I hated my childhood.
When I think back to my childhood days, I shiver a little bit. Sometimes, I even semi-yell out an ‘arrgh’.
I was dyslexic – Simple. Or was it?
I didn’t start speaking until I was three years old. I could speak in my mind though. But it was really hard producing what I was thinking into spoken words. I wrote my ‘d’ as ‘b’, my ‘p’ looked like a funny ‘q’ and my ‘e’ just looked weird. Looking back now, I think I had ADHD also, because I was easily distracted by background noise. I got chills every time we had to learn rhymes in our verbal reasoning class. They all just sounded the same… and not the same. It was so confusing. I could never tell the difference. I think it’s needless to say that I could not spell write… or is it ‘right’? Oh well… Also, my Maths was nothing to write home about. But home was also nothing to write home about.
The reason I hated my childhood has nothing to do with sole fact that I was dyslexic. It was however that the people around me made it very hard for me to live with being dyslexic.
My Uncles– I start with this bunch because I think it’s good to deal with the devils before starting anything. I hated them. And they hated me too. They thought they were helping me. They thought they were just having fun laughing at me. But they were hating me. (Extended) family meetings and semi-meetings were like a glimpse of the torture in hell for me. The uncles would assemble all the children (ages 5-12) and begin to test our spelling and multiplication prowess. It usually took the form of ‘spell-right-and-leave-the-game-until-we-are-face-to-face-with-the-absolute-loser’. I would stand in front of the uncles and my other cousins (older and younger), with my hands folded behind me, shivering with shame, every inch of my body aching with humiliation, wanting to get my spellings right. But they never saw that. All they saw was a little nephew of theirs who was heading towards being a nothing in life because he couldn’t spell ordinary ‘kitchen’ or ‘chicken’. They always called a younger cousin to ‘come and tell Femi the answer’. When I grew older though, I stopped taking it personal. I began to understand that most of them were drowning in deep rivers of low self-esteem and self-worth. And so, it only pleased them to know that there was still a human being in this world they were more intelligent than.
My Father– I loved my father. In fact, among those that made me hate my childhood, my father made me most happy. He never spoke to me. He never acknowledged me or my ‘disease’. In fact, it was like neither of us existed in each other’s world. And you see, that’s preferable. (Digress: if you know someone living with a situation, it’s better not to talk about it at all… not to care, than to use bad words on them). I always looked at my father in awe because I believed I was nothing but a bag of crap. And I believed that a man who could house, feed, and sponsor a bag of crap without acting like I stunk was a great man indeed. I watched him change the topic whenever my mother brought my school result up. When she told me to ‘oya, read the bible’, during our morning devotions, he would say ‘I have to get to work early Funmi, just read it already’. He indirectly said I was stupid. But he never said it. I could take that. The only words I remember my dad tell me when I was a child were ‘Femi, one day, you’ll grow up and realize that this life is not the joke you think it is’.
My Mom– She should not be on this list. She really should not. She was good to me. She was the one who got me a lesson teacher when she first noticed I was not catching up as I should have been. She was the one who sacked him when she saw marks of his finger outlined on my face as a result of his slaps. She was the one who made me see the inside of various churches and pastors’ offices. She was the one who took me to wash my head at various rivers (or streams). She was the one who fasted and shouted to/at God many many nights. She was the one who cried every time she saw my results. She would say ‘Oh God, this is not what you have promised your son. You said he would be the head and not the tail. Oh God… what is this? Oh God…’ She would hug me and say ‘What would we do Femi?’ And I would cry. She was the only one I ever poured my heart out to. I was 15years old. It was a ‘report-card’ day and I had just shown her my result. While she was weeping as usual and saying ‘Oh God’, I hugged her and said, ‘Mom, please stop crying. I’m not as dumb as the report card says. I am actually very intelligent. I know it. I know these things they teach me. I just don’t know what happens when it’s time for me to put them down into writing. (To this, she replied ‘it’s the devil, Femi. He is a wicked thing).’ I replied, ‘I don’t know mom. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m not stupid or lazy. I’m smart and normal. I think I just need to be taught in a different way. I know I easily forget instructions I’ve been given and I don’t really know how to express myself with words, but mom, I love you. And I would make you proud’. The only bad memory I have of my mom with my childhood was during a birthday party when I was selected to represent the family in a spelling competition and she laughed and shouted ‘No o… We’ll just carry last. Let Daniel represent us’. She later apologized but I was really pained and embarrassed.
Daniel– Daniel was my younger brother and my only sibling. He is dead now. He died of asthma. He was the most gentle and loving soul that I probably would ever know. But he made me hate myself. I hated myself because, I could never reciprocate the love he showed me. He was not dumb, he knew I had problems. He knew I was tagged as a disappointing, money wasting, good for nothing bag of crap, but he never treated me as such. He was three years younger than me, but he would teach me my assignments and explain my subjects to me to the best of his knowledge. He never helped my condescendingly. He never treated me different. When I was with him, sometimes, I even forgot I was different. The same word games he would play with his friends, he would play with me. He knew I was actually a very intelligent person. He knew it. But I could never help him. I tried and tried to find a way to pay him back, but he could do almost everything better than me. I was very slow, compared to him. I would daydream and daydream that one day, I would find a permanent cure to asthma. My daydreams were replaced with nightmares of him gasping for breath, him being rushed to the hospital, him lifting his hands before the doors slammed shut. I always told myself he was telling me ‘goodbye’ with those hands.
Now, my English and maths have greatly improved. I underwent Therapy. Sometimes, I still say words I don’t intend to. But I’m better than ever now. I have forgiven those that made me contemplate suicide when I was a child. I have forgiven myself. But I would never forgive those that create and spread horrible stereotypes about NORMAL special people living with dyslexia.
*image gotten from wikipedia.com*