This blog post is hella long. Congratulations if you get to the end.
One of the most ignored children’s groups of our generation is the 11 – 13 year olds. Certainly, everyone pays attention to childbirth, and even more so to the years after; are they teething? Are they walking? Have they started school? And obviously, teenagehood is a big deal, especially at the beginning; the ‘talk’ is often had here, the preparations for high school begin, and boobs begin to show. But the ages of 11 to 13, or right before thirteen, is under the radar. Pre-pubescence is often seen as still young, still innocent, still naïve and idealistic about the world we live in. True? Nope.
This is what the average 12 year old thinks about friends, parents, school, and sex.
All children surveyed are between the ages of 11 to 13 from varied schools, walks of life and nationalities.
tSN: I want you guys to tell me the first thing that comes to mind when I say this word. Ok? Here it goes: Parents.
1: Sometimes annoying.
3: Silent. And talkative.
A: Do you mean you’re silent, or your parents are silent and talkative?
4: One busy, one sometimes busy.
tSN: Are you friends with your parents? Can you talk to them, about school and stuff?
3: They go to work a lot, so I have no idea really. My dad asks how school is, and I just say fine.
1: Well, I am in boarding…it’s fun.
3: Boarding sounds cool. Gives you a sense of your future life, having your own responsibility for your own clothes and stuff, and secure in your own life. But my dad pretty much knows all my stuff; I am not really ashamed of it. If I told my dad some of the stuff that happens at school, it would get messy…I would get a bad rep.
4: My dad would go to school and cause mayhem. I can talk to him, but I would rather not.
2: I have dealt with peer pressure on my own and with my mother coming to school. I would rather my mother came to school. We went to the head teacher and talked about things. I was relieved. I felt free. I asked my head teacher not to reveal my name. For my own safety. And sanity. You can ask your parents and teachers to deal with uncomfortable situations and to protect you.
tSN: But you have never been to boarding school.
3: It’s how I imagine it.
tSN: You miss home when you are at home?
1: Sometimes you feel like you want to be home when you are at school, but when you are at school, you miss all your friends at home.
tSN: Are most of your friends from school?
1: Yes. Boarding school gives you more time with each other; this is my second year in boarding school.
2: No. I don’t really have friends in school.
3: My friends are acquaintances, except for this one guy who I say hi to every day, I guess.
4: Most of my friends are at church including my best friend. We’ve been best friends since I was 9.
tSN: And in your estate?
3: My apartment has a lot of people but we don’t connect with each other. If there was an alien in one house, no one would find out. No one would scream.
tSN: Are most of your friends girls or boys?
3: Acquaintances? Well, at school there are not really people I can consider friends; it is hard to make friends with them.
3: They are not good at compromising. Some of them say yes to each other all the time, too much, and some of them think they have a sense of authority because they are rich.
4: I am in the middle. Some are girls and some are girls. My best friend is a guy; he is the kind of guy you like to be around. He knows the Bible, he is a good friend to me in times of need, he defends me, corrects me when I am wrong, and lifts me up when I fall.
3: There’s no one like that at my school. Except for one guy, I guess he is kind of my friend. Not best friend. Just friend.
2: Only a few more girls than boys.
1: Divided. We are all friends.
tSN: Do people your age have boyfriends and girlfriends?
3: They talk, and like, walk, and there is this girl that is the leader of the girls and then the boys ask the leader to connect them – to hook them up – with one of the girls. They walk and talk a lot. I don’t really know what happens, because I have never done it. I am the only one in the school who hasn’t. It’s odd.
4: Most people do. I just broke up with my girlfriend last week.
4: I caught my friend smooching with my girlfriend.
3: My school does not have smooching.
tSN: Are you still friends with the guy who was smooching your girl?
4: Well, yes. There were a couple of punches. He started it! But after the fight we forgave each other and said whoever wants the girl can take her.
2: I would not call it boyfriend and girlfriend. In my year, people are friends then they give themselves the title boyfriend and girlfriend. They walk around for two days, inseparable, then on Day 3, you can’t look each other in the eye…I would not call it a relationship, because after Day 2, you don’t even talk. They date for like 6 months without having a conversation.
tSN: So a relationship is constant communication to you?
2: Not constant. Just some communication, at least. And not pressured, like in my school where some people force people to date each other (because they have power over them) and control the relationship, like this week you are going to do this, and this week, you will do that, like take her to a movie, or buy her this. It is like being a puppet.
