This morning, talking to a friend, I was reminded of what our late big bros, Efere Ozako, used to say; our children lack grass. They have grown up thinking that “Sonic the Hedgehog” is equal to playing football. I look at my children’s skin and its smooth, they have no scars. How can a child not have scars?
When I was seven we lived in Utagba-uno in Kwale area of Delta state. In Kwale, women rode bikes a lot in those days. Anyway, on this Saturday, three women came to see my mom and while they were gisting, my brother and our cousin, Ifeanyi, took two of the bikes and rode away, with me on the back of Ifeanyi’s bike. 5 minutes later, in trying to overtake Ifeanyi, my brother’s pedal caught in his spokes and we all fell in a bloody heap. I still have the scars today.
In 1981, I went home to Ibusa to live for the second time, away from my parents.
I was living with my maternal aunt and was supposed to be going to school at Umejei primary school but there was a long strike. Ambrose Ali was the governor then.
The strike must have lasted over 7 months and in that time, I remember that I discovered Fela’s music and would spend the mornings playing Unknown Soldier. Then in the afternoon, we would go to the school and because I was sickly, I would watch my new friends play football.
One afternoon, as this dark boy went to tackle another boy, we heard something snap and the dark boy fell screaming. He had snapped his ankle. The football field was empty in minutes and I was the only one left to help the boy up.
Holding me by the shoulder, this boy and I walked the equivalent of about 5 miles to his house. His mother was standing outside the house, her eyes shooting sparks when we got there and the moment I opened my mouth to speak, she slapped me so hard I fell to the ground with her son.
“Chukwudi, where did you go to?”
That was when I realised his name was Chukwudi. We had walked five miles hand in hand and I hadn’t asked his name.
When the mother had calmed down and found out that I was a good Samaritan and not one of her son’s ‘bad friends’, she served me lunch (which I needed) and we discovered she knew my father who was a school principal like her husband.
Anyway, Chukwudi Anene and I became friends from that day until he died, a few months shy of 17.
Ok, one more story. When I was 11 years old, my mother gave birth to her last child. My father had been forced to resign as principal because he refused to join UPN (no be today political madness start) and was working at UTC in Lagos. My older brother was someplace and so it was me, an 11 year old, who prepared nsala soup, made pounded yam and got on a bus to St. Mary’s hospital Ogwashi-ukwu.
I remember crying all the way home, because my mother had given birth the previous night after I left and my father’s friend who came to visit that morning had taken her home. I saw her in his car as I got into Ogwashi- ukwu but hello, there were no phones then. So, I carried my nsala soup and pounded yam to the car park, waited for another bus to fill up and went back home. I was crying because I thought I would be the first to see the new baby.
Why all these stories? Well, my children are 11 and 9 and they can’t go to the shop on our street to buy bread without someone accompanying them. Oh, my children are sharp and intelligent but not street savvy.
They don’t understand the streets. At this age, they have never been in a danfo before or travelled by public transport. The day my partner’s car broke down and she took a cab home, her children thought it was an adventure.
These children are growing up in the living room and bedroom. They don’t play outside. They don’t walk on the streets. I don’t even know whether children are still taught this in school: ‘Look left, look right and left again.’ My brother, can your 10 or 11 year old cross a busy street all alone?
We love our children but maybe we are killing them with love. We think that by keeping them at home we are protecting them but what we are doing is making them unable to function out there in boarding school, on the playground and ultimately in the work place. The real world!
This weekend I am taking my kids on a BRT ride.
Do you think I am being crazy? Well, drop me a line in our comment section.
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