My child vs. The Public

I have been writing this post in my head every weekend for the last couple of weeks. Because this is the time I am reminded of this continuing battle in the heart and mind of every parent and child caregiver – Do I prioritise My Child or The Public?

Scenarios

You are in Church on Sunday and your infant child decides it’s getting too quiet in here, we need to crank up the volume. So the child lets out a cry that makes the Pentecostal musical instruments combined fade away in the distance. All eyes turn on you. Some eyes are actually eyes of, “been there dear, hang in it will end”; others are eyes of “it’s ok” while others are the eyes of, “amusement. Thanks for breaking the ice in here baby”. But all you see, imagined or in very minimal percentage compared to all the other eyes, are the eyes of ,”Control your child!”; “Did you just allow your child to desecrate on Holy Ground? How could you”; “You are not welcome here”

What do you do? You slide down your sit in embarrassment. You pinch your child in embarrassment. You breathe in and out and pat your baby. What do you do?

Do you choose “My Child” or “The Public”?

Who do you concentrate on? Who do you please?

2.

You are in a restaurant with your child/ren. You have made your order. it has taken long or it has arrived on time. The family at the next table, or even an individual, or a couple of people are eating their meal. Your child/ren decides that their meal is better than what they got or if the meal is taking long, they decide they cannot wait any longer. So while you bat your eyelid your child/ren slide off onto the next table and join in the meal. Most adults will smile at such a child. Others will ask the universal question, “Where is your mum?” Very few will push a child away.

You emerge from your split second eye-bat and discover your table has some missing members. You do and eye sweep and see your child/ren munching away or worse still gobbling down food at a nearby table. Dignity just drains from your body. The shame. The embarrassment. How could they. So you gather whatever strands of strength you have left and go to the table. Do you apologize profusely? Do you pull your child by the ears? Do you scold your child? Do you offer to pay for the food they ate?

Do you choose “My Child” or “The Public”?

Who do you concentrate on? Who do you please?

3.

You are in the supermarket with your child/ren. They accidentally triple on stuff and let us just say there is a mess and most likely damages that have a financial implication. You feel all eyes on your and your child/ren. The CCTV cameras do not help either, because they suddenly are all focused on you, your child/ren and the mess and has that plastered across every screen in the supermarket. All eyes are on you quite literally, begging for action.

What do you do? Scold your child/ren? Yell at them? Hit them?

Do you choose “My Child” or “The Public”?

Who do you concentrate on? Who do you please?

Who do you choose?

Do you choose “My Child” or “The Public”?

We have been brought and live in a ‘shame culture’ in Africa. Shame has been for many generations one of the tools used to cause people to tow the cultural norms. Things are changing now and we have more and more outliers. But for some reason when it comes to parenting, I have observed over the years before and after becoming a parent that the ‘shame culture’ is very much a significant factor. Interestingly, this ‘shame culture’ influence on parenting is not just here in Kenya, and in the African continent but it is present around the world.

You as a parent somehow feel that you are obligated to please ‘the public’ which many times consists of strangers at the expense of parenting your child every time you are in a public space. You feel the pressure to appear perfect. The pressure to show that you are in control. The pressure to prove yourself as a parent. The pressure to show off your parenting skills. Unfortunately, most if not all the time this happens at the expense of your child/ren.

The scenarios above are just a tiny reflection of what actually happens, especially on weekends.

And the sad part is that many parents, myself included, fall for the ‘shame culture’ fall for the deception of pleasing ‘the public’ at the expense of parenting their child/ren

Now what?

What has worked for me continuously is what I call ‘Conscious Living’.

Be intentional in your parenting in private and in private. Make decisions long before the above scenarios occur. So that when they do, you are prepared. You know how to respond.

So, I have personally made a conscious decision that whenever I am with my child/ren in a private on public space they are my priority. This means that if any of the above scenarios or any other were to occur I concentrate on the child/ren. They are my priority. I will acknowledge ‘the public’, apologize where is needed but my eyes are on my child.

I will then go down to their level, have our eyes lock and talk through the scenario.

Embrace them.

Explain to them where is needed.

Assure them where is needed.

Encourage them where is needed.

And then together come up with and execute a ‘solution’ to whatever scenario we have found ourselves in.

Bottom line: My Child is My Priority

I Think it. I Talk it. I Behave it.

The Result

I have observed the results of either choices

  • My Child is My Priority

The child grows in confidence. The child is affirmed and they are assured of unwavering love. The child learns how to solve problems without degrading others.

  • The Public is My Priority

The child shrinks back. The child gets fearful. The child is in limbo, unsure of the parents love. The child learns to people please.

. . .

Choose your Child today and always.

In Your Mind. In Your Speech. In Your Actions

2 Comments

  • Kagiri Posted August 20, 2018 5:34 pm

    Thought provoking

  • Mummy Tales Blog Posted August 20, 2018 8:04 pm

    Nice post. That thing of kids playing in the play area with fellow kids in these Nairobi restaurants that have kiddie zones, then in a micro-second you spot your kids at anothers’ table munching away on their food -together with their newfound friends. Happened to me a coupla times. Children have the most innocent of hearts. Bless them.

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