When a child puts their foot in their mouth

The first obscenity that I heard came from a teacher. It was in the mid-eighties. I was in primary school. I was even tempted to use the whole line in my English composition paper. But I shelved the idea and spared my little behind strokes of the cane from my then dreaded teacher, Mr Githaiga.

In the same block in Jericho Estate that we lived, there was a young man, Josh, whose family had moved to another neighbourhood, and he had been left to live in the house. Back then, it was a big deal for one’s parents to move out and leave their crib to, mostly, the firstborn kid. Josh was much older, worked as an untrained teacher, exchanged girls like socks and had drunken parties every weekend.

One weekend, the party degenerated and a brawl ensued with one of his girlfriends. Josh – (may his soul rest in peace) – slurred at his equally sloshed girlfriend: “What’s your father’s name?”

Girlfriend: “Mr Okumu.”

Josh: “Go and tell Mr Okumu to go to hell.”

Back then, this was a shocking retort. It made the gathered crowd gasp in horror. Mothers covered their children ears, and dragged them out of the scene of obscenity, uttering: “This young man’s parents did not raise him well”.

Watching what they are watching

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Josh’s 1980-something “obscenity” is extremely tame compared to what our children are now dealing with. Way back when, my father was concerned that I would pick bad influences from my peers and the “walking cinemas”, which came three or four times in my neighbourhood. This is why he outlawed his kids from every stepping into what he termed as Satan’s den.

Nowadays, my daughter and her generation are bombarded by media from all corners, from sunup to sundown. It will be an exercise in futility to ban Pudd’ng from any social media interaction because I fear that it will “spoil” her.

What I try to do is watch what she is watching. And, if I have any reservations, I let her know, and I give her genuine reasons. For instance, not long ago, I cautioned her from watching a TV programme whose basic premise was witches, and how there are good and bad witches. I noticed that she was having nightmares, and I connected her nightmarish nights to this programme.

Practice what you preach

Several years ago, our family agreed that – however angry we were – we would never raise our voices at each other. Instead, we would raise our arguments. I try as much as possible to practice what I preach.

It is not about commanding my daughter to do as I say. Period. It’s about yours truly modeling. Because kids learn better from a walking example than from a talking head.

But I am only human. There are days when I lose it, and I remember that I must practice what I preach. Or else I am sending Pudd’ng mixed signals.

At least, while she is at home, I have never heard Pudd’ng raising her voice. Not at us. And not at her cousin, who lives with us. Maybe, just maybe, she takes her voice a notch higher when we are not around.

Sometime back, I overheard Pudd’ng telling Tenderoni that her classmates say she is soft-spoken. I want to believe that my modeling is paying dividends.

I shudder at the thought of seeing Pudd’ng on social media, letting out expletives, nineteen to the dozen. If God forbid, this ever happens, I know that the first person to be indicted will be Joe Soap. They will question my parenting skills and inwardly curse: “Go and tell Mr Wasonga to go to hell”.

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