I never got to see my parents fight, not because there were no random differences between them, it is expected that once in a while couples should exchange unkind words and blows. My parents, to me, never fought. They solved their differences like two adults in the confines of their bedroom and when they came out, we saw the unbreakable team, Baba na Mami. (The Bs in Baba are pronounced as f, fafa but we have no f in the Kikuyu Alphabet.)
Around us, parents fought. Actually they fought their children, the neighbour’s children, their livestock, their dog, their cat, and finally they fought each other. Husband and wife fights were normal and acceptable. Our village twisted the quote and it read, a couple that fights each other stays together. Because my parents didn’t fight, I expected them to break. Unknowingly to me, they were establishing something bigger and great for us- the stability to face life.
This series of African Parenting: A Children’s Perspective, is for us to share tales from our childhood, tales when our parents came out for us as heroes, when they scared the shit out of us, how they expressed love, how they provided diligently and from the tales, we will pick lessons that will make us even better.
Last year, I interviewed a friend who has allowed me to share his story here.
“When I count my blessings, I count my mother twice,” George started, “I may look calm but deep down I am a troublesome person and the reason I didn’t land in prison is my mother.”
George has a round face that brightens up when he smiles. With his soft voice and easy smile, I do not think he can survive prison.
“I am told that my parents were very good farmers in Molo before the 1992 clashes. I was only two years old when the first ethnic wars hit the nation. With no reference to what happens in war, my father and other men fought back to defend their land, women and children. Women grabbed the little they could and the younger children and ran to safety,” he said quickly like sticking in the war fact would stain his present.
“I didn’t know what was happening until I was eight when my mother narrated the whole story to me. I cried that day as it was part of a pep talk after I had joined an unruly gang of young boys in the neighborhood. ‘Every day I waited outside the warehouse we sought safety in for the appearance of your father-me and other women whose husbands had remained in the fight. Few came back, maimed and dying from poisoned arrow wounds. Your father, my husband, did not show up after many weeks. We left the warehouse one by one. I thought of going home in Nyahururu and start life again in my parents’ house but there was nothing for me there. I was still young, twenty two and employable, so I got a job as a maid in Nakuru. One of the women we were displaced with connected me to her elder sister. Her elder sister, I learned later, employed me out of pity and not need of my services. We, me and you son, moved to Kaloleni and rented a single roomed tin house. I worked to keep us alive. The money was never enough but we were better off than most of the other IDPs. There was HIV, cholera and malnutrition but we never suffered from either. Your father wanted you to go to a good school and make something good out of yourself but with the behavior you are starting, you are well on the path to Naivasha Maximum.’ We had stolen some electrical appliances from a neighbour’s house and sold them for few cents.” George talked for a long time, remembering the words of his mother, combining them with the wisdom of age before feeding them to me. I was sure they had a bigger impact on him when he said them to me than when they were uttered.
George and his mother moved from Kaloleni to Flamingo. In the quest for a new life, George’s mother remarried. It was until he was eight, after the theft incidence did he understand that his father was actually not his biological father.
“Another thing I remember is my mother breaking down into sobs and tears in my arms when I was ten. I was still troublesome but she trusted me not to do anything that would land me in jail. I have received a mob beating for stealing sweet potatoes from a farm but nothing serious to warrant arrest. When mother cried, I knew who to comprehend,” George said with pride, like he had saved Westeros from the White Walkers single handedly.
“I approached my father, my step-dad, with a straight face. I knew he loved me just like he loved his other children but what he had done to mother was not to happen again, not under my watch. I remember seeing his scared face, an affirmation that I had made myself clear.”
“What was the relationship between him and you after that incidence?” I asked him.
“We still talk. That incidence was perhaps the best thing that happened in our relationship. From then, we held candid talks. He told me that if I continued causing trouble, he would stop paying my school fees. He also told me that he appreciated me as his own son, and he did it by words and actions. If parents express love to each other and to their children, the kids are able to approach them. That is how I was brought up.”
I wondered how it felt for his father. The world still has good step-fathers who ask you what’s up and mean it. I have talked to people who have experienced horrible lives with step fathers for doing nothing yet this one, even after being cornered by a ten year old step-son, he maintained his cool and made a man out of a young thug.
George is doing well as a young man below thirty. He has a blacksmith workshop at Ziwani, Gikomba where he beats sheets of metal into egg carts, wheelbarrows, popcorn machines and many other Jua kali equipment. Surprisingly, he has a degree in commerce which he acquired while fending for himself through the trade he learnt while being an unruly boy in Nakuru. He works alongside three young boys he says are street boys undergoing rehabilitation under his mentorship.
“As my father and mother molded me into person of value, here I beat metal into valuable merchandise while also shaping the lives of these boys.”
P.S: We are still focusing on African Parenting: A Child’s Perspective. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell a tale that will inspire someone. Another thing, my first book The Boundaries, Chapter 1 is publishing on Wednesday on Wattpad. My articles on Ndeto Zetu will be online every Saturday Morning to ensure you start your weekend on an inspired mode. Talk of getting out of comfort zones.