This week we were expected to drop our children in school early to allow them to catch the train. The teachers were kind enough to send out reminders to parents with a detailed itinerary of the trip three days to the date.
True to form parents turned up in school five, ten, 15 minutes late. They arrived in various styles: there was the one who sauntered in and noticing that the buses had not left, proceeded to do a complete check of the packing; the other was found zooming on the stretch to school while overtaking dangerously and flashing lights; yet another spent the last few minutes of her frantic ride hooting at the guard who was doing his best to direct the smooth flow of traffic; let us not forget the parent who sent a message asking when buses are leaving 20 minutes past the departure time and that one who drove all the way to the train station to catch up with the traveling party.
I shuddered when I thought of what went through the children’s minds on that trip to school. When the child in that car sees his father or mother drive on the wrong side of the road, abuse other drivers, not keep time, is he not likely to do the same?
Over time our Kenyan society seems to accept lateness with its accompanying explanations, “it was the traffic jam”, “I had to pass my child’s school”, “my car had a problem”. These are the excuses for lateness. The actual reason for lateness should be, “I woke up late”.
Fast forward to the next twenty years and the children are now adults. The first child would walk into the meeting and mumble an apology which blames traffic for his lateness; the other one misses the business appointment which was critical in her company striking a multimillion deal because she overslept; the other accomplished his task but ended up with “dead bodies” all over after using the most foul language in expressing their frustrations.
The phrase goes, and many a parent would express it eloquently, “Do as I say, not as I do?”. What such parents do not realize is that children listen to what their parents tell them and also watch what they do. It is not a surprise then that the values we set or hold dear as parents, and our actions, are manifest in our children’s manner as they grow up.
We can take the first step in encouraging positive behaviors when we model them in each and every sphere of our lives. These are those interactions in our homes, our workplaces, in social settings, in our politics, in our churches and generally in all areas of our lives. We can make the positive behaviors and actions acceptable as they become the norms and accepted practices.
Let us be the change we desire through our daily actions. Let those actions be in our words and actions which our children will pick up to influence future generations.