Of Morality And Child Upbringing: The Lesson Of Life My Mother Taught Me
Nothing prepared me for the pain of the first time my mother used the cane called in my mother tongue – nwata aka ike – on me. From that day onward, I have learnt that adults are the best movies children watch and also the best form of correction whenever the child misbehaves.
I was about four years and about to join my mates in Primary 1. The joy of knowing that I would start socializing with my mates in school had enamoured me to start making friends around my neighbourhood so that when I eventually got to school, I would not find myself lonely. My mother to an extent accepted to allow me mix with other children in our neighbourhood, though she made my choice of friends easier by pointing out families I should enter and the ones I shouldn’t. She equally made me understand how an anathema it was for me to eat or accept any edible from any of the places she accepted for me to socialize with their children of my age. I made my promises and departed with my new found friend and his younger brother.
We made a stop at the community play field and played football of unripe orange ball till it got burst and we got hungry. Instead of going home for my lunch, I joined my friends to their home. Their mother was in the kitchen preparing lunch for the family and they started whining about how hungry they were to which their mother retorted:
“Come and eat me then! Play-play!”
To this they threw a ‘waka’ (giving someone an outstretched five fingers which is a disrespectful gesture that alludes to the person’s mother). So my friends were actually disrespecting not only their biological mother, but also their granny. I waited in fear for my friends’ mother to beat them silly over such display of poor parental upbringing to no avail and I accepted it to be the norm.
When my friends eventually got a reprieve and have had the hunger in them assuaged, though they called me to join them, but my mother’s warning kept ringing in my mind, I decided to go home and have my lunch. My friends joined me. On getting home, my mother wondered out loud what had kept me away from home for long to which I threw my own ‘waka’ her way. She was mortified but hid it very well with a good-natured smile and I knew it wasn’t an issue of morality anyway. Good or bad, my friends’ mother had already shown me it was nothing at all. At best, I would be invited with motherly love to come get my lunch just like my friends’ mother displayed for them.
When my mother’s food finally got ready, she used the most soothing and loving voice to call out my name to come get my lunch as food is ready. My joy knew no bounds as I raced into the kitchen to pick my bowl of meal. Poor me! So trusting and bereft of the enormity of my huge SIN, my mother’s left hand in a flash gripped my right hand and before I could bait an eyelid, this mean cane of many tiny branches that hardly break was in her right hand. When the question of “where did you learn how to say waka” got to my hearing, I knew I was in for it.
She flogged me silly and didn’t stop until she had extracted from me a promise not to use such a disdainful gesture on her or anybody in this life again.
Believe you me, from that day, I learnt such a lesson. And this has taught me that children are like yam tendrils. When they are left to guard their moral lives by themselves on the pretext that when they grow up they would correct themselves of whatever morality question life has left on them is a huge lie and a joke. Just like yam tendrils, they have to be nurtured with direction as found in such long sticks or stilts to guide them to maturity. Then the harvest season comes and every parent is happy!
It is better to spare the child and spoil the cane than to spare the cane and spoil the child. The Bible is very clear on that.