Monday 25 April 2022

Thought Picnic: No fighting with my parents

My parents are stars

There is one amazing gift of life that I probably do not appreciate as much as I should, the fact that I do still have my parents well into my golden jubilee years, they are both active and contributing to their communities, probably less agile by reason of age, but so totally with their faculties to participate in many things and dispense wisdom at no urging, besides the stories they can tell about life.

Even so, I am enamoured by their sense of adventure and willingness to try new things, like for instance, my mother went on a pilgrimage to the holy lands late last year, the trip sponsored by a class from the school where she was the pioneer principal.

Over Easter, my father launched a book he authored about the history of our hometown, Ijesha-Ijebu in Ogun State, not to be confused with Ijebu-Ijesha in Osun State. The well-attended event offered the opportunity for us to showcase the achievements of our patriarch.

Duly turning up

There is a likelihood that all of us would have attended if we were in the country because the occasion is more about him than us, it is one of those settings where we get to celebrate him amongst peers, in the community, and to the whole world.

I was left a bit disappointed by the fact that a certain one did not avail themselves of the opportunity to grace the occasion out of umbrage which would most definitely presage outrage. Their absence was noted and journaled, consequences would ensue but that is not for me to indicate.

However, I do remember that 40 years ago, on the birth of my baby sister, now of blessed memory, I absented myself from her naming ceremony having caused grievance to my parents the week before. It felt convenient for me, but my absence did not go unnoticed, everyone who could remember me from that precocious kid asked after me and my parents did not have the easiest excuse to render for someone who was also in the same city, hardly an hour away.

Wrath comes swiftly

I had stored up wrath for myself that when I next visited home, I faced severe and retributive justice from not just embarrassing my parents, but from not appreciating that there are things I am dutybound to perform as part of the family even if roles are not clearly defined, you step up and engage, you make yourself present and contribute, especially if you are at that time not of independent means.

There are expectations whether you choose to fulfil them or not, but what you cannot afford is to have your absence reckoned as a slight and disrespect to the family to which you belong. Strangely, for all the liberal views we might have, we are quite conservative on the matters of the composition of our family and show up mostly by being compelled even if the courtesy of politely asking in the remit of the patriarch. The many times, I have tried to make the point that he cannot order people around like he used to.

I suppose what stunned me in my father’s reaction to my not attending my sister’s naming ceremony was he headbutted me, I stumbled and fell backwards, literally dazed. Of all the means of discipline at his disposal, that was the strangest one and totally unforgettable.

Example for learning

Now, I do not expect an 82-year-old to go around headbutting his younger sons, much as I sometimes envy the musculature of his age and bearing, I fear for what might ensue for which I have not yet found the construct of admonition and advice to address the matter to the concerned. The attitude is not out of character, rather, it has been overlooked and essentially not imputed even as narratives and experiences would have dictated, because we are of better breeding than the pettiness things like this would entail.

Our parents provide examples, but an example is not a call to imitation, rather the study of example should allow us to follow the good and discard the bad, learn lessons, determine not to repeat their mistakes and end the vicious cycle of confrontation, conflict, and irritation.

We need to find accommodations of acceptance, agreement, and engagement for there is little we can demand of them than guidance and prayers, as essential responsibilities begin to devolve to those of us in our prime. We now have to take up the mantel, make the appearances for the family, find the means to attend to needs, wants, and provision, keep the family arrangements in good order and we do this with a sense of duty and humanity that it requires.

Play for the good

When I speak to either my father or my mother, I am regaled with prayers and blessings, their happy voices warming my heart and for all the trouble I was through my teenage years into early adulthood, I may not have made all the amends, but I am grateful that they appreciate me, just as they appreciate my other siblings.

At this juncture in their lives, it is just totally unnecessary to find oneself at the wrong end of their tongues. Indeed, we do disagree and respectfully so, but not to the extent of disagreeableness, they are in the twilight of their years and whatever would bring them comfort and joy stays paramount on our minds. We unite to fight against, not divide to fight amongst, a distinction that might be lost on the psyche of those poorly schooled on non-nuclear family constructs.

Choose good example

For all the conflict that has existed between my parents in their marriage and there is much to review, I have resolved never to take sides, be influenced, or persuaded by either party, to each I have a working and productive relationship and it has served me better than to allow either conscribe me into their battles.

They have their faults and that is for them to resolve not for me to accentuate and project for either, it is a principle of relationships some fail to learn and suffer much not understanding and differentiating between learning from example and repeating bad example.

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