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Fatherhood Chronicles: Calla is All Grown Now

Calla all grown

Children grow very fast. I mean, just the other day, we were struggling with holding and bathing Calla, because she was too small, too fragile… She looked like she would break.

But now, she is a grown girl who can’t keep calm. She is literally always on the move, running to the kitchen, bedrooms, through the living room to the balconies. If she finds the gate open, she runs out, too. And so, we have to keep an eye on her all the time.

And she learnt how to hide and commit her sins. The more we ban her from doing things, the more she hides to do them. Like eating her toothpaste – if she lands it, she literally distracts you and runs to hide and suck it away. He favourite hiding place is behind the curtains – and it took us a while to discover it.

When you catch her, she throws the evidence away and either laughs like a maniac (and she’s loud) or hugs your feet.

Makes you forget your anger.

Speaking of anger. There’s no much anger in this Meru house any more. She is such a light. Much because sometimes, she is maddening. She does things that make you feel like kicking her. Like standing on her little plastic seat which she drags around all the time and trying to light the cooker, or to climb on the kitchen counter to throw away utensils… or like yesterday, I caught her dancing on top of my laptop.

Baby climbs ladders.

She climbs ladders, too.

Maddening. But then she calls you Papi, Baba, Mami, Bami, Maaam, Baaa (she calls you whatever comes to her lips) and you forget you were mad in the first place.

Yes, she talks now. A lot. She’s always talking and telling us stories. She takes all the phone calls and won’t let you speak, she imitates people on TV, she chats, complete with hand gestures and facial expressions… Only that we don’t understand 99% of what she says.

Tutu

We know tutu, though, which is poo poo in her language. I guess she loves the toilet, like her dad, because she kills boredom by making us run helter skelter looking for her potty when she says these magic words, tutu. Try to fart around her, and she will point at your your ass, shouting tutu and laughing like those village women.

Calla in the village feeding cattle

The Village woman with her grandmother feeding cattle and sharing stories of old

The only time she stops talking is when she is watching her cartoons. She literally zones out, doesn’t acknowledge our presence and we can leave her for hours, only getting up to dance with the cartoons, and get drinking water. That’s why I know Baby Shark, Humpty Dumpty, The Little Monkeys and other baby songs this much now.

She makes me look forward to going home, Calla. Because she also looks forward to seeing me at home, too. She gets off her seat when she hears the car wheels on the gravel outside, is normally out on the balcony confirming it’s me by the time I’m locking up, and is standing at the door with the keys by the time I’m at the door.

baby marshall headphones

Headphone ameanza mapema

Oh, you should experience the shrieks and the hugs and the kisses I get to understand real love.

In the mornings, I have to tiptoe (sometimes humming that song wanaanza ku-tipi-toe 🙂 ) to get out of the house. Because if she hears me, it will be 30 minutes before I can distract her enough to leave. And she’s a hard one to distract. Still, she realises I’m gone and screams like she’s on fire. That scream is so heartbreaking I have caught myself going back to blow another 30 minutes to be given permission by her majesty.

She’s also a prayer warrior. Tell her it’s time to pray and she’ll stop whatever she’s doing, close her eyes, grasp her hands and start mumbling. We don’t know what she says, but I know God knows, he hears and does it for her. Yes, we are trying to raise her in the ways of the Lord … so that when she grows, she doesn’t depart from them (Pro 22:6). That’s what the Bible says.

Speaking of ways of the Lord, Calla is a star of the church…and pretty much any public place we go. She dances (and she’s a complete dancer), shouts, sings, plays with other kids, runs around. And steals the show with her beauty.

My little puppy is all grown, and I love her to bits.

Fatherhood Chronicles 3: Meeting my Daughter for the First Time.

Where were we last time? Oh yes … I was crying myself to sleep when I heard the news that Calla, hear this, MY daughter had been born healthy. Jeddy actually used the sentence “I’m holding your kamzungu here.”

That was the picture I slept with at 2:00 am and woke up to at 4:30 am without the need of an alarm. Those who know me know I can sleep, and I do sleep. And I need an alarm to get up, after snoozing like 17 times.

Not this dawn, May 19 2017. I woke up like a father should. I didn’t shower – what’s showering? – and dragged Kero out of the other bedroom. He was also so excited you would think he was the father. When the hospital doors opened at 6:00, we were the first in – running. Even the nurses and other patients started clapping and cheering when I ran in like a village boy expecting scones from his mother.

