I met someone who doesn’t like children. I have heard of them but I never quite meet them. I met him by chance; I was picking up some chinos from this stall ran my boys who sell mitumba and clothes from Turkey; you must know them, they are always carrying fancy bags and wearing skinny jeans that are folded at the bottom. Those guys who can measure your waist by looking at you. I call them Fendi Boys.
Anyway, while in that shop I ran into a chap I used to see in this building where I was once employed very briefly by this sadistic jackass and his wife who doubled up as his business partner. (Darkest four months of my life.) Anyway, we strike up a conversation and he asks me how I’m doing. I tell him I’m great, got a son, growing old now, etc. “You?” I ask. “Kids?”
He says he doesn’t have kids. He looks to be in his late 40s.
“Kids are not for me!” he says, and I ask him what that means.
He says “Well, I just don’t like kids enough to have them,” and everybody in the shop turns to look at him like just said he likes human blood. “What don’t you like about children?” he shrugs and says that he just doesn’t have the capacity to be a dad to anyone.
“Plus I just don’t have the patience to raise a child. I find it tedious and boring and it doesn’t inspire me.” I laugh. I love his brutal honesty.
I know what you are thinking: what a selfish man! Who doesn’t like children? How can he not like children? Surely, children are like puppies – everybody likes them! “Do you like fruits, Biko?” he asks and I say, “Yeah, I like avocado and bananas.” He smiles and proceeds.
“Do you like farmers?” I think about it because I am sure he is going to trap me and I cannot for the life of me see where the trap lies.
I say, “Well, farmers are nice, I guess... yeah.”
Then he asks, “Would you become a farmer?” I say no, I like bananas but I’d hate to be the one to water them.
“So what does that make you?” he asks. I say, “Nothing. It just makes me a person who wouldn’t like to be a farmer... but surely you can’t compare farming beans with having children!” “But why not?” he asks. I thought about it later.
Does not wanting children make one inappropriate? I know that as much as they give us so much joy, they can be a pain in the neck.
First you have to feed them all the time and then take them out to a mall or wherever so that they see the world.
And out in the mall or in a park, you are not supposed to lose them, which means you have to follow them around and make sure they don’t get stolen by people who steal children for a living. It’s tiring at best.
But there are the fun bits, like when they surprise you by doing something totally grown up and unexpected.
Recently my almost four-year-old laughed dramatically and said, “You are so funny.” My head grew so big I wanted him to repeat it all the time.
Now when I’m feeling blue I think of him saying, “Papa you are so funny!” and I feel better.
I don’t know who wouldn’t want that! But then they grow up and become teenagers and they start hiding things and bodies from you and you don’t even know them.
Then they leave and become real people who have opinions about politics.
But there are guys who don’t need that. They want to live alone with their plants and the TV remote.
Or maybe with a wife.
I asked this guy what his wife thinks of this decision and he says she has learnt to live with it. “But that is so unfair to put her in that position,” Fendi Boy chipped in, and my friend said that he declared his stand before they got married.
And then he went and snipped his tubes.
“Does she want babies?” I asked, and he said now she does. “So now? Adoption?” and he said he doesn’t want a baby of any kind, not even an adopted one.
“Do you sometimes see a kid do something silly but adorable and you laugh and think, ‘Oh, I wish that one was mine’?” he shakes his head.
“Do you wonder what will happen to your name when you die? It will be like you were never here!” He said, “I can leave a charity or a trust or dig many wells in Turkana or educate many orphans or leave behind a big business with my name.” (I don’t know why I thought of OTC, that old bus company.)
He had a point.
But still... I wonder if one day, when you are old and you are lying alone in your deathbed, if you would think of the wells you dug in Turkana and feel grateful.