Am I Falling Into The Parent Trap?

I just assume I will be a good father.

The same way I always assumed I would be a good husband.

But as you get older, you quickly realise that assumptions and reality are two very distant relatives on the family tree of life.
I don’t know if I am a great husband, my wife is the only person that could credibly tell you that.

I don’t think I’m a bad husband, I think I’m a good one.

On days when my hectic schedule plus work ethic permits and I’m able to complete the washing up in the sink, the laundry in the machine and arrange my clothes in an orderly enough manner that 80% of them aren’t scattered around the four corners of our bedroom I might edge myself into the “very good husband” category.

The main reason I find myself struggling to qualify as a “great’ husband, is because I can’t help the lingering feeling that I was a better boyfriend.

This a pretty valid argument, considering I’ve only been a husband for just over a year, a fiancé for almost two years, and a boyfriend for close to 5 years…

But it’s not just the miles I covered in my journey as a boyfriend that is the biggest factor. A lot of my worries boil down to two very distinct factors. Two factors, which not only give me something to think about as an adult but also provide a huge revelation into the relationship I had with my parents as a child.

In the early stages of our relationship as a boyfriend, I always felt I needed to prove my love.

But as a new husband, you feel your love has been proved, or at least feel less pressure to prove it, as stupid as it sounds

Let me explain:

For instance, Valentine’s Day

In the early stages, it was a priority that I went through the most elaborate extent to make an effort.

I could argue that, because I wasn’t ‘yet’ required to do anniversaries, family dinners, friends birthdays etc, which were somewhat compulsory once you are in a long term relationship, Valentine’s Day was one of the few occasions you could express your gratitude and love within the relationship, in its infancy. So as a BOYFRIEND, it was my priority to make it special.

Gifts were expensive and dramatic and my wife loved them.

Yet, the reality I now realise is that these gifts were simply evidence.

The gifts were evidence in a trial, I imagine that goes on in the majority of young females’ heads when first getting into a relationship, of whether “this guy can provide for me”.

The gifts were evidence in case her mother or friends decide to put her on the stand, cross-referencing the testimony of our love. She could produce the theatre tickets, accessories or Birkenstock sandals as physical proof of my love.

But as the relationship goes on, the countless trials and tribulations of life provide enough instances where you are required to prove your love, that you somewhat feel justified in no longer prioritising the little things.

Sometimes I wonder if this is such a bad thing?

I cover the bills, the flat and my career has helped provide us with a lifestyle many people are not fortunate enough to ever experience, but then I realise that I have fallen into…

THE PARENT TRAP.

My parents loved me, they still love me. I love them both with sections of my heart, that will always be exclusively reserved for them, from the parking spot outside the nightclub, which belongs to the club owner.

I am grateful for every sacrifice they have ever had to endure to put me in the position that I am in today.

As immigrants coming from Ghana to London, their main objective was to provide a better quality of life for their children.

I am proud to have early memories of my father coming home from a construction site, covered from head to toe in sawdust, and cement.

I remember my mother squashing together meat patties, forming them into juicy circular shapes to make burgers, she would then serve out of a caravan to angry Ghanaian men and women complaining about the portion size.

I cherish these memories, they taught me the value of hard work at an early age.

Yet, these memories came at a cost.

My father spent weekends at his second job. Nights, when some children were tucked into bed, my father was doing overtime.

My bedtime stories were sometimes £5 notes, next to a handwritten note telling me to get a Pukka pies from the chips shop, for my me and my sister.

My parents spent most of my childhood providing. That was their LOVE.

As long as food was on the table, and there was a roof over my head to protect me from the harsh London winters, that was their love.

It took me years to understand this.

They never felt the need to prove their love, because it was evidence in new shirts for school every term and brand new air forces ones we bought during the January sales.

As a child, you’re oblivious to the depth of these relationships, but you knew your parents loved you. Yet, as a teenager it made me seriously question where I ranked on their list of priorities.

Now that I am older, I recognise those small graces as the “I love you” that I hadn’t received down the phone line as a youth.

I call it the parent trap, because it’s a characteristic I see repeated over and over again, particularly amongst parents in the African community. It’s one that it is easy to fall into and I hope I can appreciate it when I have my children, especially as I have been afforded privileges my parents and grandparents never were.

What I also now recognise is that, as a husband I should never feel the need to prove my love. Feeling that your love needs to be proven, creates standards which once you feel you have met, your job is done and regretfully you stop trying.

You neglect to buy flowers, because you console yourself with the “at least the rent is paid” arguments.

We often feel the light of these tiny gestures will become blocked out by shadow of the bigger responsibilities we have taken on.

But the little things matter, because they should never be acts designed to prove your love.

They are just one of many ways to appreciate a love you and your partner have both been given an opportunity to share.”

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