Tuesday, October 11, 2016 7:00 am
By Grace Essen
Over the weekend, I overheard children playing outside, the usual – playing house. It’s amazing how children play out what they see or experience in their homes. Aged between 8 and 3, the oldest girl played mum while the oldest boy played dad.
The play is usually unscripted and everyone knows his/her role. ‘Mom’ gets busy like a real mom and then one of the ‘children’ calls out asking her to get something for him (can’t quite tell what it was) and she goes, “Go and get it by yourself!” I smiled. Funny how that didn’t cause an argument or tantrum like it usually would in real life. It was a play and everyone must cooperate.
The play continued. I drifted. I zoomed into each child’s life and tried to understand how their real lives played out just few minutes into their play. The boy, who played ‘child’ about 6, happens to be an only child of a young couple living nearby. I had seen him being carried to school by his parents or other adults who probably lived with them. My guess, he’s probably used to having things done for him little wonder he asked ‘mom’ in the play to do same.
The eight-year old girl, who played ‘mom’, happens to live in the same compound as I do and she is the oldest of 3 siblings. She often played the role of a mother when their mom was away. She’s growing up to learn that she had to do things for herself, and she probably didn’t see any reason why her ‘child’ in the play couldn’t do the same.
Motherhood sometimes feels a bit like waking up to pick what every other person is dropping around. Many may not understand what I’m talking about, but moms with young children who live without nannies as is becoming the trend these days due to recent happenings would. If you do have domestic staff the only way you would understand what I’m talking about is if you wake up one morning to find your staff had disappeared without a warning. After you recover from the shock, you look round the house you don’t know where to start from… you manage to get through the first day, after all it’s your house!
The next day, on your way back from work you stop at the market to buy groceries, you get home tired yet you can’t rest, you have to cook dinner. The kids have gone to bed and you are getting things ready for the next day. A quarrel starts after you ask your husband why he can’t just throw his dirty socks and underwear in the laundry basket instead of dropping them on the floor, and he asks why can’t you just pick them up?
I once counseled with a young woman and she said to me she had 2 babies – her husband and their baby. Her husband was raised as an only child and couldn’t do anything for himself. At first she did it all to prove she loved him, but it had become so frustrating after the arrival of their baby.
While it is difficult to change an adult with such attitudes, the focus should be on raising children that think and behave differently. By grandparents’ definition, all of our children today – with their Disney videos, hundreds of channels to watch on DSTv, computer games, tablets, smart phones and ballet classes, could be considered spoiled.
But sometimes in the effort to be nice, kind, gentle and more loving parents we don’t know where to draw the line. We want to give our children everything we didn’t have. We want them to have a better life. Of course, buying stuff for our kids and taking them out is fun, especially when we do have the means. But giving children too much can backfire, making them to always look for the next new thing instead of being satisfied with what they have.
We don’t want to over work them, we employ domestic staff in our homes and since we pay them so much we insist they do all the chores. Why would the children work when we pay someone else? That sounds logical, but maybe we need to remind ourselves that domestic staff and dependents will have to move on some day, and the children will stay with us.
One of the lessons children need to learn, and early enough too, is that there are no free rides in life. Everyone has got a role to play to ensure the family unit functions properly. One of the most powerful ways to teach this lesson is for us parents to assign children age-appropriate chores that they must fulfill as members of the family.
Maybe we all should take another look at your children to see if there’s need to address spoiling now, because we’re setting up patterns that will stay with our families for years to come. If your 23-month-old has never heard the word no, for instance, how will he handle hearing it when he’s 14 and wants to get a tattoo?
Let’s have your thoughts.
What do you think?