I had a secluded childhood, knowing a lot of people but not actually being able to tell whether I had friends or not. Most times, I chose not to talk. Observation was an inkling for me. Constant observation, coupled with my not talking about myself or how I felt, heightened my emotions.
As a child, I felt a lot of things but was afraid to say most of them because there were so many things I was not allowed to say or feel as a “Nigerian” child from a “very religious” home.
Those days when I laughed so hard at school at the jokes from teachers and gossips from fellow students, and felt like they were the best days, but go home, curl myself on my bed and cry facing the wall so mum won’t notice.
I don’t really remember my reasons for crying, but I feel it was as a result of absence of something in my life, something I couldn’t tell anyone.
A lot of happenings increased my sensitivity. Then I started to write. I remember the first time I wrote something. I was thirteen.
It wasn’t a story, but a thank you note, a narrative thank you note to people that impacted my life and made me feel better even without knowing. Then, it continued, I wrote how my day went each day without skipping any detail.
Then, the feelings, still at thirteen. I liked a boy, but I was not to breathe a word of it to anyone. I was instructed not to have such feelings as a child.
I didn’t want to be termed immoral, so I just continued talking to the pages of my paper, while hiding the book with my life. Then there was puberty, and maturation, the struggle with acne, the mood changes, the challenges with my first menstrual period, all passed in frigid silence.
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Dad was closer to church – a strict disciplinarian, and mum would always wake us up every morning to pray. There would be endless talks on the Bible and the church and chastity; nothing on sex education, nothing on the act of love. Then all would disperse without saying “I love you” to one another.
Sometimes, I forced myself to join the prayers even when i didn’t want to so I would not be used as the subject for preaching the next day and accused on joining bad company, and listen to long talks on repentance and the good behaviour of Bible characters loved by God. That was worse.
There were so many mistakes from both ends. Everything was meant to be covered under the cloak of religion, like it would eradicate our already existing individual problems.
This post is not to set your mind on blaming anyone, but to open your mind to those sensitive things that we chose to leave unsaid as parents, children, and individuals.
As a parent/guardian, bringing up children is scary. There’s a lot of pressure because you’re shaping another person. There are so many things you want to do for your child, but the truth is, you can never be perfect, no one is.
Admitting when you are wrong is also a part of teaching them. Your kids won’t think less of you. You will be actually teaching them the proper way to behave as an adult.
Over-protectiveness is not the way out. Yes. Children need to be watched, but you shield them so tightly that they are not allowed to make mistakes and learn on their own sometimes, you are not allowing them a healthy growth. Most end up spoilt and overly dependent with no requisite experience.
Give enough routine and rules that your kids grow up feeling safe, but enough freedom that they learn to flow with sudden changes and learn how to deal with failures. Forcing a child to morning prayers every morning does NOT guarantee anything.Listen to them. Hear what they have to say, even if they are gibberish.
Most unfortunately, some only listen to their kids to hear gossips about their partners cheating. Break that intimidating, unapproachable air between you and your child if there are any, for that is when they will feel they can talk to you without being judged or condemned.
Like it or not, children go through a lot too.
Reasonably chastise them when need be. Don’t always give in whenever they throw tantrums. Ask God for guidance.
I am not a parent. I know nothing on the art of parenting, but I am speaking as someone who has been a child. This one is hard for most Nigerian parents but please, sir/ma, tell your children you love them.
As an individual, never treat a child unkind. Children are meant to be pure and innocent, do not spoil them. Do not harass a child. Reasonably correct them when they are wrong.
And you child, speak up! Don’t keep everything inside, you’re not a bottle! Muster the courage to tell them when that uncle/aunt, teacher, neighbour, friend or anyone sexually assaults you, when they make you feel insignificant or useless. Tell them when you are feeling high, when you’re feeling low, when you think you’re going to fail. NEVER think about taking your life. Most importantly, appreciate the efforts they make for you.
Parenting is a two-way street. We all have to be good to make it better. Prayer works, but God will not fall from heaven and play your parental roles.
Let’s bring them up right, leaving no side untouched.
Post made in honour of children’s day
Also Read: No Greater Love
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