A son is different

After the relatively tranquil experience of raising three girls, along came a boy who completely turned my parenting journey around

As a single parent, I salute and celebrate all the mothers and fathers out there raising children on their own. I also thank God for the gift of children and do not take for granted carrying to term, safely delivering and parenting three daughters and a son. Yes, they are quite a handful but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

In the first trimester when I was pregnant with my son, the ultrasound scan revealed I was carrying a girl so I hit Biashara Street in Nairobi’s central business district to shop for all things pink. Imagine the shock on delivery day when a boy came knocking! But the surprise arrival of my now three-year-old son was definitely accompanied by gratitude.

Looking back, I can say that my experience raising girls was gentle sailing – buying dresses and make-up, washing unsoiled clothes, having house chores done to perfection and most importantly, dealing with the girls’ gentle and quiet spirits. With my son’s birth, however, my parenting skills have had to take a 180-degree turnaround because raising a boy is a very different ballgame. Every day comes with a new, mostly shocking experience, so I have had learn and adjust accordingly.

A sneak peek into a few of these experiences: He sits with his legs wide apart (compared to his sisters’ modest postures). Sometimes he urinates through the window, claiming that he is watering the flowers! His toys have a three-day lifespan; he skids in the mud butt-naked and comes home with scars. He insists that his neighbour’s dog is his best friend and spends time stroking it and removing ticks. I caught him once holding the animal’s mouth wide open so he could examine its dental formula!

He insists on escorting his neighbour, a girl, back home in the evening while holding her hand. My sitting room has been turned into a football pitch and at times it looks like a mild tornado has hit the furniture. Not once, he has been caught trying to dismantlea motorcycle (someone else’s source of income). Who does that?? You got it right – only a boy!

The reality of parenting a boy is slowly sinking in and sometimes it can even seem frightening, especially as life seems to have given me the lemons of single parenting. In the absence of my son’s father, it is easy for me to dive into the pool of self-pity. But I intend to make lemonade by making do with what I have.

In his book, How to Raise Boys: A Voice from an African Father with an African Perspective, Pharis Murangai looks retrospectively at the life of a boy in Africa and observes that there is a remarkable disconnect in the old way of raising boys in the traditional family set up and today’s modern urban set up. He explains that the environment and circumstances of the old days facilitated the building of character.

With the realisation that times have changed quite a lot, I acknowledge that I cannot do this alone. I will have to find men in trusted circles who will offer support and aid in my son’s upbringing. I am talking about a good support system to help as he develops physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and culturally.

One idea that comes to mind is a role model – a man who will model the God-ordained roles of provider, leader, protector, priest over his family, prophet to speak good things into his children’s lives, and head over his home. A man who will be available for his children, provide security at home, invest his time in his sons and pass on good family traditions to the next generations.

Society and culture expect men to be tough and masculine; suppressing their emotions, protecting women, getting into fights and so on. A man is expected to relentlessly pursue a woman even if it means risking dog bites, falling into stinging nettle bushes or attracting a beating from any peers who might have an interest in the same woman. As my son seeks to find his place in this world, with God’s help, I have resolved to offer active support, counsel and prayers. As he grows, I want him to learn things of value such as good character, endurance, perseverance, hope, skill and competence.

The Bible records that the women in Timothy’s life ensured their sincere faith was passed on to him. So, with God’s guidance, the Christian faith will be a core component of my son’s upbringing. I believe God’s word will teach, rebuke, correct and train him in all righteousness so that he will be complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work that he is predestined to do. I pray that my son will grow in wisdom and stature, gaining favour with God and man like Jesus did. Amen to all that.

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