Should children support their parents?

I come bearing a thorn in my hand and I’m going to prick where it hurts most, the heart.

I had a heartfelt conversation with my friend and colleague today. It was a topic that was burning in my heart. I had contemplated on it for quite sometime, making observations here and there.

I was born and raised in Kenya, ” a son of the soil” as the famous and well known journalist and playwright Wahome Mutahi used to say.

I have observed that certain obligations fall on a lot of Kenyans once they are grown up and have joined the job market. Most of us are expected to carry on the duty that was intended for our parents, and that is to take care of our families.

I write this from a point of earnesty and sincerity. I love my family deeply and would do anything for them. However, it can ensnare one in a path of playing a provider and make one stagnant in their quest for success.

I’m not averse to the overall notion of giving a hand to our parents, albeit those who do not earn enough for their day to day needs. Not at all. However, I believe that it’s when you find your footing in the marketplace that you can be able to generously contribute to the needs of your family.

As soon as I finished college, I felt like a huge responsibility was thrust upon me. I had to get a job and continue on the cycle of taking care of my family. Many African parents expect this. The children feel like it’s an obligation to do it.

I was comparing our African culture with that of a European friend and realized they vary immensely. Whilst I rush to send money back home upon receiving my salary, my friends are usually lax, family duty does not beckon them. All my African friends send money to their families upon receiving their salaries. By saying families, I actually do not mean to their dependants- husband, wife or children. I mean parents and siblings, and these may include a few next of kin.

I find this whole notion to be a “crabs in a barrel mentality”. When the crabs in are put in a barrel and one of them tries to climb up and vacate the barrel, it’s pulled down by the lot. It’s a “if I can’t have it neither can you” mentality.

Instead of building yourself up until you become stable enough to aid your family, responsibilities are shoved upon you and you are forced to play a parental role to your family.

It’s a parents responsibility to raise their children and leave them a good inheritance.

Proverbs 13:22

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

I compared my situation to that of my friend. I sought advice from him because I felt so weighed down with the heaps of parental role I was playing. He comes from a good family, well off. His parents supported him through university and even helped him in starting his own business. His question to me was why I was playing a role that was not intended for me in the first place. Did I have my own investments? Did I have surplus income that I could generously give away? Did I have enough savings?

The juxtapositions of the two scenarios is to show that there are two different types of families in the African household, speaking primarily of a Kenyan home.

There are the parents who build you and want you to establish yourself and flourish. Expecting nothing in return. I find that most of these families have successful people. Investments are encouraged.

Then there is the other type of family. The mentality that circulates in this type of family is that your duty is to get employment for the sole purpose of contributing to your family. Personal investments are frowned upon and every move you make is calculated with equal suspicion.

Personally, I find myself caught in between the two. I try and forge my way ahead, charting my own path. Sometimes this is frowned upon in my family. Some see it as a form of rebellion. That I’m forgetting where I came from, or forgetting who brought me up. On the contrary, the reason that I’m so stubborn is because I want to be successful enough to have an overflow that extends to my next of kin.

My advice to parents is to encourage the ambitions and dreams of their children. Who are we without our dreams and aspirations? When we cease dreaming, we stop living. Do not be so quick to thwart their goals and ambitions. My friend sent me a timely message about parents and their role to their children. As I paraphrase it, the message said that parents should do something to help their children have a softer “take off” , but not to take over their lives, as they themselves have their own lives to live.

Do not trample on the flower that desires to bloom.

Daddy lessons

It’s Father’s day once again. It’s strange that I never really think about this day. Fathers play an important role in our lives. They serve as a monument of protection and provision in most homes. They are the pillars in our households.

Nevertheless, let’s talk about the dwindling number of father figures in homes. Some men are emasculated in their own homes. Some fail to portray the role of a monumental superhero in their homes. Some are dealing with retrenchment, threats of foreclosure, and many unimaginable nightmares of the twenty first century.

