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DADDY DIARIES: Do our children’s opinions matter?

Wednesday March 4 2020

My son wants me to consult him before I buy him a toy next time. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

My son wants me to consult him before I buy him a toy next time. PHOTO | FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

HILLARY LISIMBA
By HILLARY LISIMBA
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I was stuck in that perennial traffic on Mombasa Road just before the Nyayo stadium roundabout when a young man tapped my window.

He was selling these little drawing boards that you can scribble on then erase with a swipe of a button. It is something I’ve seen sold for years but have never bothered to buy.

My son’s recent love for crayons has seen him doodle a lot on the once clear walls in my house, so for the first time the product made sense to me.

Furthermore, I figured that since he plays football in the house, that board would serve as a perfect scoreboard for him to update his scores whenever he plays against those imaginary opponents he has.

He was quick to spot the board on the dining table when he came home from school that evening.

"Oh wow, you bought me a magic tablet!" he said, a smile written over his face.

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I said yes, quickly throwing in the "you see dad is good; he always buys you nice things?"

“Thank you, daddy,” he continued, the smile disappearing, "but you didn't consult me before buying, please do next time."

CONSULT, HE SAID

Did he just say consult? The first question that came to mind was if my authority in that household had waned to such mediocre levels, where I have to start seeking the opinion of a five-year-old on purchases made from money he does not contribute towards.

But then it quickly hit me that I was probably applying the same sort of parenting I was raised with in an era where things have changed.

Where I grew up, parents imposed things on their children, from simple ones such as toys to lifetime decisions like career paths.

Personally, my dad always wanted me to be a land surveyor, for reasons best known to him because he was not into survey himself. I got into high school and he talked the admissions team into registering me in a stream that offered Geography.

The problem was that as early as Form One, the Geography teacher and I struggled to get along, what we loosely say in local terms as ‘our bloods refused each other.’

On the contrary, while this was happening my mind, body and soul were gravitating full force towards languages, and I swallowed them hook, line and sinker.

Before long, I was a regular parrot at the interclass debates, contributor to the school magazine (The Nyang’orian), and had risen to the position of assistant chairman in the  Journalism club.

What I did not know was that as I was in school charting a career path to align with my love for languages, my old man was behind the scenes researching on what I needed to secure an admission into the Kenya School of Surveying and Mapping (KISM).

Things hit fever pitch when he came to that infamous parents’ day meeting where students sit with parents and teachers to fill forms that guide their choice of university and course of interest.

Dad showed up with some documents from KISM, which I refused to sign because it had become as clear as day to me that I was a born journalist.

Ladies and gentlemen, my old man walked out in protest without leaving what I was most interested in; pocket money.

FIGHT CONTINUED

I went home over the holidays and the fight continued soon as I arrived. I swear he even told me that journalists are people who are chap chap, a quality he was not sure yours truly possessed.

I almost asked him whether his sentiments indirectly meant that surveyors are slow but chose to let it slide for the sake of peace.

Well, the peace would still not come because I continued to stand my ground that I was pursuing journalism, unless he wanted me to call it a day after high school and start riding a bodaboda around Vihiga.

He obliged, and even though he agreed to take me through campus there were evident question marks on my course of choice.

That I got a job at Kenya Broadcasting Corporation immediately after my internship exonerated me a big deal, because he finally believed in my choice and rallied behind it. He was proud of me by the time God called him home.

Which begs the question on the extent to which parents should listen to their children’s opinions especially on matters that affect them, because most times we make them live by what we prefer, which is not necessarily their heart’s choice.

I have once been shocked when I let my kid choose a toy at the supermarket shelf because he went for the cheapest by virtue of it having patches of blue and red, his favouritecolours.

That he was now openly proposing I consult him before getting things is something I should probably look into, and only offer guidance when his choice does not make sense as seen from an adult’s perspective.

Otherwise I will be the next dad forcing him to study aviation when his mind is into deejaying.

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