I’m one of those fortunate to have both of my parents around and even though they’re separated, I still love them dearly. I’m a middle child – I have an elder brother and a kid sister and my father is the classic definition of an African Nigerian father. We all know them, super disciplined, stubborn, principled, hard to talk to, blah blah blah. I once asked here how many people had ever had the opportunity to say the words “I love you” to their fathers and the response was scary.
But that’s the truth; most of us grew up in homes where our fathers were the Lord and Almighty dad. You could hardly talk or reason with them, you had so much fear in you that you cowered around them and just became a Yes-Sir child. Some also had mothers like this and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard growing up must have been for those people.
Now before we get to how this kind of upbringing seems to have ‘damaged’ a lot of us nowadays, I’d like to share a bit of my personal story just to form a background for our dialogue. I’m one who believes parents have favorites. They won’t admit it but as hard as they try to hide it, it shines through. Being the middle child, I quickly realized this and even though it wasn’t immediately obvious who my parent’s favorites were, I made myself believe I was the stranger in the middle and that meant I needed to work a little harder.
There’s something common to the term ‘independence’ especially when used in the context of countries gaining their freedom from their colonial masters. Yes, there’s always some sort of struggle, a battle, a war and this was something I quickly realized too.
Living in your parent’s house, they feed you, clothe you and therefore they have every right to decide how you live your life just as it works with nations and their colonial masters. The moment that control begins to slip in that you no longer require them to provide you with these things, the moment you begin to feel self-sufficient, that’s when the battle for true independence begins.
It’s not uncommon to see many young Nigerians, especially the females, once they hit 25+, they have a job, making their own money etc., they easily get into all kinds of arguments and fights with their parents and this is simply as a result of my explanation above. And the truth is, a lot of them just endure till the day a prince or knight in shining armor comes to marry them and free them from their bondage. And this in itself constitutes another problem as women sometimes aren’t patient for the right guy to come along, they just want ANY guy who would liberate them. With guys, it’s a slightly different story, which I’ll get to some other time.
Now, knowing this, doesn’t it then make sense to do all you can to ensure your parents lose this control and thereby begin to respect you as your own individual sooner rather than later? What do I mean?
I have a peculiar story because I moved out of my house at 17. I was fortunate in that I was one of those whiz kids who started making some money early enough and I could really just bullsh*t my way out of home and still survive but since that’s not common, I’ll share the other things I did to earn my father’s (mom wasn’t a problem) respect before I moved out. I had my school allowance and made sure I was prudent with it. I sometimes starved myself to save up money. Why? Just so I didn’t always have to go back to my father for money. In uni, I remember how a lot of my friends scammed their parents through school lying about their fees, cost of books etc. Yeah, it was fun while it lasted but the truth is, they never really ended up doing anything sensible with all that extra money and to make matters worse, it only made them more and more dependent on their parents.
I remember the look on my fathers face the day he called to ask why I hadn’t come home to receive my allowance for two weeks and I told him it was fine, that I didn’t ‘need it’. Yes, I know even when said the right way, that still comes off as being rude but there’s just no right way to clean a snail (or something like that). My father was outraged. This alone led to all sorts of battles between up and eventually, I ended up getting my own place, moving out and having an estranged relationship with him for over a year.
As we grew older, I became more and more independent and this pushed me to achieve a lot more, faster than others and what I realized was this helped me gain more respect with my father. All of a sudden he began to value my opinions, he stopped questioning my decisions and we began to form a much better relationship. I’m tempted to go into details but that’s not why we are here.
Today, I really want to know what kind of relationships we had with our parents, especially our fathers while growing up? Were you guys chummy chuumy? Have you ever been able to tell him you love him without feeling funny? And now that you’re older, are you still living with your parents, how is that working out for you?