By the time I turned 18, I had left home, found a job, and was making plans for entry into university, totally divorced from intense parental care.
My folk’s “parenting days” ended once I completed high school.
Through my university days, where I had determined the course to study, I went home a visitor, not a dependant, expected to support younger siblings with incomes from holiday jobs and “boom” surpluses. As far as I know, that was the story of my generation.
We are now at the age when our children are young adults, finishing school, getting their first jobs, or starting families and things are markedly different.
Consequently, in the last year, my “boys club” has been deliberating on our most relevant reality, parenting our adult children.
Unlike our generation, our children have grown up catered for during most of their adulthood.
While many have settled as responsible adults and taken off into the world, many are still under the tutelage of their parents, even some who are earning sizeable incomes.
There are of course many responsible ones who choose to stay at home but assist with the cost of running the home, but a good majority are freeloaders, enjoying the benefits of homestays without any contribution.
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To make it worse, many of our children have rejected avenues that would free them from parental catering, taking long “gap years” from schooling, or just dropping mid-way without any indication of future direction.
Having finished school, a good number of this generation do not want to work, every other job is a challenge and so they prefer to wait at home and work on the elusive “start-up” or just video game.
For the avoidance of doubt, while the above scenarios are common, a significant majority of our children are responsible, have a good handle on their lives and are hustling with direction, retaining in me the conviction that there is hope for tomorrow.
Let this also not be seen solely as a criticism of young adults. It is more of an indictment of our parenting.
From when our children were small, few of us taught them responsibility. We took over their lives and provided a constant shield from the natural vagaries of life, even when they were old enough to shoulder some consequences of their decisions.
I have sat in many school boards where parents turned up to argue their children’s cases against schools, even where there was overwhelming evidence.
In one case, a parent was challenging CCTV footage clearly showing their child engaging in theft. That was unheard of in our days.
If a parent was made to turn up in our schools, they first disciplined you in front of the teacher. Nowadays, many 50-plus “almost retired” are finding their final decades clogged with several “25 plus” at home with little indications of moving out.
Other parents are looking after their grandchildren as the parents of the innocent cherubims are out “finding themselves”.
What has been the conclusion of our long discourse on adult parenting?
Firstly, we recognise that having not given our children the opportunity to take responsibility when they were younger, it is unfair to demand they to start learning responsibility in their twenties cold turkey.
It must be done nimbly but purposively. Secondly, to those with young children; you must not make mistakes; allow your children a sense of responsibility from early on.
Thirdly, while we made the bed, we must find a way to lie in another. Once a child finishes school for instance, they need to be on their own, even if you have to subsidise their stay away from home.
Fourthly, we must allow our children to carry the consequences of their decisions. We cannot, for instance, be our grandchildren’s full-time parents.
As tough as that is, we must stay a distance and let the young parents waddle that path with only our tacit support, not a takeover.
Finally, remember that one day you will be gone. You are not immortal. Prepare your adult child for the days you will not be there. To the young adults who have stayed the responsibility course, may your tribe increase!
The writer is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya