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Papa Don't Preach

A short Father's Day reflection on the most difficult and most exhilarating role of my life.

Chidi Afulezi
Chidi Afulezi
. 3 min read
Papa Don't Preach

The universe has a way of just reaching out and body-slamming The Chidi when all I am doing is just minding my own business. (That was two justs in one sentence, the fine from the English grammar watch group should be coming soon, walai talai).  

Last night, after suffering a number of pseudo heart stoppages watching the Bucks-Nets game 7, I decided to do some Youtube surfing. Somehow I landed on Madonna Louise Ciccone, aka Madonna, and next thing I was on a time traveling odyssey, reliving some of the salient periods in my life via the soundtrack of one of the rare one-named icons in the entertainment industry.

Holiday. Borderline. Physical Attraction. Into The Groove. Material Girl. True Blue. Open Your Heart. Keep It Together. Secret. Take A Bow. I'll Remember. The Naijas on this list would send me to the Supreme Court for disintegration if I don't mention La Isla Bonita and Who's That Girl.

But the one that really hit me, not because it is my favorite Madonna song (that would be a tie between Cherish and Into The Groove...I know, you thought you knew me) was Papa Don't Preach. The night before Fathers Day, and I am sitting here on my couch after watching aliens from space dunking over each other, enjoying Madonna and Danny Aiello play out that dynamic b/w father and daughter, that dynamic of a father watching his girl find her way in the world, more and more without his help and his permission.

Of course, me and my big head, the wheels started churning. Indulge me as I share some Chidi-isms on being a pops.

  1. This shit is hard. Excuse the language, but Jesu Christi it is.
  2. I try not to preach, but if not me then who? The enlightened fifteen year old classmate with the lip tattoo in tenth grade? The unleashed Tik-Tok influencer with no boundaries? Abeg o...I am preaching until they turn the channel away from me. Plis.
  3. My job is to dole out steady doses of tension to my girls. Change requires tension. Learning requires tension and discomfort. As uncomfortable as it may get for me, as a father/teacher/mentor/activator/coach to my girls, I have no choice but to continue to cause bouts of temporary discomfort as it keeps them on their toes, inspires curiosity, takes them to new places. They make faces and complain, but that's the job and I am doing it.
  4. The annual review process for this job is...complicated.
  5. Father:Friend ratio oscillates between 93:7 and 90:10. Works for me. Should work for them.
  6. I fully accept and embrace the fact that the next Simone Biles or Venus Williams is not in my house. The key is that they know that too. That sound you hear? That's the pressure valve releasing.
  7. Kindness and candor. Always.
  8. Go for the small wins. Now is now. Commit to the process not the outcomes (practice your instrument everyday, don't worry if you make orchestra or not), break these things into smaller pieces, accumulate small wins.  
  9. A bird just dive bombed and pooped on The Chief. I have no clue what that has to with fatherhood. You'll find out when I find out.  
  10. Calm is contagious, and that's my job to show calm when the stuff hits the fan and they are looking to me for guidance. You ask my girls, they'll tell you one of my favorite sayings is "You're spiraling. Get out of the spiral." Stop burrowing into your rabbit hole. I can't freak out, get agitated, any of that hair on fire BS...I have to instill calm so they don't freak out, get agitated, with their hair on fire. Show calm. Because...calm is contagious (and freak outs are contagious too).
  11. Fatherhood is a masterclass on toughness. Not mine. Just on things. Things are tough. Things were tough. Things will be tough. Things won't stay tough. That's how I know to get up and do the job...just tough it out.
  12. A mantra that I keep repeating: Don't get upset. Don't get upset. Chidi, do not get upset o! I'm human, and they are teenagers. The red haze happens. We're working on it.    
  13. Must all their opinions be heard? Well, I mean...it depends. Argh...that was a Clintonesque hedge, wasn't it? Ok. No.
  14. The Chief. I am just hardware, she's the OS.
  15. I say this with no sense of foreboding or morbidity but with full clarity and acceptance: If I go today, I know that my kids got the full unbridled no holes-barred Chidi. And I hope it provides them the psychic dynamite to go out and kill it. Until then, I still dey here.

Happy Fathers Day to the fellas. And Happy Fathers Day to all of those who love them and have them in their lives.

Get it, baby!!