‘Parenting: Torn between two moral systems’
“I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons – who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on, it is not man.” Martin Luther King.
“I am a landlord,” he told me with pride. The trouble is, his mother is still alive – but he lays claim to the estate of his dead father, possibly looking beyond the mother when she, someday, meets her eternal reward. He has yet to do a full day’s work that I know of. I wonder what property he would have claimed, if his father had not been thrifty and had not made the sacrifices that allowed him to build the estate?
Many years ago in Kaduna, on Rimi Drive in Angwar Rimi, you had to give way when the son of a late famous poet and general drove past you recklessly in his customised automobile. You should have seen the patrician disdain on his face that many wear because of their parents’ wealth.
I could go on, recounting experiences of encounters with children from rich backgrounds. What is amazing, as I reflect, is that not one of these rich kids looked beyond the light of “my father’s wealth.” Today, none have been able to achieve half as much as their parents achieved in life.
Do you follow? Take a look around you and see if you can find children whose parents were famous authors, ambassadors, clergymen, philanthropists, bankers, publishers, generals etc., doing better than their progenitors. Most are dancing away their lives in watering holes, bending their elbows, subsumed in the miasma of wealth.
The son of an ex-governor while his father ran affairs of state, went to a public place for rest and relaxation and ordered the people already there to leave so he could enjoy himself alone. When he attempted to force other patrons out, he was given the beating of his life by a soldier in civil dress. All it took to be a Pharaoh was to have had “daddy” for a governor.
Recently I had cause to go look for some books authored by a famous writer and environmentalist who was hanged by a late despot. I ventured to his office, but those books were not available, for they were long out of print and circulation. I was flummoxed. The famous writer was a man of sterling quality who sat on an international pedestal. His name and platform were enough for his children to latch onto. How come his children do not see the need to republish his works?
The paradox, however, is that when some of these parents tell you about their own family history, you would be shocked to learn that they never had it easy before their ascendancy to the heights. Then I ask, why are progenies not aspiring higher than progenitors and are allowed to do as they wish? Why aren’t the names of children of very many famous personalities in Nigeria in the public domain for positive achievements rather than appearing as celebratory photos in gossip tabloids?
When parents think back, stories are told of times when they couldn’t afford to buy groceries. You hear of the small houses they had to live in, with no shoes. You learn that they were taught to appreciate what their parents could afford. You realise that their own parents never missed the chance to teach them the importance of values and social conscience. They were encouraged to recount lessons from Sunday School classes like the importance of community service, diligence and thrift.
I remember missing the whole episode of Things Fall Apart, on national television. My late father had my siblings and me go for block rosary prayers which ran between 8:00 and 9:00 o’clock, the same time “Okonkwo” was played. I did manage to read the novel instead.
Don’t the youngsters of today possess any skills? Why such poor reputations for so many? According to Walt Disney, “Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.”
It would seem that the wealthy parents of non-productive offspring indulge them regardless, and view them as paragons of virtue through rose-coloured glasses.
This can be partly adduced as the reason children can’t surpass their parents’ achievements. Even though the earlier generation have adjusted to changing times, they have abandoned the principles and values that they themselves lived by. They consider inherited wealth to be all that is needed in life in spite of such inheritance being “certain death to ambition as cocaine is to morality.”
The young today are the way they are because the discipline of their parents has been replaced by the emotions of their parents. The values they represent are the same values parents of today promote. You can imagine the situation where children go out of the house in immodest attire so unsuitable as to be indecent.
Parents unbelievably allow themselves to be defrauded by WAEC invigilators, who insist their wards pay between N500 – N1, 000 per paper before they could submit their completed WAEC scripts instead of protesting against such inordinately fraudulent practices.
The high moral standards of the past that parents were raised under are gone. Parents today either over-protect their children or frustrate them. It chills me to hear mothers say to their children, “Leave my husband’s house, go and get married.” You would think the husband isn’t her daughter’s father. Why the competition?
The truth is, men wanting to marry are few, lack of money makes many remain unattached. Should the ladies give chase, be coquettish to get married? Wouldn’t this fly in the face of nature’s law: men should give chase? I am just saying.
Parents of the old school can speak their local languages but their children cannot. It has to be the white man’s language. It is worse for youngsters who are in inter-tribal marriages. Most friends of my acquaintance in the white man’s land have changed their Nigerian names to English names.
A lot of the children of top military brass and civil servants, who are also in the military, can thank their backgrounds for choice postings away from dangerous tours of duty. You have to wonder why they didn’t inherit their parents’ military minds and acumen.
“The great country is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community. It is a place where men are more concerned with the quality of their goals than the quantity of their goods.” Anonymous
Parents should not be torn between opposing moral systems in the nurturing of their wards. Smart children should not settle for less than they can be. Smart children would not bask in the glow of “papa’s wealth” as if it were their own achievement. Smart children leave the nest and become statesmen and stateswomen on their own terms.
• Abah, a teacher and consultant, lives in Port Harcourt