He does not know it, but I owe my writing career to my father.
For some reason, he did not believe in beating his children – I have racked my brain long and hard, but besides that one time, (No, I will not tell you what I did) I have no recollection of him beating me.
However, even though he was averse to the cane, he was a no- nonsense parent when it came to learning.
Whenever we took home a letter from school, he expected us to read it out to him.
Now, since these letters were addressed to parents, they were littered with complex, headache-inducing words, many of which sounded like tongue-twisters to my nine-year-old self.
But my father expected us to be able to read them; after all, he had taken us to school to learn how to read, hadn’t he?
He was so determined that we should learn how to do it, one time he locked me and my elder brother in the bathroom, after we were unable to read one of those annoying letters, which seemed determined to ruin my life.
Another time, he told us that we’d only eat supper when we managed to read a passage he had selected in one of the many story books he bought us.
If you had asked me then, I would have told you without hesitation that he was the worst father in the world.
Dreading his unique punishments, I started reading more, and made use of the fat dictionary he had bought us.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is how my love affair with the written word started. Thank you, dad.
This long forgotten memory surfaced after I got an e-mail from a reader, Munyasiri Bukokhe, talking about her stormy relationship with her mother, who she once resented for being too concerned with her studies.
She says that her mother made regular impromptu visits to her school to check on her progress, something that irritated her to no end, and convinced her that her mother was the idlest parent that side of Kenya.
She also hated the fact that she had to go for tuition during school holidays, instead of taking it easy like her peers.
Munyasiri made it to university thanks to her “nosey” mother but, once there, to quote her, “used my new-found freedom maximally and ended up getting pregnant”.
It is her mother’s reaction to this pregnancy that eventually opened her eyes to what an exceptional mother she was, a mother that every girl and woman deserves.
Instead of a lecture about how foolish she was to throw away her future just like that, she simply told her that she would raise her child while she continued with her studies.
Munyasiri concluded her email by asking: “Why did it take so long for me to realise that she only wanted the best for me?”
Growing up, most of us had what we viewed as difficult and complicated relationships with our parents.
We believed they were cruel, insensitive, harsh, too strict, killjoys – asked then, we would have gladly swapped them with friends’ parents, who came across as cool and laid-back, the total opposite of ours.
It is only much later, when we see and start enjoying the fruits of their strictness and harshness, that we realise just how invaluable they are, that without their insight, no matter how unfair it seemed, we wouldn’t be what we are today. Again, thank you dad.