A Precarious Adolescent in a Polygamous Family

Girl disappointedRose Nansubuga (not real names) was a happy girl doing her primary education in a semi-urban school in Masaka district. As she was completing her Primary School she was known for her cheerful character and being a friend to everyone. She was a hyper-active pupil not only in co-curricular activities; she also excelled in her academics. When she emerged as one of the best performed pupil in Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) her father decided to take her to a “city school” in Kampala.

Rose always had a high esteem for her parents, especially for her beloved dad. She knew him as a hard working person and a man of principles. He was her role model in all Christian virtues. Her mother always whispered to her that she too should get a faithful, committed and God-fearing husband like she is blest with. Little Rose always bragged about her father’s virtues to her school-mates.

Now her dad worked hard to gather more resources to take her to a boarding school. He worked as a transporter plying between Kampala and Masaka. He hoped that her daughter will do better in school than his son who is very average in studies in a neighbouring village school. The father’s decision of giving better education to her increased her love and admiration for him. Thus Rose received enough emotional and moral support from her father.

When the time came for Rose to go to school she was taken to the city for shopping and she was to stay in a “friend’s home” for two days before reporting to school. Her father took her to a small apartment of a young woman living with two children aged four and two. Though the woman was already informed about the visit of Rose, she did not show much interest in receiving the young visitor. Moments after arrival in this little home, Rose felt uneasiness in her father and this woman. Soon Rose discovered that there seems to be a serious “bond” between them. The woman had a command over her father even more than her own mother.

Without much introduction, Rose understood that this woman is another wife to her father.  She understood that her dad stays in this “small home” when he comes to Kampala for business. Rose confirmed everything when her father asked her to address this woman as “mum” and not “madam”. This came as a lightning to her tender heart. Her world full of her father was shattered. She spent the whole night crying silently and wanted to forget the whole issue as though it was a nightmare. The treatment she received from this “mum” too was not pleasant. Rose felt unwanted and needed to leave this home as soon as possible.

Now reaching the school and settling in a new environment was a struggle to her. Besides coming to know that her father is a polygamous man and having hidden this big story of his life from the rest of the family made her to lose her esteem and respect for her dad. Overnight her father has become an irresponsible, dishonest, pretentious, and an unfaithful father to her. All the Christian values her father stood for became a big question mark to her.

Rose began her secondary education with a bad note. She spent long hours brooding over the new story she has come to know. She gave into self-pity and she is no more the happy girl she was known to be. She even began to “hate” her father and began to feel pity for her mother and wondered how her mother will take this news if she comes to know. She could not apply herself fully into studies contrary to the resolutions she had made. As the year rolled by, she distanced herself from her father. She is no more the “daddy’s girl” she used to be. The dad became a mere “provider” of needs. Her great sense of love and respect for her dad vanished. She is no more an ambitious, joyful and intelligent young adolescent at least for now.

After Rose coming to know the “new family”, the dad can no more keep his second wife and his polygamous nature of his life a secret. Soon his wife and his son came to know things in every detail. Her brother turned to be rebellious and misbehaving boy. He even makes provocative commends to test the patience of his dad. He too suffered low-confidence on himself and become underperforming lad.

Now the husband’s relationship with his wedded wife too suffered greatly. He began to lose contact with his children and became a poor manager of his family affairs. His unfaithfulness began to be projected on other dealings of life. Now he had to become more accountable of his finances and the time he spends outside his family. His sense of belonging to the family became questionable.

His wife who has been faithful to him for many years besides being shocked wondered where she has gone wrong in her relationship with him and felt that there is a vacuum in her life. She began to accuse herself of not satisfying him as a caring wife. She began to feel that now she has to carry the burden of the family and give more emotional support to her children. She builds a closer bond with Rose and finds her son’s rebellious and conflicting character unbearable. Meanwhile at school the children came to know that they are not the only ones in such situation but there are many more undergoing similar torments like them.

Adolescents should know that they cannot do much about this family situation but see brighter side of the family. Surely the situation teaches them a lesson for their own life on what kind of family they themselves would build. They ought to settle down in school life rather than wasting time brooding over the spilt milk. They need to be children of their parents rather than being a moral judge over them. Judging the parents only make them become prejudiced and widen gap in their relationship with them.

Parents should reassure their children that they love them despite their own weakness. Being apologetic in some occasions will also loosen tension at home. Now it is a challenge to them to balance their quality time with their children and provide equally to all the children they have fathered. They need to give good examples to the children in other moral and religious matters and continue to feed their children in other Christian values that they always stood for. “Fall” in one situation does not necessarily mean failure in other matters of life. Teachers and adults in control need to understand the fragile nature of such young people and advice and treat them accordingly.

  1. How does the polygamy issue affect young/adolescent children?
  2. How does this problem affect their relationship with their parents?
  3. Having been in polygamous situation what lessons children can learn for their future?
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