I took close to three decades to utter these four words that had haunted me for the better part of my life; “Mum I love you.” I had to. I was scared of not saying them before Annabelle or Adrian sets in the world (God willing) of Kageshi and I. It happened spontaneously as I conducted vote of thanks after a family function. It still sounded awkward, but I had to say it. Time had come. I was happy and relieved to have conquered that stubborn part of me. I didn’t grow up in an environment where parents said words like “Andrew, I love you”. That’s not how my siblings and I were conditioned. I don’t blame my parents either. There was no way they’d give what didn’t exist in their lives. They too were not accustomed to that. Just like many others, they were in a transition of struggling to shed off the village way of parenting and embracing contemporary avenues of raising kids. Good or bad, they were wading in the mixed jungle of traditions and 90’s & 2000’s civilizations. Why would they have worried about giving us a goodnight kiss while there was more to deal with; like paying school fees, ensuring we had at least the basics in life and that the cows were dewormed?
Not a single day did they hug us, until it felt queer to be hugged by mum or dad. Childhood was a mixed bag in our lives. We had to discover ourselves along the way and fight for our dreams, to keep them alive. We were also to paddle in the confusion of being in a middle class school and living in the village. There were neither TV, FM radio stations nor electricity. But there was KBC…..John Karani and Charity Karimi of the Kings and Queens Show, from 4pm every weekday. Woooh! That was one huge show, listening to Mysterious Girl by Peter Andre, The Boy Is Mine – Brandy and then Usher happened. Meanwhile Sundowner from 6pm by Catherine Ndonye and the late Nzau Kalulu (RIP legend) were too sensational to miss. Kiss FM came through in 2002 if I’m not wrong. In fact there is one song by Ja rule ft. Ashanti which always reminds me of those years in class 7. It used to play frequently in Kiss. Away from that; we visited the barber once in three months. We engaged in hunting hares and grazing our dad’s cattle. Cutting napier grass that left itches on our arms and getting the right formula of mixing ‘dairy meal portions with molasses’ for the livestock. Waking up early to get ‘weeds’ which served us feeds for our rabbits. We also learnt to milk cows at an early age and ride “adult-bicycles” pretty early.
Fast forward today. That can’t be copy pasted to now. Our kids grow in storey estates or in houses with tiny compounds and a kitchen garden if lucky. Kids of this generation need to be affirmed daily. They need to be hugged after a family breakfast and dropped at the school gate. And before they chuck out of the car, they expect a high five and be like; “Daddy I love you.” And you nod firmly saying; “I love you too sweet thing.” You have to befriend their teachers and monitor they performance in school. You’ll even insist they become active in co-curricular activities in school. You will read for them bedroom stories before they fall asleep. Other times you will kiss them at the forehead goodnight and chase them to sleep.
Phrases like; “Andrian, Mum and Dad love you” is too costly to overlook. They’ll grow in an environment where everybody speaks English including the house girl and where everything under the roof is monitored by CCTV camera. Their rooms will even have panic buttons. They will be better at operating your phone than you. They’ll play football within high perimeter walls and do hide and seek in parking yards. In the evening you’ll play chess game together as a family. They will call to ask why you are late to get home on those days your colleagues convince you to pass by the ‘local’. On bad days, while hanging those annoying headphones on their necks, they’ll throw tantrums and slam doors to their bedrooms ‘cursing’ you. You’ll look helpless in body and demeanor as your poor gait will be left staring a closed door. And do nothing about it. You will worry about what they browse on their laptops or what they watch while you are away. You will struggle to teach them about sex education and how that road is a no go zone, at least for now.
You will love these kids so much to devote all your evenings in getting interested on how they do their homework. You will remind yourself about BODMAS and LCM mathematics. Speaking of LCM; you will have wondered why 1/2 + 1/2 is resulting to 2/4 (in your head) only to remember after a whole 30 foolish minutes that there was one damn thing called LCM that Mr. Njeru taught you in class 5. Hahaha. You will also recite that song that helped you recall colours of the rainbow only to learn that it was changed to a new one by this digital generation. You will buy them test papers every week and mark them so diligently. On some days you will sleep late hours as you drive a formula home that Annabelle will probably have failed to comprehend in class; addition of Mixed Fractions and Area of a cylinder. And that Area and Perimeter are two different things. Haki ya nani!! Other times homework will be done in the morning because Mummy and Daddy will have been late in their Masters classes and the kids will have taken that advantage to watch BlackList with the house girl.
You will sacrifice your office work for a Parent’s Day meeting. This will awaken memories of your dad showing up with a newspaper at hand during your times. You will realise how time flies first and how you will have metamorphosed to a daddy. Walking side by side with your young ones to their class teacher will rekindle many nostalgic memories from those good old days. When you received your first letter from a girl named Maureen* (not her real name) that your sisters found in your shirt on that sunny Saturday while cleaning your clothes. They laughed and made fun of you for so long until it started to bother you…….Holding his hand, you will wonder if Andrian has a Maureen* in his life and whether she has jolted a letter to your heir yet! Back to where we were. Sitting pretty and watching those cute, innocent faces recite poems and plays, amid cheers from the parents will make you appreciate how life moves fast. It will feel good to be a parent. It will hit you that you are ageing gracefully. You will find yourself rising up and asking hard questions during the PTAs meetings; like why parents are paying staggering amounts of money for transport yet the school bus keep breaking down, inconveniencing the kids and the parents. Or why parents must buy the so called ‘weekend uniform’ for borders when the pupils have several pairs of P.E kits. Worse still, why uniform have to be bought from the school when it is way cheaper out there.
Being the best daddy has always been your wish and wondering whether you have achieved that so far, will be tough to answer.
El jurado está fuera El jurado! (The jury is out! - Spanish)