Monday, January 12, 2015

2 Things My Father Did Not Give Me

I wrote this guest post for Bella Naija recently and I want to share it here with you lovely readers of the blog. Upon looking back on my life and analyzing my childhood and teenage years (I love doing life reviews from time to time), I tend to notice actions, choices, and experiences that stand as significant because they contributed to the molding of my beliefs and mindset in older years (for better in some cases and for worse in others). And in this post, I am specifically focusing on my dad and the fact that there are many things he did not give me growing up. Some things I pleaded for and some things I didn't quite ask for yet he made sure NOT to give them to me anyways.

I hope you enjoy reading this post.
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There were several things I asked my father for that he responded to with a resounding “NO” – toys, permission to stay up late and watch television on a school night, tight clothing. Father’s Day has since passed and I know many of you spent that day reminiscing about all the things your fathers gave you. Well, my father’s birthday was a few days ago and I am inspired to go in somewhat of a different direction. I don’t want to tell you all the things he gave me. Instead, I want to share with you 2 things my father did not give me:

He Did Not Give Me An Oyibo Name
I grew up watching a lot of American films with a lot of Caucasian actors/actresses, and I had this obsession with “white names”. I thought “white names” were beautiful. “Ashley” and “Sarah” always sounded so darling to me.  I remember desiring as a kid to have a Caucasian name –  which I didn’t. When I asked my father why I didn’t have a Caucasian name, he informed me that I didn’t have one because I didn’t need to have one. That answer didn’t sit well with me. A little while after, I started attending an all-girls Catholic boarding school – Regina Pacis (my Abuja folks will know it) – and it was time for me to receive confirmation (a holy sacrament of initiation in Catholic churches). As customary practice in my school, each girl got the chance to pick a new name to be confirmed with by the Bishop during mass. I was thrilled. This meant I could finally have my English name. I told my father and to my dismay, he said he would pick the name and it would be an Igbo name!
 
Haba!
 
Why?
 
Didn’t I already have enough Igbo names?
 
Well, I was too stubborn of a nut to take this lying down. When the day of my confirmation came, my father was running late and was not able to make it on time for the ceremony. That was my opportunity to change the plans! It was now or never. When it came time to give my name to the school official, who would then pass it along to the Bishop, I said my name would be “Diana”. Now I picked Diana for two simple reasons: I loved Princess Diana of Wales and one of my favorite Michael Jackson songs was “Dirty Diana”. So, when it was my time to step up to the church altar, the bishop confirmed me with the name “Diana”. I was ecstatic. When my father found out he was not pleased. I couldn’t understand why. You see I didn’t know then what I know now: My father was trying to teach me a beautiful lesson in love and gratitude.
 
My name is NWANYIBUIFE ADAEZE OBIAKO. My name has meaning and power behind it. Take “Nwanyibuife” for instance – it means “a woman is worth something”. Na serious something o. And then there’s “Adaeze” – which means “the first daughter of a king”. My name has history and importance to those who gave it to me. My name represents my heritage and my culture; a culture and heritage I was failing to appreciate. I was too eager to have “Ashley” or “Sarah” as part of my name. My father was teaching me that copying someone else’s name wouldn’t make me someone I was not. My father was teaching me that love for oneself and one’s heritage was necessary for living an authentic and enjoyable life. God does not make mistakes and I’ve come to realize that my father was trying to help me understand that. Now, I get excited to share my name with folks.

Who would’ve guessed?
 
I still use “Diana” as part of my name and my dad has never once acknowledged/accepted its existence – I love his dedication against it :)
 
He Did Not Give Me a Lack of Self-worth
I remember when I was about 11; we were living in Abuja and one morning my mother had sent me to a nearby grocery store to quickly pick up something she needed. As I was on my way home from the store, I heard an Hausa man (at least 40 years old) calling out to me as he stood in front of his compound. He was singing a famous song at the time and calling out to me – 
 
“Dem go dey pose. Dem go dey denge denge. Dem go dey pose. Dem go dey waka kuru-kere.”
 
I turned and saw him smiling, motioning with his hands for me to come over. Like a naïve child, I went over wondering what he wanted. We stood by his front gate and he told me that he saw me walking in my shorts and I had nice legs. Now I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt at the time and was pretty tall for my age. I told him “ok”, still not sure why he had called me over. Then he went on to ask me where I went to school and like the
mumu naïve child I was, I told him. He then said that he would like to “get to know me” and that we should become pen pals. He said pen pals wrote each other letters and told each other things about themselves and their lives. I started feeling uneasy and told him it was time for me to go back since my mom was expecting me. He said alright and told me to remember our pen pal agreement. I told him ok and hurried back home. When I got back, my mother was with my father in the dining room as he was about to eat his breakfast before heading for work. They both immediately asked me what took so long and I told them everything the man said, word-for-word. My father dropped his toast and stood up enraged.

I was scared.
 
I had rarely ever seen my dad really angry. He put on his shoes and told me to show him exactly where the man lived. Terrified, I said okay and started walking with my dad to the man’s place. We got to the man’s house and my father banged continuously on the gate. The man opened the gate and my father asked me if that was him and I said yes. My father yelled at the man and told him that if he ever came near me again there would be hell to pay. The man told my father to leave his property but my father ignored him and kept yelling. The man’s security guard came out with a gun and told my father he didn’t know who he was talking to and that the man was a military official. My father said he didn’t care and that the man better heed his warning and never even attempt to look my way again. The man said nothing else and remained silent. My father told me to start walking and we headed back home.
 
