Hope it is not strange sharing this story here. I mean all the other stories I’ve read on this platform appear to come from young people, and the owner of this platform too, I presume, is a young person.
I noticed many of the writers prefer to share their stories anonymously so I’m only going to use my first name: James. I’ve run way into my 50s in age. I have two sons and a girl (a boy first, then the girl before the last boy).
This story is about my last boy actually. As much I would love to, I’d stick to not mentioning his full name. I’ll just call him what we mostly call him at home: Junior.
The birth of all my kids is special to me – each unique in their own way. My last born and I share a special connection. I think most parents will find some truth in this – there is always that need to pay more attention to the last kid. Somehow you feel the older kids will always have an edge so you feel more responsible for them. I feel his mother shares this feeling too.
This is an instance: When the others stay out late, she rarely worries as deeply as she does when it is Junior out. She would call and call and yell and yell.
I noticed the difference between Junior and his older brother the first day I beat him.
Now, let me say this, I don’t think I am proud now that I’d beat my kids. If it was now that I’ve known and seen better, I probably wouldn’t have. Back then, it was only the right thing to do. Parents who didn’t touch their kids were seen as irresponsible and careless.
And I didn’t beat my kids because I loved them less. It’s the other way round actually. When you love a child, you would want the best for them. You want to send them to the best schools and make sure they study the best courses. Yes, we didn’t impose Medicine, Engineering, Law and all those courses on the kids for nothing. It was because we felt those were the ones most likely to lead to success. We judged from our own personal experiences. We didn’t know that today people will be earning millions editing videos online or that twerking can be monetized.
The day I beat Junior (just a little beating), he cried. Out and loud. Like a girl. It was surprising because he was already over 16 then and his older brother at that age would never cry that way. Junior didn’t just cry, he sulked the whole day.
From there I started noticing his other differences. The way he always said “Love you, Dad!” before stepping out. Something I was never courageous to do when my father still lived. I noticed the easy way he hugged me and his mother. The way he cried openly when seeing a sad movie. He was an open book. When he is angry, you will know. When he is sad, hurt, happy, it is clear. No masking of emotions or hiding the tears for him. As I began to see all these things, I did not know what to make of them. It was a little strange, considering the time I grew up.
He wasn’t trying too hard to be a man. He played the games he loved and enjoyed the things he loved. Now that I know better, I terribly regret all those times I scolded him or talked to him harshly “for not behaving like a man.” This article right here really changed my life.
There was a day he came home crying that a street boy has harassed and beat him up. His mother out of anger said to him: “That boy, you are older than he is, why would you allow him to beat you? And you are even crying for him.”
I regret what my wife said too. I wanted to get the boy arrested but his older brother had already run out to handle it. I was calling him back but that one – he doesn’t hear. The boy’s mother later came to the house with his son, his face half swollen. I tried to hold in smiling as I listened to their tale.
I must admit that later on, I learned to “not mind” my son’s difference. Or mind it less. I would sometimes even be the one to first say “I love you, Son” and reach out for a hug. He would say “I love you too, Dad” and we would embrace. It was a little weird for me at first but with time I began enjoying it – that close bond.
I realized these things were very harmless and instead very beneficial. At my time, fathers are revered for how strict they were. It was like an open cult. All fathers behaved the same, wore the same mean face all day. We took satisfaction in knowing that our kids feared us. We took joy in being scary masquerades, in creating toxic father and child relationships. We did not believe that there were other discussions we could have with our kids apart from talks about money and school fees and house bills. We were just mere providers, not real fathers.
Each time I see my young boy cry freely about things that hurt him or reminds his family how much he loves them, instead of seeing weakness I see a strong young boy not afraid of who he is. He is basically everyone’s therapist at home right now. His sister talks to him when having relationship difficulties. His older brother. His mom and even distant cousins. Junior is everybody’s friend.
The way we talk on the phone or chat on Whatsapp now is so easy and smooth and we can basically talk about anything. He is not just my son now, he has become my best friend too. There are things I feel comfortable discussing with him that I dare not talk to his brother about.
Today, and I’m sure you will agree with me too, some boys have been made to adopt acting a certain way to please society’s accepted standards of how boys should act. I don’t believe women are more emotional than men. They just demonstrate how they feel better. And I don’t blame boys who usually close up – society has made it difficult for men to express how they truly feel. This is why I admire boys like my son who are steadily breaking stereotypes.
Only if I could go back to when my own father was alive and tell him to his face that I loved him.