Spoil the child, spare the rod.

I would love to dance around the idea that I never bothered my parents during my adolescent years, or ever in my life. But who am I kidding? They might have a different version about that, which I highly doubt. Wait, they might tell you of that one time they sat me on the edge of their bed and lectured me about boys. I was in form 3. Sweet sixteen and showing breasts. Breasts I couldn’t hide anymore underneath my oversized sweaters. I still can’t recall why I was embarrassed of my body growing into curves. I developed a different walking style, bent forward kind of, and I was afraid to sway my hips. I stumbled quit often whenever I felt several eyes on me and later felt stupid and couldn’t tell why. There was also a degree of shyness to it that made me uncomfortable when any man, or even my dad rested their eyes on mine.

On that afternoon, my parents stood judge and jury on my case. They questioned me on why I was seeing a boy in the neighborhood who had a reputation of smoking weed. I swore we were just friends from school. This boy had asked to be my boyfriend not long ago and I had agreed. I didn’t even understand what this union meant. He was cute and popular and so was I, and it was flattering to be asked to be someones girlfriend. Long story short, after the meeting with my parents I broke it off with my “boyfriend” of a few days and said my parents didn’t want us together.

It’s crazy that that is the only conversation related to boys that I recall ever to have had with my parents. And it wasn’t a conversation as such, it was an order.

“We don’t want to ever see you with that boy”

I obeyed.

There was no follow up. There was no boy girl conversation. No sexual education whatsoever. They probably thought I learned everything I needed to know in school. And I never questioned their rules because it was clear that we were under their rule until we stopped depending fully on them. I always obeyed my parents even when it didn’t make much sense for me to. They had their best interests for me and my future. And so long as they were raising me to be good and walk in the ways of God, I was safe.

The bible states that parents are our gods on earth. And it is in the commandments to honor them, to obey them so we can have a long life. On the flip side, it is a shame to any parent in the society who uses this against their child just because. There are parents who will demand so much of their children that they never even invested to begin with. There are stories out there of toxic parents you would be shocked.

I also like to think that as a child I was the best daughter in a family full of boys. For 9 years of my life the only girls in my family were mother and I. It wasn’t until much much later that my two sisters came along.

I probably received a little bit of extra attention for just being a girl, but I don’t feel the need to confirm that. What I’m not sure of is whether they were more lenient or even more strict on me as compared to my siblings. Could be that they were probably both on varying occasions. But when it came to dressing they cared less of what my brothers chose to wear. I had to behave like a girl. Whatever that meant. You might be aware of that “girl manual” Put on dresses. Cross your legs so not to show your private parts. Be cute and don’t talk too much. Do the dishes. etc. There is a look you would get from a grown up if you accidentally happened to show your pantie. Or if you were not lucky there is that tiny painful pinch a mother would give that was enough to open up your tear glands.

No parent chooses a favorite child. At least so I would like to think. But I do wonder if it is in any parents capability or capacity to treat all their children absolutely equal without some kind of favor or discrimination? I can’t give a straight answer to that. Maybe I will have a say when I birth about 3 of my own.

A parent of say about 5 kids would say they give all their children the same attention. But I bet all the 5 kids would beg to disagree in various aspects. Some might feel left out, not loved or seen enough and so much more a parent would be in dismay to hear. I know we are all different and children do have different needs that can’t be all fulfilled at the same time and in the same measure. And that no matter what a parent does in the interest of their child, there will always be misunderstandings here and there between them, and even amongst the children.

When it comes to language, I knew how to talk to my parents or to anyone older than me with respect. My parents also made sure that we knew how to behave accordingly in front of visitors. Let’s say we were all disciplined to do so. Talking back to your parents or anyone older than you was regarded as a number one offense prone to punishment. I guess in every African household the kids are taught how to respect their elders. But there is always a thin line between respect and fear. I feel that most children feared their parents way more than they respected them. You know, fear to be beaten for example. Like that line in the Bible that most African parents emphasize on and execute literally. Spare the rod and spoil the child. That one.

I find it unfortunate that in most African households of my time, children had no mind of their own. Rather to put it clearly, children were expected to live to the script of their parents. Whatever they said, you had to obey. No questions asked. And if there were any, some parents would term that as rebellion. “kichwa ngumu” to mean Hardheaded in an unkind way. Up to date I have seen parents who will call their child “mjuaji” to mean “pretending to know better than they actually should” when their child is in dialogue with them giving their opinions on matters.

Looking into your childhood, I don’t know how much of “obeying without question” you did to please your parents or elders. If you asked questions and received reasonable answers great for you, and if you asked too many questions and were told “it is just the way it is,” then I wonder how that affected your well-being.

Trust me, knowingly or unknowingly children thrive to please and win their parents over. A child wants to be the “best child” to their parent. In the moment not fully considering anyone else. There is that competition between siblings, and either wants to get that gift, present or spoken validation from their parents. And I think it is so unkind and unhealthy when some parents evidently and so openly validate one child and the other not, for doing the same task but not equally producing the same results as “expected”

If you believe it was all roses between you and your siblings, you might want to sit down all together and bring up this conversation. See how much they have to say. See how much hurt and pain they carry around that originated within family. I remember having a conversation with one of my brothers and I was shocked when he shared his hurt with me that came from something my dad had once said to him many many years ago. We talked and talked, cried together and hugged and shared our perspectives and that was a healing moment for both of us.

I wonder how many of us carry so much baggage from the past, like words that were said to us out of anger but they stuck because of who uttered them and we cannot let go. The beatings you probably got for things that were whatsoever not your fault. The price you paid for something you had no hand in. The tears you cried for something you didn’t understand and no one was there to tap your shoulder and whisper that everything would be okay. The shame you carried along for something that wasn’t within your control.

Now that I‘m older, I always try to look deeper into conversations I have with my parents, and how I communicate with them and try to distinguish if whatever I say to them and how I put it across is fueled by fear or respect. It is a refreshing way to grow our relationship even more. I love that they trust my judgment on things pertaining my life. I love that they give me the space to be independent. I love that we can exchange opinions even when they are totally different.

So far so good. Over the last couple of years I have made a tremendous improvement and trust you me, there are uncomfortable conversations I never thought I would ever have with my parents, and now as an adult I have held these conversations with them and after we hang up, I‘m left in disbelief and wanting to slap myself back to reality.

It has however, mostly been me pushing buttons and not giving up because I know that there are things I can’t let go and will never be at peace if I don’t work on them now. I think there are some things in everyone’s life that might have happened between them and their parents, and sometimes there are other things that had absolutely nothing to do with our parents but we all want to hear it from them or just talk about it with them. It might be just you wanting to hear their perspective or opinion on a situation that happened while growing up or even as an adult and not necessarily having a satisfying answer about that situation. But that one conversation would potentially open up so many possibilities, give direction and might eventually provide the closure that you may be seeking.

So all this is to encourage someone who might have a broken relationship with their parent or guardian to just push a little harder before giving up. And for those who had unkind childhoods, I do believe you can always raise above that. Just put in some work and prayers towards that. Just know you cannot change whatever transpired in the past between you and your parents or with your siblings, but you can try make the now and the future better.

It’s cliche but it’s the reality.

As always, feel free to leave a comment related to the above below here on the comment section. Encourage someone.

Thank you for stopping by.

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