Stand-up comedian and Master of Ceremonies, Gbenga Adeyinka, tells GODFREY GEORGE about his parenting journey
From your experience, who would you say an ideal father is?
An ideal father is one who can be a friend when he needs to be a friend; stern when he needs to be stern; one who can maintain the right balance. I learnt very early in my fatherhood ‘career’ that a father does not need to be the friends with his child(ren) at all times. That is very important. It is better they think you are too hard on them and they thank you later than you not wanting them to think you are too hard on them and you lose track. For me, fatherhood is a balancing act. Honestly, the best support for fatherhood is the right mother.
In your fatherhood journey, what are some challenges you have encountered and how did you deal with them?
I used to have a communication issue with my children. Communication is very key. I remember that at one point, my son was not talking to me. He would bottle things up. But my daughters would always talk to me and tell me everything. They even tell me very embarrassing things. This is because we have got to that level. But I noticed that my son was not talking to me.
Do you think it was because of the father-daughter/mother-son affinity that plays out in many homes?
Well, it could be. The surprising thing is I would ask his mom if he told her anything about his life; and she would say, “He does but not as much as the others.” I needed to break that wall down because I think I was responsible for that because I was a little bit harder on him than I was on the girls. What I did was to humble myself and look for means to be his friend and let him know the reasons I was being hard on him. Now, we talk and he chats me up a lot.
I remember one time, when he was in the university, and he was chatting with his mom, not knowing I was beside her, reading their conversation. The mom asked him why he hadn’t called me and he said he was not much of a phone person. I took the phone from the mom and told him, “You are not a phone person, abi? When the month ends, don’t worry; I won’t be an allowance person.” So, it was a combination of being upfront, cajoling, practically begging and being hard to break that barrier. I think we talk fairly well now because one of the worst things that can happen to any father is not to know everything about their children, or at least, know what needs to be known about them. They should be able to talk to you, and share things with you; otherwise, they’d share them with outsiders.
Let me not lie to you; one of the mistakes I made as a father was saying I had to protect the girls more than the guy, whom I thought should be able to take care of himself. I think it is a basic mistake a lot of young fathers make. One thing we did in my house, even though we didn’t make it obvious, was that everyone had a day to cook at home. We don’t say, “You are a boy; go and sleep.” No. That stemmed from where I was coming from, too. I grew up with my grandmother with a lot of aunts, so I did all the household chores. My wife also helped in that as the kids started growing, she said we didn’t need maids anymore. She stressed that our children would take care of the house themselves. So, that went a long way in balancing it up. It is now hard to look at them all the same. The truth is that it is natural to want to protect the females more but don’t make the boys feel like he is not part of the family or that he is extra special.
Speaking of maids; from your experience, do you think home helps are needed in raising kids in this age and time?
The truth is that what this culture of ‘maiding’ has done is that it has allowed us to train other people’s children and abandon ours to get rotten. If the wife works, you need a maid to help her up to a level. But once the children start knowing their left from right, let the maid go and let them do these things themselves. They would get it right eventually. The house would be dirty for a while. But it is your house. The food might not be well-cooked, but you are the ones who’d eat it. If you even have a maid that is lazy, the house will still be dirty. If you have a maid that can’t cook, who would do the cooking? For me, that age of getting maids should be a thing of the past. Then, most people would say I am talking as a man. As a man, I love to cook, and sometimes, when the spirit of cleaning comes upon me, I love to clean. It is just that the spirit hardly enters me these days. But I think what we need to do is raise our children ourselves, and if you need to clean the house, maybe, once a month, get professional cleaners to come clean the place.
How old is your oldest child?
I don’t have young children o. My eldest child is 26 (years old). The second is 24 and the last one is 22. I started very early.
At what point did you think it was time for you to settle down?
I think one of things I made up my mind doing when I was growing up was to marry early and be a good father because I didn’t live with my father. I wanted to get my family sorted out as early as possible. I couldn’t wait to get married, so immediately after graduation and national youth service, I got to Lagos, met this fine girl; told all my lies, begged all my begging and spoke all the grammar I had in my mouth, she agreed to marry me. God was faithful to us that in the first year of our marriage, we had our first child. Two years after, the next kid. Two years after that, another kid. We then decided it was time to put a halt to it because of the economy. I think God was just faithful to us because we didn’t plan anything. We were not that family that said, “As we were not working, we should not have kids.” My case was the case of grace and favour from God.
Was money a factor?
The most important thing in marriage is not money; it is the woman, your wife. When I was getting married, I knew I needed a job. There is an adage in Yoruba that says, “Picking a wife is not the challenge, being able to feed a family is the issue.” For me, you don’t need to have all the money in the world before you marry. That is the mistake a lot of people make about marriage. Once you are comfortable and can take care of yourself and your wife, every other thing would fall in place, although we are all different people. Some people want to buy airplanes for their wives when they get married. One of the things I prayed for when I got married was that I didn’t want my family to be jumping on buses or taxis. But there are people who still jump taxis and buses and they have not died. I remember there was a wedding I emceed when I just started; these people didn’t cut a wedding cake. They did not and they didn’t die. The husband is a wealthy man now. For me, it is a personal decision. I don’t think too much money plays a role in any relationship as long as both parties are hard-working and focused. The major thing is to marry right. Marry someone with prospects, who is prayerful and diligent; everything would fall in place.