And there she was. Sleeping like a little, cuddly doll, breathing softly – I placed my ears under her nose to listen to the most beautiful sound you will every hear, the sound of your child breathing. I just looked at her, transfixed. She was beautiful, too beautiful to be true. I’m not saying this because she’s my daughter, but honestly, she was the most beautiful baby. Curly, dark hair, lips more beautiful than her mother’s (and Jeddy has beautiful lips), a masterpiece of a nose (like a cat’s, not my long German nose), and the clenched fingers, long a thin like mine…

calla baby fingers

Then she opened her eyes, and my-oh-my!

I was mystified as I looked into those eyes. So pure, and innocent, and loving and white with large pupils at the middle like a cat’s. I swear she was also looking at me too, I can swear I saw her smile when she saw me. Haters will say babies’ eyes don’t actually see the first day and that was just a movement on her lips, but hamsemi kitu. Calla saw me, recognized me, and gave me her first ever smile.

So, I looked at her, she looked at me… We looked into each other’s eyes like true lovers – that’s who we were, anyway. I was her true love and she was my true love. She was all that mattered to me at that moment, and it was overwhelming… a pure emotion surge hit me. I started trembling and tearing up. This small life was my blood, and flesh, and water… and sperm. My seed.

God had blessed me with the most beautiful child, ever. And she was breathing and looking at me and smiling at me. I didn’t hold her first… I walked away for a moment before I could burst into a sob in front of my daughter. See, I’m an African man and we don’t cry in front of women and children. Well, apart from Kero who was crying again and wringing his hands like a certain woman in my village.

Jeddy was laughing at us grown, crying men.

By then, I had not even greeted her, nor had I held Calla. And I looked at her look at the baby with a lit face like we see in the pictures. I wish Rich Allela were there to capture that moment. Only the previous evening she was ashen with pain, and now, having done her thing, was beaming like the morning sun. Ever been slapped by love?

When I finally held Calla in my arms (I still hadn’t), my life was complete. I was in Wonderland.

I still am.

Fatherhood Chronicles: Her name will be Calla.

fatherhood frankmwenda

On 19th May 2018, an event was going down at the Nairobi Children’s Home in Lower Kabete. There was food, games, lots of gifts, and cake. Oh, and a brightly dressed girl in a shining crown. A princess.

The name of the event was CALLABASH.

It was quite a party. Complete with 2 MCs and white, custom t-shirts by one Mike Atoti (don’t ask me about the second name). We even planted about 20 trees, organised by environmentalist Doreen Ntiritu.

Turned out to be quite the bash.

It was my daughter’s birthday. And the day marked one year since I looked into the most beautiful set of eyes I have ever seen. Completely white, and waiting to see the world for the first time.

My new status and initiation into fatherhood was confirmed on 19th May 2017. Or maybe 9 months earlier. 🙂


One fine week in 2016, Jeddy had a stomach ache. It bugged her for some time and you know about Thika Road clinics. She was positively diagnosed with typhoid and got her large share of antibiotics. Only that they didn’t work, and she had to go to another hospital.

This one was more serious, and after all tests revealed nothing, they took an ultrasound scan.

She brought the results, and I looked at that thing that looked like those photography negatives of old, before being washed.

Not Calla.

“So, what does this show?” I asked.

“They are saying I’m two weeks pregnant.”

“Okay. Where is the baby here? ”

“This black spot.”

“This black spot is a baby?”

“Yes, it’s 0.63 centimeters. Could be a pimple, but they said it’s most probably a baby.”

“Okay.”

“Okay? Just okay.”

“Yes. If it’s a baby, I am ready. Guess we won’t go to TRM to eat chicken today. We have to save for the baby.”

It was all surreal, this confirmed fatherhood. I couldn’t believe that I was holding, in my hand, the first picture of my child. My own child!


For months, we prepared. Bought a lot of unisex clothes… and visiting baby shops on Biashara Street, asking around for hospitals and collecting random Baby Stuff on Facebook groups.

And started writing down names. The only name that was definite for me was the name Calla if it was a girl. There was no discussion there. If it was a boy, he would have a close derivative of the name Calla. The second name would be the same, whether it would be a boy or a girl. A unisex name.

And another thing, no Kimeru name.

Weren’t we proud to be Meru, or Africans?

Number one, have you noticed that Meru names are finished? Taken up like Gmail addresses or Twitter handles. Girls are either Kendi, Makena, Karimi, Nkirote or Mukiri. Throw a stone in Maua and you will hit a boy called Mwenda, Muthomi, Kirimi or Murithi.

My extended family has 4 Murithis, 3 Mwendwas, 7 Karimis, 3 Kendis, 5 Makenas. What’s wrong with Merus and names?

Anyway, that was one reason. The second reason was more fundamental. There’s a lot of tribalism in Kenya, and we know for a fact that people have missed out jobs just because of the name on their CV. Or gotten jobs.

