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When deadbeat dad resurfaces


After years of struggling to raise a child alone, there is the possibility that a single mother will live to see the father of her child attempt to make a come back into her life. What should she do when this happens? NICHOLAS CHERUIYOT sought this answer from some experts and people who have lived through the awkward situation

During her sizzling graduation party, Sylvia, an accountant in the city, noticed her mom wasn’t in her element in. It was a day any mother would find immense joy in seeing her daughter in a graduation gown, especially after the hellish task of paying her university fees.

But as Sylvia watched her mother keenly, she noticed that the source of her discomfort seemed to be the presence of three strange men inside the hall where her party was being held. She dismissed them as just another bunch of gate crashers and promptly forgot about them. It was her day, nothing was to come between her and her joy.

But later, Sylvia was to be taken aback when she was made to understand that one of the men was her biological father and the other two, her uncles. They had come to celebrate with her and, well, claim her and her success. That was what was pushing her mother to the wall. 

As it was won’t to happen, the three men turned into party poopers as Sylvia’s mom and her party would hear none of their pleas to be given due recognition. Apparently, Sylvia’s dad had melted into thin air upon her birth but when he heard his daughter was graduating, he gathered all his courage and was determined to fight for what was his. After being pushed to the wall to explain his absentee fatherhood, ruined the day further by asking Sylvia to recognise him and assist him financially or abandon him to the dogs.

The push and pull didn’t end at the aborted party. Sylvia remained haunted by her father’s words while her mother, still smarting from pains of being rejected and left to fend for her daughter single-handedly, never tired to warn her against associating with him. At last she decided to discreetly help her dad in a small way hoping that things would get better and enmity between her parents would thaw.

After a lifetime

Sylvia’s case is aptly captured in the caricature that has been doing rounds on social media. It depicts a young man chasing a girl for sex but a few months later, the tables have turned, and the girl (now with a bulging belly) is the one giving a chase to the father-to-be who is literally running away from responsibility. The ingenuity in the picture story in telling the complex societal problem is well thought out but it seems incomplete if the current trends of deadbeat dads who resurface when their offspring make it in life by, say, landing a dream job after school, is considered.

Many still remember the string of men who emerged from the woodwork to claim fatherhood of Samwel Wanjiru, the then world marathon record holder, after he died under chilling circumstances.

While Wanjiru’s case only hit the headlines because of his fame, there many other tales of deadbeat dads who want to reap where they only sowed a seed before vanishing into thin air.

When Jack, a city trader, struck gold after his business boomed, a group of elders paid him a visit with a mission of uniting him with his biological father. His mother had kept him in the dark about his father and when the delegation opened up about their intention, Jack says he was all smiles and he couldn’t wait to see his dad alive.

“Months later, we were living under one roof with my father. When he was brought to me to meet him I needed no winded talk to know he was the man I have been silently praying for. Our resemblance was so striking. The old man, though frail due to old age, was so happy to see me. He was so remorseful and narrated to me how he parted ways with mom when I was barely five. I gladly took him in and provided for him,” Jack narrates.

However, the development rubbed Jack’s mom the wrong way. She couldn’t countenance that a son that she painstakingly brought up was taking in what she termed “a scoundrel and a leech”. Jack says it was a tough time as he had to juggle in attempting to show love to his dad as well appeasing his sulking mother.

But Mercy, a cashier at a city supermarket, wasn’t as forgiving of her father. She says she knows her deadbeat dad but has no sympathies for the sorry life he is leading. “The man left mum and us to our own devices when we were young and went ahead to marry another woman only to separate later. We went through hell but ultimately made it and all my siblings are now working while dad is hovering around town. He has tried a couple of times to trick his way to get our help but we have in unison told him to get a life elsewhere. I will never forgive him,” she says.

Experts advise that the matter of the deadbeat dad is a grave one and should be handled with a lot of caution. Wanjiku Waititu, a counsellor at Hekima Counselling Centre in Nairobi points out such prodigal fathers who attempt to find their way into their families should be given a chance to tell their story.

“A parent can’t just disappear into thin air or refuse to take responsibility of his kids; there must be something that made him abscond his role. His spouse could be the one who made him flee. So when a deadbeat dad makes overtures, his family shouldn’t be rigid but forgive him and listen to his pleas. Not all fathers are after financial support. Perhaps he has turned remorseful for his misdeed and all he wants is to ask for forgiveness so that he finds emotional fulfillment and peace of mind,” Waititu points out.

The counsellor quotes, “The Bible asks children to love their parents. It doesn’t talk of bad or good parents but parents the way they are. If one takes back a parent who neglected him at time of need, the sense of guilt within them will go. It is never a simple move and it is advisable that the family involves a counsellor or a religious person for them to reach an amicable solution.”

Jennifer Karina, a marriage counsellor, opines that deadbeat fathers have no ground to lay claim to the kids he sired but never provided for.

“There is no difference between such a father and a sperm donor who walks into a hospital, gives out a sperm and his task is complete,” says Karina.

However, Karina further says that children of such dads can, out of their own volition, go out to seek  him or welcome him with both hands if he comes to them.

On whether a mother is right or wrong to deny her children relationship with a runaway father, Karina says it is a selfish act that is insensitive of the kids’ interest.

“In fact, children, especially girls, are won’t to go out of their to trace their dads and no one should stand in their way,” she says.

Esther Kinuthia, a psychologist at Baby Insight, says it isn’t surprising for mothers and kids to be wary of deadbeat dads trying to reconnect with the family he left behind for long.

“It isn’t hard to see where a single mother who attempts to build a wall between her child and the deadbeat dad comes from. When one spouse is left alone by the other one to single-handedly fend for a child, her protective instincts tend to rise sharply. Thus, when the runaway father attempts to establish relations with the child he left behind, it is normal for her to frown upon the move and even turn aggressive. Of course she is pained, “ Kinuthia advises.

The psychologist says that only a grown up child will competently make a decision on whether to give room to such father or not. Still, she argues, the son or daughter and mother should find out the motives of the father saying he may be after ulterior plans before vanishing like he did in the past.

“If he or she accepts to give the father a chance, the same should be gradual just like dating and only embrace him after knowing him well as they have been apart for quite some time,” she advises.

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