Children, like every human being, live in their own world. They have their moments of happiness and their moments of sorrow. They have their own experiences in life. They make choices-some of which make them happy while other experiences become permanent scars in their minds and hearts. Indeed, sometimes they want to take responsibility for their actions and inactions, as they feel Mummy and Daddy wouldn’t understand them better than they do.
It’s also the desire of every parent to keep their wards happy; at least, if not for anything, create a home that will see to the realization of the joy of these kids. And most of the time, parents think of the material things that will fulfill these desires. Consequently, parents spend the majority of their time engaging in business and any activity that will provide them with the wherewithal to fulfill their responsibilities as parents. However, these efforts come at a cost.
At this point, let me share with you some conversations among children who live in my vicinity that I chanced upon. And both narrations took place at the time these children were on vacation and had gathered as friends. I listened to this conversation on the blind side of the children at a time where no parent or an elderly person was with them. So in effect, they expressed themselves freely to one another.
The first incident took place in 2014 when schools had vacated. By then, I was a teacher and so I was also on vacation. I was in my bedroom one afternoon when I heard children between the ages of 12-14, talking about boy-girl relationships. Apparently, one of the boys among them was interested in one of the girls and he couldn’t say it to the girl and so had to pass the information through another girl. So the purpose of the meeting, behind my house, was to trash out the issue.
That is, the girl who was proposed to did not understand why the boy did not come to her directly but had to do so through a friend. A lot of things were discussed among these kids that cannot be said here. When I realized that the conversation was going too far, I left my room and tip-toed to their direction. When they realized that I was following their conversation, they ran away. The fact that they ran way showed that they didn’t want any elderly person to be part of the meeting; it was only for their peers.
It should not be surprising what children discuss among themselves these days. If you are a parent of any of these kids or just a parent with children to train, you should be worried. But, a curious question that lingers in my mind is: why is it that children of this age find it difficult to discuss such matters with their parents? Are parents conscious of what these children go through at that stage of their lives? What surprised me most was that the arbiter of the meeting was a child. She was to judge whether the boy did well by proposing through ‘a betweener’ (mediator).
Surely, there is a reason for which children do not discuss such issues with their parents and so parents should take interest in matters of this nature regarding their wards. It is a truism that if these kids are comfortable to discuss matters of this nature with their age mates, then parents should find a means of becoming age mates of their wards at this stage of their lives so that they can better help them overcome this hurdle.
My second experience with what children say and do on the blind side of parents occurred recently. By then, I was on leave, and as usual, resting at home. Apparently, the back of my house was a designated meeting place where children from all walks of life—the rich and the poor—come to play. And truly, my vicinity is made up of a mix of people with different social and economic backgrounds. Thus, you can imagine the kind of children who play at the back of my house when school is on vacation. My ears are always alert listening to them because of my previous experiences.
This time it was not about relationships but something that affects the morale of every human being. Apparently, one of the boys and his parents live in a wooden structure. And as the kids were playing, a girl among them was asking him questions about the boy’s house. The questions were quite derogatory. The first question was: “Are you all able to sleep in that room?” The boy didn’t respond to that. You could see that he was quite uncomfortable with that question, so he pretended that he had not heard the question.
But the girl kept asking him the questions. She continued, “Do some of you sleep on chairs?” Still, the boy didn’t answer the question. He feigned concentration on the game. And judging from the boy’s demeanour, you could see that the boy was hurt. I’m not sure, though, whether the girl knew the impact of the questions she was asking, but she was hurting somebody emotionally. Ideally, every child would want the parents to provide a place of abode of a certain kind and certainly, a wooden structure would be the last any child would dream of.
The parents of this boy were not there to have a feel of the hurt their son had gone through. Perhaps this boy will not say or tell the parents anything, although some kids will inform the parents. However, parents must be aware that it not all the experiences of their wards that are reported to them. Parents, therefore, need to be conscious of whatever their wards may be going through at any point in time. This can be achieved by entering the world of their wards to have a feel of what they might be going through and trying to explain things to them, especially when things are not going the way they expect them to go. Our kids might be more sophisticated than we think.
I have met friends who have told me that they left home in their tender age because they were dissatisfied with the conditions at home. Today, we can say for sure that many kids are on the street because they are dissatisfied with the conditions at home. Moreover, parents are not giving them reasons to continue to have hope in life. My personal observation shows that such persons have little love for their parents.
Let me end this by piece by sharing with you the experience an elderly man (70 years) had with a young boy. This is a real story that took place at Danfa, a suburb of Accra. The elderly man was going for church service and was late because he was not getting a bus to board as the cars were not moving towards the direction he was going. The boy approached him and offered to aid him to get a car as fast as possible.
The boy told him, “Grand Paa, for this area, if you don’t tell the drivers lies about where you’re going and so they should let you board the bus, you will never get a car to where you are going… So just tell them lies and they will pick you.” The elderly man was shocked to hear this from the boy of that age. However, the elderly man used the opportunity to advise him.
Yes, this is where we have reached as a people and I am not surprised. It only reminds me of the paradoxical statement that, “The Child is the Father of the Man”. In other words, this child will grow with these attributes and will become a father who will, if not changed for the better, infest generations with this same behavior. Where did he learn this trick of lying to drivers? Is it not from those he lived with, sometimes under parental guidance?
Today’s children are tomorrow’s future. If we want a foretaste of the future, let’s consider what today’s children look like. Tomorrow’s children are a product of today’s children. Truly, “The Child is the Father of the Man.” Ideally, every parent wants their wards to be kind, truthful, and peaceful, and to show love and integrity. But these are not virtues that are inculcated verbally; children learn these values from their environment and people they interact with. That is why parents must make conscious efforts to be part of the world of these kids so that they can better understand them and also help them overcome the hurdles in their world.
As it’s natural for everyone to share his or her anxieties with a trusted friend, so would children want to share their worries and anxieties with their trusted friends. If you are your children’s trusted friend, they will find it easier to share their difficulties with you, but if you continue to be just their father or mother all the time, then you would continue to lose vital information a friend may gain from them. Let’s know when to be friends to our children and when to be parents of our children. In that case, we will be able to get the information we need as parents and the information we need as friends of our children.
In fact, there are conversations that take place among our children that we are not privy to. To be part of this conversation we need to be closer than we are doing currently. The benefits of that close affinity are truly tremendous!
The writer is a communicator, researcher, speaker, and a teacher.