Dear Kofi, I cannot believe it has been a year already. My guy, you have no idea the amount of joy you bring me. The kind of joy you brought me that fateful Friday morning when you made a grand entry into this world will probably stay with me forever! I pray always that you will grow up to be a very good friend of mine. The signs are positive already with the kind of bond we share. I mean, we already have our own style of greeting, and I really do like the fact that you look so much like me. On some days, I am finer than you! (against gbaabo, hope I spelt it right). On most days however, you are way finer than my handsome self, and I am totally cool with that. I mean, I totally wish that you will grow to be better than me in every way possible.
It is because of my desire for you to do so well in life that I seek to share these pieces of advice with you as you turn one! I spoke extensively with you on Father’s Day. I saw you nod your head repeatedly, but I have been a teacher briefly before, so I know exactly what those quick repeated nods mean. You didn’t hear foko! So, let me take the pain to share these words with you and all the good sons out there in writing!
- Have lots of Patience, like your name is Ozokwor. You will probably not get the word play I just pulled off but hopefully, I will one day tell you all about the legendary Nigerian actress Patience Ozokwor. A wonderfully gifted actress but also, a classic personification of an irony. Why her parents decided to name her Patience, I will never know but her name was not exactly her virtue, at least in her movie roles! They say, ‘patience is a virtue’ and I really want you to keep this in mind always. Be patient my son if you want to go far and have good eyesight. I will tell you about the eyesight story in detail sometime, but your father is not always a good example of a patient person. I mean I dislike eating fish because of the patience it takes to take out the tiny bones. I prefer meat or sausage because it is easier to consume and even that, I had sausage dressed elegantly in red pepper slotted into my eye because I was not patient enough to wait my turn. The lights were out, and your uncle Ernesto was sharing the sausages amongst us. My point is life will not always happen as fast as you probably would want it, so learn to be patient. Be wary of shortcuts as they can be extremely dangerous. We had to wait 5 years to have you and take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Absolutely worth the wait. Never take a wrong turn simply because you are in haste. Do not waste time but do not be in a hurry. Allow things to take their course and enjoy the ride while at it.
- Entitlement is a thief of enjoyment! Before I proceed with this point, I want you to know that I am a huge fan of rhyme. But for my family, I would have been a prolific rapper! ‘Pikiwee’ as your mom affectionately calls you, nobody owes you anything in this life. Probably not even me, your father. Do not go around thinking that you deserve this or that. That is a sure way of getting disappointed. Always learn to manage your expectations and work hard for the things you want. You must earn the life you desire. It will not be given to you simply because you are my son or because you think you deserve it. No please, that is not how it works. Together with your mom, we will do our utmost to give you the best things in life. But don’t ever for a second think that it is how life is supposed to be. You do not always get what you want. I know your mom loves me and wants to see me happy all the time but there are times I go to her in the night seeking a little sibling for you. Guess what, I sometimes get hit with a big fat no! You will understand this a bit more when you grow up so let me not bore you too much. Enjoy whatever you have in each moment. Do not let the feeling of thinking that you deserve more rob you of enjoying what is around you. Life is fun, with or without all the things you want. Funny thing is, you will always win some and lose some. I hope to win with your mom tonight. Wish me luck!
- It is perfectly ok to be ordinary. Do not get me wrong, I want to see you do exceedingly well. But don’t ever go around thinking you are extraordinary or must be extraordinary. Instead of searching to be extra-o, I would suggest that you strive to be you! That would be a great achievement in today’s crazy world! Being able to stay true to yourself and not change amidst all the pressures of this world would make me so proud. It would mean you did not crack; you did not become fake and do things for ‘likes’ on social media, you were GENUINE. I shudder to think what the social media world would look like in your era. But I know you will turn out fine, it is my prayer. Let me tell you a little secret. I usually do not pray when they tell us to pray this prayer in church; ‘Pray that your children stand tall amongst their peers.’ It is not because I do not want you to stand tall. It is mainly because I do not want you to see success as competition. Instead of that prayer, I pray that you stand taller than your previous self everyday. Ultimate success will follow that way! In primary school, I thought a mate of mine was extra-ordinary. Why? He was able to chew blade and drink water on top of it. People gathered to watch him do that and cheer him on. I felt jealous and wanted to trade who I was for that. Son, can you imagine coming into this world to a father who was only a ‘blade chewer?’ You are probably giggling. We are all ordinary or extra-ordinary depending on who is telling the story. Be you and I pray that posterity will tell your story well!
