Tony Mochama On Fatherhood


I told someone that Tony was up this week to write about fatherhood and they said astonished, “What? Tony is a father?!” And I said, “Yep, kwani? Why are you surprised?” and they said, “Because he’s Tony Mochama!” You can’t blame them, I personally just can’t picture Tony carrying a baby. Or changing a diaper. Or testing the temperature of a bath using his elbow. Or shooing the baby at night while singing a Russian lullaby. Or pushing a pram. Or wandering around the isle in the supermarket looking for Cow and Gate. But I can picture him in one of those school meetings where teachers hold forums where they invite some guru in parenthood. I can picture him as the guy who keeps raising his hand to ask a question then they proceed to ask a very long question without a question mark at the end. That is before he extensively quotes Stalin. There is a chance that he’s actually a very switched on father, so I asked him how his experience is so far as a father and a dad.

By the way, my third Writing Masterclass will kick off at The Intercontinental Hotel from the 12th to 15th August. For this session I have invited Oyunga Pala, who needs no introduction and Tony Mochama, to handle some sessions. Registration is open now. We are only looking for 20 people because small is sexy….Wait, not all the time, but in this particular case small is sexy.

Gang, Tony Mochama.

You were a child, crawling on your knees towards (life),

 A baby is born, bawling for attention …’ MaNaGeMenT.

Three months ago, my baby who likes boasting that ‘mimi niko na jina mingi’ – Chelsea Chechislavia Nzula – turned four. OMG!!!, as the teens shriek in capped texts. I have been a father for four and one third years! I bet there are many men out there, who also cannot believe that they are dads to real life children – kids who eat and poop and love and laugh – and whom they have to pay school fees and stuff for.

Babies are slippery when wet

I still remember that day in mid-May almost four years ago like it was yesterday. It was a Tuesday and it was rainy and it was in Mater maternity and delivery wing (why do these places always have to sound like outposts of some distant postal office)? And a lady doctor kept yelling ‘push’ and I kept drinking my mineral water (except that the thing in my Dasani/Keringet, I forget, was not water) and even when I held you in my arms at ten past ten p.m., I still felt like an impostor. Me? A dad? Never mind. I realized at that moment that I could take a bullet for you! You are probably the only human being I would take a bullet for (though I may take a knife for someone else, jump in front of a train for a third party, cross an ocean for a fourth, climb a mountain, for a fifth and so on, forth).

Diapers are diabolical

Forget that s*** they tell you, pardon the pun, in the diaper ads about soft and sweet and so on. Diapers are from the devil. And impossible to wrap your mind, or anything else, around. In the end, I confined my role to simply taking them when soiled straight to the dustbin. And flinging them in there with purpose to look manly.

Food is always a la carte

As a father and bread winner to Chelsea, I came to learn that children often don’t give a fig about the bread you win – or the milk or the pawpaws you win or the oranges or the cereal you win. Heck, in her case, she even weaned herself violently off breast milk at one, preferring to suck her thumb. If kids had their way, they would eat bhajia and sweets every day, all day. Children take to nutrition in the same ‘graceful’ way a duck takes to driving a fork-lift truck on the Chinese superhighway.

The Joys of Toys are in the breaking.

As a child, my mom’s ideas of toys for we two boys was storybooks. Much as I am grateful for that today, I was determined that Chelsea enjoys a wide range of toys from birth. But! Rattles were thrown, playthings shared out liberally with estate play-mates and dolls decapitated in a way that made me worry she was going to run off and join ISIS as a jihadi bride (until her mom sensibly pointed out to me that she was two). Oh well, perhaps these are early signs that my daughter is aiming to be a medical surgeon – and conduct amputations and organ replacement operations.

Songs in repeat mode

I had always seen in the softer Western movies that children should be lullabied to sleep with bedtime stories like ‘Cinderella.’ Alas, with Chelsea, it was not to be!

Every time I try to read her a bedtime story like ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ the young lassie, instead of getting lulled to sleep, leaps up on the bed. And belts out a rendition of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, little star’ or the theme song of the latest Mexican soap opera that her nanny has been watching (and her nanny watches them with a fanaticism that would make Osama proud). It is enough to make a man want to resort to my late old man, Mr. Ontita’s, tactics. He would come to crank out lullabies, especially when tipsy, in ekegusii ( o, o, yo, o, o, yo, mwana arare, arare chithoro, chithoro chikomorerie, o yo yo!) … except that the lullabies sounded more like war songs and were croaked out in a naturally gruff voice made hoarse by whiskey. When Mr. Ontita was tired of singing and seeing our alarmed little faces, he would snap – ‘Poys, sleep or I’ll pit you.’ That worked like a charm. Sometimes, though, we were beaten to sleep.

Guess Who’s Smarter Now?

Now that she’s in Nursery Two or something, Chelsea figures she’s a genius and her dad is a dumb old man. Which is why I’ll be continuously tested on my ‘ABCs’ on her alphabetical table hanging on one corner of the living room wall, my counting skills (one to one hundred) and so on: “’So, Tony, kumbe you know number eighty?’

