Generational Nonsense Is What Defines Your Life Values

The more things change, the more they remain the same

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr

The arrival of a visitor would change the mood in our homestead.

We would get excited when my aunties arrived with colourful sweets, mandazi, bread and other lovely things to eat. We well knew that the following morning, breakfast would be different. We would not have the sugarless porridge for breakfast. Instead, my mother would make some sugared tea and offer us fat slices of tasty bread in a wide, flat metallic tray with countless ridges. We would then scoop top cream from the previous evening’s milk boil and joyfully spread it with a spoon. That was a heavenly breakfast, the one I knew I would come to enjoy every day in my future life in town.

My mother would be less commandeering, and her fast-paced life would slow down to a peaceful existence to the benefit of all of us. Instead of rushing through her morning chores and going to the farm with us, she would stay home doing lighter duties and keeping her guest company with unusual camaraderie. I loved this moment because I would eavesdrop on their animated stories and learn family history. The uncensored versions that you never get to hear as a child. The true story of my extended family that is. 

I came to know who married who, who divorced who. A good husband and a bad wife. A reliable relative and an undependable one. Legit biological members and ones bred from infidelity. Real wives and unconcealed concubines. Family love and kindred hatred. Kindness and mistreatment. I came to understand why my parents were not so close to some of my relatives. It was all because of their experiential past.

All my close relatives were humble and loving.

My generous and kind paternal auntie was always my best. My father’s only sister. I love her to bits even today. She would bring us fruits and candies, especially Patcos. Those tasty white tablets that today I believe were made from one ingredient – pure white icing sugar! She would also bring us some hulled rice (today, frail in her late eighties, still sends my siblings and I a big pack of milled rice every year without fail) saving us from facing another round of boiled dry maize and beans for dinner. 

This poverty-inspired, retrogressive, jaw-breaking, gut-exhausting meal is one of the first things that chased me away from the village. It possibly made me desire to marry a white woman or a girl from town. A spouse who would never, ever cook me any hard-to-chew and permanently bloating meals. Most importantly, this type of a woman would not even know how to make the traditional, cold, fermented porridge. The only drink that made me realize that I have two delicate sour glands concealed deep down my throat.

My maternal uncle and aunties were equally loving and caring people. They would visit with some rice, sugarcane, arrowroots, sweet potatoes and other lovely things for us. Sometimes, they would bring along my cousins, and we would play endlessly and tell stories in the starry nights lit by a brightly shining moon. The next days would be fun grazing cows and playing all day long. It would be a sad time departing afterwards.

One paternal uncle was in a class of his own.

He was a policeman, the only one with a job in my entire extended family. He would take a long time to visit, but whenever he showed up, everything came to a standstill. He would arrive in style that no one else did in that homestead.

Unlike all my other relatives who would come walking or cycling, he arrived in a privately hired car on random afternoons. A pristine 504 Peugeot station wagon that I heard he hired from Tea Room along River Road in Nairobi. The story goes, he would arrive from wherever he was working in Kenya and offer to pay for every seat in that eight-passenger taxi for his reserved comfort. He would then instruct the driver to come straight to our home, 120 kilometres away!

Whenever a car arrived at home, we curiously surrounded it.

We would enjoy touching the door handles and smell its strange fumes. We would look at ourselves in the mirrors, a rare thing in our homestead, and admire our soiled and snotty faces. If we were lucky enough, we would be allowed to sit inside and touch its seats and turn its steering wheel. Seating on foam and touching pleather was such an out of our world experience. 

Besides, a car visiting our homestead elicited lots of pride. It affirmed to our neighbours that we were a highly influential lot and bonafide members of the village middle class. It validated the fact that we were well connected beyond the hood – to the outside world. It confirmed that our having a broad, grassy path into our fenceless homestead was purposeful and not just empty pride.

His guest load was also different. 

No smelly sisal baskets or sacks of farm produce. There would be fancy personal suitcases to offload and a big chunk of meat for my mother to cook. My siblings and I would be recalled from our chores and herded to carry his stuff out. Then attentively wait for the next set of instructions. That would be about cleaning and dusting the room that was designated for him, usually displacing my elder brothers.

He amazed us in many ways. 

One was how he would sneeze and cough immediately after entering our dusty shacks. Before stepping in, he would curiously seek assurance that the nasty fleas and hostile scorpions he entertained during the last visit were no longer there. Then he would enter and inspect the tiny bedroom, instructing us how to sweep, drench the floor and remove cobwebs. He would also leave us with directives on how to hang his bed net and spread his flowery bedsheets. He often said how mosquito bites made him itch. We found that very funny. 

But the real sensation was how he dressed and what his bags contained. 

He would arrive wearing expensive, glittery, metallic watches on both hands. They were called Seiko 5, the type that my father wears even today. I guess this is where he got the inspiration. His shoes were highly polished, and he found it very challenging to move around our dusty courtyard. 

