The Star (Nairobi)

12 November 2012

Kenya: Did You Raise Me a Husband?

Dear Clay,

I love reading you column, mostly for the razor sharp humour and wit more than anything else. However, your article of October 30 caught my attention because it was almost somber, but also because it was a chance to really look at the issue of the boy-child critically.

Clay, I get these persistent nutcases who find their aha moment in asking me "Caroline, what are you doing about the boys?"

I have neither the capacity, the knowledge, the standing, the authority or the biology to do so. What in God's name would I be telling a boy?

In my capacity as who? What's really annoying is that this question is thrown in my face by men - people who have testicles!

Apparently it's my job. Really? So, what are you doing? The last time I checked - it is a man's world.Allow me to go to the heart of the title of this column.

A few weeks ago, my girls and I were having lunch and discussing various issues - business, work, our charity venture and of course life.

On the next table, totally unbeknown to us, was a senior lady who had been eavesdropping. As she rose to leave, she came to our table and commented on how lovely we were and how she had enjoyed "the company".

Then, she paused and with a puzzled look on her face she asked "...you are smart and beautiful and hardworking, why are you not married?" My girl Val turned to her and asked, "Did you raise me a husband?"

Yes, very blunt, but not rudely meant at all and I was glad to see that this woman understood her immediately. We proceeded to sit with her for another hour. Word count does not allow me to go into the details of that conversation.

You see Clay, our parents raised amazing women. Our mothers - having learnt that there was no way a girl was allowed to be a piece of luggage, someone who takes up space waiting for things to be given or handed to her - took it upon themselves to raise women who would live and give significantly.

So yes, your were very right in your column. The last 20 years were completely dedicated to raising and grooming value added women. However, two things were terribly overlooked in that time.

Firstly, the women of my generation dropped the ball. We never looked back to ensure that our sisters or even our kids were being raised as we were - the result is the agonizing content you hear on my show.

The new-age girls are vacuous at best, through no fault of our own. I can't justify condemning or judging a young girl for her actions, inactions or behaviour - that's escapism.

The women of my generation didn't pass on what we were given. Now we are shocked and horrified that there are 16, 18 or even 22-year-old girls who are clueless. Oh please, we dropped the ball.

The other problem is that in those 20 years, as our parents were raising us - smart, hardworking, result-oriented women - no-one was raising men.

So even before we talk about the NGOs (bless their myopia), let's look at what was happening at home. The boy-child was ignored at home and somehow expected to "get on with it" because he was born with certain chromosomes.

Fast forward 20 years later, and that same boy was never drilled as much as his female counterpart, the bar wasn't set as high, his vision for the future was never that clearly laid out for him.

The result - a guy between the age of 30 to 45, who still lives at home, drives a great car, gets pocket money and can't hold a job. That same guy has sisters who are high flyers and doing well for themselves.

That man-child should have been my husband. But while I and his sisters were being raised and pushed to be all we could be, no-one was raising him to be phenomenal.

We are all to blame. For ignoring him, not mentoring him and worst of all, enabling him to be shallow. The truth is, we all failed the boy-child at home, in school and everywhere else.

Women will hold camps, workshops, seminars etc to better their lot, especially now that we realise that the gains of the last decade have been lost because we didn't pass it on.

Some men (read majority) for some reason want to sit back and theorise the issue and then look for someone to blame - media, NGOs, the women's movement etc.

No solutions - just lots of hot air. Pastor Simon Mbevi is still waiting for your call - he went from talking to action. While all effort was put into raising phenomenal women, boys grew like weeds.

So we have come full circle to Val's statement, "did you raise me a husband?" Women are raised from an early age to be wives - in fact, the grooming starts early.

No-one is raising men, or men who can be husbands for that matter. No wonder we have boys (pretending to be men) who seem to define a wife as a glorified mboch.

Women haven't helped the situation either because if you speak candidly to married women, some are quick to tell about all the "covering up" they do to keep appearances.

Their sons and daughters are watching. Clay, out of 10 girls I consider great friends, only two are still married barely seven years since I bought a hat and shoes to go to that wedding.

Imagine how weird it is to tell those same girls I'm considering marriage. They want to organise an intervention. Girls are raised to be mothers, wives from an early age.

Who is raising boys who will be husbands and fathers? Pastor Simon Mbevi has been hollowing at the wind for a few years now, insisting we must take our sons from boys to men.

To be fair, I know there are men today who insist on having the "man talk" with their sons. However, many of their efforts are also frustrated by their wives who seem to think it's their job to shield and cuddle their shaving sons.

It is the mothers who continue to feed and dress the grown men who are over the ages of 30 who still live at home - jobless.

The question we all need to be asking ourselves, now that we are raising value added women, is: Are we raising sons who know their place and role - as men, leaders, providers and protectors?

Marriage and married life is about partnership. When you look at truly successful married couples you can see that they got the partnership right.

They are friends more than they are lovers, they are confidants, not housemates, they are a WWF tag-team not combatants.

They have a great life because they each bring something to the whole and clearly they will be together long after the kids are gone.

However, for that to happen, we must start paying attention to the boys for real. The truth is, for every amazing single girl like myself out there who keeps being asked why she is not married, the answer is a very simple question, "did you raise me a husband?" We didn't just fail the boys by ignoring the need to groom them into the men they should be, we failed the girls as well.

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