DEAR SON: I still have endless questions on fatherhood 12 months later

Saturday December 30 2017

Our church says children can be baptised while

Our church says children can be baptised while still in their diapers. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

By PETER MOGAMBI

Dear Jijee,

It is just days to your first birthday as I type this. How time flies! It seems like yesterday when you stormed into the world with a shriek on that dusty Tuesday morning.  

I am still deciding which cake to buy. I know you will eat just a few grams of it and the rest will be shredded onto the ground, like you have done with other cakes before. And I’m having second thoughts about lighting a candle on top of the cake because your pesky fingers may reach for the flame and convert the party to a first aid session. Not yet time to learn by burning fingers.

It has been an eventful 12 months with you around, and today I have 12 questions to ask:

 

1. Will I ever convince myself to hire a house help?

As soon as I forget the haunting clips of house helps beating their employers’ children senseless, a new and more depressing story comes up. The latest is about a man who was a sex addict for close to three decades. By the time he found the need to change, he had become a slave of his mental desire to have sex with every woman. He had been a rapist and had reached a point where he was flashing his sexual organs to random women on the streets. The worst bit about the story is that he was introduced into sex at the age of seven by a house help who abused him for over a year. When I heard the story, I could not help fearing that in case we employ a house help, she may be doing everything well but abusing you in private. It will haunt me forever. Are there any good house helps left, really?

 

2. When will you learn to speak and spare us the many suggestions?

You should hear the many pieces of advice we receive whenever you have one condition or another. It can be something as simple as a running nose but there will be 6,095 different suggestions from all the mothers in the neighbourhood “who have been there” on what to do. “It is because you bring him out without a cap,” one will say, even when it is piping hot outside. “This sweater is too light. He will catch pneumonia,” another will say, regardless of the fact that pneumonia is caused by micro-organisms that people breathe in. “That coughing means you should not give him a cow’s milk,” advises another. I wish you could talk soon so that you can explain how you feel and what you like.

 

3. Where would you be if not for God’s protection?

It has been 12 months of falls, some minor; some that may make any parent’s guts form a knot from the scream you make. Twelve months of you thrusting all manner of solids into your mouth, wherever you find them. A year of being carried to public places by your parents despite your vulnerable immunity. A year of parents being on the edge. It is only the Almighty to be thanked for keeping you safe for this long.

 

4.  Is it necessary to have a child baptised as some churches recommend?

Our church says children can be baptised while still in their diapers. But some sceptics say there is no need to baptise someone who is yet to commit a sin. A big dilemma.

 

5. Are the parents who desert their kids normal?

I have heard cases of parents who abandoned their children to suffer; of fathers who went to work in cities and left their children in the countryside with their mothers. Lately, I have been wondering whether that is normal. To have a child is, as one commentator wrote on Facebook recently, to have your heart live outside you. It will not be normal to think about staying away from your child for too long — given the hugs, the unpretentious love and the general warmth a child brings to one’s life.

 

6. What, pray, is the best oil for a baby’s skin?

One causes rashes and when you change to another, there is a noticeable change but which is short-lived. Then you try another that almost works but you don’t seem to see the results. Which way, baby oil manufacturers?

 

7. Will Nairobi air hurt you?

I read somewhere that Nairobi has the most polluted air in the country, what with the hundreds of thousands of cars with engines of different sicknesses and thirst. There are also tens of fuel stations owned by people with different appetites for money. That means the dangerous compounds like lead that are usually found in ill-refined fuel are not entirely absent from the fumes ejected by the vehicles of different sicknesses. So I cross my fingers, hoping the air pollution will not affect you in any way.

 

8. How will I reward that nurse who delivered you?

Kenyans are not known for giving tips but I have been toying with the idea of going back to the hospital where you were born to present a small gift to the nurse who attended to your mother up to the point when you were delivered. But what I should give her is still a tough decision to make.

 

9. Can humanity ever appreciate fully the miracles around childbirth?

Even though the most I was taught about conception and birth was in a biology class in secondary school, I have witnessed many miracles around childbirth that humanity may never have realised. For instance, how does a child learn to suckle? How does the transition from taking in a mother’s oxygen to breathing happen? How does a child cope with sudden temperature transitioning? There is so much that is a mystery; so many miracles of nature.

 

10. What do our neighbours think of your crying?

There are nights when you get mad at one thing or another and cry at very ghostly hours. And sometimes I wonder what profile our neighbours have of you. Perhaps there are some who have nicknamed you “the siren”. Or there are those who recognise your cries as “the pesky boy who cries when even the ghosts are asleep”. Whatever it is that they think, I may never know because whenever we encounter the neighbours, they are ever cordial towards you, with words like, “He has grown up so fast” or “He is so big now”. I wish I could read their minds deep down. Or is it possible that the cries aren’t heard outside?

 

11. But who taught you to dance?

Tanzanian singer Harmonize and his compatriot Rich Mavoko should see the way you get carried away by their hit song Show Me whenever it plays on the radio. It is not the most decent of songs for young souls but it has the power to make people dance. Whenever it plays on radio, or when any other song with a nice beat plays, the result is you shaking asymmetrically, almost artificially, as you stand using whatever item is close enough for support. And often you will have one hand raised like a Rastafarian. Why you raise that little hand is something I haven’t been able to fathom.

 

12. And who appointed you the ad critic?

People who create TV adverts should enlist your services in telling which one strikes a chord easily with the masses, especially with the tunes that come with the ads. This is because there are ads that, even if they play for a zillion times, are guaranteed make you stop whatever you are doing to look at the screen — despite the fact that you don’t understand what is being said or know the product being advertised. Some even make you dance in excitement. I can already see a situation where the ad creators, before releasing the final product, play tune and if it cannot distract your suckling, they dump it and compose another. You can reap top dollar from that.

 

With love,

Dad

 

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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.