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By CATHERINE WARUI

When my son was seven years old, he was dead set on being a traffic light until I sat him down and explained the bottlenecks accompanying that plan.

I don’t actually know that he wouldn’t have been successful as a traffic light, what with staggering technological advancements making it an ‘anything goes’ world.

Every parent wants their child to blossom into a productive member of society. We want to be the paragons of virtue from which our children draw examples of how to behave. We scold them for fill-in-the-blank reasons, to mould them into socially acceptable adults. We want them to be ‘successful’ – which translates into miniature versions of ourselves if we have been painted with said success brush.

It bothers me when I have to dissuade my children from pursuing a certain course of action that I believe could lead them astray because I feel like I could be stifling a genius idea whose time has simply not arrived.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to not beat myself up too much for trying, and failing, to do the right thing, as well as not throw any stones about the dearth of example-setting people.

I took my daughter to high school two weeks ago. As every parent to a Form One child can attest, the whole process is a study in how not to explode under excessive stress. On the way to her school, we stopped at a fast food joint so she could indulge in a last-supper type lunch before being immersed in the culinary challenges that comprise boarding school food.

The female server at that (well-known) establishment literally robbed us at apron point when she claimed to have not received any money from us, yet I paid when I ordered for the food. I am an introvert by nature – some call it an avoidant personality (po-tay-toh, po-tah-toh) – but the worm in me convulsed when faced with a smirking thief. 

My belief in #MaintainingCivility no matter the situation flew out the window as I stood toe-to-toe with the waitress and informed her that she is a thief, albeit in a moderately calm tone. I felt my inner Mahatma Gandhi expire as I jabbed her in the shoulder and asked if her shame box was so empty that she felt no qualms about pulling Machiavellian rip-offs that would make Judas Iscariot beam with pride.

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Then there was the time before Christmas when I purchased a library of pricey school books—the process should be labelled ‘obstacle course for enlarging one’s family.’— and a makanga grabbed my son’s arm in that befuddling way that I am convinced they go to special school for. Why else would they do it? I slammed a brand new Sh1,700 Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary into the tout’s startled face.

Later, I cringed as my son relayed the incident to his sister, complete with sound effects and 3D descriptions. “You should come with a health warning,” she told me, and my mental box of regrets became just a tad heavier.

The days of being first in line to shake a finger are long behind me. I don’t know what drives so-and-so to do what they do, but I am coming to understand that sometimes, people may react in ‘wrong’ ways.

I read about the ‘Anger Rooms’ in Texas (called ‘Rage Rooms’ in Serbia) where people pay money to vent their stress on office furniture, old computers, plastic containers and the like. The ‘patients’ then unwind with relaxing music, leaving the clean-up to staff. This unconventional method is credited with preventing many a stressed person from going over the edge.

It is highly likely that many would sign up for some sessions were they introduced in Kenya. From my experiences, it is a better way to get one’s inner ‘grrrr’ under control, than tossing dictionaries at irritating people.



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