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this article just made me go bananas

The other morning I walked into the bathroom to brush my teeth and Tamms was in there taking a susu. I didn’t think I needed to knock. She’s five for crying out loud, it’s not like she would be shaving. The moment I stepped in, she yelled her head off, “what are you doing? Close the door!” So I slipped in and closed the door. “Aaaah, no! Get out, and close the door!” Jeez, she was near hysteric. So I mumbled and stepped out.

She’s all grown now. At five they want privacy. It doesn’t make sense. She needs privacy to take a leak, but when she is done, she calls out to her mom to go wipe her. I think if you are old enough to close the bathroom door, you should be able to wipe yourself; front going back (I know these things). However, I wonder whether guys with boys teach them bathroom etiquette, like you know, how to shake after. And do you hold his wee-wee and show him, or do you stand there and inspect the shake?

Anyway, next year she goes to class one. Class one is a killer. The school treats it like they are going to jump off the edge of space. You are handed a long list of schools that they think will suit her. And every school is categorised and colour coded and their strengths and weaknesses listed for your pleasure.

You also are required to attend sessions in school on how the change will “affect” them. Yes, apparently changing schools and losing friends will have dire effect on them as kids (gulp). So the transition has to be “bridged” smoothly. Between me and you, I think its nonsense. Kids adapt very fast. They aren’t like us who hang onto stuff, you know, we keep whining how we miss our old houses, former colleagues etc. Kids will wear a long face for a day, and the next day they will bounce back.

I know this because when I was in SA for ten days (the longest I have been away is 6 days climbing mount Kenya), Tamms wrote down the number of days I was away on a piece of paper – the day of the week and the date. She would tick off the days after the end of the day. I didn’t know this was happening but when I got back I ran into this piece of paper and saw that she had not ticked the last two days. “Eff, it,” I bet she told herself, “this nigga isn’t coming back. Men! ” She got bored of waiting and moved on. She adapted to my absence. Eight bloody days is all I’m worth!

Of course that gutted me. I mean, you would think that they would wait for years, nope! Eight days. Doesn’t matter how many ice creams you buy, or chicken or shoes, they will move on. Anyway, I didn’t think too much about, but it stayed in mind, niggling, until I said OK, fine, I will confront her.

So I waited until one morning when she was having breakfast. She normally sits on this pink plastic chair, wedged about 2.1cms from the TV screen (only sissies watch TV from a safe distance). Having breakfast is a distracted episode: she can hold a slice of bread about an inch from her lips for 25mins while she is lost on some cartoon. I can shower, dress up and still find her holding that bread to her face. We lose them to cartoons then when when we finally find them, we lose them to life.

“Tamms,” I tapped her back gently. “ Why did you stop ticking these dates?”

“You are tickling me,” she mumbled, not looking at me.

“No, I’m not. Why did you stop ticking, these dates?”

No answer. So I mute the TV. She turns to look at me with a mixture of self imposed patience and revulsion.

“This thing here,” I’m tapping the paper with a smile, “ why did you stop ticking?”

“ I did not stop ticking,”

“You did. You stopped on Friday. Look. ”

She looked at it closely then said, “ I lost my pencil.”

“You could have used crayons, or a chalk, or biro pen or mommy’s eye pencil, anything…”

She looked confused at all the drama and went back to stare at the muted TV.

“Did you think I would not come back?” I whined, fishing for attention.

“ No, you went where?” She’s changing the subject.

“I went to South Africa. But did you think I will not come back?”

“Nooo!” a feeble smile.

“No as in, no you didn’t think I will come back or no, you knew I will come back?”

“But you came back!” Good point.

“Yes, but I mean, you didn’t think I would come back, did you?”

“ No.”

“No, what?”

“Are you going back, you get me a puzzle?”

“First lets solve this puzzle here!”

“Which one?”

“The one of you forgetting me!”

“Genevieve has a blue pencil holder, will also buy for me?” she asked.

I bet Genevieve would never forget about her father that’s why she gets blue pencil holders! I thought to myself, but heard myself say, “Yes, I will.”

Why bother. Asking kids such questions is like asking a woman if she came. I mean, you will get an answer all right, but you will never know whether it’s the right answer. Not when you are all touchy and ego-fragile.

