For the first time in his life, my four-year-old stepped onto a urinal next to me in a public washroom.
We stood there momentarily, staring stolidly at a grey, chaffed wall and spluttering against a stainless steel surface with a groove at the bottom to flush away our business. In that fleeting instant, we froze next to each other, not as father and son. We were just two men, one very short and getting lost in the sensual relief of emptying bladders.
Then it dawned on me. This was it. This is home. It is where everything begins, where charity is fashioned. This rather obvious realisation sinks in with the vividness of a revelation – that my every move will be the cue for this man in the making. That I am the role model, the one person whose influence will begin the moulding of his character into a man.
Right there was the crucial piece of puzzle for future peace in the home as has been manifestly captured in this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign. This is how we could spread peace from the home to the world and conquer the militarism fueling gender-based violence.
It is in the training, coaching, protecting, shielding, guiding and directing of this boy and many others in homes all over the globe, that the world will either be a society where violence against women and children is alien, or suffer escalation of wanton brutality and mistreatment of the innocent. It begins at home, with the child. The boy child.
It is parenthood and investment in the boy that holds the long-term solution, even as we roll out affirmative action programmes to empower women, who for so long have suffered the injustice of marginalisation.
Why? Because despite the vitriol and wrath deservedly spewed against the loutish lot and touts who made it their business to grope beneath the skirts of women they deemed ill-dressed, and sexually assaulted by stripping them in public, everything seems to wind and trace back to childhood. At some point, life happened, or not! To these miscreants, who could have turned out differently under different circumstances. It’s why psychologists are probably obsessed with unravelling the thread of your babyhood past to explain your adulthood present – including whether you were dropped as a baby or pried off your mother’s bosom kicking and screaming! Just take a step back and scan the guilty faces of the suspects. It’s not hard to tell that they are knitted from the same yarn, and hail from a particularly notorious side of Nairobi.
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But raising a boy child in the digital age is a tightrope balance. It starts off as an emasculating experience, with the bundle of joy swaddled in little white jumpsuits adorned with ducks and teddy bears. Now that is in-dignifying and not very manly! You want him to man up without breaching the confines of non-violence. And even if you attempt some sort of arms control that sees you ban any toys that look like firearms, he still comes home and tells you about a “dush-gun” and no! It’s not a water ‘squirter,’ it’s a water gun!
Then you realise you don’t need to turn the little man into a sissy ectomorph for him to treat women better than gangrenous toes. His uproarious laughter when you step over a ball in the backyard and land face first in dirt, and the occasional clawing with his cousins have butched you up.
It’s funny that actually his boyishness and hunger for life is what helps you discover your manliness, even as you try to raise him as a man. You discover a masculinity that has nothing to do with dragging women by their hair like some caveman into a nook, but rather an illuminating maleness that makes you aware of your strengths and qualities as a man, and precludes violence against the innocent and helpless.
This could be the antidote for a world that John Lennon so aptly derided – a world where we have to hide to make love, but violence is practised in broad daylight!
However, the adversarial position engendered by the indignation of violence against women and children means that if ‘peace’ is to be attained, women should talk with the ‘enemy’ and not get piqued by huddling among themselves in boiling rage. That conversation needs to be had with men. Men who are raising other men. Such overtures will go to the root cause of the malaise at home.
If that happens, then our days will be like the silent moment of two men’s contented relief at a urinal. That pleasurable instant when gender and age melt into irrelevance and we are stripped to our core, where we are nothing but intelligent, sentient and emotional beings enjoying the relief of amicable existence.