My father and I have this very unique relationship. My mama calls me the strength of his youth. I am also a female version of him. Right from the time I was young, I did not want to be in his shadow. I wanted to take my own path, away from his. Every time people would go, “You are just like your father,” I would be left wondering when people would just acknowledge what I do as being just like me. To date it has still been the case, though subtle. On some levels I agree though. He made me who I am.

There are quite a number of things he told me that stuck with me throughout my childhood, and ultimately gave me confidence.

You are beautiful

I once had my hair cut short. I did not feel beautiful. His words however gave me the confidence. He would always insist that I was beautiful and should cut my hair more. No, it was not just to make me feel better, but I could feel he was genuine every time he said. My hair grew back and a few years later I decided to cut it, this time believing that I was actually beautiful, and not because I had to cut it.

You are smart

Dad said this to mean two things: That I was brilliant, and that I was dressed well. It came out in different scenarios. I would sometimes feel I wasn’t prepared for a certain test at school, and he would always insist that I was smart “just like your mother,” he would add. When I am faced with a huge decision I have to make especially now that I am not home, he will utter the same words.

When we were leaving say to go for a certain event or even to church, he would look at me while we were having breakfast and simply utter the three words. To date, when we gather for breakfast at the table before leaving the house, he tells me these words.

It will be okay

Whenever I was sad from being bullied at school, he would say this. I was once so scared of going to school because there was a boy who constantly bullied me. Dad would tell me it would all be okay, and this gave me the confidence of at least leaving the house.

I was recently battling with a lot of issues, and every time he called worried, we would end the call and the last words he would say were the same. Through it all, I knew I had someone I could count on.

You can do anything

There was nothing like “girls cannot do anything.” Whenever I wanted to try out things that were not so girlish, my father was there to support me and push me on. He even taught me how to use the lawn mower!

Knowledge is power

There is an office/library in the house. Here, all kinds of books exist. To date, dad is always reading, and seeing him read instilled the love for books. I try to read either an e-book or a hard copy book. In my bag,there is always a book. Now, I am trying to set up my little library.

He always listens to BBC radio at least every morning,something I have picked from him too. Learning, as he has taught me, is the best way to stay young, beautiful and relevant. A free mind is stronger than a free body.

Show me

My father loves to learn, especially from us, his children.He has never been afraid of admitting that he does not know. Even now that we are all not home, he will call just to ask how to do something, and as difficult as it is to explain some things over the phone, it still warms my heart that he is not afraid of admitting he does not know, to us his children. Not knowing is never a crime. Refusing to learn is.

I love you

Dad has said this to me all my life. Growing up, he would kiss me goodnight every night, and tell me these three simple words.

Now, whenever we are on phone, he will tell me the same words. A reminder that he loves me. It is quite encouraging to know that as life gets more and more adult, that we all start off with the innocence of a child and the pure love that comes with it.