Fatherhood has been a most interesting journey

Sunday June 18 2017

Daily Nation editor Ng'ang'a Mbugua with his children

Daily Nation editor Ng'ang'a Mbugua with his children. FILE PHOTO 

By NG'ANG'A MBUGUA
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I first became a dad on Fathers Day 2010 after 11 years of marriage.

But that long wait paled in comparison with the 18 hours that my wife Lucy was in labour.

I remember because I was there, coaxing her to inhale the helium that the nurses kept carting into her hospital cubicle by the hour.

CHILD BIRTH
I had expected my son to come into the world screaming and kicking like other babies do in the movies.

When I first saw him, however, he had his index finger on his chin and wore a bewildered look.

He was probably wondering why it was suddenly cold.

“He is a thoughtful child,” Prof Stone, who delivered him, observed as he showed me the baby. But of course! I studied philosophy.

CAREER
In my mind, I knew I would be a father of one, so I loved the child without reservation from the moment we met in that theatre seven years ago.

When Kevin was about four, somebody asked him what he wanted to be.

“A daddy!” he said without hesitation. Thankfully, he now wants to be a footballer.

As he graduated from nursery school last year, he was asked to make a wish.

FATHERHOOD

He told the gathering: “I wish my father would buy me a Barcelona uniform.”

Like all good fathers, I was running late for the event and never got to hear him make the wish.

However, when I finally tiptoed to the parents’ tent, the men who heard him came to me and said: “Of all the children who spoke today, only your son mentioned his father.”

Bringing him up has been interesting. When he was about five, he asked me if it was possible for a father to warn his errant child at least thrice before pinching him.

“Of course,” I said, and our relationship improved considerably since. Needless to say, his cheeks are devoid of blots.

SABA SABA
When in 2012 I learnt that I was going to be a father again, I had to call myself to several meetings to convince my heart — and my mind — that I would have two children and that I was under obligation, as a father, to love both equally.

Bryan was born on July 8, 2013. I had desperately hoped he would be born on Saba Saba Day to reward my years as a political and human rights activist, chanting “Moi must go!” in the streets of Nairobi.

Incidentally, I started living with their mother on July 7, 1999.

WEDDING
There was no public transport that day. And there was no water in Banana Hill, where I lived.

I convinced a friend to borrow a neighbour’s pick-up and, under the guise of going to search for water, we drove to Lucy’s aunt’s place and spirited away my future wife.

In 2015, Kevin asked: “Dad, did you wed our mother?” I had no satisfactory answer.

And when I bowed to pressure the following year, Kevin and Bryan were my page boys.

SHOW APPRECIATION
Bryan has grown up to become fiercely independent.

Some time back, my friend asked him to sing for him. “May be I shouldn’t,” he said.

And that was that. The other day, he asked me: “Dad, do you love mum?”

I answered in the affirmative, and he challenged me: “Tell her.”

Sometimes I wonder who is parenting the other.

FATHER-SON TIME
In his essay, What I am telling you is the truth, Terry Davis says: “What’s it mean for a father to be a friend to his son? It means he can’t keep the smile off his face when his boy walks into the room.”

The words remind me of my father Joseph Ng’ang’a.

We had a months-long hiatus, giving each other nil by mouth. Three weeks ago, he called me.

“Do you enjoy seeing your children?” he asked me. Of course, I do. All the time. “So, why do you deny me the same pleasure?”