She’s only 13

January or Njaaanuary, as Kenyans prefer to call this month that appear longer than its actual 31 days is almost over. But I dare not speak ill of the month my presence was first felt in this world. Yes, to me January is a month to celebrate. Never mind some people who shall remain unnamed pretending to forget my birthday just so I don’t remind them to Mpesa something to my account. Haidhuru, I forgive them but I won’t forget unless they make it up to me –  I’m patient and can wait for another year.

This post however, is not about me even though the njaa seems to have affected not only peoples’ pockets but also their souls. Or how else can you explain the saga of striking teachers and nurses, the teargassing of school children or even the leaders caught on video behaving badly? It seems to me the state of the pocket affects the state of the soul in more ways than we care to admit. So I got caught up in the njaa happenings around me that I neglected this, my budding project. Yes, that is it. This explains the fact that the last time I posted here was before you all went away to indulge in the customary rituals that come with the December holidays. And I should hope that the reason you are eagerly waiting to exhale in the next couple of days was worth the discomfort of tighter than usual clothes, in addition to the disappearing shilingi.

As for me, I shall be holding my breath much longer. Not because of the state of my pocket, thank God, or even because of my now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t waistline. The reason my lungs must fast develop the capacity to hold air for longer is the pair of tweens in my house. I understand this is the age when they are too old for toys but too young for boys. But Wairimu seems intent on disarranging that perfect harmony set by nature.

She called the radio station. Desperate. Her mama, that is. My car radio was tuned to Kiss FM by mistake. The girls think I am boring for listening to Hope FM during the early morning ride to school. But I tell you, with all the ludicrous things around us (or is it just me?), Justo’s soothing voice and messages on Activate is just what the doctor ordered as an early morning dose. By the way, I must state I am rated better on the Most Boring Person scale compared to their dad who kills them with Kameme FM! So, they take any chance they get to switch to “FM2”, as they call it. Apparently, Kiss FM is the only station that plays swanky music. The type that you must know the lyrics and sing along with schoolmates for you to fit in the crowd. The type that you must drop the artist’s name as though they are your bosom friends. So I have been introduced to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj. And I must confess I love Becky G’s Shower song. It lights me up inside like the 4th of July, nay, Jamhuri day. Watching UK singing along to Sauti Sol’s Sura Yako was something else.

Anyway, I have no idea why the girls only seem to like female musicians. Maybe it is a good sign – that they are not yet into boys, you know? That I still got my little angels with me before, God forbid, they are corrupted by this mean world.

Like Wairimu. The girl whose mother called Kiss FM this last Monday morning? In case you missed the story, she said she was helping her daughter clean her room the previous day. A lazy, Sunday afternoon. Maybe after church…or maybe after a sumptuous Sunday lunch. As she picked up some clothes, two condoms fell off from a jacket. You got that right – two condoms. She was so traumatized, she didn’t say a word to her daughter. Hadn’t said anything, even upto that morning when she called Kiss. Her daughter is thirteen. At first the radio presenter had said the girl was sixteen. On hearing thirteen, I sat up straight. I was in the thick of the seven thirty Olenguruone avenue traffic. The rising sun’s rays were right in my eyes, and the car visor was not helping in blocking them. I thought maybe the ultra violet rays were interfering with my hearing, or something. I had just dropped off my twelve year old and her ten year old sister in school and for a moment the crazy thought of taking that Oloitoktok road roundabout and speeding back to school crossed my mind! Don’t ask me what I intended to do once there. I have no idea, but I would have blamed it on temporary insanity brought about by Mama Wairimu claiming that thirteen year olds were using condoms!

Ok. Maybe not Mama Wairimu but the callers who called in after her desperate call for help. And help she got, alright. One guy reminded her that condoms come in packs of three. The fact that there were only two meant that one had already been used. Another one told her the next time she checks there would only be one left! I sympathized with that mother, even as I hoped it was a staged call – to boost the station’s listenership (there’s such a word, by the way). Later, I would rationalize that she was irresponsible to not sit her daughter down earlier and explain matters sexual, or even when she found them condoms. Some of you who heard her must have wondered with me what help she expected from the likes of Shaffie Weru and Kalekye Mumo. But that is besides the point, the point being that girls, as young as nine and ten are well attuned to sexual matters and it’s high time parents stopped sleeping on the job!

I travelled back in time to when I was just about that age. True, I knew zilch about condoms. But so did most adults. It is truly sad that some of us from that generation are still not alive to the changing circumstances that influence our children. I remembered back when I was in Class six. A fresh faced ten year old lass eager to conquer the world of books, the only world that existed to me then. Then this boy appears on the scene. Let’s call him Obed. He was new to our school but he was too loud to go unnoticed. The fact that he was a lunje in a school in the middle of Central Kenya – his father was the watchman of the bacon factory neighboring our school – also made him stand out. He was a bright kid and probably felt threatened by me – the only girl who could beat him hands down in Maths! I know I am blowing my own trumpet here, but that is an undisputed fact, one that the fierce Mr Kariuki could attest to if only he could speak from six feet under. May God rest his soul.

Anyhow, Obed was too mature for some of us. And persistent. Thinking back, he could well have been three years older than me and should have been at least two classes ahead. He made it his life’s mission to make me his girlfriend. And he had a great plan. Funny how boys could embarrass/ annoy you in the name of getting your attention. When his antics of whistling, getting other boys to block my path and dropping my books just for the heck of it failed, he resulted to being Mr Nice Boy. He became friendly and made sure my friends and I could use a shortcut through the factory grounds that his father forbid school children from using. Funny enough, I liked him back. Talk of girls liking the bad boys! But he was funny and unafraid – he took the beatings meted by the teachers unflinching, like a man. The fact that he was a worthy competitor in the academic front endeared him to me more. And that, my dear friends, was my understanding of who/ what maketh a boy-friend.

But Obed knew better, which he aptly put down on paper one day. He discovered I had a male cousin in Class Seven who could serve as emissary. So one Friday afternoon on our way home, my cousin handed me a note with the instructions that I read it in private. I promptly put it in my school uniform pocket and happily skipped all the way home. By the time I reached home, my mother had chores lined up for me and the note was completely forgotten. I removed my uniform and put it in the wash basin where she started off the laundry to reduce on the Saturday workload. It wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to discover such a note now, would it?

That discovery marked the end of the chores for that evening. And the beginning of my sex education journey. Yes, Obed had been explicit in what he wanted from me. His note jolted my mother into action. I am pretty sure she hadn’t held such a conversation with my sister, who is two years older than me. Even though I had not even reached puberty and cannot even remember much of what she said that day, I was put under the radar and she constantly checked on what was going on with me. By the way, I was never given the note to read but I got snippets of it from the grilling I received.

Now, if such could happen in rural Kenya back in the 80’s, imagine what is happening in today’s urbane, suave intranet world. Yet, children today are not entirely bad or out of control as some might want to suggest.  They are just maturing faster owing to societal influences. And it is up to the parents to guide them on how to navigate through the often confusing maze. This will not happen if we bury our heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. Which is why I pray that Mama Wairimu found the courage and wisdom to talk to her daughter. After all, at age thirteen, some of these children know things that would shock the dead back to the grave should they wake up today.