– the funloving, but hardworking single parent
By Treena Kwenta
Hi Readers!Â One important lesson that Iâ€™ve learnt recently is that you shouldnâ€™t attempt to raise another personâ€™s child.Â Â Actually, it isnâ€™t a new lesson, as itâ€™s always been my parentsâ€™ policy, but it has only just sunk in.
At a difficult point when my marriage to Seb just broke up, I was feeling the strain and stress of being a single mother and I thought my parents could take in Milwan and Heather so that they can have a full sense of family.Â My mum subtly refused.
Oh, she would allow them come spend the weekend or even a full holiday, but she always insisted that they returned to me.Â This hurt me so much that for a while, I was cold to her, and Joe had to broker peace between us when he got both of us to talk the matter over.
â€œListen, my dear daughter,â€ mum had said on the occasion, â€œbaring death or insanity, itâ€™s always best for parents to bring up their own children.Â Â Being a single mother or father shouldnâ€™t prevent a parent from assuming this very important responsibility.â€
â€œBut mum Iâ€™m not asking you to be financially responsible for them,â€ I protested.Â â€œAll I want is for them to live with you, since you and dad are in a very happy union, so that they can have a happy home.â€
â€œDo you think you canâ€™t give them a happy home because youâ€™re divorced?â€
â€œWell, you wouldnâ€™t call mine a complete home, would you, mum?â€
â€œI donâ€™t know what that means, Treena dear.Â Some homes with both dad and mum donâ€™t get as much love and attention as Milwan and Heather are getting from you, when theyâ€™re with you, or from Seb when they go spend time with him.
That will give them a well-adjusted background. Iâ€™ve never believed in grand parents raising kids for their children.Â I donâ€™t want to be accused by my children, of spoiling their kids. Besides, a parent must have principles under which he/she wants to raise the child.Â Your principles may not tally with mine, even though I and your dad raised you.â€
I let it go at that and mum and I became close again, but inwardly, I didnâ€™t agree with her that it wasnâ€™t best for her to raise my kids for me.
â€œI think mum is right, sis,â€ Joe had told me later. â€œThese kids are better off with you their mother.Â You may not like the sort of freedom that mum and dad may allow them if they go to live with them permanently.â€
â€œWhy wonâ€™t I agree?Â They raised you and me, and Benny and Dicta.Â Havenâ€™t we turned out well?â€
â€œHm!Â Sis, could it be that you want to savour the carefree life of being single and you donâ€™t want the kids around to hamper you?â€
â€œJoe, thatâ€™s an unkind statement to make to a committed mother like me.Â I love my kids very much and Iâ€™m not longing after a carefree life, but it would be welcome if I donâ€™t have to be at home at a particular time, simply because I have to be with the kids.Â Â It would be nice to have a relaxed time in the house, instead of worrying about homework, a childâ€™s behaviour, etc.â€
â€œHa!Â Confusion, confusion, sis.Â No parent should have that sort of freedom, and itâ€™s men who think like that, not women.Â Sis, youâ€™ll make a very good job of raising the kids.Â Iâ€™m convinced of that.Â I expect it.Â Seb expects it. You wonâ€™t disappoint us or yourself.â€
Good old Joe!Â Â Whenever I longed for the freedom to be a selfish parent and pursue only my own interests, I would remember that view of Joeâ€™s, and I would sober up, suspend that social outing and be in the house for my children.
Thank God this paid off, and God didnâ€™t allow the kids to derail. There were many tough moments, but when I look back today, Iâ€™m glad I raised my kids myself.
That was why I felt Tayo was wrong in going to bring Bayo Junior,Â from London to come live with her here in Nigeria.
She wouldnâ€™t agree with me, but I can tell you that she spoilt that kid a lot, to the point that he felt he shouldnâ€™t be denied anything.Â Apart from the material comfort he had at her place, Tayo gave most ofÂ her time to Junior.
I was secretly happy when I heard that his other grand parent in Ibadan gave him just the barest necessities as she could afford, instead of the opulent life he led with Tayo in Lagos. A life, I was sure even his parents couldnâ€™t afford in Britain.Â Â Mind you, I wasnâ€™t happy with the filth and mosquito bites and allowing the kid to go eat at neighboursâ€™ rooms, but well, thatâ€™s life, isnâ€™t it?
Tayo of course told me off for habouring such feelings. Would I have wanted my own grandchild to experience what Junior experienced in Ibadan, she asked.
