Reflections Of A Kenyan Millennial About Fatherhood This Fathers Day

Reflections Of A Kenyan Millennial About Fatherhood This Fathers Day

vaakenya moments

I don’t know my father, not really. I grew up largely without him and for some reason, I used to think that was okay. I don’t mean to imply my father was dead, or absent. I just didn't have any sort of relationship with him. For the longest time, I didn't really know who he was, what he was, not like I knew my mother. He was a guy I sometimes saw over the weekends, someone my mother had informed me was a parent, just like she was. But not really. By the time he was actively involved in my life I was set up a certain way. I believed what I believed and I was what I was. This in itself isn’t a bad thing. We can only ever be what we are, no matter how hard we try. People will argue that we can always be better but until it happens, we are what we are. No point in speculating. Sometimes, though, I wonder. 

I suppose to most, this might be a bad thing. The disconnect between parent and child. The way we were raised, our generation of Millenials, the way we grew up, we were fortunate enough to experience the best of both worlds. Our parents were raised differently, believed in different things, and as such, they raised us according to how they believed a child should be raised. The father was the head of the family, the disciplinarian, a distant mythical figure whose job was to maintain order, discipline, and control while providing for the family. In this, my father was a success. But I still never knew the man. Not really.

Back to the Future, one of my favorite films was released in the ’80s. They travel back and forth through time, at one point going back as far as the 1800s. Spielberg’s imagined 2016 future, however, is the point of interest for me. He imagined a future with flying cars, shoes that lace themselves up amongst other things. He had hoped that the growth of technology over the thirty-year span would at the very least attempt to match that. That obviously didn’t happen. Still, however, there is a difference in technology compared to when our parents were younger. Access to information back then involved a trip to the library. Television stations and radios were in their ascendency and even then access to international programming was limited. Cultural transfer, at the time, was limited. The same cannot be said of now.

Psychologists believe that behavior is influenced by culture. Who we are, what we are as a people is predetermined by what we believe to be right and wrong. Interactions with different groups of people do go a long way to influence how a certain group of people think, slowly influencing what it is they believe, corrupting their cultural origins. The popularity of the internet, going back to the early days of the dot-com bubble made certain that our generation had access to considerably more information. Exposure to more information, for better or worse, influences what we think, what we believe. For some it makes us question more, and the more we question, the more we understand, and the more we understand, the more we question. For a while, therefore, millennials have been questioning whether the way they were raised was the right way, some opting to completely turn their backs on the old ways while picking up a modern approach to life, to parenting, while others co-opting the modern way, creating a mixture of the old and the new. There are those in the minority who, however, chose to stick to the old ways irrespective of the amount of information they get exposed to. This is not about them. This is about the millennial dad.

Nobody messes us up quite like our parents. This has been true for millennia. They instill in us what they believe, infecting us with their limitations when we are young and hope we can figure out the rest on our own while they sit back and go about the business of making sure we are fed and clothed. Again, not a bad thing. Black people and psychology haven’t really meshed well over the years so it would make sense that this departure from the norm, this almost obsessive need to make sure we don’t intentionally or unintentionally mess up our children comes at a time when mental health issues and psychology are popular topics of discussion.

The millennial dad is a lot closer to his children, spending a lot more time with them than the previous generation. They take a keener interest in their children’s day-to-day life and involve them as much as possible in what they have going on. They wear matching sports jerseys, matching shoes, play games together, go out together. The millennial dad is heavily invested in being a presence in their child’s life and not just a mythical figure that shows up to scold and punish and it is this writer’s opinion that this is a good thing. So, as we approach Father’s day this weekend, a special shout out to the millennial dad. Thank you for trying, and thank you for being there.