Why parenting is walking with each child all the way

Monday January 27 2020

This week, a girl I shall call Rose walked into my office after a few phone calls from her mother whom I met at an event late last year.
This mother reached out to me to talk to her daughter, who desperately wanted to study journalism. She wanted me to listen to Rose and advise her on the options and possibility of studying journalism at Uganda Christian University. She, however, did not reveal much but wanted me to hear her out.
When Rose arrived, she was very confident and looked like a sensible girl. We had a great conversation and her story made me both happy and sad.
Rose narrated how she had unsuccessfully tried to convince her parents that law was not her idea of how she wanted to spend her life. She wanted to tell stories, live her life doing investigative journalism. Like many children in similar situations, her choices were limited. She gave up her dream.
Rose studied a Bachelor of Laws degree for three years before throwing in the towel. She started to fall back on her grades and ultimately refused to continue. She preferred to stay at home and made up her mind that law was not for her.
A father with a successful legal career had nursed his dreams of having their daughter pursue a law degree in order to one day ‘take over’ running his very successful law firm.
The wonderful parents wanted the best for their daughter but she had a dream of her own, which they ignored.
I asked why she really wanted journalism. Rose lit up, and told me why journalism matters. ‘The problem is people have such a narrow view and think journalism and communication is only running after Bobi Wine and getting teargassed,” she said.
I have never seen so much passion for a subject in a single person. She was brilliant, articulate, clear and confident in her knowledge.
When she finished, I was not only educated on my own programme, but I was pleased and told her I could employ her as our faculty spokesperson.
I described what it would take to study journalism and communication, hard work, discipline and commitment are required.
Obviously she qualifies but I gave her a number of conditions she would have to fulfil, including personally supervising her and being accountable to me for the three years at university. Also, I would not entertain any excuse for failing.
Rose gave me the brightest smile and said she was not only ready to fulfil all the conditions but also excel.
“I just don’t want to wake up when I am 50 years and regret,” she said.
I keep meeting young people who are so clear on their dream that attempts by their parents to redirect them succeeds at nothing. I know Rose will be a great investigative journalist with her legal career attempt as an added advantage. I am glad her parents have reconsidered.
As Prof Monica Chibita gave her Inaugural lecture on January 17, weaving through the changes in the communication landscape over the last three decades, it was clear that this is a profession on go forward mode. We have been doing catch up with it. Much of her lecture has been fairly reported on. Yet many parents still see it with the eyes of 1980.
Rose reminded me of another case in my own department, where a girl was failing and giving up on her degree over three retakes. She told me journalism was her parents idea. She wanted to study tourism. With some encouragement, she graduated last year, but by then had earned accreditation of IATA (International Air Transportation Association) travel agents. I tried to make her see how useful her communication major will be for her tourism work.
In another case, a lady wrote to me after one of my articles. She told me about the coaching she endured in order to be a scientist. Although she passed eventually as a result of the rigorous coaching, her father advised her to follow her passion for law. She put her good science grades under the belt and enrolled for law. “I am a very happy lawyer,” she told me.
There are many cases in our families like these yet we never seem to learn. For many parents ‘the wonderful life’ is defined through specific professions and their lives. Those with money put their children through the ‘good professions’ no matter what, in order to prepare for ‘the wonderful life’. Today, higher authorities are helping parents to add salt to injury.
The question is, do today’s parents (and perhaps governments) fully understand what the professions of the future will be?
At the very least, parents should be more compassionate and pay sincere attention to the passions of their children like in the case of the lawyer, and their gifts too, supporting and guiding, not directing or defining for them what to do. I see parenting as walking with each child all the way.