DEAR SON: Teach me how to hold you

Friday September 8 2017

Ouch, those pointed nails of yours! Your mum

Ouch, those pointed nails of yours! Your mum could chew them away every time she got the opportunity but they grew back faster than a bamboo shoot. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 


I must have looked stupid that Sunday. I always look back and thank God that nothing fatal happened. I was holding you rather carelessly, not knowing that your little hands were not strong enough to hold onto me.

I was crossing the road when in the blink of an eye, you dangerously swung backwards. I always shudder to think you could have fallen on your back and left me with your legs on my hands while your torso fell down.

Okay, maybe I’m being paranoid. I’ve never heard of a baby who fell and disintegrated that way. But it was close. You were about four months old and I don’t know where you summoned the strength to spring back. Somehow, you kept your balance. Somehow, you didn’t fall. Somehow, I continued crossing the road, with the newspaper I’d just bought still on my right hand as I carried you using the left.

Many are the times I look back at that day and imagine what would have happened if you fell backwards. Maybe your spine could be shattered forever and leave poor me regretting for having been too preoccupied with a newspaper headline that I let my baby snap away.


Maybe I could have become the laughing stock of my estate. I can imagine gossips labelling me “the man who broke his child’s back” or “he who let his baby do a fatal somersault”. I would have hated myself forever.

It's true what they say: babies do not come with manuals. I know you did not always enjoy the way I held or carried you. I hope you will one day tell me why you would wail like a Red Cross siren when I held you on some days but be totally calm when your mum held you the same way. Did you have some kind of beef with me?

And when eventually your hands learnt how to grip, I’m afraid they started on a wrong note. You would grip my ear or nose with a grip firmer than that of a G-clamp. Then you would squeeze until my ear’s temperature would rise to 1,538 degrees Celsius, which is also the melting point of iron.


Ouch, those pointed nails of yours! Your mum could chew them away every time she got the opportunity but they grew back faster than a bamboo shoot. It is those nails that would lead your fingers’ assault on my nose and there is a day I actually felt like you were torturing me. Thank God the government no longer needs people to work in Nyayo House.



This series brings you writings by PETER MOGAMBI, a Nairobi residentwho became a father in January 2017. By the time his son is old enough to read and comprehend, which is at least 11 years from today, a lot of water will have passed under the bridge. So, he has decided to preserve happenings in black and white so that when the boy can finally comprehend, he will get to follow his father’s feelings.