Kenya: How Children Drive Their Mothers Crazy


Mothers make the most sense, especially when they are saying the most irrational things. A little while ago, my daughter sent me an image of a young male hippy on WhatsApp.

The young man had every part of his face either tattooed or pierced with a ring. From nose rings to lip rings, earrings to eyebrow rings.

He looked like he was in a permanent state of pain. Or maybe it was just his coffee tinted teeth that gave that impression.


She sent a caption that asked, "Mum, this is my new boyfriend, Andy. I would like to bring him over for Sunday afternoon tea.

When are you available?" Gasp! My chest suddenly got constricted and I felt the weight of my chin as my mouth fell open.

As all children can be foolish, a mother knows she must always rely on a higher power to drive out their foolishness.

An African mother knows that her first line of attack has to be spiritual. "Shetani ashindwe (May the devil be defeated!) I wrote.

Then I proceeded to type out a prayer. In tongues: "Shambra Kassandra Kasandra!"

Heart pounding, palms sweating and now ready to stalk the young man and warn him to keep off my daughter, I asked myself some hard questions. "What kind of mother "allowed" her child to do that to himself?"

Perhaps he had not been breastfed as a child and suffered all kinds of emotional trauma that he now was addressing through self-harm.


I stared at my phone, waiting for her to say something that would pull me out of this broad daylight nightmare. Then she started typing. I held my breath. First, she sent a crying, laughing face. Huh?

"Relax, mum! I was only joking." Now I was angry. Joking? Only joking? I typed furiously back, "So this is how you want to kill me?

My problems are not enough, you have to create others?" The second line of attack is to apply all the principles of physics.

Oh well, perhaps physics is a stretch but what the heck, I'm the mother here. This is where you appeal to their conscience.

The one you are hoping they have. After all, no child wants to be called a mother murderer. Or so you hope.

Such is the life of an African mother. You scream, preach, pray, cajole, cry, threaten and use silent treatment on your children.


Then one day you open your mouth and what you say doesn't make sense. To you. That's the day you know that your children have finally driven you crazy. All those years of telling them, "You guys are making me mad!" have come to pass.

Yet what is most disconcerting for me has to be that my children think I'm a comedian. Even when I am dead serious.

I say something and they laugh. It's not a strength of mine, of this I am sure. Yet they are finally finding me funny! Am I losing my mind? "What's so funny?" I ask in exasperation. This is usually met by more guffaws. "You seriously don't know? Just listen to yourself, mama!"


And so I have started listening to myself. What I have found out is alarming. It has become clear to me that while I was raising my children to be responsible human beings, they were doing the opposite to me.

It's all the years of saying things like, "If you don't stop crying for nothing, I will make you cry for something!" or "Look at me when I am talking to you!" and when they do, you add, "Now you are looking at me when I am talking to you! Rude child!" I know something is wrong because I used to tell them, "Don't swallow the seeds of the orange, or an orange tree will grow out of your tummy!"

They are older now so whenever they try to out debate me, I throw in the mother card: "I'm the mother here!" It's my 4G version of, "Because I said so!" They ask, "What?!" Incredulous looks. I see the wheels in their brains spinning. Asking, "What does that even mean?"

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