Being a first born comes with its fair share of ‘parental’ responsibilities; like looking after your siblings when your parents happen to travel out of town. Or, wading off bullies preying on them at school or in the hood. Or, attending a parents’ meeting in school on behalf of a busy parent. I have two siblings behind me. Boys. Lovely boys, both of them. Tons of promise. At one point or another, I’ve been ambushed {by my dad} with the most unrewarding task of attending a parents’ meeting in their respective schools. Unrewarding because I have the attention span of a rat, and so those long convoluted lectures don’t sit well with me. Long meetings ain’t my cuppa. Never mind that I’m a teacher. {Haha}.

Being in a family of boys. I’ve never known how it feels to have a sister. I often wonder what kind of a man I would have turned out to be if I had a sister. Would I be protective to a fault, and spoil her rotten with attention, gifts and tender care? Would it have helped me understand women better, and long realized that they’re always right, and stop engaging in futile fights and apologize no matter who’s wrong? Or would I just be this aloof and clueless nigga extorting men who dated her? What I’m sure of, though, is that she’d be such a gorgeous thing. Beautiful. Beautiful and very well adjusted. Well bred. She wouldn’t spend her Friday nights in Westlands smoking shisha, exhaling a grotesque cloud of smoke from her nostrils. She wouldn’t drink pilsner – or any other beer for that matter, she’d be a choosy wine girl. She wouldn’t laugh loudly. She’d keep her date waiting as she chows before offering her witty, well-thought-out response. She’d be sabre sharp. Sharp and well spoken and fun and she’d get on well with my woman – cut from the same cloth – and they’d gossip a lot hehe. She wouldn’t stir her tea noisily, or slurp it, because she’d understand it’s pesky and she’d hate people who do it. She wouldn’t lick the spoon after stirring her tea. She wouldn’t talk loudly on the phone. She’d be an avid reader; she’d be deep, yet petty and fussy and peevish like all girls. She’d have a fine taste of music, probably classical. Maybe she’d play the violin. I’m hoping she wouldn’t fall for another girl, or men who spend all their time looking in the mirror. Or insecure men with esteem issues who’d cheat to feel better about themselves. She’ll have a terrific sense of style and humor. And she’d be kind and lovely, just like her mother Betty.

Anyway, I digress.

Last Friday I traveled to Meru to attend a parents’ meeting for form three students at Meru School. My dad had send me a terse SMS {he has refused to discover WhatsApp} earlier in the week {all his SMSes come in CAPS, as if to portray authority, msheeew} asking if I would manage to represent him. My week had been achromatic and desolate and I was afraid I was going to lack something to write for this week’s post so I readily accepted with the hope of bumping into something worth writing. But mostly because he sent mpesa haha. See, it was a favor, ama what do you think? Yeah, such a helluva favor! And Meru being Meru, didn’t disappoint.

Right of the bat; at about 6 am I hopped into this mat and sat behind a plump lady with smelly weaves. I swear I’m not making this up. She was dark and stocky. Had a red cardigan and a red scarf and her bloody weaves were bloody smelly! The stench was dense and acrid. Acerbic even. It hung heavily above our necks. Yet shockingly, no one complained. Heck, no one even opened the damn windows! You now understand why people take car loans when they don’t even own a house yet? This town is full of sadists hell-bent on spoiling people’s mornings with freaking smelly weaves. They will all burn in hell, you wait. But mean while, we will have to buy cars first. I mean, you can’t drive your house to work, can you? So buy a car and save yourself from this endemic of smelly weaves.

Here’s another rub; I arrived in Meru town at 1pm, yet the genius in me had projected a two hour drive {haha}. So I spent seven freaking hours on the road. I felt violated. Anyway, I roamed the town trying to get some personal effects for my brother, you know, the usual; shoe polish, tissue, tooth paste, Nivea and stuff. They have a strict policy against food stuff {not that I would have been happy to travel with a bowl of beef stew and chapo}. That killed another 30 mins. I then hurriedly jumped into a cab and arrived at the school 10 mins later.

The parking lot puts your esteem to test. Flashy cars. Machines. I choose the ostrich option. There’s this long table outside the mammoth social-hall where a coterie {always wanted to use that word} of male teachers hand you last year’s performance records and the day’s program and I don’t what. I pick them and I prance into the hall, my left hand buried in my pocket. I’m feeling cool. I sit at the back.