Carrying the title of a father is second to none. You have eyes which look up to you. Eyes which behold nothing but the epitome of greatness. You have the opportunity to impact important lessons to your young ones.

Most people find themselves doing things just because their father did those things. For example, supporting a particular political party, or a sports club/ team. Mundane things like favouring a particular news channel, or subscribing to a particular newspaper or magazine. In important decisions about buying a particular car, or buying land, we mainly lean into our father’s treasured and well informed input, regardless of whether this information was gathered through word of mouth, on the streets or from a well researched base. We seek our fathers approval, and aim to please them.

It’s challenging to be a man, knowing that hard decisions are laid in front of you. Knowing that every move you make should be well calculated and beneficial to the whole family unit. Mothers keep the unit together, but I believe fathers altogether reiterate the force of that unit. That it is unshakable…We are proud to call ourselves the “so and so family”

I am, however, estranged from my father since 1993. I haven’t spoken to him in person since 2012. There has always been gaps in our communication, or rather, in our relationship. He’s no longer my superhero. In spite of this, I recall the kind of father he once was: strong, fearless and protective. The kind of father who was vested in my education, remembered every birthday, hoisted me up on his shoulders like the featherweight minikin I once was. I remember the father who never laid a hand on me in any form of punishment. I was always a daddy’s girl. Eager to please him. Learning that the shopping list I once titled as “stationary” should be spelled as “stationery.”

The father who bought me a George Orwell’s book, “Animal farm”, advanced edition. A book I couldn’t make head or tail of at the time since I was still young and I also averse to the repulsive looking pig on the cover.

I did read it though, a couple of years later. One of the best books ever written dad! You knew my passion for reading and encouraged it.

Writing this, I have no idea why I haven’t spoken to him in such a long time. Maybe I’ve fed the voices in my head and fattened them with tales of being an adult and finding my own path. Maybe someday, I’ll make sense of why he left in the first place. However, our paths are still parallel.

 I’m still reeling in dismay,

 I’m still nostalgic, 

I’m still waiting,

 I’m still weaving the road map to you,

 I’m still caught in a labyrinth

The world took me in it’s arms but once again I’m relearning lessons you taught me through George Orwell: 

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

I’m still learning that a phone is not a substitute for a watch for telling the time. I used to either lose or spoil all the watches my father gave me for my birthday, and really thought that a watch was a fickle little thing. Somehow, every month, my phone acts up and I realize for the umpteenth time that I need to buy a watch.

“Watches are so named as a reminder- if you don’t watch carefully what you do with your time, it will slip away from you” Drew Sirtors

My father always bought me a gift on Christmas. The first man to give me a rose for Valentine’s day, (it’s funny how I’ve never received one since then!)

“By plucking her petals,you do not gather the beauty of a flower” Rabindranath Gatore

He always gave me pianos in every birthday, the older I grew the bigger the piano. 

“The piano keys are black and white but they sound like a million colours in your mind.” Maria Cristina Mena

Daddy lessons. Thank you dad! ☺

#why I quit my job

I love watching Jimmy Fallons’s talk show, especially the hashtag segment. He poses a question in the form of a hashtag on Twitter and people comment on it. It’s hilarious. One of my favourite ones is #whyimstillsingle, #don’tjudgeme and #howilostmyjob

My hashtag for today opens up a broad discussion. It treads more on honesty than funny.

Let’s kick off with a confession. At the tender age of twenty two years, I worked as a credit officer for a well known international organization.

I watched some of the people I considered as some of my best clients become as thick as thieves. My life was chaotic, filled with the humdrum of demanding loan payments, issuing warning letters, rigorous follow ups and confiscating assets.

No one is immune to the power of money. It’s how we choose to use that power that makes the difference. 

I watched as people who borrowed hundreds of thousands to a million shillings become paupers the next day. I also watched people who invested wisely multiply their income steadily.

I guess that’s the part people miss out on. Steadily. Success does not happen overnight. It takes years to perfect a talent, a gift, a trade or a craft. 

