Photo: TV personalities Denis Okari and Betty Kyalo ended their marriage but have since patched up and are now co-parenting their daughter. It is possible.
By Gisiora Nyanchwani
Today I want us to pray for men who for some reason and special circumstances are not with their children ahead of Father’s Day. Many posts that will flood the internet tomorrow will remind many guys here who never knew their fathers and those deprived of the fatherhood role of their pain.
They are not deadbeats. Maybe inadequate, after a fashion. Whatever the reason, spare a thought for a growing number of men in our midst who have to make do with memories of their children, or numbing down the sick turn of events that has separated them from their children. I have talked to men in such situations and it is never easy. People think men are not capable of love, but dedicated and devoted men love their kids as much and want to be part and parcel of their lives beyond upkeep. But circumstances work differently for different situations to the detriment of the kids.
As a kid with no father, one of the horrors always was when kids with fathers always said, ‘my father bought me this, my father drives drives this, my father will bring this!’ And kids are super insensitive. But ‘fatherless’ children learn to deal with the gap, by shutting the proud kids out of their lives and developing an active imagination of who their father is. Even more haunting for them, is when the father is alive and somewhere in the world but they have no access. They grow to a point it stops to matter and relegated to a part of the brain like that forgotten tab on your Google chrome when you have 12 tabs open.
Often, women talk a bad game about deadbeats. Less talked about is the circumstances under which men end up as deadbeats or disappearing for good. Granted there are arseholes who just leave for no valid reason. I know many adults who don’t even know how their father looked.
A few years back, while in graduate school, my best professor(he was so good, and I was so lucky he taught me twice) told us in his two farewells that don’t ever bring kids to the world if you are not ready or interested in raising the them.
In his words, “Many adults bring forth kids to the world and they have no desire to do everything right about parenting…’
Hence we end up short-changing children, who are our responsibility. I differed with him, due to my strong Christian beliefs and somehow dismissed him that this must be faux Western enlightenment.
But four years later, I feel like going back to hug him. Folks, if you don’t yet have a kid, think through it thoroughly. Don’t get kids on a whim. There is a growing school of thought/philosophy called antinatalism. It assigns negative value to birth. Ethically, with the knowledge that we have now, we should only bring children to earth, if we can guarantee them a good life. There is no point of bringing a child to the world to suffer. And please, let’s stop romanticizing suffering. I used to be sent home for school fees and that shit hurts honestly, and embarases you to death. Being jobless carries a stiff stigma than we acknowledge. So, cut that shit about suffering. If you have suffered, your kids have no reason to go through it, ‘eti it toughens them’. I have hanged out with kids of the rich who didn’t suffer and they are OK. Let’s not argue about this.
Make no mistake, kids are some of the most beautiful things in the world. In my moments of darkness and desperation, my daughter has cheered me up. Shocks me that she ways senses that something is wrong. And her presence changes my moods for the better. She is fun to play with, and her nascent sense of humour is something to behold.
However, I wonder what the future has for her. Will the world be kinder to her? What decisions will she make in the future. And how will they impact her life?
Last week, I saw a girl being kicked out of an apartment early in a chilly morning. All she had was a little black, sleeveless dress. Must have been a one night stand or a date gone wrong. But I watched from the window as the man insulted her and the girl, about 22, walked the considerable distance to the gate with the little dignity remaining intact.
I felt such anger as I have never known. That is someone’s daughter, who was once loved, bought toys for, told she matters, being humiliated in a way she doesn’t deserve.
Yet, this is an all too familiar story in Nairobi. Men are beasts. They hit and run. No feelings. But girls are not innocent either.
Cities corrode us. Cities are unforgiving. Cities dirt our souls. We are soulless.
And that is the world our kids will grow into.
Save for death, a child needs two parents to turn up right. Not that single parents can’t bring up upright kids. But two parents, if they do their job proper, always give kids a sense of balance that is hard to replicate using whatever fancy formula modernity invents.
Most men my generation wanted to right the wrongs of their fathers and have gone out of their way to do better. But their better has not been good enough. And increasingly most are discovering that our fathers for all their ‘deadbeatness’, irresponsibility, absence (emotional and physical), there were reasons and circumstances for what happened.
And yet, another Father’s Day is upon us. As many will gloat, pontificate, celebrate, remember, forget, keep quiet, many more young and old men will have to make do without a good wish, or a gift from their child..
There are fathers who take years to see their kids. Some never see them. And they carry the pain to the grave.
Often the kids will never know the full story. Sometimes, once grown some make efforts to meet their fathers, but by then, the emotional chasm is so huge, no hugs, no amount of lunches, no amount of time spent together can bridge that.
Hence the kids learn to figure out life with no father. Most marry and hope to be better parents to their kids. But shit always goes wrong and the cycle goes on and on and on.
No easy way out to the situationships of life. We must learn to live with the imperfections, the incompleteness, the complexities, the twisted shit.
This for men to whom, Father’s Day is reminder of an awkward space life has thrown them into.
And if you are father, still with access to your child or children, cherish that moment. There is no guarantee that three years from now, you will wake up in the same house with the kid(s). Take it from me. You will miss the kid or kids. So, cherish the moment and strive to make sure you do better every day.
Happy Father’s Day, for the men who turn up. No matter what.