Single parent families are increasingly becoming common in Kenya. While most of these households are headed by women, there are quite a number of single fathers raising their children. In the spirit of Father’s Day, which was celebrated Sunday, we pay homage to these dads. To help us do this are four young people who talk about what it was like being raised by their fathers and why they owe the adults they are to them.
CEDRICK KHAYEKA, 24-years-old
“Through my father, I’ve learnt to be responsible.”
When my mother died in 2011, my dad took up the role of taking care of me and my four siblings. I was 14 years old.
He was, and still is a dedicated parent. He rarely missed school visiting days, and on occasions when he could not make it, he would apologise in advance. Having to divide his time between me and my sister who was also in high school at the time, as well as my younger siblings in primary school must have been a challenging balancing act. I therefore understood when he failed to attend some of my school functions.
Being the sole breadwinner, I could see that he struggled to provide for us, but even when times were extra tough, he made sure that we had basic needs such as food, clothes and shelter, but above all, his love, care and attention. I also loved how he would gather us during the school holidays to teach us about good morals and God. Through him, I learnt the virtue of sacrifice and how to be responsible through observing how he lived his life and took care of us. These are the values I always endeavour to live by.
Before our mother’s death, we knew him as a tough policeman, but after her death, we saw another side of him, the affable and approachable side. He laughs and jokes with us and discusses with us the various issues of life, something that 11 years ago, I thought was only possible with my mother.
ESTHER PATROBERS; 24-years-old
“My father taught me how to love and nurture friendships.”
When people ask me to describe my relationship with my father, the phrase that comes to my mind is, “he’s everything” to me. To me, he’s the most important person in my life. My mother died when I was seven years old, therefore, my memory of her is vague. It’s my father that features constantly in my childhood memories — him and I playing with my dolls, him reading to me bedtime stories and buying me clothes that were always three sizes bigger. He is a chef, and due to the nature of his job, he moved a lot from one town to another. Though it would have been easier to leave me with a relative, he always took me with him.
Now that I’m an adult, whenever I need advice, he’s the first person I consult. His opinion means a lot to me. For instance, last year, the law firm I was working for (I’m awaiting to sit my bar exams) closed down, leaving me without a source of livelihood. Though my friends did their best to encourage me, it was the words of my father that calmed me down and assured me that all would be well. Knowing that I had his support meant a lot to me. I feel comfortable discussing my relationship with my father. Before I began dating my boyfriend, I first sought my father’s approval... Our relationship is that open and honest.
It’s also from him that I learnt how to cook and from him that I learnt the importance of friendship and nurturing relationships.
Our relationship did have its own challenges and awkward moments though, being a girl. For instance, when I started experiencing my monthly period, I did not know how to approach the subject with him. I remember blurting out that I needed pads and underwear. That was very awkward. It did not help that most of his friends were male, so I could not have girl talk with them. Dad remarried when I was in my final year of secondary school.
GLORIA KAVETSA NYONGA, 24-years-old
“In 2014, when my parents divorced, my two younger siblings remained with me, though my mother later came for my siblings.
Being raised by my father in my teens was not without its challenges since there are certain things I felt I should have confided in my mother, a fellow woman. I, however, wish I’d opened up to dad about these things, including the biological changes that were taking place in my body because I now know that he would have listened and would have offered me good advice because he is good at that. Were he not able to, he would have asked my aunts and grandmother to answer my questions.
It was really tough to be in this stage without a mother figure. She walked out of my life when I needed her most for guidance and love. I was also old enough to see how broken my father was after his 24-year marriage came to an end.
But dad gave it his best in spite of the circumstances. He counsels me, and I’ve grown to appreciate his views about life. Whenever I need to make important decisions, it’s him that I consult.
The greatest lesson I’ve got from my dad is to take my responsibilities seriously, taking one step at a time, and to think carefully before making decisions or committing myself to do something. Most importantly, he has taught me to trust God in everything.”
OCHOLA KOMUONO, 27-years-old
“My father taught me to be self-reliant”
My father is far from perfect, but he’s a good man. He took custody of me when he and my mother separated when I was very young. After their separation, I got to see my mother again when I turned 18. My dad is, therefore, the only parent I’ve known for most of my childhood besides my uncle and grandmother, who l lived with for a few years during my childhood.
As I reflect on my relationship with my father and what it was like to be raised by him, I realise how complicated it was for him. He was an open book though, and let me see both his positive and negative side. We did not bond like many fathers and sons do. As he cooked, for instance, I would be doing my homework, silence reverberating through the house. During the weekends when I was at home, he was out working, and when it was time to get circumcised, it was my uncle who initiated the process.
Despite his shortcomings, he was keen on my academic performance and ensured I lacked nothing. Whenever I topped my class, he would tell anyone who cared to listen, which said that he was proud of me.
He was also very protective of me, which made me feel loved. However, there are days when he would return home drunk and become violent towards me. There are a number of nights that I had to spend the night out in the cold and sneak back in the morning to prepare for school when he was still asleep. I think the separation with my mother affected him a lot though he never talked about it. Because of his drinking, he would slacken in his parental, forcing me to make many decisions on my own since I’d no one to turn to. This toughened me up and taught me to stand up for myself and become self-reliant as well as independent.