It started out as a competition between two village friends.
Having successfully finished high school, they were the talk of rural Kitinda, along Entebbe road in the early 1970s. They were the geniuses they solved mysteries and were usually the consultants of last resort, especially during heated village debates. However, unknown to many around them, the two were competing for one girl’s attention.
This was the village belle who was yearned for, but also feared in equal measure, by many of the guys in the area. She very well understood her worth, and as such never aspired for the small village fish she went for the sharks, the two highly-educated boys of the village.
After playing off the two for some time, her period of intrigue and excitement came to a jolting end when she realised she was pregnant, yet the boy responsible wasn’t interested. Caught between a rock and a hard place, she made a drastic decision and tagged the pregnancy to her second suitor – Peter, as we will call him.
The saying goes that it is easy to impregnate someone, and it takes a lot more to raise a child, but a herculean task to raise someone else’s child as your own. The young man found himself walking down that path after his gut feelings told him this wasn’t his pregnancy.
But there was little he could do about it. He was from a g Christian family that believed even if one had no proof that the child the girl was carrying was his, they would willingly accept the responsibility, considering the two had been involved intimately.
Love and about:
Fast forward to 2014. That pregnant girl has since passed on and the baby she was carrying is now in his forties, a successful businessman importing diapers and a father of three. It is not so uncommon for married women to stray, have children and trick their rightfully wedded husbands into believing the children belong to them.
On the other hand, African men can freely sire children out of wedlock and still bring them to their official wives to raise them. Thus, in most African settings, women are known to raise their husbands’ children, unlike the men doing the same with knowledge that it is someone else’s offspring.
In fact there are hardly any men like Peter – he notes that probably, if his wife and family had not talked him into accepting his son, things could have turned out differently for him. He knew the pregnancy wasn’t his but couldn’t prove it.
But after the baby was born, being there for it drew the two so close that much as he still had his doubts hovering above his head, he concentrated on bringing the boy up responsibly and as his own.
“We started our life together, moved into my first rental with him and learnt to live with the ghosts of my doubts,” Peter says.
In the article, The pressure of raising another man’s son, by Rashad Jennings, on the relationship site 30 and Beyond, he notes that it becomes very hard for stepfathers to connect with their stepchildren because they usually lack the background connection – say their first steps or words.
“The relationship that develops between a man and his son starts before the child is even physically in this world,” Jennings writes.
This must probably be the secret why Peter and his son’s relationship – though in the most absurd of ways – worked out so well. He had been forced to live through the most difficult times of raising someone else’s child, but eventually their bond grew and brought them closer together. In fact, he reveals that in 1992, his son’s biological father showed up to claim paternity custody but Peter denied him the privilege.
“My relationship with my son and my other children at the time was great there was no way I could jeopardize that,” he says.
His mechanism was, however, simple. He made sure none of his relatives ever said a thing about it and luckily, they all obliged.
“I didn’t know what to tell my son, thus I chose to keep it a secret forever,” he says, adding that he always lived in fear of losing his son to the biological father whose whereabouts he had no idea of at the time.
“I was also scared that bringing all that out would make my son dig deeper into the kind of lifestyle his mother led as a young girl.”
However, earlier this year, says Peter, his son got a rare visit. A rather old man, in the company of other women, had revealed to him very disturbing secrets.
“He introduced himself as his father and the ladies he was with claimed to be his aunties,” he says.
On a normal day, Peter says his son would have goofed and sneered at such information as mere bad humour, but they had gone as far as daring him to seek the truth from the man he called his dad. Later, probably after gaining confidence in a family gathering, his son approached him, seeking to know if he was his real father.
Since this is something that had never come up between Peter and his son, he could only imagine that he had received the scoop from someone.
“Being an adult who could probably handle his emotions, I saw no reason of continuing to keep the secret from him,” says Peter.
Much as Peter argues the explanations to his son were more smooth than confrontational, he insists it left his family emotionally weaker. His son blames him for keeping such a huge secret for all these years, yet his siblings just seemed confused about everything that was going on.
“When they meet, they usually face problems of how to correctly address him,” he says.
Who is to blame?
Peter believes there isn’t really a right time to reveal to a child that you are not their parent. Though he too blames himself and believes he could have avoided his son learning about it from someone else.
He, nevertheless, doesn’t regret any of the incidents. He believes that taking on the responsibility of raising the boy gave his son the chance to have a childhood which would have been denied him if he too had showed him his back. And on keeping it a secret for that long, he notes that he no longer has the burden of explaining where the biological father was or why he let someone else do his job.
“There was no way I would tell him he was disowned, and luckily I don’t have to anymore.”
Source : The Observer