By Muyiwa Adetiba
We’ve all done things around our parents in our youthful years that they never wizened up to. They probably never believed we were capable of some of them. And no matter how liberal or strict a home is, youths will always want to test the limits.
Just as our parents tested the limits of their own parents. It is such an age-long phenomenon that Yoruba have a proverb for it. The proverb says the elder should swear that he never indulged in the exuberances or mischiefs of youth.
These exuberances or mischiefs take different forms however. Some are simple pranks that we outgrow with time. Many are adult games that we are impatient to play. Unfortunately, many leave permanent scars that mark us for life. The most common in our days was to play with daddy’s car if it was a one-car family as it largely was in our time, or mummy’s car if it was a two-car family. Many young men in my time learnt to drive that way.
The bold or audacious ones even sneaked the car out for night parties. The younger siblings often acted as a sentry or decoy. Few got away with this permanently because there would be tell-tale signs at some point—either in the form of scratches, accidents, or a nosy neighbour. Or simply because the boys got bolder or more careless. Many young men learnt to drink from ‘sampling’ alcohol at home. They became so good at gauging the consumption rate of their parents that they hardly ever got caught. Many became hooked on their ‘poisons’ that way for life.
Young women were often ‘locked up’ for fear of their becoming wayward. Even during holidays and vacation jobs, parents would want to control the movement of their daughters. All for a good cause ostensibly. But these girls invariably met boys during inter-school events. Or at their vacation jobs. Or met their brothers’ friends.
And they would need to find time to spend with these boys. You’d be surprised at what lengths they went to spend time, including spending the night sometimes, with their boyfriends—from pretending to attend lessons, to doing hair, to tailor’s place, to arranging for a ‘friend’s parent’ who is actually a boyfriend, who would take them from school on vacation day, to spending weekends in a more liberal household, so they could sneak out.
You’d be surprised at what happens when ‘old folks’ were away at work. Many parties had taken place during that time. Many trysts had taken place. Many girls had lost their virginity during that time in their parents’ sitting rooms and probably on their fathers’ favourite couches.
I still remember one of such escapades that almost got a friend into serious trouble. It was Christmas time. His parents had gone to their ‘home town up country’ for a couple of days. For some reason, he managed to be left alone to look after the house. He was about 20 and about to leave for the US in a couple of months. We quickly ‘occupied’ the house, a bungalow, for the day. It was supposed to be a harmless Christmas fun with a few male and female friends coming to listen and dance to music—how many of such things happen every day that parents are not aware of?
But he met a girl who came with a friend and things got interesting.My friend who was normally a shy and reserved person became emboldened by booze and lust and later entrapped, unknown to him then, by feminine wiles. It resulted in their first and only sexual encounter. She was to turn up a couple of months later looking obviously pregnant. She was still in secondary school.She refused all entreaties to do ‘something’ about the pregnancy and insisted on meeting his parents. The two parents met. She admitted it was a chance encounter and a one off. But who was to say that once could not be enough? His US trip was immediately put on hold while the girl was handed over to his uncle for ante natal treatment. In her naïveté, she hadn’t contested the date and place of the sexual encounter.
That proved to be her undoing. The baby came less than six months after the said encounter. It wasn’t premature. Her mother was a nurse. It was therefore obvious she had lied about paternity. She probably came to the party, saw an affluent home; saw a young man that was anything but street wise and made a move which she didn’t have time to think through. After all, she was just a kid herself. My friend escaped by whiskers and vowed never to come back to Nigeria. He has lived up to the vow.
Another encounter that almost went awry was with a friend who as law student at the then University of Ife decided to attend a party in another town with his junior brother. They got a ride to an intersection on a road between Ife and Ilesha. They crossed to a side of the road and hoped to hitchhike. Thirty minutes, forty-five, an hour and no vehicle passed by.
They became lonely and afraid. Then a car came by driven by an elderly man. He stopped, wondering what the young men were doing at an intersection. They told him where they were going. Unknown to them, they were on the wrong side of the road. Fortunately, he knew their parents. He put them inside his car and promptly took them to their parents’ house in Ilesha. My friend is now an SAN. Till today, he still shudders at the many things that could have gone wrong that night.
What has brought these reminiscences out was a lunch I had with my nephew, niece and their parents last Christmas. Now grown up, they felt at liberty to talk about some of the pranks they played when their parents were at work. How they would pretend not to find the key to the gate if the parents came too early and they had not sufficiently removed incriminating traces. How they almost got caught when they were watching a film they weren’t supposed to watch and NEPA took light.
It was the era of the VHS. They knew they had to get the tape out somehow or they would be in trouble. They quickly evolved a plan. The youngest was to get their dad to start the generator as soon as he got in and serve as a decoy if necessary while the older ones were to activate the eject button as soon as there was a flicker of light. They must have hi-fived themselves as their plan worked brilliantly. We all laughed as they talked about other seemingly harmless escapades.
But I wondered at the things they might have done that they could not let on even now as adults. How many escapades they would have had to thank God for because they didn’t alter their lives irredeemably. I still thank God for some of mine.Many youthful escapades have led to a lifetime of regrets.