Thursday 23 April 2020

Childhood: Remembering the times I had no one to talk to

If we could turn back time
I do not know how I would have been able to help my parents redo elements of my upbringing that might with hindsight has made me a better person. However, I do notice there are things that I picked up by example and other things that probably would have been better imparted by clear instruction and relatable lessons of life rather than relying on the osmosis of parenting.
Two specific things I think my parents left to osmosis, the hope that I turned out the way they expected without their active engagement, first, the management of money and secondly the real usefulness of school and academic achievement. I think I understood I was lacking in financial wisdom when I was sent away at 10 to take common entrance examinations.
I was given some money which I frittered away and spent on things I rarely had access to like comics and gave some away to the cousins who could take advantage of my naivety and generosity, I was no wiser. During that visit, I was also given money by relations, it is strange as I remember today that I was able to account for everything I was given by them, but not properly for what my parents gave me. The way the questioning went, about how I spent the money suggested they were quite displeased with me.
No reason I knew
I attended primary school because that was what you did, I effortlessly passed my examinations usually coming second or third in the class, but I hated revision or homework. There were many times I was caught out in class, lying that I had submitted my homework when I had not. It was a shameful and embarrassing experience when Mrs Onyemenam would put me in front of the class and have my classmates call out in unison, Liar!
There was a time I was a bedwetter both at home and in the first year and a half at secondary school, yet, in the almost 5 months I spent with relations in Lagos and Sagamu before secondary school, I never once wet my bed until my father came to visit and I spent the night with him at his hotel when he was down for a business trip.
In secondary boarding school, I probably had serious child psychology issues that were attended to with rituals, amulets, and crazy animist practices. I always lost my things, rarely took notes in class and by the third year, I played truant hating some of the classes because they were exhausting and boring. It ended up on my school report, my mother a school principal was completely exasperated that she had a truant for a son.
The cane was not my bane
Whilst I never face corporal punishment for my academic achievements or failures even when I had to withdraw because I failed a repeated year in polytechnic, there was no shortage of criticism and excoriation especially from my father, a brilliant and a high-achieving accountant who must have sometime wondered how I came to be his son.
I can say in polytechnic I was clinically depressed, I had instances when I attended classes and I could understand what was going on or why I was there. I was not abusing substances or anything, I just had a head that seemed to be completely unaware of what I was doing. It is strange that I seemed to keep my sanity by falling into religion. It did not make matters any easier at home.
It was in these areas of disagreement and misalignment with my parents’ philosophies that I suffered the most and received the severest corporal punishments, they together ganging up on me, it was also an opportunity to humiliate, as I was ejected from my room and made to sleep on the floor.
The home was not a school to success
Now, in the minds of my parents doing everything they knew how to bring up successful and well-adjusted children, they were doing their best with the tools they had. Too many times, the comparison was the weapon to refocus, an uncle there or an aunt there who somehow had some opportunity but apparently wasted it became the terror of what you did not want to be.
In the end, the greatest lessons in life that helped me out of the rut I was in was not the discipline, the disagreements, the fights that included a headbutting from my father, or that backhand swipe of my mother that so connected well with face momentarily blinding me, it was in the understanding of other uncles and aunts who had experienced failure and overcome those circumstances to be successful.
It is ironic that many of them had some guidance from my parents when they were at their lowest ebb, they repaid by giving their nephew allowances, opportunity and encouragement to turn my life around and believe I really could make something of my life. None of this is to spite my parents, but there are aspects of child development that have left scars even if they seem to be healed.

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