The kids in my new plot call me bushman. Bloody kids! It’s not a bad name, if you take it gently, lightly and warmly with love as it comes from kids. If it came from adults, then I’d have taken great offense, and even refused to eat or pee for a full moon until they take it back and apologize. These kids don’t say this name to my face. How I knew this is when one of them kicked a ball and it came raging into my open door, to my dining room. Then this kid said, “Ball imeingia kwa Bushman.”
At the heat of the moment, I wanted to go out and tell that kid, “I’ll knock your knee caps flat if you ever call me that again.” Nevertheless, I composed myself, threw them the ball. I did cast an eye at the kid who called me Bushman while thinking of the worst. Like hanging that kid from a ceiling in a dark room by one leg, and then blasting scary music through his veins, until he can’t feel his thoughts anymore.
If you’re wondering how that works, then you know nothing about torture. You can run music through someone in a way that hurts like hell. Every heartbeat feels like the sound of Thor’s hammer kicking your heart and then reverberating throughout the body. The pain is unforgettable. It makes you lose your thoughts. From your hanging position, you’ll feel like you’re drowning in throbbing pain. You can actually see the ground coming to meet you when light is turned on.
I let those thoughts crawl away. When you’ve seen war, been to war and waged war, you usually think of the worst you can do when faced with an unpleasant situation. It’s a defensive mechanism, a fabricated one.
Anyway, my little woman Elsie didn’t wish me Happy Fathers’ Day. Therefore, I have been mad as hell. Sulky even. I’ve literary spent the last two days drowning in anger, infuriated. I have been asking myself several questions. Questions like, haven’t I fathered you well enough? Do you have another father? Has your little ass forgotten that I am your and only father? Am I not father enough? And many more. She’s ruptured my ego.
She has not said a word, until this very moment. This little bitch just turned 12 this year. I sent money to her mom to buy her gifts. I sent 20 freaking Gs. I couldn’t afford a ticket (not for a freaking birthday anyway) so the best I could was to send money to her mom to buy her gifts- it’s the least I could do.
Her mother didn’t disappoint. She’s one true woman. She spent every last dime of it to spoil her. She did spend her own money as well, so that Elsie could have this classic birthday. She had this huge three kg cake for her birthday. And as I watched her cut it (through Face time), I could notice the amount of joy that ran through her face. She had several friends over, and I could see how happy she was to have a glamorous treat.
I don’t want to sound whiny. I just feel like I deserve more, like other dads. Maybe I should not complain because I didn’t wish my father ‘Happy Father’s Day’. That shit is awkward. I don’t know if it is starting to feel awkward between Elsie and I. She’s becoming a woman, no lie about that, and our relationship status might be metamorphosing into a situation where we no longer hug, or where she no longer looks me in the eye when talking to me, or openly talk about our feelings or even sit on the same table at dinner.
Man, this shit worries me- us growing apart, emulating the relationship that exists between my pops and I. Being a father is an honour. At least for me it is. I have always endeavored to be the best dad to my kid and kids to come, to be a role model as well as a man they can approach and talk to freely, without having to worry that I’ll judge or whip their ass. The challenge with Elsie has always been the distance, with me living in this part of the cosmos, and her on the other part of the cosmos- traversing Scotland and Britain. And Kenya yearly. She once hinted that I am a part time father. That shit stung. I don’t want her to grow with the idea of me as an unavailable father. I do try. I mean her mother and I are not married, or even staying in the same country. That makes this whole father responsibility hard to execute to the fullest.
With each passing day, I notice a change in behavior, mostly from the way we interact on social media. When I saw her late last year, she had changed from that cheery girl to a more conservative person who likes her shit private. I’ve probably used the word ‘shit’ a million times in this article. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately-shitty! Because my own daughter, the one who’s never missed this ritual since she was six, can no longer wish me a happy father’s day. Damn it!
How busy is she? How forgetful has she become? What an audacity she has to ignore me? Man, I crave for her attention. Is that a sin? Does it make me insecure? Does that deduct my dad-ship points? Why can’t she be just sweet and write me a damn text? Will I be wrong when I ignore her next time she tries to chat me up after her forgetting about this ordeal, or even behaving as if it never happened?
I remember when she was young- between 6 and 10, when she looked up to me in so many ways, when I couldn’t breathe because she was on my neck every damn day telling me this or that, asking me a million questions, begging me to take her to a shop at 10 pm to buy a damn chocolate. I remember us scouting the streets of Nairobi in 2017 like two ninjas on a marvelous adventure. I remember people looking at us strangely in those streets, and her not giving a damn the way I did. Envious bastards!
I remember us sleeping in my one room crib and cracking stories all night when sleep was long coming. Other days we just watched movies until our eyes stung with sleep and we could sleep in the whole day. It is just like yesterday. I’d take instant leave from my work, at least I had a small discreet job with the ‘government’, and disappear for days- spend time with Elsie, going to the park, take her ice skating, riding with her in fun parks, and seating in eateries all afternoon because she wanted to sample food.
Now she’s someone different. Whatever brought her joy then has been binned. Right now, she enjoys the quiet of her own self, with headphones stuck to her ears and a laptop on her laps. I tend to think she’s going through puberty, a stage that can leave someone confused and behaving different. We can’t seem to be talking a lot. Our conversations are short, words minimal, facial expressions forced and not so happy to see another’s message or call. She takes longer to respond to my texts, and longest when picking my calls. She doesn’t call back if she misses my call.
