As though I haven’t talked enough about my gang already, here’s another eye-rolling reminder that I am married to a man whose moniker in my stories is GB. We have two children, Muna is six and is in grade one. Njeeh is two, he’s now wearing Spiderman underwear and is about to learn Kikuyu.
Parenting these children is a shared two-person responsibility. It’s not a neat 50-50 split but there is a supportive split that I am grateful for. When it comes to Muna and school, this is how GB and I have split the responsibilities: he gives money, and I give time.
He pays for her school fees and every other school-related expense such as bus, lunch and clubs. I commit my time – I make most of the school runs in the morning, I sit with Muna for homework and revision, practise handwriting and words for spelling tests, and I get her books to read.
We also handcraft those ridiculous assignments that CBC is constantly asking us to craft. (The last item we handcrafted was a traditional musical instrument. One day, I imagine they’ll give us a weekend to build a grass-thatched house that a family like yours can live in.)
Giving my time also means that I attend most of the school functions that a regular primary school like Muna would ask us to attend: parent-teacher conferences at the end of the term, project presentations, music recitals, school concerts and dances, more dances and other dances, a dance at the project presentation.
What fascinates me is that these functions are scheduled at prime time on a tight weekday: Wednesday at 11 am. Or Friday at 12pm. Never Saturday at 10 am. You plan your entire workday around attending the school event.
GB’s and I arrangement works beautifully for us because he’s a corporate suit, fully employed. I am a creative writer, partly self-employed. It’s not that my time is less valuable than his (although sometimes it feels like it is) but because I work alone and mostly for myself – I can dance around my deadlines and move things around my schedule to create time.
I attend these functions because this is how I express my love to our daughter, this is how I show my support as a millennial parent. Also because Muna’s threatening tone always suggests that if I don’t attend, she’s running away from home.
It’s with this in mind that last Friday, at 9 am, I’m sitting in the big hall at Muna’s school. I’ve arrived early so I’m sitting in the aisle seat of the third row, I’m directly in front of the decorated stage.
We usually have these concerts in the small hall but today it’s in the big hall because we’re celebrating a big milestone – the school is turning 20 years old. Yey! We were informed that the concert would run from 9 am to 12 pm but I’m now a veteran attendee, I know it’ll run from 10 am to a little after sunset.
Muna hasn’t had homework in the last two weeks because they’ve been working very hard preparing and practising for the dance they will showcase today. With all this dedication, this breaking a sweat, you’d imagine they’re backup dancers for a Beyoncé concert.
At 10 am the MC calls the day to order. A prayer, some housekeeping announcements and off the concert goes. The schoolchildren are wearing colour-coded matching polo shirts and black trousers, it’s quite ceremonial.
Every grade in the school gets a chance to get up on stage and dance. (Every. Single. Grade. Even the babies like Njeeh.) When the children are not dancing they’re reciting a poem in English and Kiswahili, perhaps a Bible memory verse, or a skit but there is dancing before and after.
I don’t mean to sound nasty and unsupportive but most of this dancing is lousy. Lousy and repetitive and not particularly entertaining, the moves are wearisome. I know I shouldn’t be saying this as a parent because we love our children and we applaud them for all their hard work and talent, but this dancing is lousy. Still, we clap and cheer, we beg for more.
Then finally, at what feels like 6 pm, the MC says the birthday cake is being brought on stage, ‘But first, let’s have another dance from the dance club!’
This is the point where I completely lose all my patience, I want to stand from my seat and yell out, ‘Oh for the love of God, please, no more dances! No more! Can we just cut the cake and go home?!’
Everyone will be stunned into a deathly silence from my outburst. There will be uncomfortable coughs and murmurs, and side eyes. The horror on Muna’s face will be the last thing I remember because this is the day she will run away from home.
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