First we take away the play ground, then we take away friends, then we take away the local games that gave us our fondest memories such that nothing of our past is passed on to our children.
What do they have today? TVs, tablets and phones. This translates to cartoons, games and cartoons again. In between there is YouTube, NetFlix and social media.
Why have things changed so quickly? A flash back to how I grew up always sends memories running through my head and chill down my spine.
Coming from a humble background and growing up in a large family where cousins and relatives where constantly living with us life is a lot different from the ‘family of four of five’ we have today.
Then we had uncles and aunties who would send us around our own home, we would do chores and your parents will not flinch. They ate our food and enjoyed our parents money but that was what growing up was like back then.
You knew your uncles, aunties and cousins. They were in your face one way or another. They taught you respect, tradition and culture compared to what we have today where your nephews and nieces sit on the chair and greet you casually as they continue to watch their cartoon.
Then it was purely African tradition and I think we should have a little bit of that in them. We have become too ‘Oyinbo’ in our approach. Then it was members of the husband’s family that always dominated the home and not the wife as we have it today.
Life was not so much fun but life was very sweet for us growing up. I remember how my dad was always transferred from one state to another but the house was still ruled and controlled by some relative.
One day I asked my mum, why do you allow dad’s relatives control everything? She said that is what makes a good wife and it was our culture. That day I made up my mind never to marry from that tribe because I was not going to allow my children grow up like that.
But now I realise that all that process was another form of education. Today I remember how it helped mould my attitude of pride and that of being a braggart. I was always saying to anyone who cared to listen that my father was a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, my father is rich and how I would not take nonsense from anybody until I was cautioned.
And when I say cautioned, you know what I mean. If we were lucky it would be a slap or knock on the head but if you are unfortunate and you allow yourself to be cornered, then the rest is history.
But it was this training that helped me realise that I probably might not have been able to do anything in life including cooking, washing and even tidying the home.
I always told myself that I do not want my extended family around me but today not only do I want family around, I go visiting around the world with my nieces and nephews because family bond has been helpful.
Only recently, I realised that my kids and those of my siblings barely knew themselves, so I organised a week long holiday. Because they have never been on holiday it seemed kind of strange to them but as days went by the bond grew. They understood that blood is thicker than water.
Days ago, I was chatting with a cousin in London and we started talking about growing up and she said it was at your house that she had her first cornflakes and I also reminded her that her dad’s farm was the first I ever visited.
Today I ponder and wonder why families are drifting apart? Why we don’t encourage hang out among our children? Why some cousins feel like they are ‘more classy’ and cannot hang out with other cousins? I tell myself it is a thing of the mind, it is complex, it is pride. I want to encourage families, parents, old friends, new friends accept your family for who they are and your life could be more peaceful.
We are all growing and these children will remain after we are gone, so what next??? What moral are you building in them? Love? Hatred? Pride? Neglect? Loneliness?
Let me give you a test. Ask your kids if they know the surname of their cousins, especially for sisters who are now married and have changed surnames. You will be surprised that all they might know is their cousins first names.
Let us discuss our family with our children so they don’t forget their roots, their families. Our parents used to tell us that the man I greeted minutes ago is your father’s brother from another mother etc. We get lost when they try explaining but you know the person is not a total stranger.
Now my uncles and aunties don’t stay with us any more but I miss them. Whenever I come across them the bond is different. I demand so much gist from them that when they hear my name they would say ‘ijogbon dey’ meaning trouble has landed.
Today I can travel to any part of the world and stay in my cousins home rather than spend so much money in a hotel room because we grew up fighting, playing and learning to love each other. Lesson for today is don’t let the family BOND die.
I understand for some reasons you might want to stay away from your family but I’m sure not all of them are bad or financially demanding.
Keeping in touch with family members works wonders and helps. My American friends envy Africans because we have knitted families and communicate a lot.
For me, I like to be part of the life of my nieces and nephew. Let’s build and continue to build.
Madame Buky Olieh is an educator, child psychologist and French tutor. She wrote from Southwest, Nigeria
You can reach her via email: email@example.com