Over the weekend I had the chance to sit down with a parent who asked me, "how come you people in the media haven't asked who are the parents of these children we saw burning their lives in Machakos?” I ventured that most of those pictured seemed to be over the age of 18 and hence well able to make their own decisions and live by them.
She raised an eyebrow and gave me a pitiful look. "Really? You wouldn't have be afraid or even embarrassed for your parents if pictures like that emerged of you at that age, in your early 20s?"
She has a point. Being over 18 didn't change anything — I knew I would be hanged and quartered if my mother even caught wind of me behaving like a wanton lunatic.
My conversation partner then challenged me — she stated matter-of-factly that the only reason the media hasn't dared to venture into the real issue about parenting is because it's so much easier to point fingers at a group of young people who were let down even before they were 10 years old. It's lazy journalism — the kids provided us with fodder and we ran with it knowing very well that doing the tough job of investigating the genesis of this behaviour would be too much work.
In fairness to the young adults featured in the real pictures — not the doctored ones — the ones I have seen on the phones of friends and colleagues who were there, these young girls and boys happily posed for the pictures and even seemed to enjoy the attention. Mum or dad being angry, disappointed or hurt was the furthest thing from their minds. Oh yes indeed, it does happen every weekend in Nairobi. Not excusing the exhibitionism, just saying….
In an era where people are becoming more individualistic and busy, parents are abdicating this responsibility to the school, the state and the church, and of course the media. Many parents, especially young, new age parents expect teachers to discipline their children and teach them moral and civic values in the classroom.
True, being a teacher is more than just making sure that students do well in examinations; parents and teachers are a tag-team. Hence we as parents can’t totally abdicate the responsibility to teachers and then blame them for not fulfilling a role that is primarily ours. Don’t get me started on “the media” — the new whipping boy of lazy parents. The media doesn’t control what your children consume, have access to or even consider to be right. That’s your job. Try using the remote; it’s an amazing invention. Channel up, channel down and if that fails, hit the all important nuclear button. That "off "button — it’s priceless.
Being a parent is more than just ensuring that your child has a roof over their head, has food to eat, clothes to wear and an education. While material provision and education are necessary, this does not define a “parent”. More than just the survival of a child, one should also be concerned about the life of the child. By this I mean developing the child’s character, values and personhood. No matter what, children see their parents or guardians as role models. So when I hear some lame-minded character trying to castigate Vera Sidika for not being a role model, you must really have failed as a parent if your worry is Vera. You are your child’s biggest role model and if you’re not, sit down quietly and ask yourself why.
Your presence and involvement or the lack thereof, contribute greatly to how children develop into adults — enter electric avenue, Masaku 7s na kadhalika. Whether a person is moral or immoral, assertive or easily influenced, positive in outlook or negative and cynical is largely dependent on their upbringing.
Unless parents teach their children the right values and model, please note, you must model the value — kids respond to what you do, not what you say. Unless you teach and model the right values children will never be able to overcome the many worldviews out there crying out for their attention , yes even in the media. Without a moral compass and anchor, children will grow up believing in whatever seems right to them or worse, go with whatever that makes them feel good.
Children are the “karma” of their parents. You cannot expect a child, whom you have not taken time to raise to give a hoot about what you say. Parenthood is not a privilege or an entitlement; it is a responsibility. If one has not put in effort to be a parent worthy of their child, then it would be unfair to expect their child to put in the effort to be a submissive and obedient child. I obey my parents, not because I have no choice in the matter but because I love them and look up to them as my parents.
Before there were teachers, government officials or religious leaders, or media, there were parents, and they fulfilled all these roles for their child.
Some parents might challenge me asking, “You’re not even a natural parent, what do you know about parenting?” To that I respond, simply as all adoptive parents do:
A person does not become a father or mother by virtue of being a child’s birth parent. A birth certificate certifies a child’s birth, it marks an event. It does not, like a graduation certificate, certify a person qualified to be a parent. Don’t get it twisted.
Parenting is a relationship, that’s why it is tough. Just like the relationship between husband and wife, the relationship between parent and child requires great sacrifice and much time and effort to make it work. Children are the karma of their parents. My heart breaks for the parents of those kids we have spent all week staring at. How childish of us to pick on kids/young adults when it’s clear that at some point, we abandoned them.
On Saba Saba: I got text messages about my power bill, my water bill, my fees bill and even the lawyer for some discharge costs. However, I haven't received one from President Uhuru Kenyatta or citizen Raila Odinga saying "bill taken care of". So excuse me as I get on with the job of doing my job. I checked, Uhuru and Raila are doing their jobs and they don’t care much about mine, and I have some amount of social profile. I wonder what that means for you. To each their own, I'm getting on with my own. Do yours and stay out of my way; I'll stay out of yours. You know, that thing we do everyday, like today.