I overcame my ‘daddy issues’ for the sake of my son
Martin Githinji grew up seeing his father fighting his mum. He never knew a father’s love as a child and this caused damage to his young mind that went on to adulthood. Now a father to a two-year-old son, he is determined to break the cycle.
“The fights would happen in my parents’ bedroom and sometimes it would spill over to us.
Nothing hurts a child than hearing your mother cry in pain and you can’t help her.
I would be scared for days when my father was around,” begins 30-year-old Martin Githinji.
This was a scene that replayed in their home every weekend when Martin’s dad came home.
His father who worked in Nairobi would visit the family in the village every weekend.
When he was around, instead of joy, the house would turn into a scene of fights and tears.
“It was pure hell. At some point I left home to live with my late grandma. There were times I recall my father taking us with him to Nairobi when schools closed.
I hated those days. He never had time for my mother and when they were together, all I remember is them fighting,” he says.
Martin’s heart was full of anger. Angry with his father who beat his mum, angry towards his father’s friends who watched him beat his mother and did nothing to stop him.
His other siblings were destabilised too and dropped out of school. Some became thugs and three would later be gunned down after being caught.
His mother also left after getting tired of the beatings and abandoned them with their father.
“My dad took out this anger on us. We were mistreated. He beat us up and threw us out of the house repeatedly.
He tried to remarry, but the women left him for his hostility,” recalls Martin.
In addition, Martin loathed the idea of family and the company of women. For a long time, because of what he grew up seeing, Martin grew up thinking that women should be beaten.
His social circle became small as they became the laughing stock in the village.
According to Dr Elizabeth Mutheu Kiilu, a psychologist and teen coach, children who witness verbal or physical violence in their homes, especially abuse of their primary care giver can have psychological and emotional issues in childhood, which can become worse in adulthood.
“A mother is a primary care giver to a child, so it’s someone the child is attached to.
Feelings of helplessness can result to anger issues, rebellion, disobedience and the child may become defensive and argumentative.
Aggressive behaviour can be as a result of not being in a position to help the person they love, which can be witnessed at home and even in school.
It can also be as a result of copying what the child sees being done to their mother,” she says.
Elizabeth adds that watching abuse if not intercepted early can carry on to adulthood with majority of people displaying a low self-esteem, inability to associate with peers, substance abuse as well as becoming abusers themselves.
Determined to break the cycle of violence and poverty, Martin swore to be different.
He also gradually began looking for mentors who assisted him understand what being a man was and how to treat women and it was in this healing journey, at the age of 27 years, that he met his wife.
Becoming a role model
“I shared all my struggles with her and she appreciated the fact that I was facing my shortcomings and not making excuses.
My healing has come from a deeper understanding of manhood— this has been achieved through intentional mentorship and making deliberate right choices.
What I learned is being macho isn’t what makes a man, it is being vulnerable,” he says.
He adds; “Perhaps the ultimate way for men to neutralise those fears and to transcend toxic masculinity and misogyny is to become vulnerable — drawing people of all kind closer, and inviting them to know us, and to see us as we are rather than the macho way we project ourselves.”
For now, Martin is doing his best to love his wife and be the best example to his two-year-old son on how to treat women.
“I want to teach him that a real man tames his passions. He doesn’t abuse women or children; he protects them.
He keeps his hands off a woman who is not his wife and treats his wife with love, respect and dignity,” he says.
Recently, Martin’s father reached out to him, wanting to make amends. He begged him not to use real photos for this story as they iron things out.