And we didn’t want to be a factor for our child. He or she would be playing on a level ground. No undue favours and definitely no discrimination based on tribe.

baby bump

Our baby bump


The journey was smooth. At least to me because I wasn’t the one pregnant. 🙂 But I was there when we did the scans, watching as the heartbeats (oh that feeling of seeing a new life) turned into something I saw in Biology lessons (a tadpole) to a time when we could see a proper baby, you know, with a head a moving arms and legs. Oh, and always drinking the amniotic fluid. Always. That was crazy, even to me.

And we learned it would be a girl! The drinking girl. [Remember the letter I wrote to my daughter?]

The name Calla had found an owner.

Welcome to my Fatherhood Chronicles

It has taken me over one year to write this – I kept postponing. But now, get ready to be bored by my stories of fatherhood, in this new series.

Photography: Rich Allela

A Letter to my Unborn Baby

BABY AND parents

Hello, baby.

No matter how old you get, you will always be my baby. Wewe ni toto langu. And I will always be your father. I have seen a lot of things that you still don’t know about. I’m not saying I know everything – I expect you to see a lot more than me in your life, go to places I haven’t gone to, meet people I have never dreamt of meeting. But since I was here first, listen to me.

Baby, this world has lots of people. Billions of people. All of them are traveling in different directions and they may confuse you. You are only one of your kind. Walk in the direction you want, and never ever let anyone determine the way for you. Let them advise you – learn all you can from people… but baby, never follow their very steps. Not even mine. Make your own path.

Baby, let me tell you the secret to a happy life. It is accepting you for who you are and believing you are the best. Never compare yourself to anyone, never live beyond your means because of anyone. You are the most beautiful person, you are the richest, you are the coolest, you have the best parents, you are the smartest, you have the best clothes… You, baby, are the best anyone can be and don’t let people use vanity to define you. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Compete only against yourself, and that there, is the only way to be happy.

Baby, love God. I am not imposing a religion unto you, and again, you can follow your path. But I have lived and known that loving God gives you the discipline you need to live well in this world. If you love God you will never hurt anyone and you will not destroy yourself.

dad and son

Baby, you are allowed to not know things. If you don’t know something, say so. Ask questions, make an effort to learn. Don’t make people, or even yourself, believe you know something you don’t. No one was ever crucified for not knowing. On the other side, I have seen a lot of people who got into trouble for promising things they can’t deliver and pretending they know things they don’t, just to be liked. Say “I don’t know” if you don’t. 

Unless it is necessary, baby, don’t take debts. You can take loans to grow yourself faster than you can normally, but assess the reasons. Debts can derail your growth, debts from friends can make you look mediocre, loans that you take and fail to utilize to get better can occasion more losses to you. If you can, avoid debts. If possible, unless it is your business to give debts, don’t lend people money unless you have to. That’s how friendships perish. See, people are not as faithful with their debts as I would like you to be. 

Build your way up.

Be patient, baby. Nothing great was built in one day. Everything you adore is the result of hard, consistent work. Do you want to know how all the people in prison and all the people that were shot by the police got there? You are right. They wanted to get things done in a flash. That’s why they stole, that’s why they killed, and that’s how they messed their lives. Be patient. Work hard for your money – that’s how you will know true happiness when you sleep every evening.

Try new things, explore. I promise not to show you that I’m a tiny bit scared. Deep down I might be worried or anxious or slightly terrified of what might happen if it doesn’t work out for you, but I won’t let my fears slow you down. In the same way, don’t Let fear stop you from trying anything. Take chances, go for it, trust yourself. I promise to trust you. Sawa?

father son sunset

If you mess up in a small way, I promise to acknowledge it, help you, then let it go. And whenever you mess up in a big way, I promise to feel the weight of it and push you to do the same. I promise to let you make those tough mistakes, to address them when I need to, and to keep on loving you all the same.

Read, baby!

Read books, baby. Build one hell of a library, or borrow mine – you are the only person I will lend my books. I’ll help you learn to read and then I’ll share with you all the stories, true and imagined, that have made me who I am. Live a life filled with words and books and imagination and the space to be as creative as you want to be… because that’s how you learn, that’s how you grow, that’s how you see the world. Reading books is cool.

Love us, your family. I am not telling you this because I will be the recipient of this love, but know that your family has got you in ways that your job, your friends, your other mentors, can’t. Never substitute your love and time for your family for anything.

Mostly, sweet baby, I promise to show you love in all its best forms. I’ll love you and your mom and our friends and our families. I will say it with words and I’ll show it with actions; and if just one of my promises can be kept, let it be this: that you’ll feel it. A love so big that it fills you up, that it makes you feel safe. And any time you feel as if I am not doing good, talk to me. I want us to be best friends. Make me a better father, each and every day.

Welcome to my life.

Love,

Your Daddy.

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