“Give me one word that comes to your mind when I say ‘parenting,’” I said to a friend. “Love,” He responded. “Give me another word,” I demanded not quite satisfied with the first answer. “A call to duty,” he quickly added. “Because the wellbeing and fate of that child lies wholly on how much parental love and care he receives,” he concluded. And that’s absolutely correct. In all honesty, parenting is quite a complex, multitasking but a fun-filled endeavour. It is a life-long exercise full of emotions, duties and responsibilities.
It all starts when a couple decides to have a child. They plan towards the welfare of the child from pregnancy on to the day he is born. As the child grows he receives love, attention, nurturing, training, guidance, advice and education from his family till the time he is matured enough to stand on his own. Seems like a straightforward hassle-free process; doesn’t it? Yeah! But it is usually not so. Children innocently or otherwise find ways of challenging and frustrating their parents’ intentions by exercising their rights to express themselves no matter how misplaced their reasoning might be.
Parents always want their children to behave appropriately – follow the relative religious and traditional norms and values that guide their society. They try to protect their children mainly to save them from making the same mistakes they might have made or experienced or heard of in life. You tell a child to “do this” or “don’t do that” but do they listen? In so many situations, age not a factor, they want to do things their way.
Talking about training and the security of the girl-child, Helen Paul, famous Nigerian comedian narrates the story of herself as a very young girl who was constantly warned (among other things) not to climb trees. One day, her mother caught her on a mango tree. After frantically screaming at her daughter, explaining that boys will look up her pant. She reassured her mother not to worry about ‘that’ as she had taken it off before climbing. Imagine!!!
Parenting is and should be fun! Living and growing up with children, you see so many funny, serious, frustrating facial and oral innocent expressions that produce relatively different reactions that would be remembered decades later. During a casual dinner with family friends discussing events in their lives many years ago, my five-year-old brother, sitting close to an ambassador blurts out. “When I was a young boy…” You can imagine what happened next; nobody bothered waiting for the conclusion of the rest of the story. Laughter with tears! Today, Ibrahim, 38, is the father of a two-month-old boy.
Just recently, during a condolence visit, I noticed my cousin warning her seven-year-old to stop playing in the rain so he doesn’t catch a cold. She tried keeping a close eye on him. A few minutes lapsed, before she realized she didn’t see him! Standing to go look for him, he appeared suddenly by the door, drenched, soaked to his skin! She called out to him severally to come change his clothes. On the fourth warning she seizes him, gives him a spanking of three sound slaps on his behind, shocking us all into shouts to stop beating him like that. Talk about not ‘sparing the rod’ that, in Africa, comes with the territory of parenting! My mum, at 68, still directs my 27-year-old brother – the youngest in the family – on what to do where and when it’s necessary, though. Even at that age you may want to ask? Yes! She does it to even me, her first of six children.
We play around a lot with our children, it’s all part of parenting but the good parents need to know when to be serious, becoming the disciplinarian when necessary. Growing up we are taught that ‘all