I like to think that I’ll be a cool father-in-law. I’m a cool dude and I have an amazing father-in-law myself. Freely I have received, freely I ought to give, don’t I?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking forward to the day my girls will fall in love with some blokes. Can I trust some dude to treat my girls right? Will they love them and take care of them? Cherishing. Understanding. Devoted. Forgiving. Ah, bugger, I’m getting schmaltzy.
Why the sudden schmaltz, right? After all, my girls are only thirteen and ten. Well, I’m emotional because of two reasons: (a) loss of innocence and (b) boys will be boys.
What is “loss of innocence”? Well, my thirteen-year-old has had her visit from Aunty Flo! You know, Crimson Tide, Checking into the Red Roof Inn, Riding the Cotton Pony. Yup, she’s started seeing it. The monthly visitor. That means she can get pregnant. And for her to get pregnant, there has to be coitus.
No, not my Nimski! She’s barely out of diapers! How can she produce eggs? She’s no chicken! What are eggs doing in the human body anyway? What’s the use of an egg you can’t turn into sunny side up?
Yeah, I know, girls menstruate. But I wasn’t expecting it to happen at thirteen for my thirteen-year-old. I was hoping that it would happen like…never. For with menstruation comes topics like sex education. The loss of innocence!
And as sure as there’s a God in heaven, boys will be boys. My girls will be full-bloom and fetching ladies someday. And sooner or later, some boys will show up and whisper sweet nothings into their ears. Their knees will buckle and their hearts will flutter. They will fall in love.
Which is where I’ll come in.
With a twelve-gauge sawn-off shotgun and a pack of Belgian Malinois.
Remember Halle Berry’s dogs in John Wick 2? Those are Belgian Malinois.
Mr Nobody’s dog in John Wick 4? That is also a Belgian Malinois.
Belgian Malinois like nuts.
Not groundnut, tiger nut or pistachio.
Of course, the lover boys may have the bright idea to rendezvous outside my reach. Well, let me tell you, lover boy, in a very clear Liam Neeson voice: whoever you are, wherever you are, I will find you and you will lie down before me. You and all the goons you call friends.
Some of you might be chagrined at my mollycoddling and retort “Hey Jide, you too whispered sweet nothings into the ears of somebody’s daughter.”
I did not!
While I do not care to expatiate on my dating MO in my spritely days, a creature of enlightenment like myself cannot participate in the ridiculousness of sweet nothings. I whispered only meaningful things. Like Plato’s Allegory of The Cave, Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika or the Fermi paradox. Granted, some girls blocked my number afterwards. But my honour was intact. Jide Alade does not do cheesy.
Can you imagine moi murmuring the absurdities?
If you were a fruit, you’d be a fine-apple.
Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?
If I were a cat, I’d spend all my nine lives with you.
Back to my daughters.
I’ve always wanted girls. My wife wanted boys. We didn’t have a ‘prayer of agreement’, so I guess I won. She then hoped our second child would be a boy. I professed support. But deep inside of me, I wanted another girl. Daughters are a peach. Homing pigeons. They never forget home. Did you know that a Manx shearwater bird was once transported in a closed container 5,500km from its nest but found its way back to the nest twelve and a half days later? That’s a daughter for you. Never forgets home or Dad. A boy, he’s a beaver. He loves Dad but there’s money to be made, whiskey to be drunk, a spouse to love and children to raise. A girl will do all four but still check on Dad. So, you can’t blame me for withholding my Y chromosomes.
But I digress.
My daughters are opposite in temperament. My first daughter is more feeling, caring and reserved. She hates to see people suffer or in need. Her sister? Puny, sass-mouthing and a smart Alec. Her mouth is either going to get her into trouble or save her.
Earlier in the year, the missus and I decided to send them off to boarding school. They were getting entitled. They’d leave their room and bathroom unkempt expecting the house help to clean up after them. They leave their clothes for the laundry guy to wash and iron. On the weekends, it’s twenty-four hours on their iPads, YouTube and Roblox. I should call them into order. But I’m too much of a soft dad. My bark is worse than my bite. And I suspect they know this. So, come September, I will farm out my responsibility to teachers and house mistresses. To boarding school they go.
How indignant they became! How dare we shunt them off to a boarding school without their permission? How could we make such life-defining decisions without consulting them? Is it that we now hate them? Yada yada yada.
My parents sent me to boarding school without my permission. They bought my stuff, packed them into a metal box and shipped me off to a boarding school in Podunk. Nobody asked me how I felt. But today’s kids, you need to consult them before you change the TV channel.
