Sometime ago, a pastor friend came to see me about his son. He went to his son’s room one evening and looking at all the posters and paraphernalia in the room he realised that none of the photos put up were his.
During a conversation later, he asked his son to list his heroes and his name was not among the first five. He was devastated. How I understood his dilemma.
When I got my own children, I was their number one hero, at least in the initial days. I thought that was the trend infinitum until the entrance of the almighty teacher and the almighty peer. I must admit it is a painful thing to fall off a pedestal.
From the moment my children went to school, everything the teacher said became the gospel truth and all of a sudden, mommy and daddy knew nothing.
“Mom, I can’t eat this or do that or have this because teacher said”. Lessons and values I had tried to instill in years were suddenly adopted without fuss because teacher said.
To be honest, I was jealous. What was the teacher doing that I was unable to do? How did she teach them to tie laces, sit still, write their ABC’s, and eventually write a whole composition, so easily?
Don’t get me wrong, I was mighty glad that the teachers were empowering my children and opening up a whole new world of experience for them, but I was still jealous of having to share the pedestal.
Following closely to the teacher were the friends. Oh, it is one thing to share heroism with another adult. It is entirely a different matter to have to share it with a ten or eight year old.
Despite the occasional bad advice, like how to effectively skive showering, these buddy heroes also taught my boys great things that I would never have gotten them to learn.
A good example is learning to ride a bicycle. When Toriah was much younger, he could not understand how his mommy could be ‘so ancient’ and not be able to ride a bike.
Of course bikes in their opinion were a basic need and they could not fathom growing up without one, like some of us did. The thought distressed Toriah so much, he promised to teach me how to ride a bike.
“It is easy mommy, I’ll just push you a little and then you will peddle hard, don’t worry about falling, it’s not very painful”. Actually the falling was not my major problem, the being seen in public trying to fit in and ride a
5-year-old's bike was the issue for me. From their peers they also learn to ride a scooter, play video games, do summersaults, and climb trees. Though I hate sharing the pedestal, I am grateful to their hero friends for filling in for me in this area.
Now as the teenage years approach and in a world where so called ‘superstars’ are a dime a dozen, what can a parent do? At the very least a parent can ensure that their child chooses heroes and not villains by instilling values early in life.
There is a window of opportunity where your child still looks up you with starry eyes; use your opportunities well. That is what will carry your child through life’s maze and will eventually help them to choose others who will build upon that foundation.
Science has it that a child’s worldview is developed within the first seven years and their IQ within the first five, maximise on this opportunity to teach and to shape.
To quote a Kiswahili proverb, “Mtoto umleavyo ndivyo akuavyo”( How you raise your child, is how they turn out). No doubt that is what the Bible means when it admonishes parents to “train up a child in the way he should go and when they are old they will not depart”.