I live in a culture where premium is placed on actions and signs rather than words. And in a funny way too.
For instance, an average Nigerian child knows very well to leave the living room even in the middle of a much-loved program whenever guests come visiting, without the parent(s) uttering a word. Just one look from the parent(s) is all it takes. Sometimes, it is a raised eyebrow slanted in the child’s direction.
Do not ask me how they do this. It’s in the DNA.
In the same vein, an average Nigerian child knows never to say yes to an extra plate of food or drink at a party even if food and drinks flow like a river, his / her tummy rumbles louder than a volcano on the verge of erupting. Not even when the host is more than gracious to force it on the child. Just one look is all it takes.
I made that mistake once in my growing-up lifetime at a birthday party on a Sunday noon, I enjoyed every spoonful of the yummy
extra plate of jollof rice but let’s just say my ears still smart, my knees still hurt.
Because…how could you go out there and behave like you’ve never seen / eaten rice before in your house and you started acting like elebi / omoojuorolari?
(For my non-Nigerian readers: omoojuorolari literaly means a child who has never seen wealth before!)
An average Nigerian child in years gone by would never hear the word ‘I love you’ from his / her parents in their lifetime but would instead receive gifts / choice stuffs on birthdays, that is if s/he is lucky to be in an environment where money is not a worry.
We are currently succeeding in changing the unwritten rules and rewriting the code thereby putting a gradual end to the culture of ’emotional’ silence, hence the emphasis on ‘in years gone by’.
This morning, we were descending the stairs when my 5-going-on-6yr old little man stopped me in my tracks with a simple enough question:
Him: Mummy, am I still your baby?
Me: Yes, you are..you will always be my baby, sweetheart.
And I love you too.
Him: And also ‘Dapo?
Me: Yes, of course. Both of you will always be my babies.
Him: Have you forgiven me?
Me: For messing up my shoes? (A nod from him)..Yes I have. You said sorry and I accepted, it’s okay dear.
And then I hugged him tightly. Briefly, savoring our 2secs intimate moment in that quiet stairway.
Much earlier in the morning around 6am-ish…
I had these
once-upon-a-beautiful polka dot wedge that I had not stepped into in 3+ years and I refused to throw them out.
Now, I had only worn these pair twice since I got them and those two times, they kept slipping off my feet as much as I tried to keep them on gracefully. I would end up limiting the steps I take around the workplace those two ocassions just to prevent any form of embarrassment.
They were my size, still are but they just wouldn’t stay on. Yet, I refused to throw them out or give them away.
Just because…I hope to still rock them gracefully someday…and okay, I hoard.
So this morning just like I’d done a couple of times in the past, I brought them out to see if they would still fit. Dusted them and then…horror of the horrors..a gaping opening on each!
Whenever I see any defect anywhere, my handy-manny
mummy bears her fangs tools! This was not an exception so, naturally I fixed and cleaned them, rested them gingerly by the wall to dry and cool off, and out comes my little sleepy-head to knock them off and slightly..just slightly mess things up on his way to wee.
So, you see why he had to ask for forgiveness. He said sorry immediately and I okayed it while bustling to make up for the time
wasted taken to fix the shoes.
But I digress.
More often than not, children who grow in a very (emotionally) ‘non-assuring’, ‘non-vocal’ environment become equally (emotionally) ‘non-assuring’ and ‘non-vocal’ adults.
Apples rarely fall far from the tree.
In a way, we are all products of the environment we grow up in. Our environment shapen and sharpen us into the adults we are becoming.
A typical Nigerian man that finds it difficult to say ‘I love you’ might just be overly influenced by the world he grew up in. I am in danger of running foul of generalization here but the truth is Parents on this side of the globe rarely vocalize their love for their off-springs. Till date, I had never heard my father say those 3 words to me or any of the other children in all of my 36 years on earth.
Now, that does not imply that he did/does not love his children but the words are simply alien to voice out and he’d rather we experience his love in other ways. Maybe by discharging his obligations…which are just that – obligations.
However, I am a firm believer in the fact that we cannot choose our environments, neither can we influence where we are planted or what we receive as a matter of that planting BUT we can well choose our responses to every situation -good or unsavory.
That is why I would always end every note to my mom with ‘I love you’. I am sad I did not awaken sooner but I really am glad I made her last few years on earth count in that regard.
Breaking the culture of silence regarding emotions is highly imperative if one of our goals is to raise happy and emotionally stable little individuals.
And that is why I cannot afford not to show my children love – in words and deeds.
I choose to say ‘I love you’ to those little men every day even in the midst of the ever constant maddening rush which characterizes our daily lives.
And I choose to hug them ever so tightly every opportunity I get just to reassure them that mama still got them in her hold / heart.
And that is partly why I still prompt my husband every opportunity to shed those skins of cultural silence even as I ask…do you still love me?
Just like my baby asks..am I still your baby?
We all can do with some beautiful reassurances every now and then, they really do make the sun shine brighter.