Some years back, I used to watch a TV series called “How I met your mother.” I was not married then and thought that it some comedy that somebody came up to make people laugh. I could not then relate to it in any way. Lately, my children have been asking me all kinds of questions; some academic, political, religious, scientific and social nature. In the school term holiday which has just ended, they seemed to have asked more questions on my relationship with their mom than at any other time. And the more the questions came, the more I flashed back to that time in my flat in Ggaba, Kampala where I used to watch, “How I met your mom.”
Not only have I been reminded of that TV series but most importantly, I have also had to ask myself the question, “What if I was not available to these kids at this stage in life, who would they ask these questions and what answers would they possibly receive?”
The other question that has also bothered me is about so many kids about the same age as mine “roaming” my village with absentee fathers. To tell the truth, some men in my village view me as some kind of weirdo for spending so much time with my children, as they tag along every where I go in the village and play with them, unless they choose not to.
Before we set off to Tororo from Entebbe in August, I went for a church service with my children in the church (St. John Kawuku, COU) we were wedded in Ggaba, Kampala. When the service ended, the kids said that they had a great time because that church held a lot of precious memories for them. The visit to Kawuku seems to have set the stage for what was to follow in the holiday.
First major and difficult question from the boy, “Daddy, why does mommy say that I disturb her when I ask questions but when I ask you, you answer all of them?” I had to respond with not just one short answer as “I do not know,” but also with some explanations like; “mom is different and probably she gets stressed by work and cannot cope alone with many questions in my long absence.” That question was asked though to give him some future guarantee that whatever he asked, Daddy will give some kind of answer and boy I had to try my best even when I so exhausted or seemed not to have the best answer.
Besides dating and wedding questions such as; “where was your first date with mom, were you nervous and did you kiss on your wedding day, how many people attended your wedding, how did you arrive at number, did you argue about the number, how old was the flower girl, why did choose her, how old is she now, when did you last see her, why were we not in your wedding?”, there some very serious questions.
For instance, questions about divorce and remarriage popped up after movie “Long Walk to Freedom.” Daddy, will you remarry if mom died now and the other way round. And I said mom will answer her part. That conversation ended with statement, “Daddy, don’t die now, we are still too young to take care of ourselves.”
One day I decided to leave the kids home and went to the farm and do the deliveries to town alone. When I got back home a rather different kind of questions where waiting for me. They were different in the way that they seemed to have some preconceptions. I could deduce that somebody had given them stereotypical answers and they expected mine to match.
I was asked by both kids whether mom vomited or rejected certain foods while she was pregnant. To the contrary, I said that mom did not exhibit any of that behavior in both of her pregnancies and strangely she had a ravenous appetite. Then I was asked what food she liked most and how did I know she was pregnant, did we go together for the pregnancy test, was mom excited, what about me? The questions went on to the hospital and the hour they were born and which doctor delivered them.
Now back to my suspicions; this statement came, “But L says that women vomit when they are pregnant.” Once I had given my explanation that was settled just like the boy asked while on an evening walk, “Daddy, how do we call the thing we use for urinating?” Once I gave the simple answer, “Penis”, he has never brought it up again; neither does he call it my naked or the thing animals use for mating. Similarly once the girl understood that her private parts are indeed private she has taken it seriously as such.
I could go on and on and may be think that our children are too young to understand or do not deserve so much attention, but that would be to both their detriment and the family.
My son once asked me not only about police brutality in Uganda but also in South Africa when he saw the Mariakana Mine massacre on Aljazeera V. One would think that at the age of 7, a child would have no interest in such matters.
Thus as the good book says in Proverbs 3:20, “Train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is grown, he will not depart from it”, let us endeavor to give our children both the answers and the attention they need.