The lovely thing about being on leave, apart from being able to wake up at 6am rather than 4am and hanging out with my daughter is being able to read. I miss reading. I miss being able to finish a simple chapter in a book or even the Huffington Post without being interrupted. So last week, reading away, happy as can be; I came across a guy who caused an internet storm. A good storm, however a strange one as well.
This guy was pictured with his youngest child in a carrier and combing his daughter’s hair. The internet went nuts. He raised an eyebrow, wondered what the big deal was and got on with life, only to come up for air a few hours later and find that people couldn’t stop talking about him or THAT picture.
In his words, he says this is what happened:
One morning last week, his wife was running late for work and she was worried that she wouldn't be able to get their daughter’s hair done before he had to take her to school. This guy (Daddy) told her that she could leave and he’d handle it.
So, as a logical man would do, he put his youngest in a carrier and stood his daughter on a stool and worked his hair magic. During the process, he thought, There's no way my wife will believe me if I don't take a picture of this. That's when he set his camera up, put it on a 10-second timer, and took the photo that caused the internet storm.
After 15 minutes of multitasking, the final result was a nice, tight ponytail for big sister and a happily sleeping baby in the carrier. Mission accomplished. He emailed the photo to his wife with the caption "Boom." and they both got a good laugh out of it. He posted it on his blog and that was the beginning of a whole new conversation, some of it shallow (mercifully that lot were few) and a lot of it great.
I posted just the picture on my Facebook Fan page yesterday (Sunday) to monitor the reactions/comments before I could finish penning this article – I needed the fodder.
Doyin Richards – the father in the picture - would be very surprised to find that the shallow minded reactions he got in the United States are also similar to those here in Kenya. Gasp.
Here’s the deal. Given that the picture alone on my FB Fan page has already gone viral, it means the discussions are underway and man, oh man , are they heated. I love that the conversation started by that picture will not die out anytime soon.
The only reason I chose to use this picture and borrow from Doyin Richards’ blog is that very few men who make it their business to be involved in their children’s life get any accolades. Men like my dad who made it his business while we were growing up to pick the very dresses my sister and I wore and shopped with us. Looked through our homework, took us shopping and even made sure that when we had our ears pierced it was him who did the honours. God bless, my very “annoying” Dad who took me to register for campus on the first day and even tried to hold my hand as we crossed the road. Eish.
I know fathers like Peter Nduati who raised his kids alone and did the whole nine yards including buying the sanitary towels as his daughter came of age. Fathers like Gatei, married to my friend Catherine, who changes diapers and hangs out with the kids from the moment mummy comes from hospital. Gatei, I bet you didn’t know how proud she is of you – well now you know. Dads like Baba Nungari who brings the kids to the birthday party and takes his daughter to the potty so that Mugure can have a few moments alone. She says you’re great man and dad – bet you didn’t know. Well knowing Mugure, she’ll deny she ever said it out loud and punch me for telling you. And many other dads, some who are widowed and still raise their kids on their own and do their bit for their children in every way, big and small – no fuss.
You probably love doing what you do, but you rarely celebrate it or allow us to celebrate you, probably fearing the backlash of the most ignorant of your spices. Don’t be. Your spouses appreciate you – if you have one - and most importantly - your kids appreciate you.
To the rest of you who think it’s cool to say that men who are involved, hands-on, in the lives of their children are weak, 'unAfrican' or even 'wamekaliwa', to quote Doyin Richards - "grow up and stop being so f*cking ignorant."
If you’re a Dad who’s always wanted to play a more active role in your children’s lives – go for it. Don’t let the losers influence your decision either way. The truth is, the smart men and women of this world are in awe of you, they just don’t say it often or loudly enough. The strange thing is, the way the world works and especially today with social media, the dumbest ones are usually the loudest ones.
However, before you get it all twisted and start whining that Caroline says good Dads get their kids ready for school and do hair – get a grip. Doyin Richards’ story and that picture sparked an internet storm for a reason, to start the conversation and keep it going. It doesn’t start with doing hair nor does it end there. I will end this with a direct quote from Doyin himself “I'll still be here whenever you're ready to step your game up and join #TeamGrownAssMan."