MODERN PARENTING

I don’t get cricket. I don’t know the first thing about cricket. I wouldn’t know a cricket ball if it hit me in the face. And I definitely don’t think watching cricket is my idea of a fun time. But cricket is the reason I’ve decided not to have another kid, after Shawn.

Well, one of the things anyway.

Shawn, my seven-year-old, is playing cricket this school term. Every term they have a different sport. Last term it was athletics. Next term might be hockey or football, and the next one after that might be fencing…you never know with these things nowadays. It’s a whole new era.

Granted, my boy right now has not grasped why he needs to go to school.  He thinks school is about having fun with his friends and a place to spend his days.    But I want him to have a good education. I want to expose him to many different cultures and experiences in life.

I would like to help him find what he’s good at. Swimming, piano, cricket, the whole shebang. I want him to grow into a good human being ; a respectable, well-mannered man with solid principles.

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Okay…okay. Maybe I would also like him to be Numero Uno in class and have his name up on the board, plus be the best in sports – an all rounded child really.  But these are my dreams and I have slowly come to learn, especially with my other children, that I have to allow each child to be their own person; paddle their own canoe, metaphorically speaking. So I am toning down my expectations and just ensuring I give him the best.

I’m however slowly realizing how hard ‘modern’ parenting can be. It feels alien to me. It’s a lot, especially at Shawn’s school. 

I guess I just come from a different time zone. Nobody cooed over how I was fairing with the multiplication table or my reading. No one helped me with my homework, neither did we have laptops to do research. My parents had no idea what I was doing in school. They would come at the end of the term to pick the results and if I was not among the top 3 students in my class…let’s just say my hide would be hang out to dry that day.

But now it seems –as a parent living in 21st century urban Nairobi—you have to be on top of things: sign the diary, read to the child, join the PTA, attend every sport event, bake, organize sales, plan exceptional birthday parties and volunteer for school activities; all this with you hair in place and looking like you have life figured out. 

Oh, and remember to cheer at said sport event. Cheer the loudest. Because other parents also need to see your undying support. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

When I was told they’re playing cricket, I realized I’d now have to shop for cricket uniform, shoes, a bat , batting pads,  protective gear and helmets. Do you know how much these things cost?  I’m having a mini-meltdown as I write this.

Shawn’s school is so extra. Every week they send a meal menu with three options that the kid can chose from. And I’m just like: “Shawn just eat whatever.”

Then they have this thing where they display your kid’s work outside the classroom for the parents to see when they come around.

One time I went and I couldn’t spot Shawn’s work. I asked the teacher about it and she said, “Shawn didn’t finish his work. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, in fact.”

Imagine that. You pay fees and you pay for swimming lessons and you buy cricket bats and you’re still expected to make sure all the homework is done at all times. Exploitation! That’s all this is. But I gotta lay in this bed I chose, even if it’s while crying in the sheets. For Shawn.

The kids are always competing. For sports, they’re grouped according to their capabilities. Group A, B, C, D.

If your child is in group C or D, you’re screwed. You’ll have to accompany them to practice sessions once a week. And when I say accompany, I mean you’re also encouraged to practice. You know, for support.

Last term when they were running, I’d have to take Shawn to school early to do a few laps with him then ensure he showers, takes breakfast and goes to class.

It’s ridiculous.

Sometimes I think I can’t keep up. It feels like other parents know what they’re doing. They have a hold on the itinerary. Not me. I’m struggling to catch my breath. I’m expected to be this perfect parent, sijui making cookies for bake sales and contributing during PTA meetings. It’s too much pressure if you ask me.

I’m made to feel like I’m not doing enough.

And perhaps what makes this experience even worse is that the parents are also trying to outdo each other.

They look at which car you come cruising or rattling in. They want to know where you live. They meet up during weekends for a walk in Karura. They throw “themed ” birthday parties. They gather around for small talk while dropping the kids in the morning. Every Tuesday some of them will even join the kids during assembly…

No, I’m not kidding.

Where would I find the time to join this kids in line at the assembly surely? Or even the patience to ensure my frame is directly proportional to the miniature person in front of me for a straight line?

#Sigh

It’s not all bad though. I can see how exposing Shawn to all these activities has impacted him. His confidence has spiked. His vocabulary has improved. He’s more articulate. He struggles with schoolwork but I believe he’ll go at his own pace. I’m not inclined to pressure him about schoolwork or his performance in cricket.

The kids will be fine.

On another note, I’d love to hear from you parents. Do you feel the pressure of modern parenting? Let me know in the comment section.

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