I’ve seen what money thirsty can look like in flesh and bones and I wouldn’t want it for myself. I know what looks good though.

Honest work.

Eventually, it pays off. 

So did my experience with money change me?

Yes, for the better though. It opened my eyes. Money is important, but what you do with the money is even more important. Money is a tease. Not there when you need it and plastered all over when you don’t. You have to be disciplined and accountable with money.

I basically quit my job because I became my job. A grim faced, foul-mouthed aggressive credit officer. I threw around words like disbursement and arrears when talking to my mother. The numbers on my phone were ninety nine percent clients and one percent friends.

I lost myself. As much as it was good to know I possessed all that passion, aggression and intimidation, it left me devoid of emotion.

“Do your job but don’t become your job. ” That was my first learning experience in my first job. 

No tear drops on my pillow

One of my friends is going through a heartrending melodramatic break up at the moment. I’ve probably seen her cry a handful of times by now. It’s devastating. They were supposed to be the dreamy couple all loved up in their cocoon of happiness, unaware that single people like me exist in this world.

When she first told me about it, I was shocked to say the least.

Words often fail me in moments as vulnerable as these. I wanted to ask her if she had eaten… I know… the village called and they want their idiot back!!

Honestly, in moments as brittle as these, all my emotions are near futile. I do not know how to comfort someone who’s hurt, crying or devastated. One of our mutual friend cried after hearing the news and I thought, how noble, how sympathetic. At that moment in time, I wanted to be as empathetic and show how I was also affected by the news, but there were no tear drops on my pillow.

I’ve been trying to research about people who are not in touch with their emotions. However, I couldn’t find a sound reasoning to echo my sincere feelings. Showing empathy comes easily to some people. They cry with you and laugh with you. Some people do not know how to display those emotions. Yes, I can be deeply sorry, deeply hurt, deeply disappointed, though I’ve trained my heart to be guarded against showing my emotions.

I honestly don’t remember how it all started, though through my experience, I’ve faced people who’ve tried to break me to see just how fragile I could be. How fast I could crumble. I may not cry in public, but I’ll probably do so when I’m alone, in deep solace, when I’ve come to terms with it all.

I believe people who do not show emotions are the ones who hurt more, because when the truth hits home, it does so with a resounding thud.

Memoirs of a heart that may be stone, but never cold.

It’s a car, it’s a baby, it’s natural hair

I’m upset that I have to explain my natural hair to people. I would  like them to explain their hair to me.

It’s a car, it’s a baby, it’s natural hair. Simple, right? Apparently not.

African hair seems to be another pair of shoes. Someone needs to come up with a natural hair thesis and present it to the universe already.

Perhaps if I had grown up seeing mothers and role models who are women, proudly wearing and embracing their natural hair, I probably wouldn’t have been so insecure about it.

It makes me think of the “ego” song by Beyonce.

 “It’s too big, it’s too wide, 

it’s too strong, it won’t fit,

It’s too much, it’s too tough”

We all know she wasn’t talking about hair here.

 A high five for Jay-Z.

I actually feel like my hair, metaphorically speaking, has a big ego too.

  • It’s too big
  • It’s too wide
  • It’s too strong
  • It won’t fit

Someone was preaching to the choir.

My hair sticks out like a sore thumb, like Santa Claus on Easter, like an African in the middle east. My hair is becoming a subject of study.

It’s easier to hide it under a wig or weave, or whatever paraphernalia has been invented to curb the rise of natural African hair- that’s what it seems like. So many people tried to curb it’s rise, dishing out hair products left, right and centre. And we, the new generation of natural hair enthusiasts, are rising up and fighting it.

We are bombarded by so many products in the market. We are bombarded by so many questions about our hair. Since people don’t want to be labelled and categorized, how about we start by not categorizing natural African hair. A lot of people are coming out (pun not intended) and screaming to the media ” don’t label my sexuality”. How about we put the same emphasis on hair. It’s curly, it’s kinky, it’s nappy, it’s coily…let’s throw all that in the trash and simply call it “hair”.

