On your address bar type ‘Father attacked by children’. The overflowing Google has nothing on that. And that does not mean the vice is non-existent because you and me know fathers who live in fear of their closest folks. Fathers who should be magnificent in their talk and walk, guiding families and correcting mistakes have been transformed into timid gazelles.
Mundoro Area,Kiambu County
(The setting is a rural home. A peculiar hiatus in the fence reveals a well-kept homestead. The lawn is almost perfect; a bungalow rises at the corner of the square compound. A smaller house is built at the corner opposite the main building just before the cattle unit where a cow is mooing softly. A bulb is lit in each of the houses.)
Man’s Voice 😦 Loudly and angrily) Mama is he home yet?
Woman’s Voice: How many times have I requested you not to ask me that question Kariuki? (Aside) Your father thinks of nothing else other than to spend our money with prostitutes in the bar.
Kariuki: He was to summon the veterinary officer to treatMutune and none of them showed up all afternoon. The cow is suffering and might die.
Kariuki’sMother :( Sarcastically) Let it die. In fact they should all die.(Walking out of the house) The last time I received a coin for tending to the cattle you were still suckling. All I do is break my back all day only for that man to use the money on booze and women.
Kariuki: Mama I have a scheme. We should teach him a lesson. How many homes around us have no men but are better off than us. It’s time to remove and burn the thorn that has been crippling us.
Kariuki’s Mother: Shush. Come here my son.(Kariuki edges closer to the mother) It is time you have thought like a man. I see I brought you up well.
Kariuki:(Looking over his back)It should happen soon.
Kariuki’s Mother: It should have happened a long time ago. It’s time to remove and burn the thorn.
(A black figure appears from the hiatus and staggers towards the bungalow. It takes the figure of a man, drunk but fearful. He looks up and sees Kariuki and his wife.)
Man:(Rumbles incomprehensible words then startles off.) WaKariukimutiremurakoma?(You are yet to sleep)
Kariuki’s Mother: Acanikurotaturarota.(No. We are sleep-walking)
Man:NikiinyinawaKariukiunjaragiriauguo tandikihii?(Why do you, mother to Kariuki, address me like an uncircumcised lad?)
Kariuki’s mother: Wagitua ta kioukwendangwaririeatia?(When you behave like one how then should I address you?)
Man:(Shaking with rage and advancing towards his wife. Hands clenched into fists) Youclearly do not know me woman. I will teach you how to respect people tonight.
(Screams.A loud thud.Silence.)
Kariuki’s Mother:(To Kariuki) Robbers followed him from the bar and attacked him at the gate. (She lets out an ear-shattering scream and neighbours respond immediately.)
The above seems like an excerpt from a Gikuyu play by Fanaka Arts Theatrebut the moment you experience it, muscles in your stomach twitch.
Fathers have a noble role to play. It is so big a responsibility that it bewitches them, testing their sanity and power to reason. In their quest to perfect their part, and teach us our part, they lose it. A father is an alarm clock, a lights out matron, a guard by night and a guide by day. I remember growing up in rural Kinangop where and when bushes grew big, elephants came out of the Nyandarua Forest at night, leopards visited our sheep’s pen, mongooses played hide and seek with our chicken and we would run outside to take selfies with them. I’m shitting you. We would shit and pee on ourselves as our mother looked, too frightened to do anything other than stare. Mothers have fangs, so she would growl at us and we would pee again. Then father would walk in with his collected poise and tin torch, the fear in the house would disappear through the chimney, my mother’s fangs would go back to their shells. Her fear would also escape and our beautiful mother would return yaay! The elephants, leopards, mongooses and hyenas would be as tame as a dog and we would dream of riding them, with our father watching us. That is what fathers do; they make us beautiful when we are ugly. They wipe our tears, look at our bruised toes with their healing spell and all becomes well. Our fathers taught us many cool things like how to hold a pencil and write in a good handwriting, they introduced us to Pierre Piper and Simon Makonde, made us learn poetry and cherish the early bird seated upon the tree. They bought us books about Moses and Mildred, introduced us to MejaMwangi and Jaba Nene and the flying bus. They taught us to work for our cake and added emphasis to our mother’s doctrine.