The meeting has just started. The principal, some soft spoken chap in a grey suit is saying something… then comes this teacher in a maroon suit who prattles on in a boring high pitched monotone – like the color of his suit – and I honestly gather nothing. I mean, who still wears maroon suits with a pocket square the size of a plate? 30 mins in and I’m now feeling hungry. My stomach is rumbling incessantly. I’m getting touchy. Then the guest speaker is invited…

He’s a stocky bespectacled guy rocking a checked shirt {untucked}, jeans and loafers. His top button is undone to real a thin silvery chain. He sports an LCD time piece and an easy smile. He sort of reminds me of Luis Otieno in his element. {By the way what happened to that guy?}

Right away he gets down to it. Succinct pearls of wisdom. This guy is pretty deep. Deep and funny. He’s a catholic priest. A father Wario.

He offered a lot of insights, but I’ll just rattle out those I felt were memorable and poignant, sawa? {I was going to quickly list them but my mentor strongly advised me against it, saying that you people distaste lectures. And I listened.}

“Parenting is not a duty. A duty can be delegated. It is a role, and that role must be played.” I turned that over in my head. Trying to wrap my mind around it. I was sitting there because someone had delegated his role to me. Hahaha. I felt like poking a joke at my old man, but I knew he would probably catch feelings so I thought against it.

Anyway, he said that some parents are too busy for their children that they have reduced themselves to sponsors, or local benefactors {his words}. They imagine that parenthood starts and ends with paying bills and school fees and make it appear as though it’s such a humongous favor.

He talked about how the atmosphere at home directly impacts the child’s well being in school, and how it is imperative that parents strive to foster a healthy psychological climate for the kid at home. That kids are at their optimal mental state when they know that their parents are in love. That as a man, to win your kid’s respect, you must demonstrate to them that you love and cherish their mother. Treat her with respect even if you are not together. He noted that children have this knack of quickly telling when things aren’t right between their parents. He stressed that every man wants a woman he can control {though I wished he’d have used the word lead}, and that every woman wants a man who listens. That listening is better than money {I leave that to your better judgment hehe}. He insisted that to listen, a man must be available. Are we together gentlemen?

“Never underestimate your child’s memory”, he cautioned. Set the right example. Strive to be their hero. Walk your talk. Keep your word. Don’t give your child empty promises. Earn their respect. Yes, earn it. Millenials are a different breed. Teach them honor by demonstrating it. Show consistency, be reliable.

Don’t poison your child along tribal or religious lines. Teach them respect and tolerance for those with divergent persuasions. Raise them to be open-minded. Heck, don’t even impose your own worldview on them. Don’t impose your idea of success on them. Embrace their uniqueness. Accept their follies and human weaknesses. Discipline them with love.

Bless your child through your words and thoughts. Be their number one cheer leader and confidant. Let them know you believe in them and their abilities. Take their failures with calmness. Assure them that they can do better. Don’t compare them with others, because, one; you’ll badly damage their esteem, and two; you won’t like the reverse yourself {them comparing you to other parents}.  Constantly declare your unconditional love for them. Boost their self-esteem. You’ll avert a lot of pit falls, and they’ll love you for it.

Never be in a rush when dealing with your kids. He pointed our peculiar Kenyan tendency of always being in an explicable harry. We always tend to be in haste to do the next thing. Or be at the next place so much that we even forget to enjoy the present moment. He cracked the audience into a raucous laughter when he paused, “bado mnataka kwenda biashara?”

He wrapped up by saying, “parenting is not difficult, because it wasn’t meant to be easy”. There was a thunderous applause peppered by a standing ovation. I knew the ladies had loved him because he had drummed up the idea of men regularly taking their wives out to dinner dates to spice up things at home. They were all lit up. Giggling, high fiving and bopping fists like teenagers {that’s when you confirm that age is just but a number, hehe} as though they were going to form some sort of support group to keep their men on toes about those dinner dates.

The first reality check was waiting for them right at the dining hall. We were chaotically served steaming plates pilau and beans! I mean, who serves pilau and beans? Surely merus! Who serves such kind of concoction? Nkatha, if you are reading this, please talk to your people.

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