suffer the little children…or NOT!

Children In Dangerous Situations
Modified from

SATURDAY afternoon, as I was driving from a brief Daddy-chore, I got to Kintu Road in Kitintale and joined a brief queue of cars on either side whose occupants mostly had the hairs on the backs of their necks standing on horrified ends.

My view was better than that of the people in the cars behind a large truck at the head of the oncoming queue. The three cars ahead of me facing that truck were all small salon vehicles whose occupants were certainly as petrified as I was at what we saw.

Standing in the middle of the road in front of the large truck was a little boy, not more than one year old, dressed in a dark blue shirt and matching pair of shorts. Having been alive for so short a time, he had no idea how close he was to dying at that very point.

Human beings generally believe in the supernatural because of the way that truck driver managed to spot that little boy in the middle of the road and actually stop before flattening him to the tarmac.

All the cars stopped and stayed still until someone, who turned out to be a fairly random man, came from across the road and lifted the little fellow to safety. The women who formed the welcoming committee on the other side of the road received the infant without much fan-fare.

One elderly one called to a younger one who made quarrelsome noises down at him and then, fueled by the various remarks by her neighbours in the collection of houses and rooms nearby, pushed him to the ground with the instruction, in Luganda, that he should “Go back and stay there!”

The poor fellow, not comprehending why this was happening to him, burst into tears, picked himself up, and shuffled with his dust-covered back towards the area his mother had pointed to. One minute ago he was on the flat, hot tarmac dancing a baby jig with all those fantastic vehicles whizzing past while someone played loud music nearby, and the next he was covered in dust and being hit over the head.

The lugezi-gezi kicked in and I had to strike up a conversation, but not with the errant young mother – with the elderly one who I insisted should have known better and had a responsibility to guide the other.

She started by explaining that the child had followed his unknowing mother and then strayed, but I cut her short – at which point she summoned the offending mother.

No – I wasn’t going to arrest her even though she deserved it, I said, as the offending mother also tried to explain that the little one had just followed her…I lost my patience a little bit and explained that it was mostly poultry that walked around and expected their young to follow in a straight line, but that even THEY check occasionally.

It took many more minutes of conversation till they both agreed that children should be treated with a little more care. I was neither convinced that mother would change nor decided that I should go back on a daily basis to check up on the boy’s upbringing.

2018 and children are still being raised to the background tune of “Nja kukuba!”?

Yep – that phrase many people of past generations heard as they pranced around and frolicked: “Nija kuteera!/Nta kupiga!” and so on and so forth!

The offending mother, in this case, confessed to being 22 years of age and agreed that she didn’t know better. She couldn’t look me in the eye, out of what I hoped was shame but feared might be fear – which was why I had asked to speak with her elder friend, neighbour and possibly mother.

She was only raising her child the way she knew children were raised. By not being given too much attention for too long. By not being held by the hand at every step of the way. By not being repeatedly given emotional validation. By not getting any soft treatment when they make mistakes of any nature.

Because life is harsh and hard.

That cycle has to be broken – not by raising children who are spoilt and soft and won’t make a success of themselves in the harsh world. But by teaching them responsibility and the positive values that make us a positive people.

By stopping them from getting into harm’s way when they are young and tender, but teaching them how to survive should hard come to them when they are older.

the yellow card of life…and how many years have I got left in me?

This week I consider the reality that I could have only two years left to live.

Do not panic (I haven’t yet); the statistics actually say, according to the World Health Organisation Life Expectancy figures, that Ugandan men are generally expected to live to about 49 (50 for women, which isn’t the issue today). Even better, has us living up to 54 years – and they are even quoted by the CIA World Factbook! 

But the science around it is so complicated that even after two hours on these websites all I have is the assurance that I have about nine to fifteen years to go instead of the two (2) some chap had confidently declared to be the official figure (on a Saturday night and I couldn’t account for what he had been drinking earlier in the day).

The point is, I stopped a little bit to think about what exactly I would do if I had only a guaranteed two years left to live. Or nine. Or fifteen.

Reading about life expectancy was the equivalent of a life referee holding up a big, bright yellow card, blowing the whistle and announcing: “Two/Nine/Fifteen years like this and you’re out!”

Either way, first I’d prop two massive thumbs up for my parents, because my longevity is really their achievement, in spite of all the neglect I have shown for my own well being; indeed, recently my old man adopted the practice of sending congratulatory birthday wishes to the parents of the birthday boy or girl rather than to the subjects themselves. 

So this week I start taking an ongoing opportunity to thank these two old but youthful people for their hard work over the years, and hoping that their sacrifice and dedication and efforts continue well into the future beyond the calculations of the life expectancy scientists. But I will give them some help along the way.

I would expect that the life expectancy scientists actually factor in stuff like your parenting, giving lower chances of survival to children whose parents are ill-educated, or challenged in other ways.

Speaking of children, I wouldn’t, regardless of what’s left on my life-meter, sit my children down to tell them to use the years left with me to their best advantage – that creates too much anxiety for all involved.

Rather, I’d just take action so that by the time I succumb to statistics, I leave them with as few ‘what-if’s’ as possible. Homework together, impromptu walks, chats and school drop-ins, solutions to all sorts of problems big and small, life lessons at every turn and corner, non-stop invasion of their privacy…the list is long and I am on it. 

