Dear Kenyan Father, Happy Father’s Day!
To walk your daughter down the aisle. To take out the trash. To fix your daughter’s car engine. To give your son the contacts of the best mechanic in town. To fix the light bulb. To teach your young daughter how to ride a bicycle. To check out her fiancé when she is ready to get married and scare him half to death just to make sure he treats her right.
How are you, dear Kenyan father, making an impact in the lives of your children?
You will know that providing for them is just not enough anymore. Their mothers can do so as well. She does not, after all, sit at home doing nothing. Unlike the women of yore, she is out there, too, in search of that bread that needs to be put on that table. So what have you done to help the mother of your children? She is helping you. How are you returning the favor?
Are you helping her raise your children? Wait, are you raising your children now, or do you still insist on being hands off like you were before? Do you still bark orders at your children hoping that it works like it did before? By now you know that that does not work anymore.
Have you reconciled yourself to the fact that whipping your children constantly without allowing dialogue will only backfire on you? That they might not be quite as blindly submissive as they were before? What are you, Kenyan father dearest, doing to understand and connect with your children?
If you are honest with yourself, you will admit that you have evolved. You have stepped away from being the hunter, the gatherer, the tiller of dry unyielding land; the hands-on man whose masculinity, strength, was strictly measured by his expertise at handling manual work. Admit it. You don’t have to do that anymore. You can do it. Some of you do it. But you don’t have to.
Now, you hardly ever get your hands dirty but still manage to provide for your family while donning that well-pressed suit, in that air-conditioned office, with those soft hands. You don’t need to break stones and plough land to make a living. I hope you are happy about that. You should be happy about that. Are you happy about that?
Are you happy that you can now be a chilled out father to your children. That you can stop being so aloof when relating with them? That you can in fact be their friend? Dare to be their BFF? That you can smile and laugh with your children? You never really did smile much before, now did you? And what was that about?
While you had to take on that unapproachable persona (why did you think you had to do that anyway?) which made us assume that your job as a father was only to discipline by whipping, yelling and barking orders, you should be happy that now your son can send you a message on WhatsApp and ask you to join him for a cold Tusker at Njuguna’s. That you can slap each other on the back as you exchange anecdotes and dot on your football teams.
You should be happy dear Kenyan father, that you can joke, laugh (even cry) with your children and allow them to see you at your best and at your worst. That you can use your own mistakes to educate them without worrying whether they will think any less of you.
Are you doing that? Are you passing important lessons to your offspring? Are you showing them the way? Are you setting the fatherhood bar higher than you found it? Are you allowing your children to be your friends? Are you closing any gaps that might exist between you and your children? Are you teaching them to respect others? Are you helping them deal with life?
Are you helping your sons to become men? Your daughters to become women?
Are you leaving a mark in your children’s lives?
I sure hope you are dear Kenyan father. I sure hope you are.
Happy Father’s Day!
llustration by Elsardt Kigen. Elsardt is a talented artist and a senior student of The Arts and Design at The University of Nairobi. He has won several Art Competitions including ‘Experiencing Kenyan Heritage Through Art’ (2013) where he was accorded a visit to the UK.