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 “How old is your boy?” I asked Naomeey.

“How old do you think he is?” She asked back.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” I said turning to look at the light skinned toddler kneeling on the living room floor, bent over an iPad. He made funny noises, muttering excitedly to himself and it was clear he was having fun.

I had watched as he turned the iPad round to face himself, then dragged his *pudgy finger across the screen, an action he repeated four times before he had it unlocked. He had pushed the menu button, and then touched parts of the screen till he had navigated to the page he wanted. When there, he had again pulled his index finger across the screen before releasing it and then mimic the “wheee” sound of something flying through the air before exploding in a shower of bricks.

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“You better commot for de back!” I said as I took aim, wound my right arm in circles till it became a blur and I felt surely the hand was going to come off, then I pulled the arm back and let fly. My pitch went hurtling through the space between us very fast, and he barely had time to jump clear as the can I tossed which had veered wildly off course narrowly missed his knee. My frustration grew.

He gingerly picked up one can from the two I had managed to knock off earlier, cocked his head to the right, shut his left eye as he took aim with his right, swung back his arm and let fly. I do not know which angered me: the noise as his can connected with my ‘pyramid’ of cans, the clattering as milk tins flew everywhere and tumbled down, or the huge grin on his face!

It took me a long time to realise his pyramids absorbed the impact of my hits because they were sturdy – we started with the same number of cans, and while I concentrated on building high to the sky, he doubled or tripled his ‘foundation’; then there were the wild tosses as a result of anger, frustration and a need to put as much force into the throw to knock down his structure, while he calmly and carefully took aim and picked off my cans one by one.

Those were the days when “child’s play” was serious business.

My personal favourite was table soccer. I was never one for really physical games, still am not, but when it came to table soccer I was game.

During school holidays, especially around World cup season, the only game worth getting into trouble for was table soccer.

I grew up in an area of drinking parlours, hotels/brothels with their coloured lights, and soft brown earth.

Before the tournament starts, we had to ‘register’ our teams. I always chose Italy, Jigga’s favourite was Nigeria, and so each kid had a preferred country, yet we had to come and formally declare it at no fee.

Wilson was the artistic one; he would carve a replica of the World cup out of coloured candle, or make one from Jik bleach bottle topped with a small plastic ball and wrapped with gold foil from the many empty packs of cigarettes we would find lying about in front of the house where our maigadi sold such wares off his nylon covered table.

Then we would line the field. This was my forte, me and Othuke – I liked free hand sketching and he liked precision. Taking the long ruler his mother kept, he would outline the edge of the field, the touch lines and the 18 and 16 yard boxes at both ends; I would squat within the rectangle while he drew and faintly mark out the semi-circles for each 18 yard box, the 90degree angles at the corner flags, then following the line dividing the field in half, the centre circle. And then I would soak the chalk in water to properly outline these sectors.

Armed with black nylon bags, we would walk as a pack up and down the street to all those drinking places and pick as many bottle crowns as we could find. Each person picked matching crowns for their team – this took care of jerseys. Five or six of us, un-bathed and in varying degrees of clothing, wearing whatever slippers we could find: left and left, left and right, blue and green, black and green, oversized or undersized. As a child I hated cutting my hair so with bushy hair growing into my eyes and mouth, dusty knees from kneeling on the field, chalk streaked forearms and legs, I would walk as one of the pack in search of ‘players’.

When we had found enough for a team and reserve, we would wash them at the tap just over the gutter in the compound and then leave them out to dry.

Next came the numbering.

Back then, calendars were strictly for wrapping new textbooks at the start of term, but with the school term over, we would unwrap the books and cut out the numbers we required and desired for our players. We would then stick these numbers to the top of the crowns using chewing gum. Nothing else worked. We had tried glue, but when it dried up, the numbers fell off; with cello tape, because it had to go under the players, it affected movement. So we settled for chewing gum, the same chewing gum we rolled into balls. For balls we had experimented with the white spools in cassettes around which the tapes were wound, but they were too heavy and required us knocking the players down to make them sturdy enough not to bounce too far whenever the ball made contact. Plus it did not move like a sphere. We used beads too, but they could be too bouncy, so we wrapped some chewing gum around them.

We fashioned goal posts from either St. Louis or Unicorn sugar boxes, notebooks or bits of bamboo knocked together with mosquito netting.

The referee either whistled through his teeth, or bought a plastic whistle and we observed 90 full minutes of play, extra time and all the other rules of football at the time. We did everything – almost everything. We never could find someone to run an interesting enough commentary!

Passes were weighted in order not to be overshot, shots were taken hard or soft depending on what was required, we learnt to put a spin ‘yirobo’ on certain plays to ‘confound’ keepers and we learnt players with slightly upturned parts were good for lifting dead balls over defenders.