My wife went to a boarding school too. So, it was an easy decision for us to send the girls to boarding school too.
So, I thought.
A few weeks to leaving the house, angst and doubt began eating me up. My angels are going to leave the house. They’ll be with strangers. In a forest. They may be bullied. Or starved. They may come home with amoral values. Exchange Dunsin Oyekan for Rhema or worse, Portable. How did I allow my wife to talk me into this? I’m pretty sure it was the same guileful way Eve snuck up to Adam with the fruit. Bro was having a great time with skunks and tarantulas and sister suggested they get Vitamin C. Bad ideas always sound like good ideas. This boarding house stuff. I wasn’t sure anymore. I was overcome with much buyer’s remorse.
But the deed is done. No going back on the decision. But to appease the girls, we decided they’d spend the summer with their cousins in Bristol. Well, in truth, the holiday was discussed in late 2022 but it was not on the front burner. These children need to understand that Nigeria is beautiful. They could have an amazing holiday at their grandma’s village in Atakunmosa West, Osun State.
But my sister-in-law, ever the deal ferret, got us some incredible flight deals. And to my utter shock, it turns out there was nowhere in Atakunmosa you could order a Yorkshire pudding, kidney pie or pumpkin pie frappuccino. That’s it! Off to Bristol yous two!
My sister-in-law had also offered them an all-expense-paid two-week holiday at an all-inclusive resort at Lloret de Mar, a fifty-minute drive from Barcelona.
Atakumosa didn’t stand a chance.
The girls would spend six weeks with their cousins. I could get away from work for three weeks. But the missus couldn’t until later in their holiday. I would therefore travel with the girls alone to England. The missus would join them in Bristol in the last two weeks of the holiday and bring them back to Lagos.
I hadn’t been to my beloved England in eight years, so I didn’t need much convincing to travel. It was the chance to eat proper fish and chips and a full-deck English breakfast. I may have grown up on bread and akara and ila alasepo, but the tongue likes what the tongue likes. Plus I could also hop over to Edinburgh. I’d never been to Scotland. I like the Scottish burr. Or I could suffer myself to visit Barcelona and Porto. Fly Ryanair. Backpack. Eat some paella and savour some port wine. Hola!
I planned a seven-day stay in London with the girls before taking them to Bristol. Father and daughters. Bonding. Eating whatever we want. Going wherever we want. No hawkish mom giving us the evil eye for chomping or lapse of etiquette. I looked forward to travelling with my girls alone. It would be my first travel with them alone.
And probably the last.
We fought for most of the time in London.
These kids. They only want to be on their iPads.
They had only been to London once and for only three days. I thought they’d be excited to visit London. Not these lot. When we checked into the hotel, the first thing they wanted was the WiFi password. They jumped on the bed and whipped out their iPads.
If all you brats wanted to do was play on your iPads, we didn’t have to come to London to do that. You could save me a ton and stay in Lagos. Our hotel was no more than a ten-minute walk to Greenwich Market, the Cutty Sark and other interesting places around Greenwich. But these Alade daughters only wanted to dine in, go to Starbucks and play on their iPads.
I coaxed them into seeing the Cutty Sark. It was just around the corner from the hotel. So, we went there. They were not impressed. They told me it was a waste of £40.
“Wait! I have an idea! You guys like dinosaurs right? I know just the place. Let’s go!”
I took them to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. They were bored.
“Dad, can we go? We are hungry. We saw a Shake Shack on the corner.”
Shake Shack ko, shakiti bobo ni.
And they made so much fuss about the hotel’s lack of pancakes and syrup in the breakfast option menu.
“What hotel doesn’t have pancakes and syrup? This would never happen in America!”
The hotel must have overhead their lamentations because pancakes and syrup magically appeared on the third day.
They nettled me.
“Why are we always taking the bus and not Ubering?”
“Starbucks is basic and not a luxury”
“Dad, you mean you never had boba when you were little?”
No, I never had bubble tea, you overindulged mutts! I drank pito.
How did I, Jide, an Agege boy, raise such entitled kids? Once when we wanted to go on a stroll, the elder one pleaded with me not to dress like an “African father” and embarrass them.
I’m giving them up for adoption.
Truth is, I’m writing this because I miss them. They’ve only returned to school after the mid-term break but I miss them already. I don’t mind that the nest is quiet and I know the boarding school is good for them. But man, I underestimated the longing.
If I’m feeling this down in the mouth, how will I feel when they marry and go off?
A piece of advice for my future sons-in-law: you’d better not be Liverpool or Man City fans. Or perish any thought of a cool father-in-law.