I had a chat with a new friend I just made and he asked me for a picture of my new hair do. ( which was so bomb in my books by the way) .I should mention that the said friend is white. His first reaction was that my hair looked “crazy”. I did what any normal person would do, I blocked him with all the malice I could muster,  immediately. (Primarily because I’m a “react” instead of ” act” kind of person.)  I only blocked him for a few minutes though.

It dawned on me that a lot of people are, pardon my French, ignorant, about natural African hair. 

  • Yes it does grow like that from our scalps, like yours…remember?

I know India Irie sang ” I am not my hair”. But you know what? I am. It’s an embodiment of me and I wear it proudly.

 

A non-Muslim in the pot of Ramadan

It’s a sultry summer in the desert today. 41 degrees and counting. The air is still and humid.

It’s the perfect day for an ice cream or a smoothie to soothe a parched throat.

It’s also the perfect day to eat out with friends, a common scenario living in the desert. Eating out is the norm. It’s easy to feel detached from the world, and one craves human companionship here.

We live inside buildings or cars blasting out the air conditioner as high as we can during summer. A simple walk outside is, simply put, an absolute torture.

So here I am yet again, in the helm of Ramadan. 

So what does one exactly do during the month of Ramadan, a non Muslim at that?

Become a hermit?

Schedule your vacation on the same month that Ramadan falls on?

Every place suddenly becomes quieter in the month of Ramadan. Here are some helpful ways to spice up your life amidst all the lack of chaos.

  • Organize a house party

As all entertainment dens, clubs and pubs are closed during Ramadan, what a wonderful way it is to meet new people and make new friends by having a house party. After the awkwardness of a few minutes, it is guaranteed to be a frenzy of mingling, friendly banter and endless guffaw. It doesn’t have to be a big group of people, just people who have similar interests and in a while, everyone will be having a jolly good time. You could even have a theme party, and what a perfect time to play games too.

  • Take on a hobby

This could be a sport, sight seeing, taking brisk walks in the evening, going to the beach or discovering new eateries. Organize a book club or a sports club with your friends and watch the days fly by.

  • Visit a neighbouring country

Usually, there is a lot of free time during Ramadan. What a great idea it is to plan ahead and visit a neighbouring country. Get a new stamp on your passport and enjoy the journey.

  • Join your friends for iftar

You’re in a foreign country, you might as well join in for a day of iftar with a friend if invited. Learn the true meaning of Ramadan for them. The spirit of brotherhood and love shared when they break their fast together. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to show pictures of such great memories in the future?

Movie recommendation?

I get so excited watching new movies. My immediate response is usually to recommend it to my friends.

I love movies which evoke a reaction in me. Some movies leave me mortified, afraid of shadows seen with a new pair of eyes. Some movies leave me staggering for answers, questioning the meaning of life. Some leave me forlorn, in desperation, a wreck.

It was with keen interest that I watched the movie “Get out”. It left me pondering for a while.

The movie itself was a whirlwind of events. It was too exciting, yet devastating. It left me on edge, and at certain times, aghast at the revelation.

It begun as a beautiful journey, which made me believe in love. An interracial couple going to visit the girl’s family. The setting was calm. The family was accepting yet overbearing, something I’ve noticed with a lot of interracial couples.

Your friends are either walking on eggshells, afraid of saying the wrong thing, tittering endlessly, eager to please. Devastating really.

I loved the way the daughter’s father carelessly tossed questions around about the distinct black servants in household, which the boyfriend found unusual, though he did not voice his opinion.

It’s in the seeking that we find answers. Stereotypes are built through a slow but sure manner. The walls and boundaries are slowly erected and soon enough, we find ourselves constrained by the inhibitions we’ve created.

So, back to the movie. The guy noticed that a lot of queer things were happening at the residence. It felt like the servants were warped in a different time zone. To put it in the man’s words, “they seem to have missed the movement”. He was of course, referring to the civil rights movement in the USA. To be recognized as equal, and be given the same rights accorded to the white citizens.

