I had seen the video in many of the whatsapp groups that I belonged to but I wasn’t eager to watch it until I began to read the comments which seemed to decry all the new fangled methods of raising children. After watching, I found myself wondering what the total story was, as I realized that what everyone was seeing was one side of the story. The very next day, I saw several tweets from Chidera “the boy in question” telling his own side of the story and I began to make some sense out of the whole scenario.
Shortly thereafter, I happened upon a story written by a young Nigerian man in his 30s detailing his abuse in the hands of his mother. He was the last of 5 children and had been warned by his elder siblings that he should be “ very careful around mummy, something is wrong with her.” .He wrote that he remembers being beaten as early as 5 years old with a mop stick over an untidy room, he wrote of a mother who portrayed the image of a perfect mother in public, who would do anything for her children and a mother who was a different person at home.
A mother who used her words like weapons, who had mad rages over the slightest infractions, who punished with a joy that was demonic, who beat until blood flowed. She was not always like that though, in between her psychotic episodes, she was a respected member of the society, an upstanding member of her church, the proverbial capable wife, an excellent cook who kept the house spotlessly clean, took care of her husband and children and even sold a personal expensive asset of hers to make sure her 5 kids could keep on attending the expensive schools they were enrolled in, at a time when the family fortunes took a dip. In case you are wondering, the family lived in Lagos Nigeria at all material times.
These stories brought back memories of an old friend of mine who was an only child of her parents. She lived with her mother, her parents having separated when she was of a tender age, but they never got along. I know that she preferred to stay in boarding house rather than go home on holidays and that during the holidays she ran away from home severally and stayed with different relatives and friends. This also brought to mind, the uproar over a tweet I read sometime ago from a guy who said that he had just buried his father but he wasn’t going to talk to his mother again and didn’t care what happened to her.
As Nigerians, we take pride in how we discipline our children, we have statements such as “You can’t try that with a Nigerian mother.” We have skits where a mother repeatedly slaps her daughter and we nod our heads in affirmation that she is training her well ( I must confess that although I find the skits hilarious it’s unnerving the level of violence unleashed on one child in the home).
I am sure that every person in my generation is familiar with the different types of slaps e.g , ifoti , igbaru etc and a lot of us look back with nostalgia at the way we were disciplined because although the discipline was somewhat harsh we knew that we were loved, there was no malice or anything untoward in the punishment. For some of us however, the punishment went beyond the normal to the psychotic and we are beginning to realize that our mothers and fathers had some behavioral problems tending to some sort of mental illness and that their behavior was not normal.
For it surely must be some sort of mental illness to put pepper in the private part of a child, to beat them till their skin breaks and blood flows, to chain them up, strip them naked all in the name of punishment.
It is important to note that for some, the abuse yes “abuse” was verbal and emotional and a lot of us have carried words said to us through the years, words full of curses, words decrying our birth saying we should have been washed out with our mother’s menstral cycle, words calling us names, telling us that we wouldn’t amount to much, that we don’t measure up to the family standards or that compare us unfavorably with our siblings, demeaning situations where we were made to strip naked and undergo home pregnancy tests carried out by our mothers employing the introduction of an egg into our private parts to confirm that we were not pregnant if our mothers as much as caught us talking to a boy.
Please note that though the focus is mostly on the mothers because mothers are the paragon of virtue and are traditionally entrusted with the upbringing and discipline of the children, I am not unaware that some fathers are guilty of irrational and psychotic behavior especially those that have narcissist tendencies.
In reading these stories, I wondered why the other spouse ( who is not an abuser) does not intervene when abuse occurs in the home. Having thought hard about it, It is my opinion that many spouses especially the fathers tend to look away when it comes to discipline in the home mainly because it’s seen as the woman’s preserve and they conclude that she must know how best to bring up her children or they just want their peace at all costs even at the price of their children’s emotional well-being, or they themselves were brought up in that manner, and reason that since they didn’t turn out badly, the children wouldn’t also.
Whichever parent is psychotic, it is a terrible thing to acknowledge or accept that our parents who brought us into the world are capable of abusing us physically and emotionally but the truth is that some of them are abusers and may have done so consciously.
In a society such as ours where older people especially parents are said not to tell lies or love us even though they do hateful things to us, where even though it is clear that they are in the wrong we still will be made to apologize to them it’s their word against ours and it is difficult and almost sacrilegious to talk about these things.
A lot of young and middle aged adults are carrying burdens and wounds from their childhood that need to be put down. An acceptance or acknowledgement of what has happened to us is the first step in dealing with the situation. We then need to believe that we did nothing to warrant the actions of our parents and offload the guilt we have carried around that something is wrong with us that made them act towards us the way they did. We need to silence those hateful words that keep reverberating in our ears long after the physical pain has gone and be mindful of our own words and actions so we don’t repeat the cycle on our children. If need be please see a counselor or psychiatrist but don’t keep your hurt bottled up any longer, this life is too short not to live it fully without being burdened, restrained and checkmated by events from the past .