Sunday, November 16, 2014

Selfish Little Tots - The Stiff Price Of Parenting

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Onyinye Orabuike

My daughter Nina will be two in January, but her grandfather already wants another grandchild. He started asking me if we are expecting another one soon when she was just eight months.

We went down to Ogun State to see them as we usually do at the end of each month. Grandpa really had me there that day when he played with the baby then asked me after the younger one. Grandpa is pushing ninety and I was assuming he was mixing things up as he does sometimes.

I started to explain to him that baby Nina is actually the younger of the two, and her older sister was playing inside. He nodded and insisted he was asking about the one following the baby. I couldn’t stop laughing. He was telling me that it was high time we started making plans for a new baby and he went about it so innocently that he had me completely fooled.

I wondered afterwards what he actually gain by having new grandchildren that makes him constantly wish for more. It was not like they usually give him lots of money, buy him clothes or even put food on his table. Nothing like that, as far as I could tell. What then is the gratification?

Well, grandpa may not be the only party guilty of this. I have asked myself what it was that make us to spend the better part of our life slaving for our children.

From the moment a woman gets pregnant, she would change her diet to suit the baby. Her sleeping position has to suit the baby. Daddy and mummy makes enquires about the best hospitals for antenatal, even if it is a wee bit too expensive. A large chunk of their income is reserved for the needs of the baby, even if it means discarding most of their plans. We read several books so as to keep up with the child’s mental development and we begin to worry about their academic performance soon after.

Do you realize children are the most selfish creatures I have ever seen? They don’t care if you are up to it or not, they must have their food as at the time they want it, or the sky would be let loose. They must have your time and attention even if you have to resign from your job to give it. They could decide to sleep all through the day and begin to play a minute or two after midnight. When this happen, you had better be awake with their food when they need it.

But you don’t really blame them, they did not apply to be born, we did.

But why do we love children so much inspite of their selfishness? The only explanation is that God desires us to play a vital role in his purpose of propagation of human race. All he needed to do was find a way to make us a willing party by throwing in self gratification as a decoy. So doing, he made us all dedicated slaves to those selfish little tots that otherwise have so very little to give in return. I tried to imagine what parenting would look like without that accompanying puppy love.

I realized with a smile that God had played us all a practical trick with that thing called love. We just love them and there is no stopping us, we can’t even help ourselves. It makes no difference to us, even when it’s so obvious that we are towing the same line that our parents did, and their parents before them.

Do you know that one silly toothless grin is more than enough payment for weeks of sleepless nights and many more discomforts? And with some silly babbling sounds that sounded like mummy or daddy, they have us eating out of their hands. I was so thrilled a few weeks ago when I overheard my four years old daughter tell her friends that they are not supposed to be afraid of anything. I said to myself great! We are making progress.

My husband and I were talking about the stress of the children’s education and that the good news is that it won’t be forever, as soon as they are done with secondary school at least, we would relax and begin to have our lives back. At most ten to fifteen years, I had told him, making a rough calculation on my fingers but he shook his head and smiled. We would have our life back but we certainly won’t be as young as we would rather be anymore. There was no running away from it, parenting, as thrilling as it is, comes with a stiff price.

It wasn’t as if we didn’t know this already. What it did was to strengthen our resolve not to put our entire life on hold for the children only to find to our dismay when they begin to leave home that they certainly weren’t going to put their lives on hold for us.

While I spare nothing to make sure they have all the love and care they need, I took deliberate steps to ensure that my husband and I have all the privacy, fun and excitements that we deserve. I have no plans to wake up one day and begin to feel like someone that time had forgotten.

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