The Star (Nairobi)

6 February 2013

Kenya: Prioritising My Boys

opinion

I read a story once a long time ago about a young boy and his dad. It was a normal evening the dad was busy reading the newspaper and his son was looking through an atlas.

The little boy, like most little boys do, began asking his dad questions about the countries he was seeing "Daddy how big is this country?" He asked as he went through the atlas.

His dad answered "Very big, son". "And this one" the little boy asked turning to another page. "Also big, son" the father answered not even looking up from his paper. The boy went on for a few more minutes and then noticed that his dad was not paying attention.

"Dad! I need to know which country is the biggest. It's important," he said. "Not now son, I am busy" said the dad getting irritated. "Go ask your mother." The little boy went to ask the mother and came back after a few minutes.

"Mom doesn't know which one. Please dad, let me know which one is the biggest country."

The dad pretty irritated by now, put his paper down and picked the atlas. Pointing to the biggest country he said, "This is the biggest one. Now I am tired and busy. Please stop disturbing me." The little boy nodded and continued to look at the atlas. After a few minutes, he whispered tentatively, "Dad, can I tell you just one more thing." "Mmmhh," came the response from behind the newspaper. "I love you wider than the biggest country!" said the little boy. The dad put down the paper and looked at his little boy. He realised that he had almost missed this precious moment by putting off the boy. The newspaper forgotten he hugged his little boy. He could always read the news later.

That story is often repeated in my home and unfortunately the ending is not always so poignant. I hate to imagine the number of golden moments that have passed me by because I was too busy doing stuff, stuff that I can't even remember now. Sometimes as I pick or drop the boys to school they have so much to tell me but often I am not even listening.

My mind is busy going through my to-do list or planning dinner or just all over the place rather in the here and now. As someone who has worked with the youth for many years, I have heard horror stories from children whose parents were too busy to attend to them and they found willing ears and eventually willing arms. I realised that one day, my boys will get the 'message ' and shut up; and then in retrospect I will realise that those were precious moments that are forever lost. How sad.

So I have chosen to live differently from this moment forth. I choose to make time for each of my children: time to listen and to talk. I will no longer be satisfied with snippets of time between meals and car rides. Rather, as I do with my other relationships, I will create time intentionally: where other things can take a backseat.

The reality of life is that there is always something that will come up that is urgent; but I recognise that my time with my children is also limited. In a few years, TJ will take his national ID a fully-fledged adult. He will have less inclination to share with me his day and his thoughts. Immediately after, it will be Toriah's turn. I need to build the structure now that will make it easy for them to talk with me when they can and just chill out when they want. Interrupting them, and shushing them up whenever someone else comes along does not do it. I want my boys to grow up as strong men, who know that they matter because when growing up, they were shown that they do.

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