Growing up, I was privileged to share a close relationship with my father. I was the typical ‘Daddy’s girl’. I cannot remember a single moment in my teenage years when I felt that I could not approach my father for advice on school matters, dealing with advances from boys, or even to request him to buy me menstrual hygiene products.
It is not that my mother was nowhere in the picture. If anything, she also did her part in raising me and she did it so well. She has contributed immensely to the woman that I am today. What made my relationship with my father different is that he was intentional about it. He would use any opportunity that he got to advise me on a wide range of life issues. He used to work for a certain non-governmental organisation whose main goal was to improve the quality of life of young people living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded programme used to produce a lot of Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials that I would often come across in the house.
Each holiday before my siblings and I went back to boarding school, my father would set aside a day to have a one on one talk with us. The talks would involve a review of our academic performance, the plans each of us had for the future, and advice on romantic relationships that covered contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. He would then give us some of the IEC materials that covered the sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) topics we had discussed, to act as a future reference.
I may have been at an advantage to have a father working in the health sector. However, at the end of the day, it does not matter what kind of work one does as a parent. What matters is the determination to be fully involved in all the stages of your child’s growth and development. The journey is not an easy one especially in the African culture which still views sex as a taboo topic.
What one needs to remember as a parent is that they are the first point of trusted information for their children on several matters of life. Teachers, religious leaders, the media, and friends are secondary. If parents do not step up and give their children the information they need, then they should know that their children are at risk of being misled or making wanting decisions that will affect their future.
I am forever grateful to my father for the guidance and support he provided me as an adolescent and young adult. This is one favour I will definitely return when it comes to raising my children.