Now that the children are back from school, it is time to let your hair down and put your feet up. If they are in day school, you will revel in the feeling – no more waking up at 5am to go for morning preps at school or no beating yourself down because the traffic jam has kept you from bonding with them in the evening.
However, do not hang up your boots as yet. Parenting is the only job where there are no breaks. If you take a sabbatical, you will face the consequences a few years ahead.
One of the most important things you can do for your children is to teach them how to see opportunities to learn and advance themselves in every situation – including the holiday.
Life offers nothing on a platter
Every one of us is gifted. Lillian Bukirwa, a 35-year-old young woman, has always had the gift of writing. She is so bright that at university, she got a genuine first-class degree.
She always dreamt of writing novels that will take the world by storm. “When I left university, I began writing my novels, one at a time,” she says, continuing, “Of course, I searched for jobs as well, but my main preoccupation was writing.”
After collecting five manuscripts, she began knocking on the doors of publishing houses. “Every publisher told me the books were good, but they would not do well on the Ugandan market because people do not read. So, after a year of rejection, I put the manuscripts in a suitcase and threw it at the back of my wardrobe.”
Bukirwa, a graduate of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, has worked at many different jobs. Because these jobs were not her passion, she never took the time to master any. She has been a teacher, secretary, a receptionist, and human resource official.
“Ten years after I graduated, I see myself as a failure. I have not had the courage to write again. I am about to clock 40 years without pursuing my dream of being a novelist.”
Bukirwa’s story is the story of hundreds of gifted Ugandans, who were erroneously made to believe that having a gift is enough in itself. No one ever told her that she can nurture her gift through writing smaller articles or stories for newspapers and magazines. If she had done that, probably she would not be feeling like a failure because practice makes perfect.
What is your child’s passion?
Mary Jane Biira, a counsellor with Families Fit for Children, says parents need to know the interests and passion of their children and then, point them towards opportunities to better themselves.
“Identify what the passion of your child is and put them to work. They do not have to be paid for it because child labour is illegal. But, helping them to work on their passion will keep them busy and build their experience. Some children are good at singing, playing instruments, or dancing. There are many holiday schools that offer lessons in these fields.”
In this age, parents may feel the need to combine safety and opportunity. Such parents can nurture their children’s passion at home, Biira advises.
“If the child loves animals, then have a cage at home so that they can rear the animals. For children who love music, if you can afford to, buy an instrument at home and hire a tutor to teach them how to play it. If they already play the instrument at school, this can be a good opportunity for them to perfect their skill.”
For parents who are able to work from home, this is the opportunity for you to give your child some computer skills that will put them ahead of their peers, while keeping them occupied during the holiday.
Fishing for opportunities
John Ouma was surprised when his 10-year-old daughter told him she wanted to talk to a lawyer. “I guess she had been seeing female lawyers on TV and was attracted to the profession. I had to make an appointment for her with one of my female lawyer friends. They sat down at a restaurant and had a long chat. Afterwards, she confirmed to me that she was going to study law at the university.”
As a parent, your role is to facilitate your child to get to a place where they can nurture their passion or gift.
Jordan Masembe has always wanted to be an electrician. “When I was a child, I used to watch my cousin fixing the radio and TV whenever they developed a malfunction. As I grew older, I began opening discarded radios and trying to see how they functioned. In my Senior Four vacation, my mother found me a job in her friend’s workshop repairing TVs and electric kettles.”
Masembe attended the same evening classes with Bukirwa. Both of them worked during the day. The difference between them, though is that while Bukirwa worked at as a call agent for a telecom company, Masembe worked in an electrical shop in Katwe.
“The workshop repaired fridges, flat irons, and electric kettles. On busy days, I would not have time to change out of my overalls before heading to the lecture room. My friends laughed at me whenever I attended lectures dressed like that.”
When he graduated, Masembe got a job as a bank teller with one of the big banks in Kampala. He continued working at the workshop in the evenings and on weekends. Now, he is a branch manager and owns his own electrical workshop in Nateete where he employs five workers.
The differences between the upbringing of Bukirwa and Masembe are evident. While Bukirwa had a gift, her parents never taught her to fish for an opportunity to develop and nurture that gift. Masembe’s mother though, saw his knack for electronics and pushed him in that direction. After many years, the results are evident.