What makes family? A house? The people in it? Children? Or is it loyalty? Love? I’m confused, sadly, by the one thing that centers my life as I write this. Many, many things in life are connected—one thing I strongly believe in.
Our folks, or most of those who came before, stood by family. Where I come from, a man was often known as the family’s head, and his wife, the kids, would look up to him. Respect him. Even fear him. Where I come from, the rest of the family stood beneath the man, the father.
This came with plenty of responsibility on mothers and attitude to fathers. Children demanded love. It seems, however, that those before us built more blocks on what society believed to be the essence of family. You would put a ring on a man’s finger, and his wife would have to kiss plenty things goodbye. The beginning of a new chapter in life. One where freedom would be diminished, just as much as the little voices, whines, and plenty disagreements.
A family would seem to be moving forward when a house seemed to be in order. A quiet house, with more rules than a classroom. A small room with only one place to look: down. Inexplicable fear towards the very people who were meant to usher us into this world with love, into society as our first friends, and introduce us to life with life, even a little excitement.. would do. But, no. Not when the head’s stability was a priority. A man needed to look in control. His “home” then would. But what is a home? It definitely is not a house!
Many things we learned along the way, were influenced by what society fed to our folks, which they ignorantly passed on to us. Many things that we eventually became were influenced by the things we had to go through for a taste of what we saw as life. What we felt we needed, and a greater majority of us was influenced by the things we witnessed within our homes, practiced on either folks or us, in the same spirit of keeping the head where it’s supposed to be.
We lived life and learned unconditional love when we broke out of our netted nests. Some of us didn’t hear love from the right people, and it’s probably why we had so much trouble understanding it. The experience has never been pretty with others, for society today doesn’t care where you come from. It will align you with what’s trending, what’s available. And oh, what we placed in our mouths most times was far from what has been termed to be love. Are we always to blame, though?
See, it took forever for some to learn the damn word, let alone hear it from the right people! Now we’re in homes of our own. We try at love, for it was never ours. We exchange insincere vows, for we’ve known survival better. We’ve understood violence pretty well, and see, order is another vocabulary that may take ages longer to learn! How do we get through this? How do we become our own people? How do we spread our hearts with love, better than we can other things we probably also should?
See, parenting today is greatly affected by the failure on family. Most people either dread going in, abandon their responsibilities, or kill each other from day one, questioning the very bonds that brought them together: is it, love? We fail at parenting differently, horribly, since we failed at family. Well, it’s probably because now, there’s no one single ‘head of the family,’ but at least two. And there’s no society to influence your open minds on what best to feed your toddlers, but just you two. But then, the big question is: will we kill ourselves being what we’ve become?
This is a blend of personal and impersonal notes… my view of what was, what is, and my fear of what tomorrow holds.
Thank you for your time. Stay safe, bye.
Benson Langat is a poet, fiction writer, and freelancer. A dreamer, he realizes a world of possibilities through stories and explores life in poetry. Benie is a dad and lives in Nairobi, Kenya.