Welcome to Love. ‘n words #AfricanDad interviews. My goal is to ensure that I have at least one such interview for you every single month. I am so passionate about sharing these fatherhood stories with you for a few reasons. Every time I read, watch, or listen to a positive fatherhood story in the media, it’s obvious to see that the featured dads are overwhelmingly Caucasian. It is my absolute belief that, so many times, we become what we see, listen to, and consume. If young boys and men never see an image of fathers lovingly parenting their children, they’ll quickly learn that it’s abnormal to do so. My goal is to tip the scales a bit (okay, A LOT!), to share tangible fatherhood role models, and to spark thought and conversation on this subject. Our men should be more than just business tycoons, athletes, and leaders at work; they should also be warm, strong, caring father-figures. When expectations for both motherhood AND fatherhood are high in our communities, the world really wins.
My goodness! Was I EXCITED when I e-mailed Kojo Baffoe about a Love. ‘n words interview, and got a “Yes”!!! You see, Kojo is the editor of major South African publication, Destiny Man, a business and lifestyle magazine for African men. In addition to his role as an editor, he is a prolific writer, poet, and entrepreneur. Kojo is a real global citizen: his father is Ghanaian; his mother was German; he has lived in Uganda, Lesotho, and South Africa. He currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with his wife, Estelle, and their 2 children, Kweku and Ayanna Ama.
Kojo Baffoe; picture taken by son, Kweku
Full Name: F. Kojo Baffoe
Children: Kweku & Ayanna Ama
Connect with Me:
The super-adorable Kweku & Ayanna Ama Baffoe
As a young boy, you experienced the terrible tragedy of losing a mother. How old were you when that happened, and how did that shape your relationship with your father, and your expectations of him?
I was just over a year old. She passed in a car accident with my grandmother and an uncle of mine. My father has been my parent since then, and we continue to have a close relationship. Because it happened so young, there were no expectations. I am the man, the professional and the father I am today because of him. He continues to be my mentor and example.
How has your dad’s influence as a parent affected the way you parent your own children? What is the most valuable lesson you learned from him about fatherhood?
I reflect him in so many ways, but most especially, in terms of my values and approach to life. I try to pass these same values, such as respect, hard work, self-belief, etc., onto my children.
You are part-Ghanaian and part-German, raised in Lesotho, and living in South Africa. That’s quite a diverse mix. Do you expose your children to all those cultures, or do you identify with one most of all?
They can’t not be exposed to them because I am a sum of the different cultures. Each one has influenced me in different ways and I take pride in that; each has made me who I am, so I embrace them all. I identify with being African more than anything; although, I am proud of my German heritage.
How did you feel the very first time you held your son, Kweku, in your arms? What was going through your mind?
Fear, exhilaration, panic, excitement, shock, numbness, pride … the list is long. It is hard to explain. I also realised that any legacy I will leave on this earth will be tied to the foundation I can give him in this world. I do think it’s important to be part of the birthing process – at least to be in the delivery room.
Was it any different from the first time you held your daughter, Ayanna, in your arms? How were your thoughts and feelings different?
What was funny was that I went into the birth of Ayanna (Ama) very relaxed because I had done it before, but it was overwhelming. There are multiple pictures of me sitting on the floor trying to ‘collect’ myself.
How is raising a boy different from raising a girl, in South Africa and in general?
With the world the way it is, particularly in terms of the continued abuse and horrific treatment of women, I will admit that there is a fear that I won’t be able to protect my daughter always; but from a parenting perspective, I don’t think I am raising them differently. It is important that they have respect for themselves and others, that they have the opportunity to pursue whatever they want to pursue, that they have compassion, that they live full and principled lives. This is something I try to teach them both, while also trying to live such a life because children watch what you do more than listen to you.
How is each child most like you?
Kweku has his serious moments ,while Ayanna loves music. I think they manifest their own personalities as well as elements of myself and their mother in ways that are hard to pinpoint. It’s in the random moments when they’ll do something that is reflective that one sees a bit of us, as their parents, but it’s nothing overriding.
As a new mom, it is incredible to see how much we (parents) can learn from these little people. What have Kweku & Ayanna taught you?
They have both taught me the importance of setting a precedent, consistency, being an example, and responsibility. They’ve also taught me to lighten up a bit and the importance of living, beyond work.
What do you enjoy doing most with your children?
Simply spending time with them. It doesn’t really matter what we are doing as long as we are together, enjoying each other’s company. I try to take them to school every morning and that is an opportunity to chat, to listen to music. Kweku loves building things, especially Lego, and I enjoy doing that with him, although I have to work hard not to do it for him. Ayanna loves singing and dancing which, every now and then, she’ll do with me.
What do you think is the most challenging part of fatherhood?
The responsibility and the doubt. What they do and the kind of people they become later in life will be determined, partly, by the opportunities we provide, the examples we are, the lessons we teach. And there is no manual, so one is always questioning whether you are doing it right.
[Complete these sentences]
To me, fatherhood is …. the ultimate blessing
I want to be a father who … is remembered with love and respect. My favourite quote is “A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty”. That is how I measure my success as a father.
Be sure to connect with Kojo Baffoe via the links above, and check out Destiny Man.
Are you fathering while African? Do you have a unique #AfricanDad story to share, or do you know someone who does? I’m always looking for new amazing interview subjects. Please e-mail me anytime at chioma [dot] onyewuchi [at] hotmail [dot] com. Join me on this quest to tip the scales, to challenge the status quo, to change the world!