It’s enough to drive a dumb old man up the wall.

Every Day … a Sunday

Because Sundays are when we take the tot out to play at bouncing castles and camel riding and so on (after her mom and her have done church, as I thoroughly go through the Sunday newspapers, so help me Lord, lol), Chelsea’s favourite day is Sunday. Never mind that, last term, they learnt days of the week. Every evening, she’ll ask me hopefully, ‘Tony, tomorrow ni Sunday?’

Money for Honey

Ahh, Mammon, the god of money, sooner or later catches up with the children. And my little one has come to recognize coins. Five bob is for sweets, ten bob for ‘creeps’ and there are the ‘woije’ eyes as she asks, ‘Tony, gimme twenty bob I go buy bhajia.’ ( She ‘unleashes’ her English when she wants to play me because she knows that the lingo that softens papa).

Her Nanny is a colleague ( and … I am Tony)

Never mind the two decade gap between them, Chelsea sees her nanny as her colleague. It’s always, ‘Miyam (Miriam), twende tuogee, Miyam, tukule breakfast, Miyam, let’s go shop …’Chelsea cracked her aunty up the other day when she said, ‘Tony anafanya homework (because I’m ever locked away in my study, writing), Mommy ana cook, alafu, Miyam ananiosha alafu anagombanisha.’

That’s it. The summary of our lives! And I am ‘Tony’ (see, my early attempts to be a cool dad so that, in ten years, she doesn’t slam a door on me in teen angst, or worse, run off to Mesopotamia to be that jihadi bride I feared earlier).

Girls will be boys

For the last one week, Chelsea Chechislavia Nzula has been at her maternal grandma’s place. Reason? She was ‘exiled’ by her Ma (although the official reason is her ‘shosh’ misses her). Why? Because she and her shosh share blood!

O, why was Chelsea exiled? She was caught sliding down the stairwell banister in dangerous imitation of lads twice her age. I mean, we live six storeys above ‘sea’ level, you see what I mean, in one of those courts where death is a drop down away.

Last lesson learnt being that, as a parent, we will always have our mouths in our hearts where the little ones are concerned. I am glad that Chelsea returns from her ‘Siberian exile soon. For today, at the start of August, ‘Tony’ will distract himself from missing Chelsea by watching the team she is named after … beat one Arsenal FC. at one of those sky lounges where football and fatherhood seem almost of equal importance, for 105 minutes.

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  1. Usually Tony makes me have a hard time reading his pieces(Pulse)because he switches from English to Sheng with the ease a blue Subaru switches lanes on Thika Super Highway,but this one? Better.Nice piece.

  2. Tony, how do you pronounce that
    second name? Good one on fatherhood. “Jihadi bride” this one killed me!

  3. I was eagerly waiting for today’s post only to realize that it sounds (exactly)like something I read a few months ago (except for the biko part). The only difference is that it’s edited to go with the current time. Why Tony? Why?

      1. General Zod,
        As a rule, one cannot plagiarize themselves.
        (Naomi, nothing has changed about fatherhood in those last three in-between months, except that Chelsea can now count up to one fifty instead of one hundred, that’s ‘why.’).

  4. Hahaha Chelsea calls you Tony… cool dad. My reaction was the same as Biko’s friend… Aaiih Tony a dad? How??? Glad to read about your experiences.

  5. O Tony! First I have missed your writing! Second I have laughed tears, upon tears! The bit about your Dad singing lullabies has finished me! I might need ribhabilitation after this.

  6. Tony…I don’t know what happened. I remember gobbling your articles in high school like they were manna and I a pilgrim. Those thrilling, upbeat and unputdownable scripts made those years bearable. Every Friday was a gift. Now.. I look for that and ….what happened?

  7. Is it just me or is that post not so for this Gang? on other news am still trying to pronounce the 2nd name…
    I really miss your articles Biko..

  8. Ah! wewe Biko, I came here to read YOUR writing. I didn’t mind last week’s feature though, because it was interesting 🙂 I feel cheated today *sulking

  9. Your daughter calls you Tony…hehe thats
    interesting ooh I heard its supposed to be cool.Not bad but I miss Biko.

  10. great piece Smitta, your articles made my high school bearable, you and Oyuga Pala. please dont kill my hope for reading , please dont

  11. Haha your little missus calls you Tony?! cool and the way she summarises your life..Can’t wait for your(+Biko’s) fatherhood articles when your lil’ missus reaches teenhood.

  12. i miss the smitta smitten of when i was in high school. ION Bikoooooo this mc job isn’t for you…i want you as the main speaker.

  13. Mr. Biko, what gives? I hope this means that your next piece will be
    THE one we will speak about till Dec. Tumekumiss.

