As I write this, I’m smiling, feeling fulfilled because of a singular act, which didn’t take up to five minutes, on my part.
Before I tell you what I did, and why I am happy, I want you to get a little background story about me.
I grew up with a father who could use his hands. He had tool boxes, a drawer full of office supplies, a tin of shoe polish of different colours, with the accompanying brushes and appliers. He even had shoemaking needles and thread, he also had shovels and trowels.
Growing up, I saw my father repairing broken benches and stools, I saw him repairing electrical connections and I saw him repair shoe buckles, make the extra hole in a belt, replace the battery of a wrist watch, wire the parlour (in his own amateur way), make clothe hangers from iron rods, using his pliers, chisel and hammer, and cementing a cracked wall or broken cemented surface.
My father taught me how to change a flat tire, and considering that he died when I was sixteen, one can say he was a one-of-a-kind father. He taught me how to check the oil of the car, and some other things which left my head after he died, and since I am yet to own a car, I found no way to practice, or a need to remember. But I digress.
I saw my father using his hands, and I never realised how much it stuck with me until today.
My father was a sales man, so he had a white collar job, but that didn’t deter him from repairing things himself. As he grew older though, he began leaving some of those jobs for the professionals.
The first sign that I learnt how to use my hands was back in secondary school. My chair got broken, and instead of me asking for a new one, I took to getting a heavy stone and repairing it, during break time.
I learnt a lesson of needing the right tool for the job, and so the next day I went to school with a hammer hidden in my bag. Needless to say, that day I was a weirdo in an all-girls school.
The second sign was the kind of videos I tend to enjoy watching on social media. I enjoy anything which involves Do It Yourself (DIY). From beauty treatments, to cooking, to construction, to style, in as much as it involves being creative with the hands and the mind, count me in.
I got the third sign today.
I was on my way to get something for my mother and sister, and on getting downstairs, I found my landlord’s daughter, who sells fast-food like noodles, egg, boiled yam and bread, trying to repair her stool.
I saw a young man watching her and the first thing which crossed my mind was why the man wasn’t helping her, as she was obviously struggling. I greeted her, and noticed that the nail which she was trying to hammer down was bent, and there was no way it was going to go down well, to hold the pieces of wood together.
Before I could stop myself, I asked her to give me the hammer, and got to work.
She saw me work and told the man that he who was a man could not help, whereas a woman was doing the job, the she said “Joy has experience in carpentry,” in Yoruba, and I told her I learnt it from my dad.
Maybe the guy didn’t get an opportunity to learn it from anyone.
When I was done, she was happy, but I was happier. At that point, when I was hammering the nail into place, I felt at home, like I was where I should be, and I left her, to run my errand, smiling and feeling proud of myself.
Here is my point.
My father died in December of 2003, that’s over fourteen years ago, and while he lived, not once did he consciously teach me carpentry. He’d ask me to hold a part of the wood while he sawed it into parts, or he’d ask me to get him the hammer and bag of nails, or the pliers and chisel, and I would watch him as he worked, not because he asked me to, but because there was nothing else to do.
Children have nothing else to do, but watch what their parents do. They may hear what they teach them, but they actually learn from what they see and observe people do around them.
Many people have argued about the truth behind the Bible text which says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6), and I see why. The world is filled with good parents having bad children, and vice versa, but we forget that training is more than merely instruction. Parenting involves words, and actions, it is about communication; verbal or non-verbal.
They also forget that it’s not only the parents who have influence over a child.
My father might not have known that I was being influenced by his actions, but here I am, proud of myself because I helped a woman repair her stool. I once repaired an extension box in my hostel, and I once tapped current in my compound (I am now repented), all because of his training.
So when we deal with children, let us realise that they may be picking up our bad habits, and that will be disastrous for them in future. We may try to behave around them, making sure that we don’t mislead them, but the truth remains that there are times when we give unintended lessons, because that is the core of who or what we are.
The only way to always portray a good behaviour is to genuinely have a good behaviour. We can’t give what we don’t have, except we steal or pretend, either way, falsehood is involved.
I am aware that no one is perfect, but we are not talking about perfection, are we? We are talking about training children in ways which they turn out useful to God, themselves, and humanity. For every child growing up around you, you have a responsibility to lead by example, and to give the child an idea of what good is.
If the child turns bad because of some other influences, let it be that when the child decides to turn around and make better decisions, he or she will remember you as one of the models of goodness. Be a good example which the child will want to go back to, or of what the child should go back to.
Finally, I have my own tin of shoe polish, brush and applier, and I have a set of screwdrivers.
I am my father’s daughter.
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