- Be kind, not just to your kind. One of the greatest temptations the world will put in your way is to be self-centered and self-seeking. This world will teach you to take, amass and hoard as much as you can. This is even more profound in the part of the world where you were born. But that is not who you are born to be! Not in the slightest my son. You are much more than what you keep to yourself. Learn to be kind amidst all the societal orientation to be selfish. I know it will be an extremely difficult thing to do but fortunately for you, you have a great example in your mother. Do you know why I rush to come home so quicky anytime I leave the house? Well, there are a myriad of reasons but the most pressing one is the fear of your mother giving you away because she feels someone else would be happier with you. She is one of the kindest people you will ever meet, always placing the interests of other people ahead of her own. Sometimes at her own detriment even. She will be a great example for you because she is not only kind to people of her kind but also to people who will probably never be able to repay her kindness. Now, that is something! Showing kindness to someone with no expectation of a returned favor someday. Be kind to everyone irrespective of race, religion, creed, or class.
- It wasn’t me, it was Eve syndrome, away! Since the days of Adam, man has always found a creative way of shirking responsibility. You are born a Christian and I hope you will grow to become one that reads the bible for himself. You will find out how Adam attempted to shift responsibility to Eve when the issue of who ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden came up. Nathan, you will make decisions in life. They may not always be the best of decisions and that is fine. I would hope that you make great decisions all the time but as someone who fought and took out two of your little uncle’s teeth during one Christmas when we were boys, it would be very hypocritical of me to expect you to do right all the time. You are human and I will be able to pardon the odd mistake occasionally. You should be able to forgive yourself for your mistakes too. However, what is not acceptable will be attempting to shirk responsibility for your actions. You must be able to man up and take it up on the chin. It is scary what I see on social media where young people have problems with everything and everyone but themselves. The beauty about mistakes is that they give you the opportunity for growth. If you handle them well, you can better analyze and own up to the errors. That is the only way you can see real growth in your character and skill development. I quite remember when I was a little boy, I tried a really special skill on the football field in one of my games (I know my against people are saying here we go again!). The skill did not quite work out and the defender got the better of me. I was embarrassed. I was tempted to put the blame on the boots I wore because they were new. But no, I replayed the action in my head many times and figured out why it didn’t work out. Guess who was eating dirt the next time round! You guessed right, not me!
Bonus pieces of advice
- The Slap at 15! Son, I want to apologize for this well in advance because it will most likely hurt. I will not tell you exactly when but around your 15th birthday, I will sneak up behind you and give you a little dirty slap! Yes! I will enjoy it so much, you will not! And I will get away with it because I am your father, and this is Africa! You are probably asking yourself why at this point. Let me tell you then. I will do this because you will grow into a fine young man, go into one of the best universities and meet a very beautiful young lady. I will call you one of the days and she will ask who is calling. You will turn around and tell her that ‘oh, it’s old man. He is too long’ (suggesting that I talk too much or whatever). I will not hear it but it will hurt me so much so I will give you a slap in advance. I know this because it is something that boys do. Trying to appear all cool to your newfound girlfriend. Take that slap, you little prince charming! Enjoy the company of your friend, do not do anything stupid and always remember why you are in school. Read your books, make connections, come out and conquer the world. I am your biggest fan!
- Broken heart and yam, are you serious at all??? My guy, in all your doings, never ever eat yam when you get your heart broken. You will probably have your heart broken along the line somewhere, I mean I had mine broken once. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, please do not eat yam for the next few weeks. More especially in the evening! Why? You will not be able to swallow that little piece of food. It is demonic around those times. It will feel like stones in your mouth and the real pain is in when you attempt to swallow. It will feel like you are suffocating and trust me, it is not a nice experience at all. Please avoid it at all cost! My advice? Stick to liquids and do not ever play ‘cools’. You no be ‘Jon’ my gee! And oh, if you ever end up breaking a few hearts too like I did in my day, be generous enough to pass on this advice to them for free.
Kofi Boateng Tandoh, I am the proudest father in the world as you turn one! I pray that you keep giving the joy that you give everyone that encounters you. I pray that you grow to fulfil the very reason for which you were sent to this earth and more importantly, our way.
The writer is the lead consultant of VT Consults, a passionate writer, and a speaker. To contact him, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0202260031.