When you met your wife, how did you know she was someone with prospects?
Fantastic! This is where one does not need to fool oneself at all. A lot of people marry for beauty; some marry for money. You’d hear someone asking, “Dem get money?” (Laughs). When I met my wife, the first thing I loved about her was that she was homely. She was a very good Christian. May be those were the things I was looking for. Other people would look for other things. If you marry the right woman, every other thing would fall in place. There is no story of fatherhood that is complete without the right woman. Since the very day we got married, a day hasn’t gone by without her praying for me and the family. For me, that is key. You need a right support system. So, when I saw her, these were the things I saw. She was very beautiful. I loved the way she walked and talked. I was looking out for a grounded person who was also fine. I was just blessed and lucky. I don’t think I deserve her.
When you proposed, what was her response?
She no gree o! She told me she couldn’t marry me. She wanted us to just be friends. The funny thing was that we were working in the same complex. There were different offices. She was working downstairs, and one day, when I was downstairs, I saw her. I asked her out on a lunch date and we spoke very well during the lunch. It was during this first lunch that I told her I was going to marry her. She laughed. She said I was very funny. At the end of the day, I put in the charms as a UNILAG (University of Lagos) boy. I keep telling the children till date that she was the one that wooed me (laughs). I tell them she saw a fine boy and refused to rest.
In your family finances, do you operate by the 50-50 system where responsibilities are shared equally between the couple?
Na lie o! I was not born like that o! The man does everything, and the woman supports. We are not the Londoners and Americans who say a man would put in the same per cent as the woman to make the family work. No. The truth is that there are some things I don’t bother about in the house. It is her exclusive domain. We live in a part of town where we have to buy water all the time. She used to do it. I have decided to buy the water myself because I got a supplier. There are no hard and fast rules to these things. I make sure that I do my own part to the best of my abilities. If I need help, I ask for it. I have always believed that the man is the head of the house and he is expected to take care of fees, rent, feeding and clothing the family. But when you need help, you should ask for help. I think that is what has worked for us.
What would you say has been your sweetest moment being a father?
That would be when I had my first child. All the others were very heart-warming too. But the very day I became a father, I was shaking like a leaf. I took my wife to the hospital when I noticed she was in labour. They told me to go get water; I went out and bought bottled water. The nurse was like, “No. Water to clean the baby.” I said, “Use the bottled water. I would get more.”
Were you in the labour room with her?
Yes, I was. But I told myself that I would never be in the labour room with her again. Kai! I was traumatised for a while. I was shaking, confused, traumatised.
People say that when husbands watch their wives give birth, it makes them love them more. Was this the case for you?
I respected my wife the more after that labour room experience. In fact, every day, I thank God almighty that I am not a woman.
How do you create time for your family considering your busy schedule?
The thing about me is that when I am with you, I am with you. We go through all the emotions together. We fight, we play. My daughters would say, “Daddy, tonight is movie night.” We have Netflix night, chocolate night. When I am trying to lose weight, we all do it together. In fact, their mom is very jealous of my relationship with them. She would make those funny sounds when I am playing with them and it is just so sweet to see. I think the beauty of it is that when I don’t have time, they know I don’t have time. When I have time, I am always with them. I am never afraid to chastise them and tell them the truth at all times. My children know when I am rich, when I am broke and when I am asking for money to do a show; they know when I owe the bank. Even when they are praying, they have me in their prayers. So, fathers must be able to communicate with their children and be open to them. I hear stories of how it was until the death of a man that the family got to know he was having extramarital affairs. God forbid o! But if I ever get to have a child outside wedlock, I would tell my children about it. I don’t know how secretive a man would be with his family that he won’t tell them certain things. I am not like that. I may not tell my wife everything, but I tell my children everything. They even fight their mom for me.
How do you ensure that disagreements between you and your wife don’t affect your children negatively?
I think it is a western thing that they have tried to pass down. I think that as a family, everybody must know what is going on at a particular time. When I have quarrels with their mom, they must know I am quarrelling with their mom. There is nothing I think they should not know about. That is the way I have built my family. My wife is much more secretive than I am so if she does anything to me, I report her to them. I tell them to speak to their mother about this thing and that thing, and they do. While I am playful, they know when I am serious. I believe that there should be no secret in a family. I don’t know if I am wrong, but it is what has worked for me. My daughters even know my ATM PIN.
You said in a previous that you don’t like posting your family in the media. Is this something that has changed or will likely change?
For me, I am the one that decided to do entertainment, not them. I believe that they deserve their privacy. I celebrate them on their special day. Not in these days of kidnapping and all that. The life of a so-called celebrity is not fun at the end of the day. If they are out there, they wouldn’t be able to do what they want to do. People would begin to associate all their actions to me, and that is unfair. If they decide they want that kind of exposure on their own accord, that is fine; it should not be me pushing it on them.
Is this the same for your wife?
Of course, it is the same things for her. People ask me why I don’t take her to my shows. My response is, “Why doesn’t she take me to court when she is having a case. She is a lawyer.
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