Parenting is about seed dispersal
There was a time when parents went to great lengths to ensure their children left home as quickly as possible and for good. In fact, boys were beaten into men the moment they started walking.
As a young lad, my father made it clear I had no business hanging around the kitchen. He was particularly averse to me fooling around the fireplace. And to ensure the message sank home, he connived with a circumciser who wasted no time turning me into a man.
Unfortunately, that didn’t quite stop me from hanging around the fireplace and clutching onto my mother’s skirt. That’s probably why he constructed a boys’ hut for me and my big brother next to the gate and made a big fuss about us being his bodyguards and all that.
But what he didn’t know is that we spent half the night shivering with fear of ghosts, wild animals, night runners and Angola Musumbiji — the meanest bandits of that era. Waking up was such a pleasant surprise because it confirmed that we were alive, we’d survived.
It was no different for other children. From when they were babies, their mothers would hold them firmly, cup an unwashed hand over their screaming mouths and force a nearly bucket full of sugarless porridge down their throats. The more they wailed, the more porridge gushed down their throats. In short, you either ate your porridge or your drowned.
Mothers confirmed that babies were full by tapping the tiny stomachs. If they rung out like a strung guitar wire, the little fellow was good to go. Of course many of those children died — from malaria, whopping cough, worms and other ailments engineered by the village witch.
But those who survived were the fittest and they grew up tough as nails. They are the ones calling the shots in government, rule Nairobi, run banks and own the skyscrapers you see all over the place. They are easy to point out because they will most likely lace the Queen’s English with an accent that pinpoints their exact village of birth.
It never, however, ceases to amuse me that as soon as these survivors make it, they go to great lengths to create eternal babies out of their children. Our babies are raised in such sanitised environments that the slightest contact with germs is enough to kill them.
We kiss them every morning, escort them to school, remind them every two minutes that we love them, help them with homework and employ house helps to carter for their every need. We even go as far picking them up from the university on graduation day.
Is it, therefore, any surprise that at 38, our ‘baby boys’ are still sucking thumbs in their mothers’ houses in Otiende and Lang’ata estates in Nairobi?