Kenya: Please Let Children Help With Chores

13 January 2021

There is a stage where children become overly excited about helping their parents with chores. If you are laying out wet laundry on the line to dry, the young one dashes in to offer help by handing you the pegs.

The undoing with this helping hand is that it slows down the process, which can be unwelcome if you had several other chores lined up for the day.

Mine, for instance, is notorious for rummaging through the container looking for a particular colour and size because he believes boxers should be held by small (baby) pegs, tops are for medium (mommies), while bigger (daddy) pegs hold trousers and jackets.

To save on time, I would always sneak away and do the job alone, only for him to find out he was excluded and feel dejected.

Short-sighted

It, however, hit me recently that I was being short-sighted by only seeing the little disturbances and time-wasting. The bigger picture I was missing out on was that I am raising a man who will, hopefully, grow into a leader, or someone's husband and father.

Excluding him from chores he enjoys is slowly but surely creating an individual who will in future need help or fail to do simple chores around the house.

I am a hands-on man myself, something that I fully attribute to my parents. If they did the same thing I was doing to my son, I would have learnt little therefore suffered a great deal the day I was left with a baby.

Mom made me help out with all the chores in the house, from sweeping to mopping, to cooking. Those skills have come in handy in the six years I have raised my son alone.

My late dad did even more, albeit with an iron fist. He was not the type to call in a fundi when something broke and needed repair. He had this toolbox that he guarded viciously, and each tool was assigned a number depending on its use. Whenever he brought it out of his bedroom, he called me over to do the same thing my son loves doing; hand over different tools upon request. He would simply shout "number ten!" then wait for me to extend my little hand with it. I had to do it quickly and get the correct tool, otherwise, a slap was offered to enhance my concentration.

Countless times, he opened a faulty gadget to repair it, but his guesswork or wrong diagnosis worsened it and left the poor thing for the dead. I remember this leaking pressure lamp that would not hold air long enough to light the wick to the optimum. My old man 'sealed' the leakage but that lamp never worked again, to this day. When such happened, we would walk away from his workshop with our heads down, but full of lessons on what to avoid next time.

We survived electric shocks, knocks from hammers, and near-misses by the family machete, but our hearts were full whenever a faulty gadget roared back to life. Sometimes, my childhood curiosity made me ask annoying questions, prompting dad to explain the technology behind whatever we were repairing. I was learning.

I fix everything possible in my house, and, like my dad, some die in the process, but those that are reborn give me the willpower to do it again.

That aha moment made me realise that I had been standing in the way of my son acquiring essential skills, which was unfair to him. These days, I let him join every safe activity that I am involved in. When replacing a flat car tire, I loosen the nuts and let him finish unscrewing them. He loves it.

I am aware children sometimes take different directions when they grow up, but I hope that the bit of knowledge I pass onto him through apprenticeship serve him in future.

If I get home from the office before it rains today, he will be with me as we attempt to seal a nagging leakage in the car radiator. Small boys become men by watching what men do, they say.

Hillary has raised his son on his own from the time he was six months. hillarylisimba@gmail.com

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