After Caroline, our first child, was admitted to university, she looked forward to the day she would leave home. I looked forward to that day, too. I thought I would stand and watch one of my own soar into new horizons.
Our First Child Leaves Home
The day came and its events left me a different fatherâ€”a wreck. This day became a point of reference in many areas of my life as a father. Caroline was entering a world where she would not have the comfort and safety of my parental care. I would no longer have control over when, where and with whom she associates. We had reached a point of no return. Her presence at family dinners would only be during vacations or specially arranged times.
The Values We Have Taught
As a Kamba tribe member from Kenya, I raised Caroline in Kamba traditions mixed with major portions of Christian teachings in the American cultural bowl. Love for God, respect for parents and authority, and commitment to work ethicsâ€” things that mattered to us, her parents, were passed on for 18 years. Now they would be tested in a classroom where we wouldn’t be the teachers.
Growing As a Father
Reflections on the influence this beloved daughter of mine has had on my life came into focus as the day of her departure drew near. From the Moment we learned we were expecting our first child, my life changed I would not only enter fatherhood but would also be known and referred to as the father of my child.
Holding the child with my hands and seeing some of my facial features in her was the beginning of another chapter. I wanted the best life could offer for her. I had smoked for yearsâ€”a habit I had picked from my father. I didn’t want my child to be raised in such an environment. I quit the habit.
I had drunk beer for years as I had seen my father do. But the day beer separated me and my child was the last time my lips touched it. My college friend and I arranged to go to my home to see my child. On our way, we started taking a drink here and there. Before I knew it, it was another day, and I had not seen my child. That was a sacrifice I never could make again with a clear conscience.
The Joy and Pain of Letting Go
The joy of watching my girl grow cannot be expressed in writing nor can the emotional pain of seeing her leave. We grew together. Her going to college was another growth step, but we would not grow together. This didn’t settle well with me nor with the rest of the family.
We were all excited and fearful in our own ways. Our mixed emotions were evident at the Airport. At the security gate, my wife was busy making sure her daughter had all carry-on items together. Lucille, 13, was happy to see her senior sister go to college especially since she (Lucille) would occupy Caroline’s bedroom. Celina, 10 couldn’t look in the direction of the gate. She stood some distance from the rest and cried. Kithetheesyo, 6, played with the game machines at the airport, seemingly oblivious of what was happening.
My emotions were those portrayed by Celina while I tried to act like my wife. Hugging Caroline to send her away to college melted every manly nerve I had masked until then. This was my baby, the baby I had brought up so that when she left, she could thrive in the world on her own. At this hugging moment, I realized I didn’t want her to leave me.
The impact of her going away became evident the first night we were not under the same roof and with the knowledge that it was the beginning of life like thatâ€”possibly forever. It was the first night I did not sleep at all since March 9th 1985, the day I consciously accepted Christ Jesus. She was a little over a year old when I committed my life to God an experience that turned my worries to hopes and brought light into the darkness of my life.
My hope, as I hugged Caroline, was for her to remember those Moments when we had kneeled and prayed, “Almighty God, thank you for the gift of life….”
Dr. Vincent Kituku is a professional speaker and is available for speaking engagements.Tweet