Nairobi; Kenya: If anyone ever holds a contest for the most pampered child in the planet, you can bet that Nairobi’s teenagers will definitely make the list of finalists.
I am writing this because my city-bred sons have been spoon-fed by our house help to the point where they could literally starve if left on their own.
Last Sunday, Mama Jimmy and I went upcountry to attend a friend’s wedding.
Our house girl was off duty, so Jimmy and Russell remained behind to look after the house.
Before we left, the comptroller asked Jimmy to prepare ugali for lunch and serve it with the beef stew left over from dinner.
Given that ugali is easy to prepare, we figured that would be a breeze for him.
But upon our return that evening, the house was a mess.
There were cushions all over the living room, DVDs on the table and paperwork strewn all over the floor.
The boys sat back and calmly munched fries.
The stereo was cranked to high heavens, featuring a deejay-mix of music with incomprehensible lyrics.
“Have you boys been staging a bullfight in the house?” I demanded, rather rhetorically.
“Didn’t you have lunch?” the comptroller asked, while staring at the oily plate of junk food.
“Er.... we decided to eat fries,” Jimmy replied meekly.
Figuring that something was wrong, the comptroller and I marched to the kitchen where we encountered real chaos.
The sink was choking with dirty cutlery, and Jimmy’s attempt at preparing ugali had resulted in a mess that could suitably be used to fill potholes.
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I stood gazing at our son’s horrible “work of art” as the comptroller went off to survey other parts of the house.
She was thoroughly disappointed.
“Dear, your sons are living like bachelors. Go see their room,” she said.
I countered that it could not be that bad but she insisted that I should go see for myself.
Now, I used to make regular trips to the boys’ room sometimes back but as they grow older, I decided to give them a sense of independence.
But at the comptroller’s insistence, I decided to have a dekko and wished I had carried a box of tissue paper.
Their clothes were strewn all over the floor and the state their beds were in made me think they have been playing rugby on them.
Only one thing looked organised, and that was Jimmy’s stash of books.
They were neatly arranged on his desk, and closer scrutiny revealed that they had gathered a layer of dust, meaning he rarely touches them.
Flustered, I hurried back to the living room and confronted the boys.
As expected, they had numerous excuses for their slovenly lifestyle.
“Daddy si kuosha nyumba ni kazi ya Maggy?” Jimmy protested, adding that the house girl has also not been ignoring the boy’s laundry.
“That is true,” Russell said.
“Maggy has been ignoring us and cleans Tiffany’s room only,” Jimmy said, sounding like a grown man crying for a lollipop.
“Stop whining!” Mama Jimmy roared at the two, while pointing out that Tiffany receives this treatment because she is a child.
Grown boys should take care of their room, so she ordered them to put their bedroom in order.
“It is time you became responsible,” she said.
“But mum....” Jimmy tried to protest.
“You either do that or we will send you both to boarding school this term,” Mama Jimmy threatened, and this brought the matter to an end.
If there is one thing my boys fear, it is boarding school.
They know that in boarding school, freedom is limited, phones are not allowed, meals are rationed and TV is watched at certain times.
Fearing for their lives, they left the room in a hurry.
It then hit me that our house help is at the centre of all this.
When I was Jimmy’s age, I could prepare dinner for the family, milk our cows, perform some gardening, go fishing and generally make myself useful around the home.
Well, experience has shown that Jimmy cannot function in the kitchen, and the closest he comes to fishing is when he sees a fish swimming in his plate at meal times.
At his age, he should be doing his laundry, preparing a basic meal and cleaning his room.
He should not enlist the maid’s assistance in making his bed, either.