I sat amazed looking at the man sitting opposite me, wondering why he was taking this particular action and if he had fully considered all the ramifications of the long lasting and definitely regrettable implications of what he was doing. We were at a diagnostic center to conduct DNA testing on the children his marriage. His estranged wife had asked for maintenance, after the man refused to pay school fees and upkeep for two years following the couple’s separation and he had countered with an application to the court for DNA testing to ascertain whether the children were indeed his before he could be compelled to pay.
We all sat with stoic eyes looking straight ahead, not talking, not even making eye contact and at a point I had to call one of the children to ask whether they had greeted him when he swaggered in. She said yes, she mouthed a greeting across the aisle and he nodded in acknowledgment but there was no small talk, no camaraderie, no jousting. Nothing!
The above scene came to mind recently with the press statement issued by the High Court Judge as to the paternity of the children of his first marriage and I couldn’t but wonder what the atmosphere would have been like at the testing center. Did they call him Daddy, greet him warmly before taking the tests or like the children in my case acknowledge him with a nod if they acknowledged him at all.
We have all played Judge and Jury over the life of the Judge but then he brought his story to the public forum and he should have expected the emotional reactions his story has invoked. Although many people have gone back and forth on the right of the Judge to his truth, my concerns are for the people at the center stage of the whole saga- the children, the poor hapless creatures who had found themselves naked in the market place with the spotlight upon them.
It is with them I pitch my tent as usual and it is purely in their defense that I speak.
These children have already faced the challenges and pain of a broken home. They may have felt that their parents’ divorce was due to some fault of theirs, may have felt the pain that came with their father remarrying and bearing more children as if to replace them. If they lived in the same town, they surely would have been confronted with their father’s happiness with his new family.
I consider the bewilderment they must be facing to know that the person they had known all their lives and identified with, is not their father. The mixed feelings of fear and relief that must have played through their minds as they look back at certain actions with the benefit of hindsight, their remembrance of snide remarks and sarcasm by relatives, the thought as to what people would say when they introduce themselves with the name they have borne all their lives or even what names they will now bear or if they will all bear the same names. The requirement that they may have to change records into their new names. The feelings of pride at bearing their fathers name that has been wrenched away from them. The introduction to a new family and children who may look at them as people who will dilute their inheritance, the eternal feeling of always being an outsider and the hatred and/or anger they will feel towards the Honorable Judge, his wife and their mother.
Our children don’t need to know just how nasty their mother is or how their father chases after everything in skirts at least not until they are adults, mature and able to decipher between wrong and right. They don’t need to know every detail of our fights because frankly speaking they are not the ones married to us, we married each other. They don’t need to be arbiters in the relationship between husband and wife after all they weren’t there when you started dating. But they have a right to be protected emotionally from the harsh realities of relationships and life in general. They are not pawns to be tugged between parents who are so embittered and selfish that all they can see is the wrong done to them and not they ones they are doing to their children.
Please don’t get me wrong, it is a terrible thing to pass off children belonging to someone else as another’s but it is more terrible to destroy lives that didn’t ask to be born. I do not judge the Honorable Judge because I have not walked in his shoes, nor do I know what prompted his press statement. Opinions are rife as to his actions and I must say that when you look at it from all angles, everyone has a point.
Some have said that a man of his standing in the society should never have come out publicly as he did because Judges are held to a higher standard than the common man. The ethics of the profession are quite strict and a serving judge is not allowed to draw public attention to himself in such a manner. For these group of people, the issue was mainly with the office he occupied and nothing else.
Others have no issues with his public office, as far as they are concerned he has been wronged and should do all he can to cleanse his lineage. Yet some have denounced him roundly for acting like a woman, being bitter, vindictive stating that he should have taken the bitter pill as a man without coming to the public.
It has degenerated to a fight between the sexes, with feminists berating him for embarrassing the former wife and for not being able to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of his troubles whilst the Patriarchs are hailing his stance and calling on men to recognize their emotions and the need to speak out and not retreat in the so called manly manner which is tantamount to emasculating their manhood.
Like I said earlier, I do not judge the Honorable Judge, he alone knows his pain and he is entitled to get relief but I just wish he had done it in a less public manner, the whole world, nay even his children didn’t have to know they were not his, he could have carried his secret and theirs to his grave and disclose it in his Will or waited until they were grown and able to better accept the truth.
N.B – the paternity result of the children in my story was out after 2 weeks. 99.9% all his but the relationship destroyed forever and that’s what DNA tests does to a family, whether positive or negative something, mostly trust dies.