This was science, and it was art. The only thing was, we didn’t see it that way. We were just having fun.

I watch children these days reach for the calculators on their phones at the slightest mathematical question.

Growing up, mental sum was a test of mental alertness. A teacher would walk into my class, ask everybody to stand up and then fire arithmetical questions at each student. We had less than 15 seconds to provide the answer or else the cane would come down hard and fast on our heads. It was not the fear of the cane that made me take these things seriously. Ok there was always the threat of the cane, but there was also the “olodo rabata, oju eja l’o mo je…” chant for the last kid standing.


Standing there watching Ayomide, I realised that at roughly two years old, he could work the iPad better than me and, who knows what other new fangled technological device?

This is the world I have brought my son into, the time he will grow up in, this 21st century. A time when technology has made almost everything possible, and I am happy for him. My only fear is that humans have replaced speech with written words; written words with abbreviations that do not always completely make sense. Even these are slowly being replaced with pictures. Maybe by the time his son comes, they would have returned to smoke signalling and things.

Who knows? Surely not I.


PS: Like his father before him, M.O.N.C. is taking the phrase “laid back” literally. We are trying to get him to sit, and would he do it? Yes, but only long enough to slap the floor with his palms a few times in glee, then he would gently ease onto his back and kick his stubby feet in the air and gurgle, showing his milk stained gums. A sight that always melts my heart and pulls me next to him on the floor. I would tickle him and he would gurgle some more. I would whisper in his ears “Daddy loves you,” and he would turn and look at me out of those dark brown eyes as if to say “I know.”



"Franque is in aviation, which by the way is not his job, just a lifestyle. If he ever kept a diary it would read like his articles will. Unfortunately he doesn't. Scratch that. He didn't.AIRtiquette is a walk in his shoes. Since regular isn't in his vocabulary, brace yourself for a bit of airwalking!" Follow @franque_521 on twitter.


  1. First????
    Kai! Multiplication tables flogging…*shudders* some throwback things…all these kids of nowadays have no clue what it means 2 play outside, engage urself without toys, light or anything… All they know is TV’s, PS and using cell phones…oh Lawd I sound like an old woman…hehehe
    *blows zite a kiss*
    Great read franque

  2. Awwww *wipes tears* but really, a kid as little as Ayomide with an iPad? Oh Sweet Baby Jesus! But Franque *sighs* u write so, can’t find the right words. (I’m tempted to faint but I already know what u’ll do so I’ll just keep on sighing)

  3. Absolutely interesting as always….too bad kids of the ήδω don’t know or appreciate the value of outdoor play….I did play the table soccer too and I can still remember the rush of adrenaline….

  4. Zite is alredi learnin 2 sit?? O_O Wow, how time flies! Glad d lil man is doing great.. A supa dupa kiss for him!!

    21st Century Kids….hmmmm, finking iTold “my daddy” iAm one yesterday!

    Franque, do iReally hafta say how sweet dis is nd how much iEnjoyed reading??

  5. chei franque,u wi not kee person! What of playing pencil/biro on ur table in primary sch? Or making paper planes and gauging d best designed by how long and well it flew? Oh,table soccer! My cousin used to beat me at it,so d night i beat for once, i shouted so hard my uncle scolded me and literary brought down d house that night. Nengie wts up?

  6. Mornin Family how r we today?
    @ Kay: It’s amazin how times have changed. But then, even Mama said the same of my generation;
    @ Nena: U hav a great weekend 2;
    @ Teeonair: those were the days, in my mind o;
    @ Chychy: It’s simply wowing when iSee these things. As for faintin, iAm happy for ur re-think
    @ Everybody_else: Guys, iWill appreciate if y’all can mail me ur 10 best posts by me to There’s a movie date tied to this exercise. Y’all hav a fab weekend. Oh and there’s one more post due out on 9-11-2011

  7. This brings back memories of ‘those good old days’ when we could play creatively, learn and correctly recite the multiplication tables, play outside our homes without the fear of being kidnapped,and of course, read about faraway lands and just let the imagination fly 🙂
    I have an almost 3yr-old who constantly amazes me with how much she knows and how well she uses complex gadgets. Just like Franque with Zite, I am happy for her cos these are the times she was born in.
    However, even though she would use pictures and abbreviations to communicate, I would teach her what they truly mean. Even though, she’ll reach for her calculator for the kinda figures I was never used to, she would learn and recite the multiplication tables too. Even if I would never allow her to freely play outside, I would take her to places where she can safely experience the joy of the outdoors and learn what it truly means to play. Even though she would watch movies, I would also teach her to read so that she could make movies herself if she wants to or even write and stretch the imagination of others.
    One of my greatest gifts to her would be to allow her experience the good I did and also let her be ‘a child of her generation’.
    Franque, you are a good writer but I think you’ll be an even better daddy 🙂 Keep loving him, you won’t go wrong that way.

  8. Table soccer! Mr writer did y’all ever have your players made out of paper? And buttons made the best balls. Hian! See my life! A 2 year old be pressing ipad anyho! Lovely piece as usual, I’d like to meet Monc, babies love me!

  9. @ eL: The times have changed. We have made advancements, or have we?
    @ Lorlah: Yes u havta say it o. And yes, Zite’s grown. He even has his own pack of Cougars-in-waitin’ *iWonder where he gets that*
    @ qhaycee: U r alryt sir. #NotACerelacBaby. As for ur shout outs to Nengie, U go soon begin pay;
    @ Olaedo: thanx for ur faith in my parentin. U r alryt urself. Ur kid’ll grow up better for it, and iHope iAm around long enough to see her movie or read her works;
    @ Jazz: That there was the real table soccer cos it was played on table tops. Mama never understood why my uniform shirts were always missing the collar button, or what iWas doing with four or five biro covers when iClearly only had one biro. #Nostalgia

  10. I remember calling my brother the other day and my 3yr old nephew picked the call saying “Hi Aunty, Dad isn’t home and I need to get back to my Wii so I’d talk to you later” I can swear I held the phone in surprise for an extra minute b4 I realized my mouth was agape. My boss in d office said he had never felt so dumb as when he gave his iPad2 to his 5yr old daughter with the confidence that it was “passworded” so she wldn’t mess around with it but to his surprise, she typed in his password and said ,”Hmm, that was easy”.

    The calender-wrapping of books in my house was for a great cause. Given that we were seven in number with at most 2yrs margin btw kids, woe betide d child who wasn’t able to preserve it for his younger ones to use when their turn came. Mental sums weren’t reserved for school alone as my father threw questions at us when we least expected-in d middle of a sentence or an instruction to go grab him something-my back still hurts thinking of it years after. D funniest thing about the “OLODO RABATA” song was dat it was the”shiki shike shame” part with its accompanying gestures that always got me bursting into tears.

    Awwwwwww *grabs tissue to blow nose* @ M.O.N.C. sweetness and innocence

  11. As a kid, we lived in a flat. Woe betide you, should my mum come back from work and meet you downstairs. So play time was sacred… Used to love playing football with the neighbours till they took to teasing my sis and I about growing boobs.
    Of course the first meal I cooked was in a tomato tin, with leaves from around and even tiny slugs… Heat was from a (stolen) candle.
    I feel sorry for kids nowadays. They need to move around n have fun… And most importantly, learn in the process…
    It takes a whole deal of patience n dedication to assemble a team and play for 90mins, something they need to learn. I hope it gets beta…
    Glad the lil man’s doing great!!! My lil cuz’s taking his time too. Over 1 year n still hasn’t said a word!

  12. @ kay……dont feel old o,i almost fainted when a 10yr old boy was telling me how his bb torch has more apps than my bold 2……and how his dad promised to get him a playbook during summer.Truly times have changed and kids know absolutely nothing about getting dirty and outdoor play.I still remember playing kitchen outside where i would use flowers,leaves and water to make soup,stones as meat and sand to make eba…lol

  13. @ Mateelly: Whoever came up with that fingernail clap was pure evil;
    @ Nengie: all in tym; iHear girls talk quicker and boys walk earlier, so in tym my dear;
    @ Lorlah: iAm yet to see ur mail n u r askin about prize;
    @ Creme: It really doesn’t bear feelin old. As for sand cookin and ‘papa n mama’ plays, urs truly had a childhood 😀

  14. Told u I wud search ryt…

    Table soccers… Table snooker…masterchef wv sand n stones
    Lool all of em…. Gone are those days
    I can imagine d look on ur face wen he was flipn thru d ipad…

    Nice one franque

  15. Awwwwwwwwwwww He knows though. Your child is blessed and highly favored and as long as you train him in the way of the Lord, he will be ok. Technological advancements regardless, cos believe me it gets worse from here.

  16. Yeah,Times have changed but I’m not surprised because my mum said the same thing about my generation. So we are evolving.
    GREAT write up.

  17. Way back to d memory lane i can’t just imagine how time fly’s boy of yesterday becoming a father little girl playing in d sand having d title of mother hummmm…………… sure one day dis jet age of ours will become an history………nice write up franque.

  18. This took me back, and you had me laughing at “olodo rabata, oju eja l’o mo je…” As for you and your boy…you will NOT succeed in making me cry. Beautifully written!

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