His waist was donned with a colourfully beaded belt (known as Kenyatta in Maasai) that we wished we could touch and feel. But most importantly, he brought along two radio cassette players and one big load of vernacular tapes. For days on end, we would have the liberty to choose and replay our music, unlike listening to my father’s closely guarded transistor radio.

He would then hurriedly settle down for a few conversations. The first one was with his mother, my late grandmother, who used to live with us. She was always disappointed that he never got himself a wife and children. Whenever she raised this topic, he would brush her off with a light commitment to consider it. My grandmother would always end the talk by telling him that he was living an empty and purposeless life. He, nevertheless, cared nothing about such a thing.

Then he would disappear for days.

The same car that brought him would take him and my father away. My father would show up after one or two days, visibly exhausted from prolonged drinking and sleepless nights. He would openly proclaim that he was unable to cope with his brother’s unending drunken sprees.

My uncle would later appear after a week or two, spend a night and disappear once more. This time, he would have come to replenish his briefcase with fresh laundry. We would then hear that he drunk all his big monies and travelled back to Nairobi or Mombasa to replenish his coffer. Then he would show up again in my rural township and continue enjoying life. 

Eventually, his vacation would end, and he would come for his stuff after barely spending any time with his mother and us. We would only be sad of his leaving because of parting ways with his cassette players. On the other hand, it was a significant relief because our sleeping order would be normalized. 

Unfortunately, his life never ended that well.

It wound up in brokenness and misery that most likely, he could never have imagined. No family, no wealth, and a terminal depression. It was a horrific way to die especially for one who had so much money and a high-ranking job at the police force. But as much as it makes me sad to remember this, it gave me some comparative ground for my reflections.

My uncle influenced me in many ways.

I longed to wear expensive sunglasses, watches and leather shoes like him. I wanted to be visibly affluent, travel and to have fun his style. Nights of bar-hopping and endless fun looked reasonable to me at some point after starting to make my own money. I was lucky to be surrounded by so many other people who seemingly aspired for the same life. Together, we made the best out of every opportunity to bury our childhood trauma.

I may have been different from my uncle in several ways. Having a family, learning to invest, and having a greater sense of responsibility within the extended family. But looking back, later on, I realized that I was perpetuating a lot of the behaviours that defined his life. These behaviours were not particularly his. He had also acquired them from his preceding generations. 

They were the unique trauma-coping mechanisms of my extended family. Our self-made blinkers of disillusionment irrespective of whatever opportunities and revelations presented themselves to us along the lineage. Our custom-made heritage of practices that ensured we remained stationary across generations. The set of limitations that defined and made us unique as a family. The shackles that made us standstill in a dynamic world.

It was evident that there were many people just like me. 

People chugging crates of beer while taking a break from dysfunctional associations they called family. Others would be men like me whose lives were full of escapism to survive their violent, manipulative, abusive and inadmissible marriages. Most likely living in a diversionary world ruled by limitations of their inner childhood fears that stem from previous generations.

I noticed that I was busy making many repetitive mistakes of my predecessors. I did not have to spend my days and nights wrecking my health in the guise of work or play. Or even wasting the precious time I have been given here on earth. I did not need to work hard to leave my children to inherit both brokenness and riches. I would instead bequeath them love and wisdom that will leave them standing out solidly in the society. 

How your life story will end, is always predictable at some early stage.

A life not purposefully lived is always a well written and openly displayed script. Usually a replay from your prior generations. If you want to know how your children will come out in the end, look at yourself keenly. And look at your parents intently. And if you are lucky enough to have met them, your grandparents and how theirs was choreographed. Then look at all the results, and they are likely to be yours. If not the same, you will only manage a slight modification with your little effort.

The fruit will never fall far from the tree.

You may be more affluent and more educated than your parents, but that is neither here nor there. You maybe like me, living in a city and not a rural village, but that matters less—just the change of language and perhaps more, brighter lights. Most likely, you have the same mindsets as of those people who raised you. The same set of personal beliefs, attitudes and perspectives of life.

Successive generations replay the same scene. This script will bring the same results if you never take the trouble to analyse critically and correct the course. I have seen it from my family, and I see it every day with many people around me. 

A man mistreating his wife just like the way his father did to his. A mother neglecting her children, just the way it was done to her. A man drowning his stress in alcohol, just like his forefathers did. Apart from better education, more money and different geography, the world just keeps going round as far as most of us and our children are concerned.

At times, we do not notice because times are different. 

So, we do all these things differently. We may not use our folded fists to beat our wives, but we use our toxic tongues to abuse and gaslight them. We may not drink the whole day like our grandfathers, but we drink through the night in fancy clubs. Men may not marry several wives, but we have adapted to maintaining countless secret families.

