It is easy to blame bad children, convenient to curse those who sell drugs to them or lure them into cults and gangs. But didn’t someone give birth to and raised them, all of them, cultists, gangsters and the victims? These plenty little demons giving us reason to do candle-light procession for our young ones, did they drop from the sky? How did things get this bad with our once pretty babies with fluffy curly hair and fat legs? How did our fine boys who gave us heart-melting wide toothless grins become men and women we can no longer recognize? When you hear some terrifying stories of what 25-year-olds are up to these days, you can’t help but wonder if these were ever babies wearing I-love-mummy bibs or sucking their mothers’ breasts with let-us-pray seriousness, one fat leg in the air. Or do you not wonder how a baby who once cried relentlessly just for his mother’s nipples metamorphosed into a ritualist who strangled his father for yahoo plus money-making rites? How did the bubbly baby girl with pink ribbons in her hair become a hustler who lured her sugar daddy to his untimely death?
Where did today’s parents get it wrong? Where did we lose our children? How did we lose them to ‘I just want to blow’ culture?
Whether it’s a balloon or an electric transformer, don’t we all know that once something ‘blows’, some damage is done, sometimes irreparable damage? Blow in street or entertainment parlance can be safely described as success, recognition, wealth, the kind that arrives with a bang, and who does not want their children to succeed and prosper? However, the ‘blow’ also comes with a negative connotation, an unwritten, underlying drift towards ‘success achieved by all and any means’ possible. And that is where the problem lies. Cutting corners, cutting people down, destroying norms and cultures just to get to where you want to go irrespective of whatever it takes or who gets trampled along the way is the current way of getting ahead that can and will have consequences. The parents of the child who mauls everything breathing and not breathing just to ‘blow’ are usually the hardest hit when the sh*t eventually hits the fan.
This is the ‘I wanna blow’ generation, let’s admit it so we can fix our fears. Our children are in a hurry to get things done because we put them on the fast lane early, indeed before they get out of their diapers; playgroup at 12 months, nursery school at three and primary school at four years. I had a friend who pushed his daughter into the university at 14 to read medicine! It ended in premium tears. Some of our children are already coding at 15 and seeing themselves outdoing and overtaking the dot.com billionaires before they are 25.
Today’s kids are very aware, probably too aware of who they are, where they want to be and they want to be there now or ASAP. Since we started them on this fast lane, it is our duty as parents to ensure they stay on the straight and narrow. It is sad, however, that more parents think the only way to parent is to throw money at parenting. Put ‘em in the most expensive school. Enroll them in ballet and piano classes, employ Portuguese and Mandarin teachers for them after school and at weekends and shoo them off to boarding house and ‘the abroad’ whether they are mentally and emotionally ready or not. Once daddy and mummy are making enough money, parenting can be substituted with fees and bills. Is there any better definition of destructive parenting?
Let’s break it down and be honest about the kind of parents we really are.
That school your kids are attending, what exactly motivated you to enroll them there? Is it because ‘at your level, where else will they go?’ Ah, got ya. The choice of your children’s school is like ‘aso-ebi’. Because others bought, you also bought. Your children are going to spend their formative years in a school you chose because it’s expensive, not because it is great. Your only son is in that school because it’s cool, not because its’ good. Who are you going to blame if the boy comes home one day and announces that if the driver won’t use the Toyota Prado to drop him off, he isn’t going to school? Does your daughter think it is bush to spend Christmas holidays with her grandparents when all her friends are off to London for white Christmas? You may think those thoughts are nothing to worry about but that’s how a dark slide starts if you don’t get ahead of it.
What values are you inculcating in your children? Do they know what the concept of ‘respect’ mean or they talk back when you correct them? Are they Yoruba children who think kneeling or prostrating to greet their elders is ‘stone age’? Do you have to scream at them when you have guests before they know they have to give you the room? Watch it modern dad. Things do not spiral out of control overnight.
‘Iya ti mo je omo mi ko ni je’ (my children will not suffer the way I did). These are the parents who constitute the most danger to themselves, the children they love so much and indeed the society. It is among these ones you have men who scold their wives for sending the children to go and grind pepper or buy groceries. The children are ferried to and from school. They can’t cross the road on their own or ride on commercial buses. They run home to mummy to speak up for them and everything threatens their mental health. Fragile, do not break, handle with care babies. No street smarts, none at all. Dear mummy, these children you are over-parenting, how will they cope when they face the harsh realities of the real world or you intend to replace this over-protective attitude with therapy sessions each time they have to contend with bullies even in the workplace?
Do you pray with your children? Do you go to church or mosque with them? Do they know God? Do you pray for them? Or you have suddenly left them to find their way? They are old enough now and should be allowed to make their own choices. That is what some fathers tell themselves as an excuse for dereliction of duty. Apart from the holy books teaching that we should lead our children on the right path, who doesn’t know that the child that we did not build will auction the house we built? Chubby-cheeked babies who neither respect nor fear God will eventually become what their parents are not proud of. Even when you have done everything you should and your children are doing well, that is when your job starts, on a different more intense level. Picture it, your actor or musician son suddenly hits the big bucks, fast cars and posh flat. That’s when to hit the prayer mountains with fasting and praying that is directly proportionate to the success of your child. Why? Because a parent’s job is never done.
Your daughter has enrolled for her PhD at 26. She needs you. She is not a big girl, just your fat baby girl. Be all over her business without being intrusive. Your 30-year-old chartered accountant son just became a branch manager, congratulations, but there are also chances that he will be ‘invited’ to join a cult or envious colleagues may try to harm him. Yes, he’s ‘blown’ before 30, but did you prepare him for this fast lane, this fast arrival? Most of us are guilty. Take a second at your children and what you as parents have done to prepare them especially the ones we have shipped to UK, USA, Australia, Canada and China. Can you thumb your chest that they could swim before you pushed them into the deep end?
Now this big one. Why are our boys looking like half-men-half-women? They plait the hair on their heads only to contrast it with very bushy beards. They started years ago with ear studs and have now graduated to dangling ear rings. Some even wear black nail-polish. Everywhere you turn, there are artificial ‘Dada’ and ‘Samson everywhere with dirty, dyed dreadlocks. Perplexing and exhausting for me. Are we being punished for neglecting our God-given duties as parents or am I the only one who is worried? Did anyone just say ‘this Funke is so old fashioned?’ Ah, my dear modern daddy, I’m worried that you are not worried that it is becoming increasingly embarrassing to tell a brother from his sister. The boy wears earrings like the girl and struggles for hair cream with his mum and sister. Looks like we have all lost control of these babies we once carried in our wombs for nine months. The boys, over time, became so envious of their sisters’ and mothers’ looks they now want to look like them. Some of my fellow old fashioned mothers even insist that men who braid and weave their hair are suspects. Please don’t ask me any follow-up questions. I am just one old girl trying to manage the confusion of seeing a man wearing a native cap on weaved hair.
Did I leave anything out? Drop your contribution and let’s expand this conversation.