Race as flavours…

I recently had to give my son an explanation about race. He came to me and said “Mama you are white, Daddy is black”. That, coming from a little boy. I broke out in a cold sweat. I truly hadn’t expected to have the “race” talk with him so early. 

Anyhow, I told him…”No, sweetie, your Daddy is chocolate (‘black’) and I am coffee with milk (mixed race). You are like caramel, or milkose candy”. Later on, I thought of something. What if we likened racial differences to positive things, such as ice-cream or cake flavours? I want my son to look at differences in skin coloring as a positive thing. I want him to liken our differences to differences in flavour. You know what they say:- variety is the spice of life. So why can’t we give our children that outlook on race?

I admit, I’m as guilty as the next person of falling into the “black/white” categorization but how I wish that would change. My mother is Caucasian and my father “black” but I told my son his Nana is vanilla ice-cream and his Koko (Grandpa) is chocolate. I refuse to refer to myself as “mulatto” as that is a derivative of the term “mula” which in Latin or Spanish means “mule”. A mule is a cross breed between a horse and a jackass.

I wonder though, as a good friend of mine recently put in her post, why people of mixed race like myself are referred to as “Oyinbo” or ‘white’ here in Nigeria and then we are “black” elsewhere in the world, like Europe? Interesting food for thought. Do we have to downplay one side of our heritage to gain acceptance in the other. I say lets all celebrate who we are and live and love!! GOD bless you all!

Discipline…and the bother that comes with it

Being a parent has acquainted me to the finer and not-so-finer things in life. First of all, I am still amazed at how a baby so small can emit noises that shatter all known barriers of sound and release noxious fumes and toxic substances from so tiny a bum! Then, of course, there’s all the fun we have as they grow from babies into toddlers. They don’t call it the ‘terrible twos’ for nothing…and as a parent I discovered that the ‘terrible twos’ can extend to the threes…and fours…and even fives!

One of the most sensitive areas of parenting, in my experience, comes in the area of discipline. There are different methods and ‘schools of thought’ in that area- the spanking advocates, the ‘go to your room’ advocates, the ‘talk to them and reason’ advocates and even the ‘leave them be to figure out what’s right or wrong on their own’ advocates. This is by no means an exhaustive list- it goes on and on. Culture plays a large role in the way children are disciplined.

Since I am a follower of the Judeo-Christian way of living I use the Bible as my reference. There’s a verse in the Bible that states “spare the rod, and spoil the child”. There are countless others admonishing parents to make sure that they guide the children in the right direction and use strong forms of discipline to keep them on that path, should the children err.

There are debates as to what forms of discipline are acceptable. Some say that some physical/corporal form of punishment is acceptable (within reason) while others feel that spanking a child is a form of abuse. Now, it stands to reason that there are different, shall we say, “grades” or “levels” of corporal punishment ranging from the mild swat on the bottom to the beating of a child using dangerous items such as wire, whips, large sticks, fists, etc. The latter are, in my opinion, extreme and abusive. I don’t think one should ever really “beat” a child. You will find that for the most part in Africa we are great advocates of the ‘spanking’ mode. Unfortunately many of our parents cross the line from mild or moderate corporal punishment to full blown physical abuse of children. This is probably what started off the ‘don’t ever hit a child’ movement. Truth be told, I can see some valid points in that argument. Nonetheless, it still remains that children must have some form of deterrence when it comes to unacceptable behavior.

Also, I think that the punishment a child receives should be equal to the offence committed. It is not really useful to smack a child for touching something YOU as a parent did not tell him/her to stay away from such as Mom’s jewelry, makeup, etc. Besides, one should take the child’s age into consideration and keep for from his/her reach items that might be considered ‘interesting’ to the child.

Most of us in this part of the world were spanked by our parents as children. I also believe that we were spanked only when the situation called for it. I know my Mum always warned me before she would spank me- it was up to me to heed the warning or not. Now, as I reminisce I realize that she did all that out of love for me and out of her desire to see me grow into a decent, considerate human being with some sense of restraint. All you need to do to see the effects of bad parenting and what a lack of discipline and self restraint does is watch a few of those ‘reality shows’ on the E! or MTV channels. I shudder when I look at the antics displayed by some of those kids while their parents look on in utter helplessness and with a casual shrug of the shoulders. I can’t help but think that if the children were given proper boundaries and disciplined when they were growing up they might have turned out a lot different.

It really bothers me when I see or hear a parent saying “Oh I don’t know where I went wrong. I gave him/her all the love I could and she/he got everything he/she ever wanted. Why would he/she behave that way?” For me, that’s a foolish question. Loving a child is not akin to giving the child everything he wants when and how he wants it. That is where teaching the child restraint, moderation and self discipline comes in. A parent is meant to be a parent and not try and be the child’s best friend. There’s a time and place for that. Some parents are so afraid their kids won’t ‘love’ them if they punish them and go out of their way to placate them when they throw tantrums! Some parents do not teach their children the value of ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong”- and these are words that are necessary in life if one is to avoid constant conflict and needless heartache in life. Some do not teach their children how to respect the opinions, property and feelings of others- and then they react in surprise when the children turn their disrespect towards them!

As a parent you are placed in a role of authority and you are entirely responsible for the care and upbringing of your child. You cannot hand that over to school, government or television. You cannot raise your child with a sense of self entitlement and ‘the world owes me’ and then expect that child not to turn on you at some point. You reap what you sow.

Now, I am not trying to make a case for spanking here (although I DO think that some people could have benefited from one or two well placed swats upside the head…but that’s a different story). I am trying to make a case for discipline in a way that is humane and effective. If we do not discipline our children we risk unleashing a group of wild unruly individuals into the world and it will not make the world a better place in the long run. However, if we want to enjoy our old age and growing up years of our kids it would make sense that we teach them how to conduct themselves in society and place proper boundaries for them. They may cry and frown in the beginning…but they will love and respect us for it in the future. And that, people, is a future worth looking forward to.

Why Naija Mama?

I’m sure you might be wondering just why on earth I would want to ‘operate’ two separate blogs. Why not just write everything and put it in one simple page? After all, that would be a lot easier now, wouldn’t it? Perhaps so.

But…I think that what I have to say, or what I think about GOD, marriage, pregnancy, motherhood and all that comes with it requires its own space. My thoughts on this are just so many and so muddled at times (that I can fully blame on ‘Mummy Brain’) that I think Naija Mama is just what is needed for me to sort them all out.

I’ve been married almost 7 years and have two children and believe me it has been a journey. I have shared my thoughts on it, mostly in my Facebook updates and now I think I need to expatiate.

Living in Nigeria, fondly called Naija, has its own unique challenges as opposed to living in countries like the USA or Britain. Some of these challenges affect our lives directly, some indirectly. We all know what it’s like dealing with PHCN (oh good grief, I could write a book on that), interesting family structures, security issues, fuel scarcity, school fees and the like. These can drive you batty…and they also have the uncanny ability to make us Naija Mamas stronger and more efficient. I mean, who but a Naija Mama can cope with power failure, everything in the fridge rotting, an empty bank account and STILL send her kids to school smiling, well fed AND with pressed and starched uniforms?:D

So…welcome to Naija Mama- the blog where I get to rant and rave about all that ‘stuff’ and you get to give your own thoughts and opinions too! Enjoy the ride!