Women may no longer knowingly give birth to children out of marriage, but they purposefully neglect their own to enjoy illicit relationships. Men and women no longer travel back to their parent’s homes to solve marital disputes. Instead, they move out with their hearts by disconnecting emotionally from each other while living in the same space. Parents may not fail to provide for their children, but emotionally neglecting them is a highly accepted norm.

We are living in different times from those of our predecessors, but we are busy doing the same things in a twisted fashion. Look at how we raise families, mentor children, build careers,  establish businesses, elect politicians, perceive spirituality, invest our monies or even treat our bodies. Nothing truly changes. We are indeed, a society that never progresses.

Before I kill your spirit, always remember that the berry is likely to go further. It is made healthy, shiny and colourful for the bird to pick it up and drop its seed miles and miles away. One can choose to become a gleaming berry that is flown away instead of remaining a heavy fruit that drops by its weight to cast its future generation next to its mother plant.

It is impossible to make a clear turnaround, but we can make a progressive change.

As Plato said, the unexamined life is not worth living. 

I know that mine will never be perfect, but I can make some difference by paying more attention to myself and my loved ones. I do not have to throw away everything that was imparted on me, but I should make visible improvements by choosing the good ones and learning better ones. I am still making mistakes, and I will continue to do so unknowingly. I admit that some things are not right, and I should consistently toil to change and come out way better in the end.

Nowadays, every time I make a mistake in my life, or do something wrong, I no longer take it lightly. I dig deeper into its cause and learn how it can be avoided in future. That way, I become better one day at a time—one mistake from another.

If I do something well, I take the lesson too. And think and learn from others on how I can improve going forward. Some sort of everlasting Kaizen practice on myself. Then I do it even better and bigger the next time. That is how I am remaking and growing myself. Whether it’s in my daily habits, career, relationships, wealth or wellness.

Every one of us can make themselves and their next generation to come out better.

By choosing to question our past and present, and changing our actions and behaviours continually for the better, it profoundly impacts on our families and society at large.

I no longer just care to provide a better lifestyle than my parents. Raising my children is not my only self-actualization metric, but I must give them more than I received. I do not imply financial security, because affording things to children is the least one can do for them. I am a lot more intentional than my parents were. I understand that the world has changed and I have to raise them for this century, not the one I grew up in. 

I have a duty to make my next generation not necessarily more economically or academically empowered than I am, but to become better standing members of the society than me. I have a responsibility to shape their environment, knowledge and perceptions to empower them to contribute more to the betterment of humanity than I will ever do in my lifetime. Rather than delegate to the education and religious systems like the norm.

If we all did this together, we would save our future generations from what is ailing us, our country, and the world.

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Published by Kariuki Mugo

I live cherishing the outdoors, especially green, rugged and watery spaces, but still enjoy the city life. I dedicate in and cherish a family system that provides the foundation for nurturing strong, loving relationships. I trust in thriving communities that provide a better life for everyone, and I am highly committed to creating knowledge. I am a husband, a father, a friend, a development worker, and a teacher to many!

13 thoughts on “Generational Nonsense Is What Defines Your Life Values”

  1. Cate Wachira says:

    Life brings us as many joyful moments as it does downfalls, and although there are days we wish there was a manual to follow, it simply wouldn’t be the same without the spontaneity. The journey of life may not become easier as we grow older, but we do seem to understand it better as our perspectives evolve. Whether you’re embarking on a new adventure right out of school or you want to explore different paths in your personal life, it’s never too late to change what the future looks like.

    1. Indeed Cate. I couldn’t put it any better. Change is a lifetime process, and the older we get, the richer are our intentional perspectives.

  2. Mokua says:

    Great read brother. Next.

  3. Njeri says:

    This is deep and hilarious. The story of your uncle is rather funny though with a sad ending. I clean up so much just as my mum did. In fact my duster can pass for a hand towel. On the other hand, there are things I learnt from my parents that I don’t want for my children. In fact, I often shield my children from my own parents coz I don’t want certain mindsets (like driving big cars is a measure of success, education is all they need to “succeed” etc…) passed onto them.
    You are a great narrator Karis.

    1. Thank you Njeri for reading and for the insight. “My duster can pass for a hand towel” is such a powerful one. It is very tough and intentional work to course-correct. But it all starts with ourselves, then with our children. This is because they learn 80% by what we do, and 20% of what we say. I am now going to make my duster bigger, possibly get to a towel.

  4. Ada says:

    Karis, i must say that you have this gifted hillarious way of telling a very important impactful story…i have read it laughing but at the same time really reflecting. I am left better!!

    1. Thank you Ada. I am happy that there was a mood uplifting message therein. Share widely for others to have a laugh too.

  5. Beth Kahato says:

    You are such a good story teller. That was a cultivating read. Waiting for the next one…

  6. Like!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.

    1. Thank you very much. Please keep reading, and invite me to your blog as well.

  7. M says:

    Good read

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