I remember myself acting very weak when I was a child. I felt weak and constantly tired. And I tried to explain to my mother. I would use words and phrases like, ‘faint’ ‘really tired’, ‘can’t breathe properly’, ‘dizzy’, ‘I don’t even know how I feel’, just so that she would panic and take me seriously. But every time I did that, she would just look at me and slightly squint as though she could see my internal organs. Then she would say, ‘Sorry ehn, oya drink water. It’s well with you. Drink water and continue your homework.’ And every time she did that, I would get angry and swear to the heavens that I would never do that to my children.
Now? I look at my little Nathan and silently giggle when he comes to tell me that his tummy aches. It’s amazing that this only happens when he is doing his homework. Immediately he’s in front of the TV, all his pains disappear. Although I must give it to him, for pretend pain, he acts very well. And every time he comes to meet me, I stare at him just like my mom and say, ‘Sorry baby, drink some water. You’ll be fine. Finish up your homework and rest’
I remember being very puzzled at my parents when I was a child. They had so much money. So much. They had three cars and a number of gadgets that were apparently expensive. However, to buy me ‘common simple’ biscuit was a problem. ‘You’ve had too much’, ‘Jedijedi is real o’ , ‘You’ll drink agbo ehn’. I would ask myself why any parent would give their children bitter herbs to drink. And then, why they would not buy me biscuits when they apparently could afford to buy all the biscuits in the world. And I would promise the heavens that I would never do that to my children.
Now? Nathan and his sister Morayo know not to even ask me for any sweet thing more than three times in a week. When they went to stay at my mother’s for two weeks, they called me three days into the stay and told me all about how grandma buys them sweets everyday and about how grandma is way cooler than I am. I simply laughed. By the sixth day, I received a call from my mother and I could not even hear her voice over the noise my children made in the background. I could pick out, ‘Mom, she’s giving us herbs’ –that was Nathan. ‘Mom, they are potions. Bitter potions’– that was Morayo. ‘O ma se o, It’s why your grandma is cooler’– that was me.
I remember being so self-conscious when I was a child. The long ready-made gowns to church; the huge sweaters to school; the long socks that I had to keep relatively clean before closing time, and a host of other fashion-related troubles and worries I had. I wanted to dress like Moni in my class. She wore strapless tops and mini skirts all the time to school parties and neighborhood parties, and she got all the attention of the boys. I thought she deserved it anyway because I always wondered how she got the nerve to tell her mom that she wanted those kinds of clothing. My own mother? If you as much as mentioned in passing that your gown was sweeping the streets of Lagos, she’d look at you as though you just renounced your faith and belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then she’d say, ‘Ma je kin gbo. That’s the style. So do you want to now wear short skirt? You can’t wear short skirt o. At least not when you’re still living with me. So you want to start wearing mini skirts when you grow up ehn? I’ll still be your mother even when you’re 40 years old. So, don’t be having thoughts’. And I would swear to the heavens that I would not forget that my children are just 8 years old.
Now? Well, Morayo seems to love anything I dress her in… for now. But you see that Nathan? Not only do I not let him pick out his own cloths, I watch him like an eagle at parties. Once I sight some mini-skirt wearing, strapless top hanging, Brazilian-hair fixing, tiny 6 year old girl throwing her self at him, I just begin to pack up and tell the children; ‘LITTLE ones, we have to leave.’ And if they protest, there’s always the ‘movie night’ promise to bribe them with. Somebody’s child will not come and spoil my own children…
I remember myself not looking forward to church when I was a child. Sunday school was not it. I mean, I HATED dancing round the chairs and having to fight with 4 other children over 6 chairs. That game was for the competitive soul and that was just not me. So, I never participated. Well, until my mom volunteered to teach at the children’s Sunday school that is. It was like a horror show every Sunday; only that I was the main actress. And I swore to the heavens and back, that I would try my best to make Sunday school worth looking forward to for my own children.
Now? Morayo’s Sunday school teacher reported that my daughter does nothing in class but read her children novels which her dad buys. Nothing else in class…. She just sits in a corner and reads those books. Week in; week out. Some of her classmates don’t even know her name. I was very moved to up and do what my mother did. But, I found a better solution in simply making her possibility of reading novels on Sundays conditional to her telling me what game she played in Sunday school. And trust me, it works… every week.
I remember myself being so sure that I would not do a single thing my parents did to and for me when I was younger, but now? I realize that I was only promising myself not to be the best parent ever.
And Nathan and Morayo? They deserve even better than I.