Relationships are complicated. There is no one formula that works for all relationships. But there are some guiding principles that will always help us in our quest to having more fulfilling and meaningful relationships with the people in our lives. The most important relationship we will all ever have is the one we have with ourselves. This relationship sets the tone for all other relationships. However we hope to be treated or aspire to treat others we have to first look inwards and learn to love and be kind to ourselves first before we can even begin to extend the same courtesy’s to others.
From an early age my dad always taught me to believe in myself. To always treat others with kindness and respect. And to always be confident in my own abilities, but never arrogant. He also taught me to always show empathy and never to compromise my values. Another lesson my dad taught me was to always have an understanding of the dynamics of any relationship I was in. I must always know what my role in any relationship is. And If I am not comfortable with that role I must reassess the value of that relationship to my life. Was I a leader or a follower? A teacher or a student? Or maybe even an equal? According to my dad if you understand your role and accepted it you were putting yourself in a much better position to ensure that relationship was worth it.
Growing up we had a pretty defined family structure. My dad was the head of the household. He took it upon himself to be the leader of the family. And my mother gladly accepted that. Even though I have referred to my parents as the dream team of the marriage game on this blog before, it was never in doubt who the captain of that team was. It was my dad. But if my dad was the captain of the team then my mum was definitely the star play-maker. They needed each other. They played for each other. They supported each other. But even more importantly they had a shared vision of how they wanted their lives to play out. Because of that they both accepted their different roles in their relationship and it has worked for them. They understood their dynamic and took full responsibility for their particular roles.
Being the eldest child my dad always pushed me to take on the responsibility to be a leader in my own right. I was supposed to always set an example for my siblings. To this end he insisted that my younger siblings prefix my name with Mukoma when addressing me. (Mukoma is the shona title for a big brother) Everything I did he would remind me that my brothers and my sister looked up to me. To be honest, this is not a role I initially wanted to accept. Half the time I felt I had no clue what I was doing and the rest of the time I wished I had a Mukoma I could look to for answers. But this was before I realised that I had something much better to look to for guidance, my dad. As soon as I accepted that I became comfortable with being a leader for my siblings and I embraced the responsibility that came with it. Mukoma wasn’t just a title; just the same way my dad being the head of the household wasn’t one either. You had to accept, shoulder and live with responsibility that came along with it. And even though you are a leader you always have to treat others with respect. Only then would the dynamic ever work.
For a huge chunk of my life my father has been my mentor and as I have grown older the dynamic of that relationship has shifted and he has become one of my best friends. That is also the case with my siblings. We are all adults now with different experiences and with each passing day I am learning more and more from them as well. And that is a lesson I am still learning that even though relationships may have a specific dynamic at one stage in our lives it doesn’t always have to stay that way. It also important to evolve and accept these changes and you are guaranteed longevity in whatever relationship you have.
I am very grateful for the many lessons that my dad has taught me over the years. That has been part of the motivation behind this series of blogs over the past week. Not only did I want to share those lessons but I wanted to appreciate him in my own way. I also needed to remind myself of some of these lessons.