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Tom Lichuma : Celebrated marriage and parenting author

My Man By Gardy Chacha

When you heard about Project X what went through your mind?

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I was sad. I asked myself: ‘What, in the whole world, is the force behind such an event?’

Do you have an answer to that?

I do know that majority of parents in Kenya would not endorse such an idea. I don’t know of any religion or group that condones such behaviour either. So, I am still lost for words.

What do you think of parenting today?

I won’t say it as a blanket accusation against all parents but it appears many are delegating their roles to nannies and helps.

What is wrong with that?

Whether it is by design or factors of life, the more parents relinquish their role to the children, the more they become troubled. Since they are not getting as many lessons as they should from their parents, they tend to learn ‘the way of the world’. They become ‘adults’ too early.

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As far as age is concerned, the youth of your generation became adults quite early...

That is true. But you have to understand that there were systems which were followed at that time. We went to school for fewer years and got our first jobs early. Marriage afterwards was legal and adhered to protocol. The difference today is that boys are more interested in sex than marriage.

How long have you been married?

My wife and I will be celebrating 38 years this year.

That is quite a number: did you ever have disagreements – marriages today are full of them...

We have disagreed. We have argued. We have had our own wars. But that is quite normal; it is fine as long as you know how to discuss afterwards and solve the problem. I don’t know of a marriage where the couple has smiled years on end. That is utopia: not marriage

If you were to diagnose modern-day apathy towards marriage what would it be?

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For our forefathers, marriage was for keeps. Our fathers were quite ruthless but still our mothers found a way to maintain a stable home. Today people marry but with an exit clause that allows them to leave just in case ‘this spouse proves not to be what I wanted’. It is trial and error.

But would you agree that there are ‘perfect’ spouses meant for each one of us?

I believe that God pairs people together. But there is nothing like a perfect spouse.

Would you say stable marriages contribute to morally upright children?

To a very good extent — more than 90 per cent — children are the direct result of what they see, listen to and assimilate at home.

Does that mean on Project X you blame the parents?

No. There are children who will defy all norms to go astray, regardless of measures taken by a parent

If you discovered that your daughter is attending Project X what would you do?

If she is yet to turn 18, she has no choice but to stay at home (I will use force if need be) but if she is above 18 I will talk to her and ask her to reconsider that decision. Thereafter I will let her make the ultimate decision. But she has to take full responsibility for it.

With such a bling on your neck you fit the description of the modern stylish parent?

No. This is a crucifix. I am a Catholic. I don’t put it on for aesthetics but rather for my faith.

You must cherish it...

I do. It identifies me from a crowd. I also find that it elevates the level of trust people generally have towards me. Strangers find it easy asking me for directions. It definitely is not ‘maridadi’ (decoration).

How would you capture challenges of parenting today?

Bringing up a child from 13 years of age is proving difficult. That is the nightmare of the 21st century parent. I believe, from experience, a parent starts moulding a child from the time they are toddlers. They grow up understanding what morals are.

They know what is wrong and what is correct. When a children grows up, it becomes difficult to monitor them and since they grew up learning morals, they are likely to make right calls when faced with a situation.

What options does a young man with raging hormones have apart from attending Project X?

But then again, what will they gain from it? If I were in their shoes, I would question the importance of such an event in my life. If it won’t contribute in making my future better then I wouldn’t go. Sex may be sweet but there are rules to it. You have to be legally married first. Any other way is riddled with setbacks and regret.

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