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TURPHY’S CORNER: Modern vs traditional parenting in Africa – How my mom taught me important lessons

Matatu is a mini bus for public transport in Kenya. The music played in this vehicle is so loud that you can easily mistake it for a moving disco.

I’ve board this brrrrr beee grrrr 14-seater mini bus from Nairobi City Centre, seated next to a young mother holding what I perceive to be a boy of between four and five years old.

Ms Turphy Achieng’
Ms Turphy Achieng’

They seem to be enjoying the loud music when at a certain point; a strange song starts to play. All I hear is “hold, drop it, shake it…down-down, bend…put your stress down..”

The young lad here is busy shaking his head, and by the speed and how rhythmically that head is being shaken, it is evident that he knows the song very well.

I’m just surprised at how smoothly he is singing along “…hold it, shake down…….”, then he keeps quiet waiting for the holding it part again when he lifts his tiny hands waving and bending rhythmically.

I am staring at the mother, wondering whether she is seeing what the kid is doing so as to pinch and tell him how satanic that song is.

To my surprise, when the mom notices how the boy is enjoying the song, she smiles, looks at him and joins him in the holding down part. Am holding my fist tightly now!!! Waaaaaaaa!! Child!

If this was my mom…. You would run for your dear life. Runnnnnnn very fast. Mama would first of all curse you, then give you that prison warden look! That would then be followed by two habitual threats: Utaniona leo (you will see me today) and Leo utanijua (you will know me today).

And my mother kept her promises. If she promised war, even if it took a whole presidential term, you would still face it.

No form of negotiation, arbitration, mediation or any peace commissioners would save you.

In those days beating was just symbolic. For instance, if you stole, then mom would capitalise on beating your hands to show you that stealing was bad.

Of course at the end of the day mom did not beat any kid, she just punished the mistake itself.

By Turphy Achieng’

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