By Francis Ewherido
“The White House said President Barrack Obama will not attend the funeral of Mohammed Ali, which coincides with the eldest daughter’s graduation. ‘They will be attending Malia’s high school graduation in Washington DC.’” (Vanguard, June 8, 2016). Can you imagine that? Obama, the first black American president, did not physically pay his last respect to the legendary Mohammed Ali, a fellow black great and arguably the greatest boxer of all time.
This is even as heads of governments and celebrities from all over the world converged on Louisville, Ali’s hometown. Why is Obama going to be absent? He is attending his daughter’s high school (high school for that matter) graduation.
But you know what? As a father and a family man, Obama knows his priorities and this is where some fail as parents, family men and women. I never attended my children’s school events until my eldest daughter got to primary six.
Before then, it was their mother’s affair. All that changed when I attended my daughter’s primary school graduation (these days, children graduate from day care, kindergarten, primary school and secondary school with graduation gowns. In our time, it was only higher institutions). It was an unbelievable spectacle. My daughter’s performance was awesome. I never knew she could dance so well.
Since then, I have reordered my priorities. Only God comes first before family. For many of us in Africa, family means spouse, children, siblings, parents and anybody who has transcended the boundary of friendship to brotherhood or sisterhood, as the case may be, in your life.
So last Sunday, I went with my immediate family for my eldest son’s confirmation, symbolically the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on him. In doing that, I had to forgo another very important engagement where I am third in command. The Mass, with the confirmation ceremony, was a simple, solemn and impressive affair, presided over by the Catholic Archbishop of the Lagos Metropolitan See, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins and supported by other priests, including Fr. Emmanuel Ayeni, St Gregory’s College Administrator.
The student choir, comprising students from three schools, was awesome. The amount of talent and energy embedded in youngsters is unbelievable; only if parents can get it right and help them put their talents and energies to good use. The turnout by parents was impressive and the ceremony offered old friends the opportunity to reconnect. My editor, Onochie Anibeze, was also there for his son, Chibeze, who received the body and blood of Christ for the first time.
I did get a little shock though; my son took a new name, Lucius, for his confirmation. This is not out of place; I just wished he continued with his baptismal name, Anthony, which has some family history and significance. Anthony did overtime in my wife’s womb. The doctor even suggested a caesarian to get him out. He almost derailed our plan to have a millennium baby. That was year 2000 when millennium babies were in vogue.
When my elder brother, Fr. Anthony, came back from the United States on December 26, he wondered why my wife had not put to bed. My wife told him the baby was waiting for him to be back in Nigeria. He then said: “Ok, you can come out; I am here.” About 12 hours later, on the morning of December 27, he was born. It was only apt to name him Anthony, after my brother, whom my parents equally named after the great St. Anthony of Padua.
His confirmation name did not come entirely as a surprise. His cousins did a similar thing to my brothers during their confirmation. As I later found out, some of the other students also took new names without consulting their parents, not to talk of getting parental consent. Since last Sunday, confirmation name has dropped from my exclusive list (only parents can decide) to my concurrent list (either parents or children can decide). Thank God birth name and baptismal name will remain in the exclusive list, at least until children start talking and taking conscious decisions at birth.
Mind you, I have no issues with anybody changing his/her name consequent upon or after a divine encounter. After all, Abram became Abraham, Sarai, Sarah; Jacob, Israel and Saul became Paul after their divine encounters. I just wanted to be informed; he who pays the piper should be told the tune even if he cannot dictate it.
Now that dependants take independent decisions and show parents they are their own men and women, it would be wonderful if they took over the burden of their school fees, clothing and upkeep from their parents, leaving only accommodation (during holidays) which would cost parents nothing extra.
Teenagers do have their unique thought processes and want to have their way, but we need to be there to moderate. Sometimes being there physically for children is not enough; we need to get into their minds. Children, especially teenagers, can derail under the watchful eyes of even eagle-eyed parents. Some teenagers can close their minds and simply refuse to allow their parents know what is going on in there. Starting a conversation meets a brick wall.
Parent: “How are you?” Son: “Fine.” Parent: “How was school today?” Son: “Fine?” Parent: “How are preparing for your exams?” Son: “Fine.” The conversion can go on and on without headway, just one-word answers. Thank God many of them leave their ears open even when they shut their minds.
Parents were once youngsters and have an idea of what troubles young people: their sexuality versus religious teachings, their height, complexion, size of penis, size of breasts and bum, acnes-infested face, low self-esteem, heartbreaks from the opposite sex, who leave them for others or refuse their lust advances, peer pressure and so on. Hopefully, parents can guess right and hit the right cord.
When you hit right cord, teenagers’ ears invisibly stand erect and their eyes pop out like those of the African Bush Baby. They may pretend as if they are not listening, but are in fact lapping every bit of information you are spewing out. When that happens, the parent has hit a jackpot.