Motivational speaker and life coach, popularly called The Catalyst, Mr. Lanre Olusola, tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO about what he learnt as a father.
What does fatherhood mean to you?
I believe that fatherhood is a responsibility and a privilege. There is a difference between a father and a son. Fatherhood is husband-hood, it is multi-dimensional and transient. There is no beginning and there is no end. I believe that fatherhood is learnt over time. It is a mandate and a calling.
At what age did you first become a father?
I became a biological father 11 years ago at the age of 38. But fatherhood does not only mean a biological father. I had become a ‘father’ many years ago when different people came to me to help them nurture their dreams and aspirations. Although I have two biological daughters, I am also a father to my wife and many other people.
How was your first experience of becoming a father?
It started when my first daughter was in the womb. It was important for me to make a connection with her then. So, when my wife was pregnant, I started to nurture my daughter by speaking to her through my wife’s womb. I would be there with my wife when she kicks or turns around, and I would tell her how much I love her. I made physical contact with her through my wife’s womb. I also fathered the mother by showing her respect, honour, love and telling her how much I appreciate the gift that is coming through her. I told my daughter how much I loved her and how much I could not wait for her delivery. It was an experience that seemed like I was crazy, but when my first child came, both of us really became close; there was almost an instant connection and relationship. That manifest relationship when she came out was based on the relationship that had been developed when she was still in the womb. It later paid off because my daughter and I are incredibly close.
What difference does it make speaking to an unborn child?
I often ask people, are we human or spirit beings? What is the age of a child’s spirit? My belief is that we are spirit beings that came to earth to have human experiences. I could communicate with my unborn daughter that way. There is no age zero in the spirit and the form is that one’s body is the containment of one’s spirit and one’s spirit transcends beyond that containment, which means one can connect with one’s child before that physical manifestation (of birth).
How did you feel when you first held her in your arms after her delivery?
I was in the labour ward, and it was a very interesting experience. I recommend that every father should do everything they can to be in the labour ward with their wives because it changes one’s perspective towards one’s wife and her contribution to life. When I carried my daughter in my hands, I appreciated the essence of God and it portrayed the concept to me that man did not evolve from apes. We came from the same manufacturer, the Almighty Creator. If we look at an Apple or a Samsung phone, they look alike because each came from the same manufacturer. The evolution of man is the same, whether you are Christians, Muslim or Hindu, it is the same birth process. So, that helped me conceptualise the essence of God that the exclusive right of life and death are in His Hands. I appreciated life the more.
How has fatherhood changed your perspectives on life?
Fatherhood helps one to become a lot more selfless and responsible. It helps one to delay gratification and plan ahead. But for me, most importantly, it helps me to understand my relationship with my Father in heaven, His mercy, grace and love, and who He is. God the Almighty is everybody’s father, no matter one’s religion. No matter what my children do, I cannot stop paying their school fees, feeding or clothing them. Fatherhood taught me the essence of unconditional love.
You talked about delayed gratification. What are some of the things you have denied yourself of as a father?
In this context, I had to plan and save towards their school fees, holidays, upbringing; that is the first thing. The second thing is that one delays gratification, in that one wants to work extra hard and makes more money. But, one has to create a good balance between work and home, especially if one is a genuine and honest father. Fatherhood helps me to become a lot more selfless.
What are the five most important lessons you have learnt as a father?
Fatherhood starts with parenting. The first lesson is that one must learn fatherhood from being a good father to one’s wife. The second thing is that fatherhood is a partnership; one is not the lord, because parenting is partnership. Fatherhood is useless without motherhood and vice-versa. The third thing is ensuring that one has a relationship with one’s child and one encourages one’s child’s relationship with his or her mother and all have a relationship together.
The fourth thing is that a good father is one that creates a stable, functional and enabling environment for the good nurture of everybody; physically, spiritually, mentally, psychologically, intellectually, and emotionally. The fifth one is that fatherhood is about mutual respect. One has to show respect towards the children’s mother; her beliefs, strengths and weaknesses because one must lead by example. It is not about what one says but also about what one does. One must also respect one’s children and lead by example.
You travel a lot within and outside Nigeria. How much time do you spend with your children?
The key is not the quantity but the quality (of time spent). Even if one is not physically present, the key is to be present. We live in two worlds now, the physical and the virtual worlds. On earth, 7.4 billion people exist in the physical world while 3.4 billion people exist in the virtual world. Now, among the 70 per cent of the 3.4 billion people are our children, the youth; because they spend about 75 per cent of their time in the virtual world. With technology, I am present with my children, via Skype, phone calls, text messages and WhatsApp. Also, most importantly, when one is available, I make sure I spend quality time with them; even if it is 20 or 60 minutes. I make sure it is 20 or 60 minutes of quality time – physical, spiritual, psychological, intellectual and emotional connection.
What would you say to those who do not have father figures in their lives?
We need a village to bring up our children right. Personally, I lost my father when I was two years old. And as a male child, I needed a strong arm. My mother put some structures in place; I had older brothers and uncles that she always ensured were responsible to uphold me in the areas where she needed a man and I never had that vacuum. She did not remarry. I had my own spells in terms of being a naughty boy, but I had invariably gone 360 degrees and turned out okay. She has brothers, uncles and the opportunities to get good godfathers that she can ensure are involved in the lives of her children.
Also, one cannot de-emphasise the roles of women and men in the upbringing of one’s children. We have people that are very involved in the lives of our children. My wife and I do not know it all. My children know that when they go to visit their grandparents, godparents, uncles or aunts, they know these people have the right to chastise and correct them because we trust them with our children.
For people who feel disadvantaged because they never had a father, I would tell them the way they see the problem is the problem. I often say to people that one’s perception is one’s reality. The best way to predict the future is to create it. It is one’s choices and decisions that colour one’s perceptions and invariably determine one’s life experiences. Every choice that one makes now will carve out a tomorrow for one. They need to understand that where they are coming from is required for where they are going. I knew from a young age that it was because of my future that I went through what I went through. But I would not allow my past to short-circuit or stop the future God has designed for me or that I desire for myself. Every coin has two sides. I accepted it as my reality but I chose to see the positive side of it. One could either see a half-full or half-empty glass. That was what was responsible for the trajectory of my life. One determines what one goes through, but God determines where one would get to.
What is your advice to fathers?
A father needs to understand his strengths and weaknesses. Also, they should understand the environment they live in, and understand a child and bring up that child in the best way that is best suited for him or her. They should not generalise upbringing. I do not bring up my two children the same way because both of them are completely different beings. They think differently and their perceptions to life are different, their development needs, love and appreciation of languages are also different. I relate with them independently and I give them independent upbringing.