DADDY DIARIES: Lessons from generation to generation

Tuesday November 19 2019

How will these young ones called ‘kababa’ change bulbs and wash their boxers in future when would-be training is currently being done by caretakers and washing machines or house girls respectively? ILLUSTRATION | IGAH


I am raising a son, so nothing bothers me more than knowing we live in a society where men are touted to be useless; a pale shadow of the generations gone by.

Men who jump on top of the table because a random rat just scuttled across the floor. Men who park by the roadside and beg for help in pumping up the car jack to replace a flat wheel on their blue Subarus.

They have even said we are consuming copious amounts of carcinogenic food and hard liquor our tools of trade no longer rise to the occasion at the hour of need.

Our reputation as the male folk is in tatters.

It is almost impossible to imagine that our grandparents were able to marry more than four wives and, like that good slogan, offer utumishi kwa wote.

These days most of us can hardly manage one girlfriend without constant reminders about our unromantic nature, or ‘Deadbeat Alert’ posts splashed all over social media.


Now, if this generation was brought up by the last group of strict parents and we have turned out this wayward, how will these young ones called ‘kababa’ change bulbs and wash their boxers in future when would-be training is currently being done by caretakers and washing machines or house girls respectively? Things are thick.


It could be just me, but I do not know if anyone else among you has realized that children tend to pick valuable lessons from mothers through word of mouth but inculcate more of what their fathers do than say.

Growing up, my dad and I were a bit distant (like most father-son relationships of our time), but he subconsciously instilled four vital lessons that have stuck with me decades later.

The first, and perhaps the simplest, was how to tie a tie. I still remember his hands knotting the two ends of my then new navy blue high school tie into a clean finish that wowed me. That was in 1999.

I have taken this a notch higher and started earlier by showing mine how to strap his shoe laces, wrap a watch around his wrist and, as expected, tie a tie.

The second lesson was in marriage. My late grandfather was a monogamist, so all his four sons, including my dad, married one woman.

Probably because none of them knew what it was like to introduce another momma to the family as the newly acquired wife.

Only one of my dad’s brothers remains alive today, but at no funeral did we witness strange women pushing into the tents labelled ‘FAMILY’ unknown children bearing stark resemblances to our genetic forehead.

Still on marriage, dad was very harsh when handling his children, beating us senseless for very minor mistakes, but he became so toothless when it came to mom.

Mr. Ambani was a novice at domestic violence, and my grandmother confided in me that our late grandfather possessed that same character.

None of those great men sat me down to talk against domestic violence, they simply kept their angry hands off their wives.

They were men of integrity, a virtue passed on from their father and now lingers as a must-share legacy with my own son.


The third was putting every shortcoming aside and coming to the party when needed.

The two of us may have had a growth gap earlier in life, until I mentioned I was getting married and, secondly, wanted to build, then I was introduced to a father I had not known for over two decades.

On the marriage part, he instructed me to keep quiet so that he talks when we went to meet her parents, and he did such an excellent job that even the bride price was negotiated slightly downwards (Pssssst).

When I started building, he appointed himself the foreman and guarded that project like his own until a complete house was handed to me and the last fundi walked off the site.

He died a month after the official house warming.

The fourth and most important lesson was resilience.

You see, my old man battled heart failure for close to a decade, years he oscillated between home and the hospital.

He was a strong man through it, so much that you would meet him roaming around like a man in his prime, concealing all hints that his heart was beating at a rate lower than 50 percent.

The strength with which that man fought his ailment was more than any soldier employs in a war, and although he lost the battle he died with his head held high.

It is the kind of resilience I hope to not only build in myself but also my five-year-old. Even in death, immobile and unable to speak, he was still teaching me.

Evidently, the most conspicuous traits I picked from the man I became close to in his twilight years were the subconscious examples he set non-verbally.

That is to say that if we current day fathers put our inequities aside and came together to set perfect examples for our boys, the next generation will have great men.