The first tetanus injection I received after stepping on a rusty iron nail was only administered when my father was looking on; he even made it fun by rewarding me with a day off school. He never growled or threatened like my mother would, he just explained how my foot would swell like an elephant and the doctor will have to cut it off and I was perplexed, I did not even feel the sting of the needle. Later as he carried me home on his bicycle he told me men do not cry; I have never cried since. I grew up when the male parent was referred to as father not daddy. Daddy sounds soft and shallow, like one who plays P.S the whole day, invites the boys over at the house for mother to cook for them, and talks to any willing ear of his petty achievements. Fathers during our days appeared ruthless but now I appreciate the look, it concealed the gem inside so no one could snatch them from us.
Then we started growing up. Eight, nine, ten, eleven… the oldest was seventeen the youngest was four. Things grew pretty hot and the only time he did escape was when he came back with ice cream for us to lick as he put out the fire. There is no fire literally, but at this age we demand a lot of resources from our parents. There are school fees to be paid, the need to expand to a bigger house, we eat like chicken, we fall sick, and we need the class readers the headmaster sent us home to buy. Our fathers try to maintain the good image of the family and this leads them to labour from dawn to dusk. They take loans from any willing shylock, they beg at the Community Developments Fund office and it’s not an appealing sight to see a father beg. How do you begin to beg in a bass?
“Hello Miss Ann,” he smiles, and hasn’t smiled since the mid-wife told him it’s a boy. So Miss Ann takes it for a wince.
“Mnapeana bursaries za form one hii term?” Kiswahili is a good language to ask for afavour in.
“Yes Sir. You will have to fill this form, get the right signatures done and the interview is due in two weeks.” My father leaves the office thinking of how to get the chief and the pastor to sign. See the previous week, the chief’s cattle had invaded our farm and my father had made him pay by threatening to ruin his reputation. The pastor had not received my father’s tithe for over a year and making him sign was another deal all together.
What I am trying to do is not to expose my father I am just putting across the troubles we have put our fathers in. All these efforts and embarrassment goes unnoticed but let him make a mistake of taking a beer or realizing his mid-life crisis dream of buying a boat-I mean a motie like all African fathers dream about. You are the first to hit out at him.
“He has bought a car. Let us see how long the Buick rolls before we start brooding chicken in it.” And you appoint yourself the record keeper. Last month its wheels were changed and engine checked with over thirty thousand namimihapanafukuzwa bedsitter. We blame him for problems we experience even when we are past twenty one. We blame our fathers for unpaid KPLC tokens, for dates gone bad, for being perpetually broke and just anything we feel like. The worst we can do is to try to dethrone them or assume their presence.
What we should do is to support them. I compare our life with the biblical exodus, our fathers with Moses and us with Joshua, Hur and Aaron. Moses was supposed to lead them against the Amalekites not by wielding the swords but by only lifting up his hands. Our fathers are not only in the battle with us but are leading us by receiving ordinance and blessings from God on our behalf, not for themselves, but for us. We, their children are defeated when we fail to appreciate that it is a battle we have to fight while the old man is stretching his hands over us. When he is weak, we should not jeer him but instead we should help him stretch his hands and in fact hold them upright just as Aaron and Hur did. He has to appear strong for us to be strong. Through Fathers, God has blessed sons. Isaac had the power to bless and Rachael could only trick him into blessing Jacob at Esau’s expense. Someone is going to get saved tonight hallelujah.
When we were weak and needy they held our hands, stood against the tide while we clung onto them and we can only reward that by representing them now. Sticking to the instructions and disciplines they taught us, listening to them, and according them the respect they deserve. We should also make them beautiful by talking highly of them to friends, if we have to.
Then we have a father who has given us all we have. He is God. He deserves the best of representation and he has been a perfect and faithful father. He is a good good father and we’ve been loved by him. He has earned his respect by deed, and by deed we should give it back. This week, we are making dads beautiful, ama namna gani?