She’s cold. I fear that she might grow to become an empty shell like me, without life or plan. Just aloof and afraid to let people in. A man with no friends. A reserved person who thinks of the worst and one who fantasizes a lot. If she ever becomes that person, then I’ll have failed as a father. I’ll have successfully failed to guide her into becoming a woman of honour, a child of The Most High God, and a woman of great character.
I’ll want her to be happy- to know the joy of being alive, to realize a purpose and pursue it. To find and pursue her dreams and enjoy what she becomes. To not live a life of the future but to utilize every present second to live to her fullest. To meet a man who will treat her with honour, to be in a wonderful union.
I don’t want her to grow into sadness and regret, or to even start abusing drugs. It would be the death of me. When she started massaging social media at the age of nine, I was deeply worried. To me, it was a sign of inferior parenting. I did call her and sternly told her to get off social media if she wanted to stay alive. I threatened her that I’ll teach her a lesson if she didn’t. Ha-ha! When I recall that, that anger in me at that moment and my powerlessness to control it, I now see the bastard I was.
She did hang up on me! Yes, at 9 years old, she was mad at me and hung up!
I called Alexa, her mother, and told her to get Elsie off social media. I even accused her of not taking care of her responsibility accordingly. I mean, she had fought for Elsie’s custody and won. It did mean that she had the larger share of the mess to cater for.
Eventually she did get off Facebook. She did stay put on IG where she now has 42.3k followers. Every time I visit that account I get damn jealous. I have been on IG longer than she has but I haven’t even hit 1k followers. Man, I die with jealousy. For that reason, follow me on IG, Twitter, LinkedIn- Mzangila Snr. I need your support. We must beat Elsie.
I wanted to rant about Elsie but I don’t know what she’ll think of me after reading this. I wanted her to feel my pain- the pain of a father, neglected father. I wanted her to know that I also have feelings, and if ignored, I hurt as well. I deeply care for her attention and opinions.
If you’re reading this, my little woman, I want you to know this:
There’s nowhere you’re going to get another dad. I am the only dad you got, and the only one you’ll ever have. And I am going nowhere! You’re stuck with me, woman! Suck that up!
Many people are going to make you feel loved. It is a great feeling. They will have their own reasons for loving you. Because you’re smart, cute, and all that. But their love will wilt one day when they no longer find reasons to love you anymore. As for me, I don’t need any reason to love you. I’ll always love you, no matter who or what you become. Eternal love. Never forget that.
Many people are going to claim to be your friends. It is a good thing to have friends as they make life bearable and worthwhile. They are going to make you feel they are the only people you need. You might even forget us, your folks, and our roles in your life. Due to that, you might even forget appreciating our efforts to enable you lead a great life. But at some point those friends will grow, pursue different dreams, move to other parts of the world, find other friends and your friendship will die. But we will always be here. You won’t lose us unless, God forbid, we hit our shelve lives. Do not forget that, that we are not circumstantial like your friends. We are your blood, here to stay.
Should you ever need anything, that which we can offer, should you want to talk, should you feel like the world is heavy on your shoulders, should you feel hurt, should you lack purpose and feel useless, I want to assure you that we will be here to support you through all that. That’s our responsibility to you.
The world is a big place. And as you grow you’ll find people who will open your eyes in many ways, introduce you to diverse ways of life, some good and others bad. It is the way of life, to experience it. Some will inspire you, some will mislead you. Some will use you, others will uplift you. Some will wait for you; others will want you to catch up. I want you to know that there’s no manual to life. However, do not close your eyes from seeing the reality of things, and your ears from hearing wisdom.
As you grow, life will get more confusing, meaningless even. At some point you’ll feel useless, as we all do at one point or another. During those moments, remember it’s okay to feel shitty. It’s normal. It’s human. But do not allow to be overwhelmed by negative thoughts. Let them remind you of the goodness of positivity. Let such times help you find your purpose.
Boys. Boys are going to come. Trust me! With all that cuteness you’re wearing, oh girl! You’re in for big trouble. All of them will profess their love for you. Feelings will begin playing with you. They are going to make you sick. They are going to control your life. They are going to make you cry most nights. They are going to make you wish death upon yourself. They will make you feel bad in every way possible. I don’t have a way to help you with how to deal with men, or feelings for that matter. Just let your intuition guide you. Should we have something to say to you about it, listen to it carefully, but choose what to believe. For when it comes to love, we are all foolish.
Endeavour to be a woman of great character. I am already proud of you. When I see you reading a book, it fills me with great pride. You’ll need knowledge to be great. Knowledge will empower you. An empowered woman has a place in this society, and others will respect you for who you are. Read every book there is to read, but do not become boisterous when you realize you know much more than your fellows. Let it be your secret weapon to help you wage your way into earning your place in this world.
Should you feel that men are the source of your troubles, as many other women will make you think, then blame me for not showing you to be a woman of principle and light. Express yourself but don’t belittle others. Be the light, and remember that integrity does not compromise.
I don’t care if you’ll drink or smoke. But all I can hope for is that you don’t do that while under my roof. Your older life will be up to the choices you’ll make once you’re out of the nest. I just hope by then you’ll be wise enough to know the difference between good and dicey choices.
Finally, I love you more than any other woman. Should you feel less loved, think of my love for you. Think of it as the second greatest, after God’s.
Dad of the year!
Where shall we go, we who wander in this wastelands in search of better selves?