Sunday 31 October 2010

Childhood: Atọ̀ọlé

A part of my childhood

Atọ̀ọlé I heard it many times, fingers in a direction that looked like I was being pointed out. It was not a jeering though a song could be made of it.

The shame that encompassed you because you had done something wrong, maybe not normal, maybe lazy, maybe stupid, dare say heinous.

You could not make your bed in the morning without someone coming to check what you might have covered up. The rising tide of compounds of ammonium assailing your olfactory organs, all day long, but not the guarantee of a cooling on a hot night.

Earlier meals and no fluids, the sleight of hand, the deprivations inflicted by those who thought punishments and scolding would help, in my little mind; it simply aggravated the anxiety, the fear, the tortuous expectations of rebuke – did they also feel an inadequacy amidst my shame?

Did my parents help?

My thumb-sucking sister suffered no less at the abnormality of our foibles, good parenting should probably come with manuals and best practices – the keyword being understanding what your kids might be going through expressed in seeming anti-social behaviour.

For years, it was my problem and no one else’s, maybe now there is knowledge of the psychological travails of an Atọ̀ọlé, why one would become an Atọ̀ọlé in some places and not at others.

Months of staying away from home at 10 were a break from my role, I was the principal in my play, I said all the lines and was the spectacle of a few if not the envy of others. A pause from the gardening at home was punctuated by a visit from dad.

He invited me to stay at his swanky hotel and asked if I still did it – going from the evidence of almost 4 months, I didn’t but that night I did again.

It continued exceptionally

What could it be? Why was it happening? Apparently, there was no medication for it and therapy was the hope that I would grow out it. It was probably another 3 years before it seemed that I had ditched the role of Atòólé.

Before then, as I started secondary school, there were 3 of us who seemed to have our bedding subjected to the scorching livelihood of sun-dried tomatoes – the tropical heat serving as the drain for waters that should have been given elsewhere.

Mattresses like beached whales starved of the comfort of their beds; thankfully, beyond the punishment of shame and the put-down, no one exerted corporal punishment for it.

No definite answers

Now we know, Nocturnal Enuresis [1] (NE) to put a glossy medical term on a subject so personal put me in the 5 percentile, a delayed developmental issue that could have been due to stress, sexual abuse and other unexplained matters at home and amongst my family. Going through stages of Primary Nocturnal Enuresis and Secondary Nocturnal Enuresis, it might even be genetic, perish the thought that my parents ever heard Atọ̀ọlé shouted in their direction.

If I did have a child whilst I would hate to see them inflicted with the Atọ̀ọlé moniker, I would hope that I would be considerate, understanding and helpful in helping them through what could be as traumatic and very shameful without having anyone to turn to in time of great childhood need.

Yes, I have a history, I was a bedwetter and the endearing term for that in Yoruba was Atọ̀ọlé.


[1] Nocturnal enuresis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Anonymous said...

Excellent post - really coincidental but I was chatting to someone else earlier today about my own experience with bedwetting and generally "fearful" childhood! More true confessions to come from all of us?

Akin Akintayo said...

Hello Sokari,

I half thought someone would comment saying they do remember - there are such great and not so great childhood memories, I just realised I could deal with this one, the way I did and share it.


Anonymous said...

this is the way a blog should be! thanks!

CodLiverOil said...

Thank you for this post. I grew up in England, and was not a particularly troublesome child. Nevertheless, my father (a Nigerian), never failed to paint a picture that I was somehow delinquent because I was raised in England. According to him in his day, children were seen and not heard and did their parent's every bidding. Families in Nigeria were all wonderful...

Only, when I grew older I realised that this is definitely not the case, every society has problems, and families do have problems. Nigerian families would have you believe that everyone family member is a paragon of virtue.

sokari said...

Excellent post - really coincidental but I was chatting to someone else earlier today about my own experience with bedwetting and generally "fearful" childhood! More true confessions to come from all of us?

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