You can never quite shake off a near-death experience, of the financial kind.
I remember mine. Vividly.
It happened on a Sunday afternoon, one of the lazy ones in which even going to the bathroom seems like too much of a hassle.
There I was, slouched on the sofa with my remote in one hand and my eyes keenly following the events of one of my favorite TV series.
Just before midday, it happened.
Without as much as a warning, I was staring at my own reflection on the screen that had just turned black.
A few curses later, I decided to adhere to my ‘when life throws you lemons, make lemonade’ mantra. If I had known what was to come later on, I’d have just stuck to slouching on the couch.
No power meant the house was unbearable, it’s the curse of the new age I guess. No electricity translates to boredom.
This was how I ended up calling my sister impromptu.
“Are you cool with me taking Lisa to the mall?” I asked.
“Is it Christmas already ama ni stima zimepotea?” She knew me well.
“Haha, is it not ok for an uncle to miss his niece?” was the only defence I could master.
She was more than happy to have her 4-year-old out of her hands for the afternoon. I think I was even tagged as a lifesaver somewhere in that particular conversation.
A quick cold shower, then another phone call but this time to my betrothed.
“We are spending the afternoon with Lisa,” I said.
“Stima zimepotea tena ama?,” Ok, I need to be less predictable, I told myself.
An hour or so later, we were at one of the new malls in town.
For some reason, my little knowledge on kids entertainment and malls brought me to the conclusion that I’d spend a maximum of Ksh3K on the high end for an afternoon of fun and games.
Boy was I wrong.
I transferred Ksh5k from my bank account to my M-Pesa, telling myself the extra money would cater for any unforeseen expenses.
It’s always good to prepare for unforeseen contingencies nini nini....I was proud of my finance acumen.
This was thrown out the window the moment we got to the kid’s play area.
Everything was being billed for a specific period of time and Lisa is one of those kids that wants to get on everything.
From having her face painted like spiderman, to getting on those water thingy’s that go up and down, to bumper cars, you name it.
Some quick math and I knew my accounts were about to get a major hit.
My betrothed on the other hand decided that this was the best day to try out her rock climbing skills, which was also being charged based on time.
“It’s good for us to bond as a couple,” she said.
By then, I was already resigned to the fact that this would be the most expensive Sunday in recorded history, having made several trips to the ATM for some top up already.]
Impromptu trips to the mall would never happen on my watch ever again.
By the end of the day, Lisa or rather spidergirl was grinning from ear to ear, with ice cream dripping from her chubby cheeks.
The look on her face made it all worth it but she also gave me some invaluable lessons.
Don’t rush into the whole kids thing if you feel like your finances need some structuring. These beautiful monsters are a major undertaking. Physically, emotionally and financially.
Don’t get me wrong, there are parents who successfully manage to wing it and somehow sail through, but I’m not one of those.
When we got to my sister’s place, we decided to stay for some tea.
“Now you know why I don’t take her to the mall unless dunia inaisha,” she told me before I had even said a word… She then burst into fits of laughter, with my person joining in on the laughing as well.
I’m guessing the look on my face told a story.
To salvage the situation, I interrogated my sister on everything to do with kids and expenses that come along with it.
This is how I learned that the cheapest place to get pampers in Nairobi is in Eastleigh where they sell at wholesale prices.
It was how I learned that during the pandemic, entrepreneurs in the kid’s entertainment business have been making a killing by going around hundreds of estates each weekend.
The cheapest bouncing castle guy she’d ever come across over the last year charged Ksh5k for a day.
Then there were roller skating guys, face painting guys, even dance trainers complete with clowns.
By the time we got to school fees, I finally understood why they say ‘kulea ndio kazi’.
I salute all the parents out there, I know I don’t have the full experience yet, but that single Sunday afternoon was enough for me to realise the level of sacrifice taken everyday.
Those that do it without any sort of plan a.k.a winging it, have some kind of superpower.
It now costs more to amuse a child than it once did to educate his father.