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The changing face of parenting

By Francis Ewherido

In those days, children were told all kinds of stories to keep them in line. If a parent sent a child on an errand, she knew the child could be distracted and get back late.

To ensure the child stayed focused, she spat on the ground, sometimes in blazing sun, and told the child that if the spittle dried up before he got back, he would die.

Then we used to combine Usain Bolt-like speed with the staying power of Ethiopian and Kenyan marathoners to execute errands in record time. To give efficacy to her tale(abi,lie), the parent would continue spitting on the spot to ensure it did not dry up. When you got back, sometimes you went and looked at the spot of the spittle even before delivering the message.

To the disadvantage of parents, technology has flung open the gates of knowledge and parents and older people have lost this leverage. These days, you dare not tell your child such a tale. You will be finished, because the moment he leaves your presence, he will go to a search engine and find out the truth. The bold ones will come back and tell you that,“mummy, you lied.”

Gone are also the days when mothers told their daughters that they would get pregnant if a boy touched them. Sex education is now taught even in primary schools, so you must look for ingenious ways to advise them about the dangers of premarital sex. But getting impregnated by boys is not the only situation young girls have to deal with these days. Some young girls—and the boys are not spared—have to deal with sex abuse in the home, in schools and in religious organizations.

These are the three places where children’s lives are molded and where they are supposed to get protection. But they get abused sometimes by their own parents and relatives at home, teachers in school and sex abusers in religious circles. These three places must also now give sex education a priority so that children can be equipped enough to protect them against the bad eggs within these bodies.

In those days, you passed on knowledge and wisdom to your children. These days, wisdom is still a one-way traffic because it is something that comes with time and age. But knowledge is different. As a result of the availability of knowledge at the touch of a button, our children can now also pass on knowledge to us. Children know and do unbelievable things with telephone handsets, television sets and other electronic gadgets. Very few parents can compete with their children in this area. I am all too glad to be student and tap into the knowledge of my children.

My children have also helped me save money I would have spent on technicians by fixing defective gadgets. One of them also gives me precious information on sports. There is no way I would have spent time learning the stuff he knows about sports; not when sports is not my source of livelihood.

Docile parents still managed to raise good children in those days because parenting then was not as intellectually tasking as it is today. But every good parent today must be on his/her toes and be abreast of developments. If not, you become a toy in the hands of your children.

Moreover, the support the communal system of old provided is no longer there. In those days, there were many mamas and papas to whip children into line. These days you are OYO (on your own). In the cities, people are too engrossed in their personal affairs to remember the family next door or across the fence. Sometimes you are even labeled an amebo or a nosey neighbor, if you get involved in other people’s matters. Only if you have good rapport with people can you safely correct their children. Many a time it is the parents who actually need correction. Go to the airport, social gatherings and even religious gatherings and see what parents wear and how they behave. So, if you go about correcting children of such parents, you can get involved in an altercation that can snowball into what you did not bargain for. That is why many people mind their business. But the casualty of minding-your-business is a more decadent society.

Parents of old restricted their children’s movement and the company they kept to keep them in check. Today, such restrictions are no longer good enough. With their handsets they interact with the world. They can get into sites and relationships in faraway places while locked up at home. Internet, with all its benefits, just made parenting more difficult.

In those days also, children were just so grateful that their parents were able to send them to school. These days, children see it as an entitlement. Some children, especially from comfortable homes, no longer see the need to thank their parents for paying their school fees. Children now seem to be more appreciative when they can see the enormous sacrifice of parents. For example, when a very busy parent drops them off at school instead of sending a driver, gives them their bath instead of the maid, comes to school during open days and other school ceremonies, which some parents skip due to their busy schedules, etc.

But some things have not changed. The first 10 years of a child’s life remain the best time to lay a solid foundation. What has changed is that these first 10 years have become more important than ever with the increasing external influence on children, much of which is negative. Parents now need to spend more time molding their children. Unfortunately, with the amount of time and efforts it takes to eke out a living in Nigeria, many parents no longer have the time. But you must somehow create the time for your children. If you look around you, you will see the difference between children parents had time for and those left to their own devices in their formative years.

At some point, we must all pause to consider the legacy we want to leave behind. We must ask ourselves the essence of life and what life means to us. Actually, answering these questions should decide how we set out ab initio. Unfortunately, many of us ask the questions after much harm has been done, some of which are irreversible. But it is still better you asked at some point, rather than not asking and taking action at all.

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