Mantalk: Why I am thinking about (not) having children as a man

Why I am thinking about (not) having children as a man. Photo | Photosearch

What you need to know:

To push this head out of your body? Only for the baby to grow up to be a DJ? With a thigh tattoo? Does the world really need more DJs? 

The chickens have come home to roost. My days of playing tiki-taka with someone’s daughter the whole night have caught up with me. Those days that I could go for a round—or two—every hour are done. I think I have emptied all the engineers, tech bros, and scientists. I presume all I have left are DJs—no offense to DJs. Scratch that, anyone can be a DJ nowadays. They play the same music from Maralal to Mombasa. I mean, if I push myself, and I really mean push, I think I have a physiotherapist in there. That’s all I can promise. And who wants a physiotherapist? Physiotherapists are masseuses with an accent.

Parenting is a tough business. I came to this logical conclusion after I became a plant parent—a plarent—and caved under the weight of the responsibility. And it’s not like ati I am keeping the night-blooming cereus, the one that opens its flowers after dark, usually between 8 and 9 pm, then dies by morning. No. Just some bloody jade and cactus and succulents. Which are like bang average children. They can thrive anywhere, anyhow, anyway. I learned the hard way that you do not take care of succulents. Succulents take care of themselves. You only show up occasionally to see if the DNA is still yours and that’s it. Do you know how incompetent you have to be to kill a cactus? Mine is having a near-death experience. It browned on the edges, even after I gave it water. I mean this is someone who has never had water and the least they could do is to drink it? Doesn’t that sound like every child around the block? 

You think people with children are insufferable? Wait till you meet plarents. Plarenting is the perfect next step for people like me, who aren't responsible enough to have kids, a breathing dog, or an uncracked screen protector, but who want to give everything they've got to some lucky Moi Avenue houseplant. (For instance: I kicked off my HELB debt and celebrated by borrowing another 10k to go and spoil myself. Thug life at its absolute finest.) For six months now, I have been raising my plants how most of you were raised: with kidogo attention, hard labour, and a curt word now and then so they can have something to talk about with their therapist.

As I approach the age of 30, my parents wait eagerly for white smoke to bellow above my house, that maybe, this is the year I make them grandparents. Oi. No. Maybe grand-plarents, if they are liberal. See, plants don’t talk back at you. A baby will. Eventually. They start up all cute and look like you until they grow up and start listening to Dababy and drinking dandelion tea and getting thigh tattoos (of dandelions). But a plant? A plant would never talk back at you or think you are not cool or get a thigh tattoo.

A while back, I travelled and forgot about the plants. I came back, they seemed dusty and hungry but did they talk back at me? No. If anything we needed that break from each other. You cannot do that with a baby. A baby = attention. No prizes for guessing who has the world’s shortest memory. I could be out there in Kisii doing Kisii things when I remember, alas! I forgot to feed the baby! You get?

Plus, I am a vain, vane jealous man. Very. I am also a boobs guy and I absolutely refuse to share someone’s daughter’s boobs with a child. Besides, I suspect I am rather selfish too. And impatient. Can I really muster the patience to watch a little human scream the whole night when I have hardly caught a whiff of sleep? And, think about this, we are almost 50 million Kenyans and if my records check out, haven’t we, by now, sold all the 50 by 100 plots in Ruai, Joska and Kamulu?

Gone are the days when parents got children to serve as their remote concierges. I grew up in a typical African home, with a hands-off father, one who led by aura. Back then, I wanted to be useful to my parents. I attached value to what I could do, rather than who I was. Finding things to do in the house that will get me seen. Appreciated. An approving nod here. A pat on the back there. Indications that I was adultlike, not childlike. I think about this when I think about children: How will my childhood affect this happy, uncomplicated being in my care? Will I make decisions for them when really, it’s just for me? Am I going to project a smaller world than I got? And if I postpone having children now, when I still have a good back and okayish jokes to lure in someone’s daughter – will I regret it? Like something I didn't value when I could have done it?

More pertinently, what if I fail at parenting? You know the mysterious phenomenon where children who share the same father can turn out completely differently? Or that when you win a child’s heart, they don’t stay won; you have to keep winning said hearts over and over and over. That children despite being sweet and cuddly and coy, could easily be Satan toddling in a nappy.

Ancestry carries a lot of kudos, but we are no longer the “mtoto-ni-wa-jamii country.” I know I sound like an existential nihilist by now but I see children as some sort of trophy item. It’s a crapshoot: You roll the dice, and you see what happens. Broaching that subject is like trying to open a coconut with a pen knife. You don’t want kids?  A man from Western? My ancestors, who taught me that wearing red attracts lightning or that seeing an owl signifies death will be growling in their graves.

I like children. But I like them in bits. Especially when they are not mine. You know? Use the tools but don’t worship the delivery guy.

Ultimately, maybe the reason I don’t want to get a baby is very simple. I’m an altruistic man. But I am an altruistic man with a very big head. Have you seen my forehead? You could land a plane there. I am thinking about someone’s daughter here, she has taken care of her fine self, and then I put a baby in her. And then she pushes out that baby. All indications point towards a rapture. To push this head out of your body? Only for the baby to grow up to be a DJ? With a thigh tattoo? Does the world really need more DJs?