Let me begin by making something clear, I am not a fan of ceremonies, any ceremonies. As much as possible I like keeping things informal. So when, casually, my daughter reminded me of a parents’ meeting in her school, I, casually, said I will be there.
Nothing prepared me for the lessons I learnt that day. It began at the school gate. The poor fellow at the gate would not hide his surprise at my presence.
“Are the two of you together?” he asked the mother of my children.
Inside the compound, some children came running to say hello to their friend’s mother. I stood awkwardly as she happily hugged them.
They even gave her a quick update of Little Lord Byron’s wellbeing, including the fact that he had not paid Sh100 for online registration, whatever that means.
They did not even bother to look at me. I was a stranger in their school. They did not know that their best friend had a father. He, or at least the scant imagination of such a person, did not exist.
Then we went to this small hall tucked behind the classrooms. The meeting was already on, we were at least 30 minutes late. I made a beeline for the back seat, feeling rather awkward and trying my best to be invisible. When I finally relaxed and stole a quick glance around to acquaint myself with fellow ‘parents’, it hit me.
In the entire hall, there were only four men. The rest were mothers, some with suckling toddlers clinging onto them. Where were the stern-faced fathers that I expected to welcome me into the brotherhood of parenting?
On my right was a young mother fiddling with her phone. She was either on Facebook or WhatsApp. A number of other parents were too.
Just when I was beginning to think I must have lost my way; that this was not a parent’s meeting but a women’s chama, in strode this amazon queen in a tank top and tights, busy on her phone. She sat behind me, and when she was not whispering into her phone, she too was trawling the Internet.
Meanwhile, the meeting went on.
One of my fellow fathers quietly sneaked out after giving us a lecture on school management, the other gallant soldier succumbed to the temptation to fiddle with his phone too, while the third kept shifting on his seat, and asking whether the school had a strategic plan.
I sat back on my seat and let my mind wander; it meandered out, to the classrooms where a little boy was learning to read and write and a little girl fast approaching teenage.
My mind wandered to the number of years the girl has been in the school: nine years. Nine years and this was the first time I was attending her parents’ meeting. Nine years and only four fathers turned up.
Then I started calculating. How much money had I paid to have her in school? I stopped at Sh500,000 and something, and only because I am not very good with numbers. Then suddenly, I realised why it did not make sense.
It does not make any business sense to invest hundreds of thousands in a venture you never bother to check up on. It does not make sense to be too busy to follow up on what defines fatherhood in the first place (for why are we called fathers, if not because of the children?)
Above all, it does not make sense to be a father, if you cannot act like one.
I always asked myself who a deadbeat father is. I won’t ask again.