Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
– Robert Fulgham
Me sef, I am asking this question because the encounters I have had with humans who are still in child stage begs the question: “Who is raising you and why in this manner?”
The most confounding thing that has happened to me, and even after all these years still reigns supreme as the most confounding thing to happen to me, is having a child.
When I was discharged from the hospital after I had given birth, I gingerly made it off the bed, put on my slippers and winced in pain as I walked to pick up my belongings and leave the hospital. I remember being blank; not processing why I was in the hospital. I walked out and I could hear the familiar voice of the nurse calling me as she ran after me: “Madam, you left your baby!”
She looked at me with this incredulous look and I looked back at her with the same look. I mean, what was I supposed to do with the baby? I had been feeding her in the hospital and carrying her, but going home with her was a whole different ball game. Were they sure of what they were asking of me?
Life and, certainly, raising a child have no manual. There is no guidebook dedicated to any of us to tell us how and in what direction to go, or how to do what we need to do. The manual, if I can call it that, is what we have come to know as ‘maternal instinct’ and passing down the knowledge from one mother to a new mother. This was my dilemma: this was a whole human being that would depend on me 100 percent for her survival. This survival was all-encompassing. This was a huge responsibility. If this human being became a success, I would be largely responsible. If she became a failure, I would be 100 percent responsible. For some funny reason, that’s how it worked, and so there seemed no other way for me than to drill down and do what needed to be done. And what needed to be done was nurturing, guidance, love, correction, discipline, and tonnes of trial and error.
It became quickly apparent that I would want to imprint myself on the child; that’s how we respond because that is what we know. We give orders, shout, name-call, show how it should be done because that is “how my mother showed or taught me” all in a bid to raise the child. Passing down life from generation to generation with what was before is how nature designed it. From our vantage position, we are convinced what we are passing on is good enough as the right value system and ethics. That was the second thing I learnt. Life is a circle: it will go round and fuse. Then life is a cycle: it will go through all its stages and start from the beginning again.
The point is that someone teaches its next generation. The people before us showed by example, experience and being the custodians and appreciating the fact that the knowledge and secrets of life must be passed on for such knowledge not to die.
But something happened, a disconnect between the gatekeepers (parent, guardians) and the next generation. The gatekeepers decided that “outside” was the place to be and handed over the nurturing, guidance and discipline to the hired help who, too, needed all of the above and then some! So we now have a fractured, entitled, indulgent, psychologically weaker generation, and the gatekeepers – we -are to blame. Not only did we leave our flank open, and the generation got raised by half-baked help, but we spoiled them because we were guilty of being absentee parents. We live ‘siloed’ lives: we challenge anyone who dares correct them; they have no boundaries, scorn age, we let them run amok and excuse their bad behaviour with “that’s how these children are”. No! We taught them, wittingly and unwittingly.
Is it too late to retrace our steps? I don’t know. What I do know is that there is a section of them that yearn for the old-time teaching they are not even aware of, but they are sure there is something that can elevate what they know now. And that is the first step to the awareness that we have failed them, and they need guidance. There were times I was frustrated, feeling I was doing as much as I could, and it was as if she wasn’t listening or learning, and I wanted to throw in the towel. But throw it to whom or where? It was no fault of hers; she did not know. I had to teach her. I had to remain dogged. Hopefully, one day she would get to understand what I was trying to teach her – as I ended up understanding what my mother was trying to teach me. I remember those words when rebellion rose in me as I tried to escape the guidance: “You will have children one day.”
It was later I understood the veiled threat. She was waiting for me to be paid in my own coins by my own child. There is no doubt that times have changed, and the method designed to teach us and input what is right has drastically changed, as society has become more permissive, materialistic and developed. Methods of raising a child have changed as we try to avoid the mistakes of our parents raising us. However, we need to find the balance in knowing what to amend, discarding and improving upon them in the Training Manual and not throw everything away in the name of being “woke”. One thing has not changed though: the cycle of life; as one generation dies off, another comes in. What we hand down is what is going to be prevalent in society, and at the moment what we are teaching our children is NONSENSE. Our “wokeness” is not helping. I said what I said.
We have labelled a whole generation ‘Gen Z’, and given them the unenviable title of being bizarre. We constantly tell them that, and with power in words; right before our eyes we moulded and taught them to be whom they are by literally indulging them because of the Age of the Internet. Well, something else is coming.