Like many of you, I was never quite prepared to become a parent. I spent years in school learning to become a professional, spent hours in the field training to become a better player and coach at a game I loved, and then countless hours honing my skills as I worked to grow my professional expertise.
It was only after many years of being single, that I decided to get married, and when the children came, I found myself a parent, with little preparation apart from a pace setting program. My wife and I did this even before we got our first born, and later realized that that was not only premature, but also very theoretical to us.
I can blame the system for teaching us to study for exams, and so any studies without exams are useless, or say that learning a skill without practice is like eating ice-cream in your mind! You will never know what's real until you practically experience this phenomenon called parenting.
You will also never know what kids mean to you until you have your own. I had been involved in my nephews' and nieces' lives, and the lives of my students and church youth members for donkey years, but that was by proxy, and at a distance for the better part. The real deal came when our first born came, then our second born a year later, before we put a stop, or comma, to the process, to breath and manage the ensuing chaos.
Children come and grow faster than you imagine. One minute they are babies and only needing diapers and food, then soon they are people with personalities, quirks, temperaments, desires, attitudes, values, aspirations, fears, hopes and dreams fully in your care.
They grow from innocent babies to intelligent people who learn silently from watching you and sometimes imitate you perfectly to your surprise. They pick up certain traits faster than you imagine and sometimes you want to ask them where they learnt or picked up a character, then realize that as you look in the mirror, that you were the originator.
Sometimes the struggles and weaknesses you have as an individual parent are passed on to them by both parents, and the result is a double dose, since they share both spouses genes, making it a double dose of anger. They can also pick up the positive values that either of you parents have, which is great to see.
So what are we setting up our kids for?
Is it a life of servitude to the system set up not for happiness but for capitalistic pursuit?
For a life running after an elusive "African dream' that is an illusion?
For a life filled with fears of never measuring up to the standards of a confused world that keeps shifting goal posts about what's right and wrong, acceptable and popular?
For a life full of escapism in fiction, fantasy and make believe on the silver screens that surround us?
For a life whose success is measured in the levels you have attained in the games you play online and in real life?
Or for a life full of meaning, purpose, faith, contentment, self-control and happiness?
As parents, we only have a certain window of time with our children. Once that window closes,they no longer want to hang out with us as they used to. We are no longer their first choice of playmates, or secret keepers or fashion advisers. We are not their heroes anymore.
Our children are beginning to know us for who we really are: with our failings, quirks, weaknesses and struggles.
The stars in their eyes are slowly falling away and they are realizing that their parents are not the greatest people in the world!
As their innocence gives way to reality too fast for us to keep up with, we have to pay attention to what will come in our wake. What are we setting them up for?
What values are we passing on daily in the way we relate to our spouses, handle our house workers, guards and the least members of our society?
What are we teaching them as we break traffic laws, insult other road users, go to church late, spend inordinate times on our phones, buy and eat junk, not exercise, spend time lost online?
Are we assuming that the teachable moments are those 20 minute irregular family devotions or prayers?
Are we assuming that the schools, teachers and churches will do our jobs for us?
Are we assuming that their little minds are not watching, recording, interpreting and then replaying what we do and say?
They are small people who are continually being influenced by our overt and covert behaviors, constantly seeing and hearing the things that we aren't saying, louder than what we consciously tell them.
Thoughts to ponder on.
(Are you interested in your child discovering their strengths, building strong financial foundations, building their self-confidence and more? Why not sign them up for our December 2017 Early Start Kids Holiday Program? Find out more and sign up here.)
About the Author:
Emmanuel Nandokha is the Director in charge of Human Capital Development at Wylde.