Every couple getting married usually makes certain resolutions or declarations on how their home should be like. The most common of these declarations include where the couple will be settling (usually the guy determines), what kind of furniture to buy (the lady would mostly decide) and how many times a week what my friend would call ‘tendo la wazee’ will happen and under what environmental conditions (if any) – most of the time there is no consensus on this topic. As any typical average couple, my wife and I also made a number of resolutions. One of the resolutions was that we would not buy a TV set, at least in the short-term. We felt the TV would take our valuable time as a family and it was unnecessary evil.
Since we did not have a TV, we relied on Radio for news and entertainment. We had nothing to distract us, and as the man of the house, I would not need to stretch my legs on the couch and get hold of the remote and flip through the channels, as there was no TV anyway. During the countdown to the 2007 elections, we all know how the elections were. They were hotly contested and it was too close to call as the media liked to say then.
We longed to get this information and felt it was important to get a TV set, but restrained ourselves based on the resolution we had made earlier. During the Post Election Violence of December 2007 and January 2008, we strongly felt left in the ‘darkness’ and we thought this could work to our disadvantage and probably put us at risk. We wanted to know what was happening in the country. We agonized over this idea of getting the TV but we could not agree. There was a stalemate and hence we stood with our earlier decision – meaning no TV set.
If we wanted to watch a Movie, we would use my laptop or PC and output the sound to the Radio, to amplify the sound for better experience. After some discussion on the pros and the cons of having the TV set, we started softening our stand on getting a TV. We promised ourselves that we will not let the TV affect our family time together and when we decide to switch it off, for whatever purpose irrespective of what is going on in the TV, we will.
When you have a TV set in your house there are what I would call three categories of addiction. The first category is for those who make much summarized prayers for food while one hand is holding the mute button of the TV remote. The second category is for those who pray while the TV is on to ensure that they get the ‘best’ of both worlds. The third category is those that pray while covering their eyes with the hands but leave small openings between the fingers to peep through, to ensure they don’t miss any action in case the prayers appear to go beyond the 30 seconds average time. If you are doubtful, take a stopwatch next time you are giving thanks for food.
Eventually we decided to buy the TV. I cannot say whether it was the right decision or not, only time will tell. Our argument (not sure whether it was the excuse) was that, we should get the TV but learn to control it and teach our children how to manage it so that they know the place of the TV in the house and can willingly put it off. We felt that maybe if we teach our children how to manage the TV issue (among others), later in life they would be able to make the right choices. We pray and hope that this line of argument will stand the test of time. We also thought when used well, the TV could also be informative, educative and entertaining to the entire family.
On Saturday’s most parents, leave their children at home, so that they can conveniently attend to other functions such as weddings, bridal showers, investment meetings, church meetings among other things. The man by default would not even entertain the idea that he can go with his son or daughter to check that plot in Kiserian, Rongai, Ruiru, Ruai, and Mlolongo or wherever it is, he has some investments. I am like that. I know I should be doing it, but I do not. It is work in progress. For the mother it is the same, taking your child with you to the market, salon, bridal shower or chamas sometimes is not possible.
What then happens when you leave your child alone in the house, in the ‘good hands’ of the house help? We do not know? Most of the time our greatest concern is that the child was washed, cleaned up, diapers changed regularly, fed properly and slept.Any mother who gets such reports, is always quick to appreciate and tell her friends how good her house-help is.
We do not care whether they spent the whole day watching some TV channels with all that music and weird dances (sorry if you fancy those moves and foul language). If you would carefully evaluate, you would realize that you could easily become a phantom parent. A parent who is virtually non-existent in his or her children’s life. Will your children make mum or dad the reference point when they are making simple decisions that involve a Yes or No, at least at this young age? Many times, I think we as parents fall short of this.
Now that we had a TV with a better screen size than my laptop I would get those Block Buster movie series (24hrs, Prison Break just to name a few) and watch them back to back over a whole weekend. One evening as we were relaxing in the house, I saw my son fold two of his fingers. He aimed and made sounds to the effect he was shooting someone. My wife and I were very shocked.
We looked at each other, and there and then, we knew who the guilty party was. I was guilty as charged. Through the movies I was watching, my son had learnt some bad things. My wife asked me whether these movies were that important to us, that we could not do without them and our children’s future will be the collateral damage for our fun? That was a tough one for me I must admit and I recalled holding those movies and told her No. I threw some of the movies away, some I archived and forgot about them.
However, this was not all. The problem now shifted to the non-violent movies – the Soaps. These programs come around 8pm in almost all Local TV stations in Kenya. That kissing and caressing is not something you are comfortable watching with your 5-year-old. The last thing I wanted was to receive summons from the school administration that our son tried to kiss a fellow student girl. I am not a fun of those programs, but my wife who was following some of them, decided to make the change. We would watch 7pm news, and then watch the local programs (Machachari, Naswa …) that come after the 7pm news and then switch off the TV after 8pm. If Josh is doing homework, we normally switch off the TV in order for him to concentrate and focus on his home work.
This sounds easy, but for us it was not an easy decision. I still recall sometime back, some lady friends had come over to our place for a sleepover and they wanted to watch one of those Soaps that come after 8pm. My son went and switched off the TV and boldly told them “Mum and Dad have said this program is not good. Okay?” He then went ahead and switched off the TV. I know the ladies were not happy and probably thought that I should teach my son to treat visitors with some bit of respect, but I was proud of our Son. What we had taught him, he could say without fear of contradiction. This is not to say, that we are all and sorted, we are work in progress. You must remember that it is a journey.
A few weeks ago, during my leave I thought I could indulge in a few movies. So I bought two movies, and I hurriedly tucked the kids to bed (it was a Saturday afternoon), so that I can watch the movie without getting them ‘exposed’ as it were. It was not a ‘bad’ movie – it was just about some bank robbers, and there a few shootouts, car chases, suspense … you can get the drift. Halfway through the movie, I heard a creak from the living room door. I went and opened it, and there he was. Josh was peeping to see what his Dad did not want him to see. He looked at me and asked me “Dad, si you told me those movies with guns are bad?” “Yes”, I replied. Then he gave one disbelieving look and asked, “Then why are you watching them?” I apologized and promised not do it again. This young boy was actually holding me to account, literally. Forget about the ‘Accountability Groups’. This was the real deal.
I knew there and then that I had lost the game. Then I realized there are no two ways about this. I cannot be preaching water and drinking wine. My children will put more weight in what I do most of the time than what I tell them to do, especially when the realizing I have no intention of doing it.
I wonder how it has been for you, as a parent. Are you going through similar stuff? How has it been for you? I would love to hear how you are managing these challenges. I would like to learn from you as well through my Facebook Page “A Fathers Journey”.
I ask God for guidance, since He is the Father of us all and He has been around a little while longer, He got quite loads and loads of experience.
PS: Suggestion. You can go to “Tune Inn” Music store at Yaya Centre, they have some nice christian DVD’s for kids. They are a little bit pricey, so prepare around 1k for each copy some cost a little bit more. I would suggest that you then make a DVD copy and give the kids the copy to use and keep the original safe. That way, if that DVD is lost or damaged, you just make another copy cheaply from the original since you purchased the original copy which is perfectly right. We forgot to do this in the midst of the excitement of getting this new DVD’s so we have to restock again.