FATHER’S DAY. As we celebrate Father’s Day worldwide, ANDREW KAGGWA explores when it is time for a father to let his daughter go.
The very first time we got to learn about Sheila Gashumba, it was because she was her father’s daughter.
He went with her everywhere he was invited and at times, he would ask her to speak on his behalf.
Just like that, a dad’s star was born, Sheila, the model daughter, the one that never uses taxis, international material, untouched, mother of bundles and the only brand known.
For many of the things the father said, two or more were in praise of the daughter that times came when the father annoyed the public, the daughter would hardly survive their wrath.
Then in 2018, it was all in the air, it started with a rumour that he had struck her for coming home drunk, what followed were exchanges between father and daughter, most of this happening online.
The relationship between a father and a daughter is one that has inspired pop culture for ages; the days when The Temptations crafted My Girl or Frankie J melted away in Daddy’s Little Girls to popular films such as Our Family Wedding, Fathers and Daughters or Father of the Bride, this has been a relationship, complex that most times even when it is time to let go, one party is rarely ready.
It has been explained as one of the most important she will have in life since it impacts her relationships with other males and eventually her future partner.
But besides relating with other people, it is said that this relationship shapes the self-esteem of daughters and may determine whether they develop into strong confident women.
Because of the special bond parents, especially fathers build with the daughters, letting them go when they get older is not a decision they make overnight.
Parenting is complex regardless of the sex, yet, most of the times when people are raising boys, they tend to let them discover things about sex, work and being a man. Macho, huh!
For girls though, the drill is usually different, most times fathers will have an emotional investment they rarely accord their male offspring; they tend to care about the way they dress or how the public perceives them.
They present them with so much class that at times it feels like they are sending indirect warnings to boys out there that so and so’s daughter is not as ordinary.
During an interview once, Frank Gashumba noted that his daughter had never stepped in a taxi since she was born and thus, he does not expect her to date a man that does not at least drive.
Rita Kenkwanzi, an artist, author and advocate, says girls tend to be drawn to their fathers because they usually feel safer with open-minded people.
Kenkwanzi, the author of Kamwe Kamwe, Nigwo Muganda, a book she wrote as a surprise gift for her father on his 65th birthday, uses Rukiga proverbs and stories to outline different lessons she learnt from her father.
She says because mothers have been girls before, it is hard for them to be as open-minded about what their daughters go through because they have seen it all.
“In his perspective as a father, he will listen to their daughter without bias because he’s probably listening to these issues for the first time,” she says.
Henry Walugembe Jjuko, a father of a 17-year-old girl, says fathers usually pay a lot of attention to daughters than sons because they do not want them to be needy at any point in life.
“Unlike boys, girls have many needs and if they are not addressed, you will find her fulfilling them through the wrong channels,” Jjuko explains.
He says his trick has been continuously talking to his daughter, showing her direction without being tough; “even the church has been helpful, I bring up my daughter basing on Christian teachings.”
Do they ever grow up?
As they grow up, most times all children tend to want their space from their protective parents, they will keep secrets and probably never give details of what they are up to.
For most Ugandans, the situation that surrounded Sheila and her father was proof that she is probably at this time old enough, yet her father has refused to notice; in response, the fast talking social commentator noted that no one can lecture him on how to run his home.
“I raised Sheila with no help from the government or anyone for that matter. I am Sheila’s father, mother, and manager! So, no one on this planet knows her as well as I do,” he is quoted to have said.
Kenkwanzi says as a daughter, there is never a time you become too old to start running your life; using a Ganda proverb, Oguliko Omuseesa, teguzikira, (the fire that has an overseer doesn’t burn out). She adds that regardless of how much a child shines, they still need guidance of the elders.
“Conversely, the fire that does not have an overseer might run wild and destroy everything that surrounds it,” she explains.
On the other hand Jjuko, for instance, believes that once still involved in academics, there are always chances the girl is under the parents’ guardianship, yet when she is out of school and independent, their voices are crucial in the conversation but like Kenkwanzi, he says they still need their parents for guidance.
Much as many parents enjoy seeing their children in successful relationships, addressing a fact that their children are into one is usually a hard task.
For fathers specifically, it is harder. “They just want the best for their daughters and at times that’s why they ask many questions,” says Patricia Mubiru, a high school teacher. She notes that one of the demands her father made at their introduction was to see a land title for their future home.
“And during the event (introduction), he even questioned how long building was going to take,” she says, adding that they built that house before anything else because he kept asking about it, calling them to check its progress.
But other parents are not worried about their daughter sleeping in a permanent house, but the character of the men they are seeing or their background.
Kenkwanzi on the other hand says she did not have to make a lot of explanations and neither ask her father about relationships; “his life with my mum has always been an example.”
She says she saw her dad have a healthy relationship with his father in law that she knew that whichever man she ever got, healthy relationship with her father was important.
Jjuko still remembers the first time his daughter told him about a guy that had showed interest in her, he says it was an intelligent boy that was in a social class below her.
“I told her it was okay but it wasn’t the right time,” he says adding that he assured her that once she waits and reads her books, a better man will show up.
When is it time to let her go?
Times eventually comes when girls stop depending on their fathers for approval, support or encouragement, much as many fathers are usually happy the process is taking shape, they still have mixed reactions.
According to Jjuko, parents almost spend much of their lives preparing their children for adulthood: “It’s not even a single parent’s job, but the community, the church,” he says that from a tender age, a child can notice the traits of a good personality that even at 18, a parent can let them be, especially if they are already independent.
“As I grow older, I don’t stop making mistakes and then imagining I heard listened to my dad,” Kenkwanzi says, adding that regardless of how much we grow, parents grow older and thus gain an aging advantage and thus can not fully let us go without saying a thing about it.
“My father still advises me on many things from business, family and life, many of these times, he has been right,” she says.
For Anne Mary Kinyira, 72, a mother of five, children’s behaviour varies and you ought to let them go once they exhibit a sense of maturity in most of the assignments you give them.
“By 18, you ought to have guided and continue guiding them but it starts with cultivating trust,” Kinyira explains, adding that they will open up.”