The Parenting Crisis in Kenya!

Crying Baby at the Supermarket.

Kindly watch the above clip before reading this blog post.Funny, huh?

Is there a fixed manual/ model on parenting? I am sure this is a good question that many parents would ask on the realization that they are about to get a new role, that of raising kids. Again, this is a question; many parents would ask even when they feel pretty much experienced in parenting.

A Swahili saying,  “ Kuzaa sio kazi, kazi ni kumlea mwana” loosely translates to, “ Giving birth is not a hard task, the hardest task is actually in the raising of the kid.”

Class one pupils
Class one pupils

Last weekend, one of my childhood girlfriends, Kate visited me for a sleepover. This was very special for me because, for the first time I got a chance to see her son, Lee, who is now five years old. Looking at how privileged I was to get a new nephew, I had to do my best to make an impression. My girlfriend and I had a lot of catching up to do, yet, we had to ensure that Lee was still part of our conversation.

Many are times, he looked lost but he engaged in playful moments with Jinxy (my lovely pet).  As we went to sleep, we opted to be in the same room so that we could extend our conversations throughout the night.

At 1.20am, I put off the lights and this little cute boy challenged me. “Mum, are we sleeping already? We haven’t prayed.” Of course we let him take us through the night prayer making us repeat every word after him. Ohhhhh, that was very sweet of him.

Now, that is a great boy and I am sure every parent would like such a child, right? Fast forward to the following day at 11.45 am. I have to go to church and the two have to go back home in preparation for re-opening of schools and of course for Cate who has to go back to work on Monday.

By this moment, we definitely had become best of friends and therefore, not wanting much from his mother. Even before we left the house, Lee clearly lets his mother know that he will be staying behind with me. After a little persuasion, we head to the parking lot. Lee gets to the back seat and makes himself comfortable.

Kate and I, give each other side glances and she tells me, “Kuna shida.” From the back seat, Lee emphasizes his point again. “Mum, I am heading to church with aunt Patience.” Kate does her best to explain that they will be back next time and yes, he will get a chance to go with me to church or even stay longer. Your guess is as good as mine. Lee, doesn’t agree to any of the suggestions above.

Jinxy taking a nap
Jinxy taking a nap

Drama unfolds when we finally get to the stage where they have to alight so as to head home. Lee, still seated at the back seat refuses to come out of the car and I am left stranded. Within me, I really wanna maintain my position as a really good aunt by not hurting his feelings, and at the same time, I really wanna rush to church as I was getting late.

Cate raises her voice, forcing Lee out of the car before he starts to scream at the top of his voice. We are parked by the roadside. The scene looks like, a woman who has just grabbed a stolen boy. I felt really sad but I had to drive off, leaving Lee is in tears.

10 minutes later, I make it to church. Incidentally, Mavuno Church is starting May series dubbed- Planting Oaks of Righteousness. The whole series revolves around parenting roles in Kenya. Pastor Oscar Muriu and his wife describe various parenting models in Kenya and as he does so, I am thinking of Cate and his son Lee.

Future parents enjoying a stroll in Oloitoktok
Future parents enjoying a stroll in Oloitoktok

Pastor Oscar describes the above example of what Lee had just done as an example of “ Child- directed families” which seems to be catching up with parents in Nairobi and many other major cities. Here, the children as low as 2 years clearly know their place in life and demand for their rights, including right to be heard.

But then, this is not a very unique system in European countries. On stepping in Norway 3 years go ago, I realized that Norwegian children are protected and many know how to demand for their space in life. “Nei papa, Nei mama”  words used to negate what their parents tell them, are quite common as you walk along the streets. Coming from an African background where the society does not expect you to argue with your parents or even negate what they said, I found this really strange. However, with time, I got used to it. Some of my foreigner friends made lots of fun about this. “In Norway, protection laws are set in this order…Children, Women, Animals and then Men (If necessary).

Ok, now let’s ask ourselves, as a parent, is there a real practical way to bring up your children? With all the exposure and changing times? How should children behave towards their parents? Pastor Oscar gives a few tips in the link below as he clearly states “There is no parenting manual.”

Kids enjoying themselves
Kids enjoying themselves

Of concern to me will be, as parents do we enjoy our children enough or are we just over burned by the task of raising our children in the best way possible? What memories are we making out of parenthood? Will it be an experience that we can all look back and be proud of? Do we feel happy as we reminisce our childhood memories? Will our children be proud of us? Remember, our children will be children only once, so what are we doing so as to create good memories together?

“It is not the time we spend together, it is the time we spend to ignite good memories” Joel Osteen.

Mavuno Sermon on Parenting Crisis in Kenya.

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