One of the revelations I had is that a lot black people in movies are usually portrayed as abrasive. Either by ourselves or by others. “Black people are too loud, too cynical, ready to fight, too aggressive”. This is portrayed in the movies a lot. People consume or ingest whatever they see on screen, and that is a sad fact. I no longer wonder why words like “safari” or “Africa” are thrown around whenever some people see an African.

I alluded to this because the white girl’s family held a family reunion. The man in the movie said, “it’s nice to see another black person here,” then proceeded to give the only other black person at the reunion a fist bump, which was met with a handshake. Is there a way that black people are expected to act? Or it something we’ve imposed on ourselves? I confess that I also felt the black servants in the movie were not acting black at all. They were too polished and polite with perfect mannerisms. Of course this was all part of the movie plot, as the servants were actually white people’s brains functioning in the bodies of black people. Part of the black people’s brains were replaced, thus they lacked the feeling of wakefulness, and awareness. As a result, they did not perceive their environment or who they actually were.

Movie spoiler#

The ploy of it all was basically a switching of part of the brain into functioning bodies of black people. The girl was a serial dater, who lured countless black men into their den…or rather, home, and thus the gory transplants were given to vying aging recipients, who play a game of bingo to win the luscious body of the unwilling black boyfriend and his body would be used as a host. The white girl’s family claimed that the black people have a certain je nais se quoi about them… stamina, charisma, athleticism, artistic abilities… The brain harvest was supposed to make the white person experience these qualities, and thus the black person’s living brain would remain in a “sunken place”. A sort of a deep abyss, where they could not speak for themselves, though they would have their bodies.

In the end, I lacked someone to recommend the movie to. I would recommend it to open minded people though. As long as you don’t view it as a sad excuse of a movie promoting modern day slavery. After all, it was all fiction. Words I said repetitively to console myself after watching such a bewildering movie.

Talking to the universe

I was on a short drive with my friend today when he spoke up non nonchalantly: “Do you speak to the universe sometimes?”

Apparently, I needed to affirm the universe about my dreams, aspirations and hopes.

For many people, this is the universe for them: an unstoppable force, a treacherous burst of energy.

Sometimes the universe feels like a hulk of a man, and we behold it fearfully. Yes, the universe is powerful, but I’ve come to learn that the more I wish and long for things to happen, my wishing and longing remains just that.

Though you may or may not believe in the power of speaking to the universe, how you relate to the universe does determine on how you take on life.

You can wake up in the morning determined to have a successful day. Setting your attitude for the day is also affirming the universe. Although your day may not turn out as brilliant as you expected, it’s your will and determination that got you through the day.

Affirmations are simply about having a positive mental attitude, which will reflect on your daily activities. It’s a simple proclamation, filled with positive energy.

I believe that you can not give what you don’t have. You can not radiate happiness or kindness if it’s not from within. Do everyday simple and well meaning deeds for yourself.

Put yourself first.

The caged bird flies again

I’ve realized that it’s easy for someone to hold you to your throat. Not necessarily physically, like an armed robbery situation, but mentally.

It’s with the hovering around, darting eyes awaiting your next move. Asking questions relentlessly. Prying. Nagging. Prodding.

Claustrophobia has been manifesting itself in physical form of late.  It’s been hitting me at every angle and turn. I have come to feel suffocated by own family and friends.

This is when I realize that it’s okay to be selfish. It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to want to be by yourself sometimes, as much as it’s okay to demand someone’s attention when you need it. It’s okay to put yourself first. It’s okay to do something that makes you feel better about yourself. Whether it’s sports, entertainment, rest, a frivolous purchase, a good cry.

Life is simply learning to let go, being yourself, freeing your emotions. It’s okay not to be okay.

In admittance of this choc-a-block situation I’ve found myself in, I’ve realized that I need to be selfish to heal myself. Only when I’m whole will be able to give more of myself as there will be an overflow of ingenuity.

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