1: In my school, when you are going out with someone, you walk each other around, like to class.
tSN: What makes people break up?
2: Boredom. Or you don’t want your name to be linked to them. It gets intimate at some point. Just do not be bored.
2: They have sex. Or have a Twitter war.
tSN: You are on Twitter? And Facebook?
3: I am on Facebook, but I don’t really use it. I used my dad’s age.
4: I lied to get on Facebook.
3: The limit is 17. I think.
tSN: So people fight on Twitter.
2: Or any social networks. They say things before school, then get to school and avoid each other like the plague, then come home and the war continues. It’s like group shunning; the girls in this group turn or start laughing when a girl from the other group walks by. This started in year 5, when I was turning 10.
tSN: How do you talk to boys?
5: I can be anyone’s friend but if a boy comes up to me and he wants to be my boyfriend, I fight him.
tSN: A physical fight?
5: *nods* Most of my friends are boys. And I have a boyfriend. My parents know.
6: Most of my friends are boys. I don’t have a girlfriend.
7: I have a girlfriend. My mom knows.
tSN: What does that mean to you?
4: I cried when we broke up. We had connected. We had similarities, not shallow ones.
7: You know someone who is always cheering for you and being there for you.
4: And smooching.
7: Giving gifts. And hugging.
3: Isn’t that 18 year old level stuff? Shouldn’t you just be talking to each other? But I don’t have a girlfriend.
2: Gifts happen. A girl in my school got an IPod. But I feel like you are buying someone’s affection. I don’t think it should happen at our age. Gifts, or relationships. Have a friend who is guy, sure, but a boyfriend is a serious commitment.
4: People do stuff in my school, so…
4: Sex. Some guy carried condoms on a school trip and was found in a room with some girl.
tSN: And it is normal in your school?
3: *shakes head vehemently*
3: But what do you count as…what do you mean by the word, according to what you do in your school?
4: There are homosexuals, lesbians and straight people.
tSN: And how do you differentiate them?
4: When the teacher leaves the class, someone is paid 5,000 to be the lookout. Then the homosexuals kiss the homosexuals, and…like that.
3: Parents give their kids a lot of money.
2: In my school there were only rumours of 2 girls, whose behaviour was suspicious. Maybe they were just good friends.
tSN: Do you think homosexuality is weird?
2: I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s natural. But that is just my opinion.
3: They’re really going for it in America. But I think it’s wrong…ok, I don’t know.
tSN: What about drugs?
4: There’s a guy in my school who drinks and takes cocaine. He says he has had a hard life. His parents broke up. And he had sexual connections with girls which ended. He does drugs to forget.
2: My school, it is not abnormal…it happens. I mean marijuana, alcohol, cocaine. Majority, I have heard, do weed, shisha, wine…stuff like that. They bring it to school, because his parents do it and they do not have a problem with it. He smokes at lunchtime in the classroom.
3: I don’t think kids at my school are influenced by what their parents do.
7: A guy in my school says he takes Tusker. He wants to look cool. He doesn’t look cool.
2: I think people do it because of peer pressure. They want to fit in with the older kids and be cooler than their classmates and rave. There’s a girl in my class who gives out fake IDs, from her brother.
tSN: You guys all have phones?
3: I could live without it.
4: I am only allowed to use it on the weekends.
tSN: How do you talk to your friends, or meet them?
3: I don’t have any. I like to be at home and play adventure stuff, with guns, like on IPads and Xbox.
2: I hang out with my siblings, or my mom arranges meets with my real friends (outside school). I like lazing around the house better.
5: I use my mom’s phone to call them to come over.
tSN: How do you feel about politics?
4: There are rules at my school. Luos and Luhyas can date each other. Luos and Kikuyus can’t. Kikuyus and Kalenjins, yes. Usually, one group talks about Raila and the other about TNA at my school. They have slogans and everything. And arguments.
tSN: Because of their parents, or?
4: They follow news. Like when Raila’s company went down and he lost the votes, they insulted them. They ask what else they are going to steal.
3: We have all kinds of people.
2: People are from everywhere at my school, so no one is really political. But during elections this time and last time, a few Kenyans – not all – started doing weird stuff, like saying their candidate must win in the middle of class when a teacher is talking. Some teachers even started having debates about who should win in the middle of an English class.
5: We were warned not to talk about politics or you will be expelled. No one got expelled.
tSN: What else do you guys do?
4: I wrote a 400 page book on How to deal with an annoying little brother. And I am releasing a rap song.
3: Don’t hold back, man!