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I’ll Never Let My Son Have An Ego

iTunes shuffle is the best thing since sliced bread. There. I said it. Now that we have gotten that out the way , back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Earlier I was contemplating what exactly I was going to write about for this series of blogs I have been doing this week on the lessons my father taught me. There are so many lessons and I was struggling to pick one particular lesson to share today. But whilst listening to the song ‘New Day’ by Kanye West and Jay Z I knew I wanted to talk about my father’s legacy to me and the legacy I hope to one day pass on to my own son should I ever be fortunate enough to have one.

‘New Day’ is one of the more emotional and introspective tracks off Jay Z and Kanye’s collaborative album ‘Watch The Throne’. In the song both Kanye and Jay have conversations with their unborn sons. A constant theme in both rappers lyrics is a desire to give their future sons better opportunities and a better life than they had growing up. They are not necessarily speaking about material wealth. Their wish is that their sons become better men than they were. They want their sons to not have to make the same mistakes they did.

‘And I’l never let my son have an ego. He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go. I might even let him be Republican so they know he loves white people …. Don’t want him to be hated all the time. Don’t be like your Daddy that would never budge’ – Kanye West ‘New Day’

Most fathers are accused of trying to make their son’s into miniature versions of themselves. If it’s not that then they are accused of trying to live out their broken hopes and dreams vicariously through their sons lives. some mistakenly believe providing their kids with material wealth will suffice. But there is also another narrative. Father’s whose aim is that their son’s become their own man and best possible man they can be. Father who spend time and make an effort to nurture the character of their sons.These father’s are more focused on the legacy that they live their sons. That legacy is often some aspect of their character or lessons learned from their own mistakes. The values that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

‘Sins of a Father make your life ten times harder. I just wanna take you to a barber, bonding on charter’s, shit I never did. Teach you good values so you cherish it…. Took me 26 years to find my path, my only job is to cut your time in half …’- Jay Z ‘New Day’

My dad’s personal career success meant very little to me as a child. It is his character and the man that he is that has had a greater impact on how I approach my life. That is what I believe is his legacy to me. From an early age my dad taught me that people will treat you the way you allow them to. He also taught me that I should never let anyone tell me that I couldn’t achieve anything. It was very important to him that I became my own man and that I learn to make my own decisions from a very early age. He afforded me a great deal of autonomy on my life. This is not to say he let me just be. Whenever he thought I was losing my way he would never hesitate to gently guide me back onto the right path. And all the time he managed to make feel like I was in control and in charge of my life but I knew if I ever needed any help he was always there. My dad gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give another person. He always believed in me, even when I doubted myself.
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Whenever I tell my dad any of my plans he always says the same thing. I remember when I first told I wanted to write a book. Despite my trepidation he was true to form and said to me” Make sure you follow through with it. Whatever you start, you must always finish.” Anything my dad has ever started he has always seen it to the end. So in that regard he has led by example. And that is probably one of his greatest legacies to me. Because for all the things he has taught me the greatest lessons I have learned have been from following his example. I just hope by the time I have a son I will be able to do the same for him.

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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Lessons From My Father

 

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Head Of The Household

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.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Lessons From My Father

 

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A Few Good Men

At my current age, my dad had just had me, his first born child. He had also recently become the first black manager at one of Zimbabwe’s finest resort hotels, Troutbeck Inn. The year was 1984 and even though Zimbabwe had become an independent nation a few years prior (1980) his chosen career path was still predominantly a career for former white Rhodesians. My dad had come a long way from the days of herding cattle by day and having to study by candle light at night in the rural village he grew up in. He wore his first pairs of shoes when he started high school at the age of 14. But yet there he was a few years later wearing Tuxedo’s and hosting cocktail parties for guests. Not to mention running a four star hotel frequented by foreign and local tourists alike. In the years that have passed he has gone to achieve even more and he ended up owning and running his own business.

 When I think about the fact that he grew up in a broken home, in colonial Rhodesia, an oppressive society that regarded black Africans as second class citizens his achievements are even more impressive. My grandfather divorced my grandmother when my dad was still breastfeeding.  My grandmother had to put my dad through school by making and selling clay pots as well as working as a labourer on farms owned by white Rhodesians.  She did all this alone with barely any assistance from my grandfather. With all these obstacles in his way no one could really begrudge him if he ended up like most of the other boys in his village. And that meant either being a subsistence farmer or a teacher at best. But there he was at age 30, happily married, with a kid and a pioneering professional in what was then Zimbabwe’s vibrant tourism industry. Having known the man all my life I can confidently say that he achieved all this because of hard work, a steely determination and focus. All these are qualities he has made a great deal of effort to instil in me and my siblings.

