For many fathers, the lockdown in most parts of the country, which has forced them to spend very long hours with their children, has been a real trauma. Prior to the COVID-19 induced lockdown, such fathers were content with just providing money and leaving their wives to attend to the numerous demands of the children and generally taking care of them.
Again, in the pre-COVID era, children spent a good part of the day in school, away from parents, who also had a respite. But with the coming of the Coronavirus, and the need to curb its spread, lockdowns were imposed by states, and parents were effectively ‘quarantined’ at home with the children withdrawn from school. What is now seen in most homes is the unending demand of the children asking for this or that from their parents. The persistent demands are now giving some parents heartache as the children’s requests are made countless times, leaving the parents to worry about how to meet the demands and get some peace.
In this period of reduced cash flow, when parents are focusing only on food and other basic essentials, the children are innocently demanding for things that do not make life easy for their parents. Of course, the children can hardly understand that their are walking on a very tight rope to make ends meet in this era of severe cash scarcity. As far as the children are concerned, it is their parents’ business to strive and work hard to provide for them. After all, it was the parents who wanted children! They want what they want in addition to food.
In some instances, hard-pressed and exasperated parents have had to scream at the children in frustration, and who then run off to one corner to cry and sulk. Parents, parents, please do not over react to these demands which could be irritating. Raising your voice at them is not the best solution. You could gently call the child and explain the situation and possibly make a promise to meet the demand at a later date. Children have soul and can show surprising understanding and accommodation.
I watched a video of Sarah, a young mother and her eight-year old daughter, Kammy, who became almost a thorn in the flesh of her parents with serial crying while asking to be taken to Mr. Biggs, which she was used to be a normal experience. Sarah explained that the place was on lockdown. Kammy’s next statement was, ‘Oh! Who locked it down? Mummy said it was because of Coronavirus. ‘Okay, can we go to Tasty Fried Chicken then?’ No, it is on lockdown too, mummy said. What about Kinsgton Jo? Kammy, it’s on lockdown, the mother said with a tinge of anger. When Sarah suggested that they go to Kilimanjaro, where her daddy regularly took the family for ice-cream and popcorn, her mum’s reply that it was also not open just like Sweet Sensation and the other popular eateries, the dam of Kammy’s tears burst. Mummy tried to pacify her, promising to cook mouth-watering dishes, but Kammy would not have it, insisting that the dishes would never match the food served by the eateries in taste.
In some sense Kammy could be seen as a spoilt child, but what about the parents who introduced her to such places from early childhood, at just eight years? She wailed out her heart and slept off.
From the moment she woke up, the house became so boring because nobody was taking her out to an eatery to pick and choose what she wanted.
The same “I-want-syndrome” is the reason a father is almost keeping away from his four young children. He said: “If I buy biscuit in the morning hours, I will buy again in the afternoon and evening too, no explanation would pacify the children.” So their father devised a strategy to suit the situation. “When my business was going on very well before the lockdown, I would buy whatever they wanted, but now I dodge some of those unnecessary things. What I do is step out as they are eating breakfast, only to return later in the day with the first round of biscuit. But after sometime, they would start following me around in the house with complaints and fight, and before you know it, it will be cries everywhere, all that trouble is pointing towards buying another round of biscuit to pacify them.”
I recall the case of Nkenna, the smart second daughter of my aunt, when she was four years. Nkenna always welcomed her daddy home with warm smiles and hugging his legs. She was always sure that daddy would bring back something from work for her to munch. Excitedly eating the chicken pie that her daddy bought, she unconsciously blurted out, “Mummy, you don’t buy anything in this house, it is only my Daddy that buys things for us.” Mummy screamed back: “Your daddy buys chicken and meat pie that you eat as snack, but I buy rice, beans, garri, yam, spaghetti, noodles, beverages, soup and stew ingredients to cook food for you.” Nkenna’s mouth was full as she turned in happiness. Holding her doll close to her chest with one hand, she exclaimed, “I like my Daddy.” Though her mother tried to teach her that food was far more important and better than snacks, Nkenna was not interested in that story. Her age agreed with her belief that Daddy was the performer; not mummy with her long list of food items.
In the same vein, parents need to know that if they yield to buying at all times, it might as well become embarrassing for both parties. Whatever that has advantage also have its disadvantage. At St. Paul’s Anglican Church’s Children section, two young sisters between five and seven years were dressed in tight jean dresses, boots and sunglasses worn on dowdy hair. Each of them had a can of Coke and sausage. The drinks in their hands became a major distraction to other children; their mother’s was advised not to bring her children to church with drinks for the 9:00a.m service because the church provides snack and drinks that are shared to all the children at a particular time.
Parents should understand that it is not the business of under-aged children to pity them in the COVID-19 lockdown situation. Rather it is the business of parents to think out plausible ways that would work for both parties while maintaining peace at home. It’s also a time to begin to teach the children how to be contented, reserved and gratified. After morning devotion, teach from the children’ angle, give instances and make it practical that they cannot have everything they want. Place their order in a mode of priority, instead of biscuit, chocolate and sweets; let each child pick one or two items of her choice at a time and that will serve for the day. Add other social activities like singing, dancing, drawing etc. If there are simple chores, academic competitions, neatest for the day, you as parents, be sure to compensate the winner so others will strive to win.
Dear parents, the COVID-19 era is not a time to show love by giving biscuits and sugary products. Think and work with the children positively; teach them at every teachable opportunity like washing plates and toilets, arranging their wardrobes and tidying their rooms. Sit with them to mix and make chin-chin, Zobo drinks and pies. Let them wash the car with daddy, cook, eat beans with fun and use the right language etc. Create time to watch television and monitor their phone use. Appreciate and applaud them for new goals because Rome was not built in a day.