I was stunned.

I mean I knew my father loved me but this showed me another layer of his love that I was not aware of. He was willing to risk his safety for me. He was willing to risk his life for me. The military man never spoke to me again. I will never forget that day. That was the day I understood the courage my dad possessed. That day my father showed me that I was loved and valued by him A LOT.
 
It would be great to say that I never dealt with insecurities and lack of self-worth after that day but unfortunately that would be a lie. I did. And still find myself battling those pesky feelings on occasion. But, I can confidently say they never came from my father – I’ll give that credit to the faux “friends”, mean schoolmates, and various media channels I encountered growing up.
 
Now I’m not here to tell you that my father is perfect or that I am a perfect daughter. What I am here to tell you is that my father is undoubtedly one of the greatest gifts I have had the good fortune of receiving in my life.
 
What I am here to tell you is that Emmanuel Obiako (yes, my dad was given an English name by my grandparents, yet refused to allow me mine!) is the best man that God could have given me as a father and that is exactly why I believe He did. What I am here to tell you is that there are several things my father did not give me growing up.
 
And for that, I am grateful.  :)
 
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P.S. In writing this post, I was aware that not every person grew up with their fathers present. And if that is you, I don't want you to feel bad about that. I don't want you to feel like you were "disadvantaged" and "missed out" because of it. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that life is about perspective. It might seem like you "lacked" or "lack" something in comparison to another but believe it or not, that is how those others feel when they compare themselves to other people to. It is a deceptive cycle. The truth is that whether you had a dad or didn't, you always had and will always have our Father in heaven. It is in God that we are ALL meant to find our value and build our confidence - in the fact that He sent His beloved Son to suffer and die for YOU and me. Once your realize that's ultimate LOVE, you will realize you lack/lacked nothing. And as long as we have Him, we have access to love and joy every day of our lives. God bless you, loves, and may you all have a great week :)

12 comments:

  1. WOW @ the second story! Your father is something!

    My first name is an English name, and I like that I have names from both my parents' tribes. At home though, I'm called by my Igbo name (mum's tribe). I plan on giving my child(ren) English first names just because. On one hand, I guess I think that it might downplay culture a little. But on the other hand, there's no rule that says I must stick to a traditional name.

    Well, thank God for first, second, third, fourth, and even fifth names :)

    Berry Dakara Blog

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    1. My dad took me by surprise o! I was like, "gangsta!" lol

      Yes o, thank God we get to have multiple names. If I have kids, I'd give them a mix on English and Igbo names :)

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  2. This post made me laugh out loud.. Cos my dad did not give me an engish name too. I kept asking dem why they didn't give me any English name and he said 'i didn't need it'..

    When i got older i kept pestering for an English name, he told me i could give myself any name.. That really made me happy, though he never acknowledge that he has a daughter called Gabriella but am happy all the same..

    Nice post Ada..

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    1. Lol, so we have similar stories!!! I love that your dad said you could give yourself an English name and then goes on ahead to disregard it...hilarious!

      Thank you for reading and commenting on the post, Ifeoma :)

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  3. Wow! At the second story, if all father's will be that bold with miscreants on the street who cat-call to teen kids...
    And you were so sincere with your dad and mom, it shows trust on your part..trust in your parents.
    God bless your family Ada..

    And I love that you even remembered those without earthly dads..you have a big heart :-)

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    1. My dear Frances!! Thank you nne...may God bless your family too :)

      As for the "miscreants on the street", they can be something else! My goodness...when will they finally rest lol

      And I had to add the note to anyone who didn't have an earthly dad growing up because it is the truth - God is our Father and as His children, we ALL got lucky :)

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  4. OMG! you are such a good writer, I'm glad I stumbled on your blog

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    1. Thank you, Ifeoluwa!!!! I appreciate you - I'm glad you made your way to the blog too. I hope you stick around for a long, long time :))

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  5. Lovely! Awesome read. You're a great writer and yeah so kind of you to remind us all who our worth comes from if we can't relate to your father's kind of love. Thanks, great read. I love my English name but also have middle names to show my culture - Funny that my surname ain't exactly Yoruba either but I wouldn't change it for the world. Shows we all have to be grateful for who we are.
    Erm... Lol at Diana - It means "heavenly, divine" so yeah you're blessed indeed with a full deck of great nantes;) :) xxx

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    1. Thank you, Helen!! You're too kind :)

      I love that you have a mix of names and like you said yes, we need to be grateful for the entirety of who we are (cheers to becoming more grateful with each new year!)

      I didn't know Diana meant that!! So, I even picked better name sef lol

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  6. I don't have an English name too. and I don't plan to give my future children one. I'm just traditional like that. About the Hausa man, I had similar experiences with creepy men like that.
    I just noticed your avatar is "love" "ai" in chinese. cool!
    www.coilsandglory.com

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    1. Ah, you and my dad are in the same "no foreign names allowed" society, Adeola! Lol Jokes aside, it is your prerogative and I respect your decision on it.

      My dear, it is evidently just a "normal and creepy" experience for most gals growing up in Naija.

      You are the FIRST person to notice and comment about the avatar!! Thank you! Yes, it means "love" and I chose it for that specific reason - Lord knows I need to become more of "love" to myself and others lol

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