It is no coincidence then that my dad is my role model.  If I turn out to be even half the man he is I’ll be a better man than most men I know. For all his personal success my dad is the humblest person I know. His main focus has always been to put his family first. To that end he has made great sacrifices ensuring that we had a relatively comfortable middle class upbringing. He has provided me and my siblings with a much stronger foundation than he ever had. We have had access to some of the best education, both locally and internationally. And we grew up in a loving family environment with both parents. We never really wanted for anything and when we did my dad always made a plan.

When I think about my current station in life in that context I feel slightly embarrassed and guilty. With all the opportunities I have been afforded I feel I should be doing way more than I am currently both professionally and when it comes to a family. I look at the sacrifices that both my grandmother and my father made for their families and I juxtapose that against my own selfishness and I can’t imagine starting my own family just yet. Unlike my dad before me I have the perfect blueprint in front of me on how to be a good father and husband. The irony lies in that it is actually the source of my hesitation in becoming both those things. I know I am still too selfish to make even half the sacrifices that my parents made for me.

My views on marriage and parenthood are largely informed by having had a front row seat to my parent’s relationship all my life. When I was younger it is something that I definitely took for granted. I assumed that every home was a happy one. That mum and dad always loved each other and put their kids first. I have since realised how what a blessing this actually is and that is not the default family structure I presumed to be prevalent. I know a lot of people whose fathers has been absent in their lives. In fact it’s a theme that is all too common in the black community. And even those with fathers who have been present, they haven’t always made the same sacrifices for their families. The result is that especially fathers are not really celebrated especially in the black community.

Mothers on the other hand are regarded as Queens, especially by their sons. Growing up that was my default position. My mother was and will always be a Queen. She carried me for nine months. She is the one person I spent most of my life with. The one took on most of the responsibility for my emotional well being. She nurtured me and for the longest time she was all I knew love to be. Even though we knew my dad was ‘the bank’ as a kid I would always run to mum. She could never say no. Dad was more frugal. The only guarantee was if it was something school related. Then he never hesitated and I would actually go directly to him.  This is not to say that I didn’t appreciate my dad or love him. I was just always closer to my mum. My dad was the provider, always working, sacrificing in his own way.

My dad always placed an emphasis on academics and his major input in our young lives was instilling in us a discipline and drive that would hold us in good stead for the rest of our lives. But even though I was always closer to my mum I knew I wanted to my dad when I grew up. I wanted to look as regal as he did when he wore a suit. I wanted to be manager too , even if the motivation behind that was just so people could call me “Chef”, the colloquial term for a boss amongst Zimbabweans. Ah, the dreams of childhood.

As I have become my own man my relationship with my father has evolved. For one he refuses to be ‘the bank’. Although there are times I wish he still was. This growing up and responsibility shindig can be quite tough on the wallet. Over the last few years I have gravitated more towards him and we have become much closer. He has taken on the roles of mentor, friend and close confidant. I would pick anyone else to be all that in my life. He has been a man, husband and and father for long as I have been alive and he has set the bar very high.

The popular narrative of the black man is dominated by his failings, the families and responsibilities he has abandoned as well as his womanising and alcoholism. Whilst I am not downplaying this narrative I know it is not the only narrative there is. For a long time I have watched black men vilified and unappreciated and I have always struggled with this. My own personal experience with my father showed me that we too can be Kings to our kids. Obviously not all of us will be or even know how to but I know there a few good men out there and one day I hope to be part of that group.

There are so many lessons I have learned from father and as time passes I will make an effort to share most of those lessons on this blog. And maybe someone who might not have been as fortunate as I have been  will learn something and we will end up more than just a few good men.

‘Raised by mothers would couldn’t deal with us. Left by fathers who wouldn’t build with us. I had both mine home. Let’s keep it real niggas…’- An excerpt of lyrics by Rapper Pusha T in his song ’40 acres’ off his My Name Is My Name Album.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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