I recently visited a family friend for lunch at her house. I was shocked at what I saw during my short visit. My friend and her husband both hold senior managerial positions in respectable corporate firms. They live on the right side of Uhuru Highway, have two kids who attend posh schools and the couple can afford most of life’s good pleasures. They fit the description of a typical middle-class family.
Though they are doing well, I noticed that they were raising their children in a bubble and by so doing spoiling them. I will illustrate my point:
Taste a matatu ride: My friend’s eldest son a 16-year-old, who is in high school, has never ridden in a matatu and the parents think this is an achievement. “My kids do not ride in public transport,” she told me proudly. My policy is this, even though you can afford to pay taxi for your child every day to shield them from hustle of public transport, once in a while you need to expose them to this mayhem on Kenyan road transport network to give them a taste of real life. When your kids take this bumpy ride, they will come face to face with the harsh reality of life and start to appreciate what they have. The experience also helps to toughen them up.
Farm village life: You will be surprised to learn that in this day and age there are parents who have taken their children to all holiday destinations in the country save for their upcountry homes. My friends fall in this category. They think taking their children to their rural home is shady and unnecessary. On the contrary, upcountry experience helps the children connect with their roots and culture. It is here that they learn where food comes from, their language and culture. If somebody in the Diaspora with all the enlightenment and exposure can pay a ticket for their children every year to visit ‘shags’ and be with their grandma, why would somebody in Nairobi think this is a waste of time? It is a shame that my friend’s children speak all languages, except their mother tongue.
Visit slums: I have made a deliberate effort to, every so often, take my elder child Tasha on a tour of the slum, just to expose her to the hardships some people face. This way, she gets to appreciate what she has and to be a compassionate human being. My friend’s children only read about slums in books because their parents have shielded them from this murk in society.
Responsibility: While I was at my friend’s place, I noticed that the house girl was the one doing everything. She prepared the food, set the table and after we were done, she came for the utensils. All this while, the two teenagers, were just seated there like guests. What some middle class parents fail to realise is you make your kids work not because you do not love them but to teach them responsibility.
Workplace visits: Finally, it’s always wise to bring your children to see where you work so that they have a sense of where mummy and daddy spend all their time.
The writer is a young married mum of two. She shares her experience of juggling between career, family and social life