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Opinions Wed, 18 Jun 2014

Papa, your bathing is too hard!

Reflections of an imperfect father

It was certainly more amusing than surprising. Very early, I observed that the Missus was intuitively a better mother than I was a father. I could not understand it. Had we not done the same pediatric rotation? How could she always accurately decipher what the baby wanted to say with each cry while I remained clueless? How do you know, I asked one day? Surely, they didn’t teach us baby talk in medical school!

At first, we wanted six wonderful children. After a few sleepless nights, I repented from this position. These babies never sleep, I cried. And God knows that I love my sleep, if the snoring is anything to judge by. One wanted to be held all night long. Another wanted to feed. And of course, it did not help that we did not practice the adequate child spacing that we preached. I did my best, but unlike the Missus, I could never function at such a high level with accumulated insomnia. If I woke up even once or twice during the night, everybody would hear about it at work in the hospital the next day. “The children are killing me!” To do this six times? Never! But if God, being omniscient, can spare us the first two years of life and allow the children to be born at two years, then six would still be a possibility.

My second surprise had to do with the individual differences. God must be punishing us for some infraction, I thought. Aseye resisted sleep as if the mere thought of falling asleep caused her pain. To knock her off, this little girl of no fixed address wanted the lights on in addition to soft background music and constant rhythmic pacing. When Major Che came along, he proved to be the exact opposite. He wanted the lights off, not a single sound, and when he was ready, you could leave him on the bed half asleep and he will be just fine. How can two people want to sleep under such contrasting circumstances? As for Kwabena aka Kwabena Mickey, he wanted to be held and breastfed all and I mean all night long!

Growing up, they still continue to torture me. The Missus has decreed regular doses of some two multivitamins –a sweet one and a not so sweet one aka ‘black one’. This boosts their immune system and prevents chronic coughs and cold, she says. As if remembering to administer doses is not hard enough, these little people, at seven plus, six and four, have opinions and preferences. Aseye wants the black one before the sweet one, Major Che prefers the sweet one first and Kwabena Mickey won’t drink it at all, because …, well because he just “doesn’t like yucky stuff!”

The Missus strategically applies top class child psychological tactics to get the children to bend to her will with joy. This is why mommy’s bathing is so sweet. You will hear people chanting “Shaaaa- waaaa, shaaaa- waaaa!” Seeing just how easy it all appeared, I threw myself whole heartedly into the bathing expedition. The feedback was instant, “Papa, we don’t like your bathing! You like scrubbing my body too hard!” – Major Che. Thinking my Aseye will humor me as she often does, I started courting her praise. This also backfired. “This is not how Mummy does it. You are not supposed to scrub my face with the sponge. You have to wash my face gently. O, Papa!” I am obviously a disappointment. So, gradually, I am learning both child psychology and the art of corrupting children with open bribery! Seeing Kwabena Mickey’s great love for fashionable clothes, I strategically lay out his clothes in order to make the prospect of bathing even more attractive. And then of course, Papa’s stories are the best. So if you allow Papa to bath you quickly, I will tell you three powerful stories tonight!

One day, they show me how different their childhood is from mine. “Papa, please put us in a trotro! We saw trotro on tv!” How can I, who as an upper primary pupil, could take trotro from one point to the other during an errand and feel confident about myself, have children who think of public transport/trotro as an excursion? These are the same children who “don’t want to sit in Auntie Osha’s car because it is too hot!” Another day, they tell me they would like to eat “bread and marmite.” I turn to the Missus, “What is marmite?” She smiles, gives me a tiny flat-bottomed bottle and encourages me to taste of its blackness. How can I, an ewokple and tilapia man, give birth to children who have developed the taste for such strange concoctions?

This is not all. I have done a very poor job of getting them proficient in at least one local language. I am in this house where three year olds are telling me in flawless English, “I did not do it intentionally. I really mean it” but when their Twi teacher appears in class, they become so uncomfortable that “even my wee-wee was coming!” simply because they can’t understand a word of what he says. I have not done well, Aseye’s very early Ga exploits notwithstanding. A week ago, I visited my supervisor, Dr. Margaret Gyapong, who apparently, has overcome all these hurdles. Her advice is rich and down-to-earth. There are more lessons to learn on how to give the children balance and keep them grounded.

They are truly God’s gifts that make the daily hustle and bustle all the more meaningful. To hear them say, “We can’t wait for Father’s Day to come” amidst some suspicious looking homemade cards, make all my paternal imperfections pale away into insignificance. We thank you Roskivite, Major and Mickey-Losto for being our children!

Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey

www.sodzisodzi.com

Sodzi_tettey@hotmail.com

12th June, 2014.

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi