“Efo!!!” Or “Osa!!!” These are cries that ring out almost daily from one of my neighbours, usually followed by “These children will not kill me.” Or threats of “I will beat you o! Oya come here now!!”
I wonder at the seeming helplessness of parents these days. They work so hard to provide so their children do not lack, yet their blood pressure is high up there with the clouds.
I once babysat Abdullah during the holidays. “Have you had breakfast?” I had asked him. He shook his head in the negative. “What do you want to eat?” Silence. “Do you want Quaker oats?” A nod in the affirmative. With the porridge done, I came out to get milk when I saw him trying to puncture the pack of Hollandia milk his mother had packed for him. I seized it and told him it was for later.
When I served him the bowl of porridge, he would not touch it. I tried to beg then cajole him to no avail. Then, I called his mother to find out how she feeds him when he gets like this. “Tell him you will take him for injection,” she replied. Not even that worked. I tried force feeding him, but ended up with food all over my face and everywhere else but down his throat. It was then I saw red.
A film covered my eyes from the inside and my vision tunnelled. I pulled him up with my left hand and my right came crashing down on his behind. Three smacks I gave him before setting him down. He started to cry and I pretended not to notice, then he sulked and refused to talk to me and I pretended not to care. After about fifteen minutes of just sitting there, the both of us, watching tv and not talking, I pulled him close to me and explained why I spanked him.
I don’t know if he heard or understood my reason, I only hoped he understood my message: the wages of naughtiness is a good spanking.
Then another day, I was trying to catch a nap but someone at the gate would not let me. I looked out over the balcony and saw Ben, my neighbour’s son, at the gate. His diaper was sagged as per normal and he was jangling the bolts that should be in the ground to hold the gate in place.
“Osa can you please move Ben from the gate and take him in?” I asked his almost-five-years old brother. The noise stopped and I lay down to rest. Just then it started again, only this time with a vengeance. I got up to investigate, and what I saw had me flying down the stairs.
I got to the gate, ignored Ben and pulled Osa close to me – he had gone and joined in. The scared look on his face did nothing to deter me. I kicked the slipper off my right foot and with it, landed three strokes on his behind. As soon as I let him go, he was off like a canon, hopping from foot to foot and crying. I returned upstairs and waited for his mother’s voice. Nothing.
I see situations like this everywhere, everyday and it kills me. Everywhere I turn I see children calling the shots.
The other day on a flight, a man wanted an infant seatbelt for his 4-year old son. When I told him children over 24 months had to sit in their seats for take off and landing, he told me how I wouldn’t understand. “He will not sit in his seat,” he moaned.
In shocked surprise I asked him “Sir, which one of you paid for the tickets? You or your son?”
“Me of course,” he answered.
“My point exactly,” I told him and left him to be the man.
On another flight a woman was close to tears. Junior would not sit down.
Her son wanted to run all over the aircraft, and after two feeble attempts at showing her authority, she resorted to threatening the boy with ‘police’ – and I was supposedly the police that would arrest him!
I walked up to him, held him by both shoulders and said so his mother would hear “Hi Junior, I am not a policeman but I have more power than the police on this plane. If you don’t take your seat and fasten your seatbelt, I will take you from your mommy and lock you up in the toilet for the remainder of the flight.” He tried to wriggle out of my hands, but my grip was deathlike, firm and unyielding. I did not release him until he looked into my eyes and I drilled him with the frostiest stare I could manage. Sometimes bully boy tactics had its uses.
I remember the eyes from growing up. Mama rarely opened her mouth to speak, but you got the message clear as crystal.
Once we had guests over on a Sunday and Globetrotters was showing on tv. Normally, I would have left the parlour as soon as the guests came in, but that day I just lay there on the floor with my eyes fixed on the tv screen watching Multiman multiply.
I am almost certain Mama has laser beams in her eyes, or how else do I explain the two points of searing heat I felt crawling up my back, past my neck to the back of my head where it proceeded to bore two holes?
I turned round and locked eyes with Mama. I quickly looked away, got up off the floor and, with wobbly knees, walked out of the parlour.
Let us just say that after that day, anytime someone knocked at the door, I made a beeline for the room first before returning to answer the door!
And there was this other time, at Christmas, we had gone to visit cousins at Tejuosho. Drinks had been offered, so too meals. Then an Uncle I had not seen in a long time made a present of some money to me, it was a fifty kobo (50k) note. I remember because it was a new crisp note. I thanked him but declined. He offered me again and I cut my eyes quickly across to Mama who carried on talking with my aunt and other uncle. I vehemently shook my head at the offer.
“Is it because of Madam?” He asked looking at Mama, “I am sure she won’t mind.”
“It’s alright,” her lips said, a smile playing there “You can take it.” It was what her eyes said that was more important to me. I accepted the ‘Christmas present’, but the rest of the visit for me was in anticipation of the beating I would get at home; Mama did not disappoint. My offence? I was not convincing enough in my “No”, hence her being dragged into the matter.
Sadly those days are gone, and parenting seems to have gone to the dogs.
I look at my boy, M.O.N.C, and wonder what kind of parent I wil be. I want him to know he is loved, and I want him to learn values, but can I achieve these in today’s world without the rod? And how do I strike a balance if I must apply the rod?