enviable. In trying to get up the boy continuously pressed down and squashed the little girl until he could get on his feet. This led to tears and someone needed to bring peace back. I picked up the little girl and did the only thing I knew to do in that situation. I rocked her in my arms and recited the little bit of Proverbs 31 I knew. “You are a strong woman of noble character. You are a virtuous woman. It’s ok to cry honey but you’ll be ok, everything will be fine.” Just like that she stopped crying. I felt an immense sense of victory. “Can I wipe your tears? Let me wipe your tears, ok?” All this was done with minimal fuss and we became the best of friends, praise be to God!

It would be great if the story ended here but it didn’t. After playing together for a while yet she reached for the hem of my shirt and said, “Daddy!”

“Shush…” I said, rather hurriedly, “Don’t call me Daddy.” I don’t think she got the memo.

“Daddy,” she repeated.

“It’s Ayanda,” I said exasperated. “Aya.”

I became Daddy for the rest of the day. Those around me sensing my discomfort tried to cheer me up, “Maybe Daddy is the only word she knows,” they said. Right. Makes sense. Relief flooded my veins. That’s not so bad then, I thought.

When it was time to go a lady approached us with a smile on her face. The girl turned and ran away from me like I had transformed into a ghost. She gave the woman a huge hug as she screamed exuberantly, “MOMMY!”

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Diaper Changing Machine

Before you get too excited, no I did not invent or discover a machine that changes diapers on one’s behalf. Does the machine even exist? Hmmmm… something to look up in my spare time.

I’ve been away for a bit and for good reason. I’ve been preparing to be a father. Yes you got that right – awesome news, spoiler alert, I’m going to be a father! Shocking isn’t it? It shouldn’t be though. It’s something I’ve had on my vision board for a long time now and I’m ready to fill that role as best I can… at least a couple years from now.

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Gotcha didn’t I?

Aye this won’t be an issue for a while:

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But the idea is to be a great dad. 4 of my 5 mentors raise their kids as active fathers and that’s the route I wanna go by too. What about the other one, Ayanda? Is he an absent father? No, he’s a she and a great Mom. But I don’t aspire to be a Mom so she’s been excluded from this post, with her permission.

What even is this post? Well, it’s the introductory chapter to a new series! Preparing for Fatherhood. I’ve been observing fathers in general, my 4 mentors in particular and have taken a life-changing course called ‘Be That Man’. I also volunteered to work in the kids ministry of the church and oversee toddlers.

Why the title then? Well that’s because I changed my first diaper on Sunday. It smelled like crap! As one would expect – and it was glorious lol.

How did it go? Basically I carried a table into the little men’s room and this dude came carrying a putrid ball of cuteness and plopped him on the table. The conversation went like this:

“You ever changed a diaper before?” he asked. He seemed tense.

“No… if there’s instructions somewhere I think I can do it… I can try.”

4 wet wipes and a dumped and replaced diaper later it went:

“I think that’s how it’s done. That’s the front – right?”

“I think… we’ve done it,” he replied.

#MissionAccomplished

And accomplished I felt and still feel. I wouldn’t take back that experience for a thousand Kuwaiti Dinars. Why that currency in particular? Last I checked it’s the strongest currency in the world. If that’s wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments.

So – let’s step into preparation for fatherhood together!

PS BTW if you’re planning to be a Mom and not a Dad please don’t feel excluded by these posts. Instead I invite you to engage in the comments adding (or critiquing) whatever you would like in a father for whatever talking point the subsequent posts will cover.

See you tomorrow.

photo cred: All-free-download.com

An Example Of Excellent Parenting

This is why I cannot accept defeat in failure

In the summer of 2006 (normally winter in the northern hemisphere) my parents attended their first Parent – Teacher Consultation at my new school. I’d moved a few months prior and had just received the worst report card in my, then short, academic life. Their response to the ordeal they faced is just one of many reasons why I feel blessed to be their son.

The backdrop of the story is this. I’d previously attended a government run school for the first four years of my primary education. Consisting of nearly fifty students a class it was quite competitive at the top end. Yet with their influence, great teaching and, I believe, some natural talent (as well as ‘luck’) a young Ayanda Joe Munikwa came top of the class on three separate occasions in the four years I was there. The joy of my first prize giving ceremony will come later, maybe tomorrow?  We’ll see. Anyway I’d been moved to a private school. My parents had invested a great deal of money because they wanted what was best for me. Personally in their shoes I would have bought a new car, tv or something; but not them. They did this only to see me failing at nearly everything I touched. I was below mediocre. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was so confused at the time I thought “dictionary” and “diary” were synonymous (story filed for yet another day). It seemed like nothing was going according to plan.

So with all this having occurred, my parents dressed smartly for the Consultation. If you thought I was a fish out of water, you should have seen their more than slightly nervous expressions as they exchanged looks. They looked gorgeous by the way, no bias. Anyway they headed in to the classroom at their appointed time to meet my teacher; The One Who Shall Not Be Named.

I’m sure you picked up the Voldermort link. I still talk to one of my closest friends, who was in the same class with me back then, about him. Maybe it was the stress of twenty odd kids looking fresh faced and seeming not to understand anything. Or maybe it was the stress of the impending inflation that was even then gnawing at every working adult’s pockets. Maybe he was just naturally bitter and mean. But boy did he love taking it out on us and anyone he came across. His personality was as blunt as his face, but I appreciate him now because even he has turned around. (A story for ANOTHER day)

The man I spoke of above was the man they were going to meet. I was convinced he hated me. When they came back and told me what he had said I was even more convinced. Apparently I was “beyond help” and, to put it bluntly, “stupid”. He was also perplexed as to how I passed the entrance exam in the first place. I was apparently one of his worst students. While they recounted his words I could see in their eyes two things, pain being one of them. But even deeper, even at that young age I could see it, the second thing, resolution.

“I know you. You’re my intelligent boy! My genius! Maybe you didn’t do so well this time but I trust you more than I trust this teacher. Final exams are coming up. Go show them what you’re made of.”

I didn’t cry in their presence, even then I tended not to do that. But I did when I was alone in my room afterwards. Then I made a conscious decision to kick ass in school, prove my parents right and my teacher wrong.

Needless to say I came first. Every year for the next three years of my primary school education. Even when they introduced streaming in the sixth grade where the “top students” from both classes were merged into a separate class. Oh I also broke their (then) recent record for the National Exam. This isn’t me just mollycoddling my ego, this is just to prove a point. None of those meagre achievements would have been possible if my parents had chosen to withdraw their love and support.

Sure there are different ways to approach the problem – the problem of my plummeting grades after sending me to a supposedly better school. But I believe they chose the right way, not only because of the exam results that followed but because of the opinion of them that was formed in my mind that day… one I still hold to this very day. And one I hope to inspire in my own children in the future.