As Told To Kunle
How does it feel like to have parents who you know are flawed but who are often praised for uprightness by people outside who do not know them and who look up to them? What does such a thing do to you?
*Vivian, a pastor’s daughter, shared her story with me.
*Names have been changed.
I was in SS1 when I was informed that my father had become a pastor. My first thought was, “Who sent him message?”
All my life, I’d known him for his vices: drinking, adultery, even abuse. And now, he had become a pastor, the same man who beats my mother and sometimes beats us, the children, with her. Being a pastor meant that our lives would change; we were now ‘Pastor’s Family,’ and I was now a ‘Pastor’s Child‘.
I was 14 years old.
My father still beats my mother. When people look at him, I am sure they see a godly man who cannot hurt an ant, someone who needs no chastisement. And maybe this is why they focus all their energy on the pastor’s child.
As a pastor’s child, all eyes are on you. And I think it’s worse when you are a girl. All eyes were on me. I would wear a skirt, and they would say it’s too tight. If it’s a gown, they would say it’s too short. And this is from those church mummies whose children are wearing clothes that are worse than mine. But they never seem to see their own children. The only set of people they have eyes for is other people’s children. They always have a comment ready. And this did a lot of harm to how I perceived myself.
Once, I made purple braids. The moment they saw me, they called a meeting. My father was in attendance, a church mummy who is an evangelist also attended, and there was someone else too, the head usher. They said a lot of things I no longer remember, but that hair came off my head that day. I took out the entire thing.
If my mum sees me talking to a boy in church, she would accuse me of liking boys too much. She was aware of the pastor’s child stereotype and wanted to shrug it off, but in trying to do that, she enforced it the more.
I understand that stories are different, but I feel that most pastors children are “bad” because even when they are not, they are still being accused wrongly. So why not do what you are being accused of, so the punishment can fit the crime?
When I got a phone in 100 level, my father would check my phone everytime I returned home. He was always looking for something to hold against me, a sign that I slipped into the very sin he was warning me about, or that I had ventured on the path of destruction. He stopped doing that when I was in 300 level because he found no evidence.
In 300 level, I stopped asking for money from home except I was given. This was because I understood that I had siblings that needed to be taken care of and I could manage whatever I was given rather than demand constantly. One day, at about 4am in the morning, my mum called me and wanted to know where I was. “I’m in my hostel,” I said. “Where else?” The next thing she said was that she and my father saw a vision that I had started sleeping with men for money. At 4am.
Back when I was in secondary school, he made me promise with the Bible in my hand that I would remain a virgin until marriage. This affected me in my relationships, because anytime I wanted to go further, willingly, I would remember that promise and feel a pang of guilt for wanting pleasure.
When I eventually had the sex, I beat myself up so much. I felt that I had let him down and that I had let God down too, and so I was going to receive double punishment for that very sin. For a long time, I would use my menstrual pain as a punishment of my sin — each time it came, I dwelled in it as a form of penance.
I am done with school now, and I like to believe that I am in a better place: I have more understanding about things, more control. But in school, I felt like I was spiralling. I went to night clubs. I drank alcohol. I tried weed. I did everything I was told not to do, partook in the vices that we judged unbelievers for. I did these things not because I was completely interested, but because I wanted to know what it felt like to be in the other shoe. I wanted to live life free of the expectations demanded from me as a pastor’s daughter. I wanted to live the other life my parents were fiercely determined to keep me away from, because of their religious positions.
“I never really got the chance to be close to my father. By the time I was born, he had become so invested in the ministry that he had little or no time for me. My father is the type of person who would favour his church members over his own family, and I did not like that. It was as though all the love he had left in him was reserved for them. They took higher precedence in his list of priorities, and I hated that. I went from one member’s house to another, and eventually, I was molested, but I couldn’t tell anyone because I was too young to understand what happened.”
Continue reading: 6 Nigerians Talk About Life As A Pastor’s Child