Anyway, back to class one.

In preparation, we have attended of these school things where they advice and guide parents on their choice of schools. I often enjoy most school meetings (especially the father’s forums), but sometimes they can get pretty tedious: check into the lawn area, serve yourself tea, pick a mandazis, join a flock of fathers talking about their kids, meet someone new, pretend you are interested in how their son loses his footballs weekly, converge into the meeting room, listen to some smart-alec give a testimonial, use the washroom, find a lunje already in there because he took three mugs of tea, jog on the spot as you wait for him to finish, use the live hedge instead. Repeat.

But after going for so many of them, I can classify parents who attend them. You only have to stand up to ask a question and I will immediately pigeon hole you.

Mr. Professional

He has a career. The rest of you have jobs. Having a career is not bad, but this guy will make sure you know he has a career. He could be a GP, a lawyer, or an engineer. Funnily enough, I have never heard of a showy gynaecologist (no pun).

So the head teacher, will ask, “ Have you any particular needs about your children that you want addressed that perhaps you can share with the group, for purposes of learning?” His hand will shoot up. He will then stand up and take about two hours buttoning up his coat. Then he will say, “ My name is Ouma. A. McOkoth. I have a son in Green Apples called Reyad Musa Al Asaad, named after my Syrian hero (chuckle in the room). My question is about XYZ, and I ask it only because as a consulting dentist my interactions…” Then off he will go dropping references about his work and experience and affluence. When he is done with his question, three days later, you will be certain that the initial “A” in his name is a body part.

The Romantics

I like these ones. It’s always the lady who stands up, mostly a light one, a bit plump-ish. She will always ask a question and not forget to give a very rosy reference about their marriage. She will extol to us broken ones, the virtues that live of their home, how loving they are. She will always call her husband, “sweetie” or “darling”. She might even put her hand on her “hazbad’s” head while she speaks of how he lies on the carpet every evening to play with the kids. That time you came home late two nights ago and you are only barely being tolerated as a living creature, let alone a human being. But when this lady speaks, and you listen very very keenly, you will always hear the collective room roll their eyes.

The Prayerful

He almost wants to start his question with, “na tuombe…” I have nothing against people of faith. I really don’t, I think it’s a great thing, but try not impose it on people, or make them feel like they will burn in hell if they don’t pray with their kids before they sleep. And this guy, always speaking in very low sagely tone and will quote the bible gallantly to make a point.

Silent

This chap has never contributed to any debate. He comes in silently, ignores the tea (we can safely say he isn’t lunje), and sits at the back. He sometimes takes notes on his phone. Or just listens and laughs occasionally. He isn’t snobbish; he’s just socially awkward. He seems like those guys who has never won mismatched socks in their lives.

Perfect Dad

I don’t like this guy. The holder of 2012/2013 World’s Coolest Dad. He is a smart-ass who makes every dad look insufficient. He has this fatherhood down to a pat. I know a guy like this in Tamm’s school. First he has this high pitch voice that you cannot want to smile at, like that “Donge” guy from Kisumu. I’m certain Tamm’s voice is deeper. And he always wants to contribute to a discussion or a debate because he has the handbook. And when he stands to debate, he always gives example of what he does with his girls (he has two girls) and how close they are, and how he knows exactly what to do in what situation. He has a fatherhood tablet that God gave him when he went up to Mt Longonot. And us “sinners” should learn from it.

The Joker

My hero. Everybody’s hero actually. This guy never comes to many school meetings. He almost always looks like he has a hangie. But he is hilarious. When he gets up to speak, you can feel the room readying himself for a laugh. He is the guy who shouts something from the back of the room, something suicidal given the matrony-no-nonsense look of the head teacher of the school. He is friendly to everyone, so before the sessions begin you will always find guys eclipsed around him, hearing his ludicrous tale. And he laughs loudly and calls everybody “mkubwa.”

Everybody likes him because he has no pretences. His wife always looks embarrassed when he stands to speak, which adds to his intrigue. So when Mr Ouma A McOkoth is speaking, all everybody wants is to wrestle the microphone out of his hands and hand to this chap.

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