  14. Writing is an art so I will not speak less of Tony’s piece cause man that guy is smart…he has a way of coonecting clauses and incidences that occurred BC…his writing exposes me to intelligent and rich history connected to present day circumstances.These two guys are both excellent word mechanics & story tellers.Thank you Biko for your big heart it radiates through your writing

  15. Some of you here saying you read this somewhere n so forth, does it mean an article cant be reposted on some other sites,,? You are the type who use old newspapers to wrap meat

  16. I kept forcing myself to read…was not getting any interesting so I rushed to the comments. Biko come back please.

  17. If this article appeared elsewhere before today, I did not have a chance to read it. My mail reads, “The article Tony Mochama on Fatherhood, first appeared on bikozulu”

      1. On the night of May 21st, 2008, at around 11.11 a.m. at then Hooters’ bar in the CBD, I felt exactly like this young shabik/fanatic of Yanga, when John Terry slipped and fell on his ass in Moscow yet somehow still managed to kick the missed penalty against Manchester United in the Champion’s League final. ‘HUJUMA,’ bwana, whatever that means.

  18. This is well written. And never mind that it was posted elsewhere – I have re-read Biko’s ‘Yes you are tribal’ fifteen hundred times. And I have a copy, permanently, on my desk. Good writing is good writing.
    My son, Joe, calls me ‘Mama Joe’. He likes to be called ‘Mr. President’, and when we do, he crosses his arms and then his legs and sits like he was a two year old president and the commander in chief of all lives, including mine. Thank you Tony.

  19. Have you ever taken a huge gulp of a flat beer (as in a beer that turned out to be flat) and immediately sensed that something was very wrong even though you cannot quite figure it yet? And then you make a face and start eyeing the bottle, its contents, the pub and the waiter suspiciously?
    I am not a writer but I think a piece on fatherhood should be more about the child rather than the father, especially when it is the father telling the story. Too many ‘I’s’ here? Anyway thanks for the intro… and the comments.

      1. I did. See, let’s not catch feelings here. Tony Mochama is a great writer – Nairobi Nights and the Road to Eldoret, the columns in the dailies and the weekly are good reads. But perhaps it is just the forum, or the expectations. I don’t know why. But this post does not quite fit in, it is a hard read. Still, I comment only against my name because that is just my personal opinion.

  20. That Smitta is a dad? Surprised. Also,

    Chelsea cracked her aunty up the other day when she said, ‘Tony anafanya homework (because I’m ever locked away in my study, writing), Mommy ana cook, alafu, Miyam ananiosha alafu anagombanish..
    Every evening, she’ll ask me hopefully, ‘Tony, tomorrow ni Sunday?’

    She calls him Tony. Really? Woah!!

  21. This is a great piece; whether it was posted elsewhere or not. You write well Tony, you’ve gotten yourself a new fan!!!

  22. Beautiful n unique name; Chelsea Chechislavia Nzula(I can never pronounce it in public… No way!!!)… N this really made my day “dolls decapitated in a way that made me worry she was going to run off and join ISIS as a jihadi bride”

  23. Biko I know its been a while since you mentioned toni braxton in your posts. You didnt have to do this. Ama you’ve crossed over?

      1. My next question would be, was his name cleared or is that still a pending issue? It is funny how we (Kenyans) forget things so quickly and continue entertaining people who have wronged us or committed crimes (e.g. these corrupt politicians we keep electing). Many women come here to read Bikos stories so one would think he is a bit sensitive to issues that affect us.

        1. Zanzerose,
          Yes, the CID cleared my name, concluded the non case was motivated by malice and on that basis we have a three M defamation law suit pending against the vile persons in court. Biko Zulu is not ‘entertaining criminals.’ Happy like a rose in sunny Zanzibar now?

    1. Bella, I do not know if I like you either, seeing as I don’t know you, but once Chelsea hits adolescence, I am sure the work will mature.

  24. Great work Tony…Haters gon’ hate but they never no the deal with writing. I am m trying to crack writing but its quite a hustle. most of these guys don’t know how to make an English paragraph worth reading and probably that would explain their lack of ungratefulness for this peace.
    Meanwhile, Arsenali lazima tuwanyoroshe!!!

    1. Jeff bro,
      But we’ll ‘revenge’ on Man City.
      Meanwhile, keep writing, and hope we link up atthe Master Class -))

  25. Good work Tony,it was a nice read.It is a small window into fatherhood but all the same it is fun reading.I have seen a notification on Biko’s new piece I cant wait to start reading.

  26. Tony… Nice read as always man. I didn’t know you were a father, congratulations boss! I bet it feels amazing! I’ll be looking for more of you out there, it’s been a minute.

    Hahaha… Arsenal beat Chelsea! What will you tell her?

  27. I think this is the first Smitta article I have read from start to finish and actually unerstood what he was saying.

  28. Thank God i never ran here to read. This has been a very painful reading experience. Biko dearest we realy do miss you

  29. Thank you Biko for bringing Smitta on board,i have read his works for eons and am proud to say that he inspired the bug who hit me to do it so proud of you people,hope to make it big like you guys.the haters only read blogs.cant they explore all the writing platforms?or rather readership?

  30. Hahaha I can relate, my son and chips, going bouncing castles, even at 9 pm on a weekday he is asking to go. Singing happy birthday all year long!