â€œNo, I wouldnâ€™t, but if it had to happen like it did in this case, it wouldnâ€™t upset me, because it wouldÂ prepare the child to experience varied types of living.â€
â€œSee whoâ€™s talking!Â You who canâ€™t take any type of hardship.â€
â€œBut my kids didnâ€™t have all they wanted, you know that.Â And your kids didnâ€™t always have all they wanted, did they?â€
â€œNo, they didnâ€™t, but this is a grand child; my very first.Â He should have all the attention and luxury that I can afford.â€
â€œLetâ€™s hope his parents will thank you for spoiling him so much.â€
â€œIâ€™m not spoiling him.Â Just being a good grandmother.Â Didnâ€™t you see his condition when you and I visited Abeokuta?Â Wasnâ€™t it pathetic?â€
â€œIt was, but …â€
â€œJust a week and a half after leaving Ibadan, see how healthy and handsome heâ€™s become again.â€
Just then Junior ran into the sitting room where Tayo and I were, pursued by two nannies.Â He was indeed looking happy and handsome and I was glad.Â Â He went to sit Tayoâ€™s knees and she held him affectionately to her. Nice sight.Â Then suddenly, he tugged at her hoop earring, wanting it to take it off.Â Tayo yelped in pain, as she tried to save her ear.Â The nannies rushed forward to grab the boy. He began to howl in protest. All efforts to pacify him failed, as he turned into a little horror, rolling on the floor and screaming his head off.
If he had been my child, I would have spanked him on the bottom and asked him to go sit in a corner.Â That was how I disciplined my kids at that age.Â Junior is almost two now, so he knew what he was doing.Â At last the nannies managed to drag him off the floor and out of the room.Â I looked at Tayo.Â She looked sober and thoughtful.
â€œMaybe I allow him to have his way too often,â€ she admitted, rubbing her painful ear.Â â€œOh well, heâ€™s only a kid.Â But when I collected him fresh from Ibadan, he was more sober though; not insisting on having his way.Â His other grandmother must have disciplined him too harshly.Â Thatâ€™s not good for a child.Â He wonâ€™t be able to express himself confidently and that may affect his performance in life.â€
I smiled, looked at my friend and changed the subject.
Two days after this conversation, the boyâ€™s parents arrived Lagos without any notice. They were well-received and they were glad to be here too.Â The gals went round to see them, but we were told they had gone down to Ibadan and Oyo to see Bayoâ€™s people and late Dotunâ€™s people.
No, they didnâ€™t take Junior with them.Â They rushed back after two days, spent another two days here in Lagos, took their child and went back to Britain. They both had just a week each away from their jobs.Â They made time, though, to go round to see the gals.Â Nanny and I were glad to receive them at our place, and receive what Milwan and Heather had sent to us through them.
It was a happy time for us all as Dupe and I went down memory lane.Â Bayo listened with rapt attention.Â I looked at the couple.Â They seemed very happy together. Dupe seemed more plump than usual, so, I asked if another baby was on the way.Â She looked at Bayo and they laughed.
â€œAuntie, maybe o!â€ laughed Dupe.Â â€œHe wouldnâ€™t leave me alone.â€
â€œAuntie, whatâ€™s a married guy to do when you have a lovely wife like her?Â Besides, weâ€™re just coming out of a very bad winter in Britain.Â One needed to get warm. I couldnâ€™t let her freeze to death.â€
We all laughed and chatted some more.Â Next day, they left for Britain.
I sensed that something was wrong when Tayo seemed upset whenever I asked if she had heard from them.Â She would refuse to say anything.Â I left her alone, knowing she would unburden her mind when she was ready.
â€œTreena, I hate to say this, but you were right,â€ she said one Saturday afternoon when we both met at Ikoyi Club.
â€œRight about what?â€ I asked.
â€œDo you know that Dupe is barely speaking to me these days?â€
â€œShe said I spoilt Junior so much that heâ€™s uncontrollable over there, throwing tantrums when heâ€™s not allowed to have his way.Â Also, they said they canâ€™t afford the lifestyle heâ€™s got used to at my place, and which heâ€™s trying to force on them.Â He wants dodo and beans for breakfast, amala or pounded yam and ewedu/okro for lunch, and yam pottageÂ for supper every day.
You know how costly our foodstuffs are in Britain. Then he wants to be taken out to shops every day.Â He refuses to pick up his toys, etc. I feel guilty, but I also feel so upset by Dupeâ€™s attitude.Â She should be grateful that I gave her child such a good time over here.Â Well, let them raise their children by themselves.Â Iâ€™ve learnt my lesson.
I made sympathetic noises to pacify her, but smiled inwardly.Â I hope sheâ€™s learnt her lesson.