But even as I was writing this list I realised that fifteen years is still quite a short time – and I went back to the reliable internet where I found a life expectancy calculator!

Within minutes, I had taken the quiz, clicked a button and apparently I’ll live to…94 years! Image

Immediately, I replaced the WHO and CIA with this website, and began adjusting my list for the next 54 years. Two hours later I gave up: their idea of stress, for instance, does not take into account the harsh irrationality of a certain breed of workers, or Kampala taxi drivers and definitely NOT boda-bodas.

In general, whereas the scenario is easier to contemplate with the highest figures possible, I realised I’m better off trying to tip the odds in my favour.

I presume those statistics take into account the way we live life in Uganda, including stuff like drinking more alcohol than necessary (besides holy communion – in church, that is, administered by an ordained member of the clergy); eating whimsically rather than wisely (my favourite waiters and waitresses, reading this, will now understand why I am ‘lost’); and physical exercise or the lack of it.

So there are life-extending action points there.

In addition, there are tactics such as climbing onto fewer boda bodas, or investing in a solid helmet if I must do so; using seat belts everywhere (sometimes the office chair could do with one); shaking fewer hands of people whose office messengers are likely mates with garbage collectors…that’s another long list. Even otherwise ordinary pursuits such as upcountry travel are now going to be undertaken with the objective in mind to extend my life expectancy just a little bit more. 

And most of all: handling stress! Stress is defined in different ways (my favourite: “pressure you can’t withstand”) and comes from many different corners, so I’m not taking any more. If you’re irrational and stupid with me, I’ll be smiling and moving past you and the two-year or nine-year mark. Or I’ll try to.

Meanwhile, someone needs to create a tool for a Ugandan like me or Lozio Cheptai in Kaberamaido to calculate our life expectancy using real-life indexes that pertain to us, so I’m now seeking health professionals to team up with ICT professionals for this.

We might even win an award – and that uplift to self-esteem might extend our life expectancy figures further!

how did he meet their mother? why do i still care?

Engrossed in a bout of insomnia, I heard Jon Stewart make mention of How I Met Your Mother and how long we’ve been following this never-ending tale when I realised that I am one of those who has been wondering exactly how he met their mother.

Those who haven’t watched this sitcom have probably not suffered the type of insomnia that has been brought on by widespread internet access and its attendant evils – torrent downloads being a major one of them.

(Seriously, if you are lost by now then you shouldn’t be reading further.)

Back to this guy killing his kids by way of a bedside story, does anyone know yet exactly how he met their mother? I stopped somewhere at Series Five or Fifteen and just drifted into something else like The Wire or Entourage.

You see, by the time we began on this quest for how he met his mother, these TV Series’ were a little bit hard to come by. Back then, I used to buy box sets whenever I travelled – but mostly at the Dubai airport shops.

That kept me disciplined enough in my viewing to finish Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Frasier, The Shield, and even CSI…eh – that’s when it started unravelling. First of all, CSI started splitting up like Amoeba and I am waiting for CSI: Wandeg’s to kick off; secondly, people started supplying movies on unmarked DVDs at prices we then thought were ridiculous, but because we didn’t ever imagine the day would come when we’d be able to buy entire seasons of sizzling hot (released this afternoon) sitcoms at the cost of half a packet of cigarettes.

I cannot imagine being the owner of a video library today, even though I have been that broke before in life.

And then there comes a gripping sitcom like this How I Met Your Mother to begin ruining the experience of sitcoms. Friends ran on and on and on and on and today we still watch re-runs because of what it did for us back then. It was called Friends and was about Friends the whole damn time.

How I Met Your Mother is some sort of unrequested domestic accountability in somebody else’s home, and even though it was insanely entertaining, it is also irritating because we need to get to the bottom of this damn concept.

Exactly how did you meet my mother? Or their mother?

And where is she?

Because I think their (whoever they are – I’ve never been able to work out these details that should be important) mother is a bit irresponsible, leaving them to this cruel fate.

This cruel fate being, in my opinion, Ted Moresby’s evil plan of keeping his kids out of teen trouble by locking them down to the sofa with a long-winded tale about how he met their mother. Many people must have taken time off after the  Season One break to ask their fathers to tell them the story, in the hope that it would fill the time until Season Two broke but we all know how that probably went: a) (Slap) “Stupid. We don’t discuss such things! Msssschewwww!” b) (Slap) “Eh? Are you mad?” c) (Slap) “Eh? Are you drunk?” d) (Slap) (Slap) (Slap) (Kick) and so on and so forth.

But the above options are much, much better than what Ted Moresby’s kids are going through on that sofa (aka couch).

It’s been so long that I can’t remember properly, but I don’t think Ted Moresby’s kids asked him the question. He just showed up one day, sat them down, and then began telling them. The guy did it with such ease and casualness that their mother must have known this side of him – which makes me conclude that she is irresponsible because how can she go so long without even checking on them?

Maybe, I realise, she herself has only just been released from a ten-year long spell of a story about how he left home after his university degree, and she has fled to catch up on a life gone by – try out this new music-listening device called a disc man, buy an apple to see if the taste has changed and work out why are so many people talking about the share price of a fruit, and so on and so forth.

But exactly how, I ask again, did he meet her?

The great escapades of the impossibly cool crew of Barney, Robin, Marshall and Lily have kept us laughing and envious in large measures for all these years but, dammit, who has watched the last episode of this unlikely saga?