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Parents and children of a different class

They lacked even the most basic needs while growing up, but thanks to education, career progression and having a business mind, these parents are struggling to fit in the social status their children are growing in

Sandra Wekesa @andayisandra

It’s Saturday evening at Monica Nasimiyu’s residence. Dinner is served. Fried chicken, rice and vegetables are on the menu. Monica proudly watches her six-year-old daughter as she carefully uses a fork and a knife to eat.

But monica was 23 when she learnt how to eat using a fork and a knife. Growing up in the village, she would eat ugali, which was the staple food, with her bare hands. The family would sit around the table and sometimes on the floor surrounding the meal. She would take a lump of
ugali
in her right hand, roll it into a ball, make an indentation to help scoop murenda (traditional vegetables). Monica taught herself to use fork and knife on YouTube after campus and that was after embarrassing herself a couple of times at events, parties or just a night out with her colleagues.

Now with a good job and living in Kitisuru, Nairobi, the single mother barely recognises the kind of childhood her daughter enjoys. The girl goes to an international private school, plays the piano and goes for holidays, sometimes outside the country.

In our socially mobile society, each generation hopes to live a better life than the previous one. Parents who, thanks to education and lucrative career progression, make huge strides up the social ladder are struggling to relate to their children as they grow up in a different class.

Jenifer Aketch says that she has had to deal with the issue of her son shying off anytime there is a parents’ meeting in his school. She grew up speaking Dholuo while her son learnt English as his first language.

“It is normally quite hard for me to talk well in public around my children. Often, he sneers as if I’m saying something wrong. He even says I shouldn’t talk in front of his friends as I embarrass him,” she says.

The matter is not any different for Genevieve Kwamboka who says her daughter always brings in the question of why she always never wants to assist in her homework. “It’s not that I never want to help. But I can’t relate to her curriculum,” says Genevieve.

These are untold stories of a disconnect between children and parents.  Geoffrey Wango, a psychologist, says it is always good to explain to your children how you grew up so that they understand where you are coming from.

It may seem like stories of how parents walked barefooted to school, carrying a jerry can of water may not make any sense to a child who is driven to school. But they learn to appreciate life. “Being open and telling them the kind of life you had may help them understand you when differences crop up,” he says.

Sociologist Beatrice Nderitu says it is unfair for parents to berate their children for having more privileges than they did. Instead, they should focus on building a child’s character. “They may speak the queen’s English, live in posh estates, eat five-course-meals or go to an expensive school, but it is their behaviour that matters,” she says.

Upwardly mobile parents are also more likely to spoil their children, to compensate for what they feel they missed out. “Just be careful not to overdo it as you strive to give your children the best in life. If you lacked even the basic needs and turned out fine, then that shows you should let the creative side of your children bud, so that they do not become dependent when they grow up,” she advises.

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