Who Stole The Master Of The House?
There was a way to be when my Nigerian father was in the room. You speak only when you are told to. You keep still and only be in your best behaviour. If he had visitors, you were not to interrupt with even the slightest body movement or sound.
You never asked questions or disagreed or have any form of opinions that contradicted his. You must be at home before he got back from work and the days that he didn’t get home early, everyone stayed up all night.
Whenever I or my siblings were naughty, my mother will threaten to report us to our father, and that threat was all we needed to behave. It wasn’t that he was going to unleash some unthinkable punishment that only he can, but being summoned before the master of the house was the punishment.
He had his cup, his plates, spoons, and slippers that only he used.
In my secondary school days in boarding school, I once went to school with a fancy cup which was different from the aluminum that was recommended.
It was part plastic and steel and looked like the very type used by banks in their ads that aired on CNN. A classmate saw the cup and demanded to know why I had brought my father’s cup to school.
He assumed that only daddies could use the cup. My father’s, on the other hand, was even more grandiose. It came in a box that looked like the types Cartier wristwatches come in.
It was sterling silver and had a cover that magnets with the cup itself and were slightly heavier than an unboxed iPhone. Nobody used that cup. It was to be treated with respect. We washed the cup immediately after my father used it. It had a special place in the kitchen. You didn’t throw it around, it was for daddy and we all worshipped it.
Growing up in Lagos, these were the makeup of my most sacred creed; Daddy was the lord of the house and everyone was at his mercy.
And so when my 4-year-old niece, my sister’s daughter hit him with her ruler on his leg while he was laying in his bed reading a Saturday or Monday edition of a national newspaper, it felt like sacrilege had been committed at the market square in a Chinua Achebe’s book and I was the devoted leader of the disciplinary committee set up the punish the offender.
What was he going to do? He looked at her, shrugged her off, and buried his head back into his newspaper.
Now, I’m not sure what he would have done if I had done that as a child, but it’s most unlikely that I would have had the guts to commit such sacrilege as disrupting the concentration of the daddy while he read the newspaper.
But it wasn’t just this particular incident that went against the creed that I grew up with. There was that time when she mimicked his funny facial expression when watching the 10 o’clock news to his face.
Then that time when she told him she wasn’t speaking to him anymore after he told her she watched too much TV that ended with him apologising to her.
The daddy was one thing only some ten years ago – a provider, end of the story. And this new man who I argued politics with and who spent time watching Zee World with members of his family was almost unrecognisable to me.
With the advent of T-shirt that declared in bold fonts “EVERY MOM IS A GOOD MOM” or “I SHAVED MY BALLS FOR THIS,” the paraphernalia of the father figure has hit its peak and fallen.
It was millennials and their gen z children in tow. It all started when they came to the conclusion that the roles of fathers needed to be spelt out more accurately or they were not buying into the marriage that society loved more than their joy.
The campaign was raised largely on social media that a new type of father figure called “the great dad” was needed as a matter of the gravest urgency.
Fathers went through the adjustment that will launch a thousand more divorces and set into motion ideas that will lead to the rise of the baby daddies.
And so we woke up one morning and the great dad was born. He was a father who did more than contribute financially to the home. He bathes his children, cooks meals, cleans his house, and gets the family ready for the day, including sometimes making hot water available for the mummy.
The women who are married to these men are the ones who are “happy” in their relationships or partnerships or coupling or whatever it’s called now. And the ones who didn’t only need to wait for the day the separation starts.
They don’t have special cups that must be worshipped and if they ever are grandfathers, they are forced into the role of punching bags by their toddler grandchildren.
A friend who owns a cap that has “Daddy of the Year” emblazoned on it, missed his 5-year-old daughter’s Colour Day event at school in January and while we watched the game later that day, it was all we talked about. “I can’t keep slacking,” he said. “I will be coming out only once a month henceforth. I am married now.”