Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tragic Comedy

Perhaps, the greatest comedy
Ever written,
Was by God
When He gave life to man.

As soon as man is born
He craves wisdom and maturity.
Accomplishing that,
He then envies the ignorance of the young.

As soon as man is ready to breed
He yearns for the perfect offspring.
Failing that,
He then prays for improved versions of himself.

As soon as man finishes raising his children
He pushes them out of the nest.
Forlorn and lonely,
He then longs for the vibrancy of a full house.

As soon as man is bored with life
He craves excitement.
Worn and exhausted,
He then hungers for the humdrum.

As soon as man learns to covet
He wishes to surpass his neighbour’s fortune.
Superfluously endowed,
He then fears he might lose it all.

As soon as man lacks food
He envies the portly nature of the well fed.
Overfed and languid,
He then yearns for the physique of the malnourished

As soon as man gains wealth
He seeks to gain immortality
Elderly and feeble
He then hankers for a peaceful death

As soon as man understands life
He reaches death’s door
All-knowing and wise
He then wishes he had made less mistakes.

Indeed, the greatest tragedy
Ever lived
Was by man
When he forgot his life is a comedy

This poem was inspired by a day when all I seemed to ask was - ' Why me?'

Sunday, 23 January 2011

How far do you push?

A new parenting book has caused quite a stir. The book is The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (a professor of law at Yale Law School ).
In this book, Amy reveals how she adopted a strict Chinese parenting style with her two kids; in which she DID NOT ALLOW HER KIDS DO THE FOLLOWING:
- Attend sleepovers;
- Have a play-date;
- Take part in a school play;
- Watch TV;
- Play computer games;
- Achieve any grade less than an A;
- Play any other musical instrument apart from the violin or piano.

I guess it's safe to say that her parenting style was very strict. For example, on her birthday, her daughter (Lulu - aged four) handed her a 'surprise', which turned out to be a card. Amy looked at this 'card' which was a paper folded crookedly in half, with a big happy face on the front  and 'Happy Birthday, Mummy! Love, Lulu' scrawled in crayon above another happy face.

Amy then gave the card back to Lulu saying 'I don't want this, I want a better one – one that you've put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can't go in there.' She then grabbed the card again, flipped it over, pulled out a pen and scrawled - 'Happy Birthday Lulu Whoopee!' - added a big sour face. … then 'I reject this!!!'

Amy confirms that this is the way she was also brought up - and it worked for her!

My Reaction:
As I said earlier, the book has drawn varying reactions from readers and book reviewers - ranging from 'Too much!' to 'Just right!' to 'Push Harder!'

While some commentators claim that they had an epiphany after reading the book  (as in - 'Oh! that explains why Chinese children are such high achievers'); others claim that her style is too autocratic and might stifle creativity.

My reaction - As a rule, I do not read parenting books because I think EACH CHILD IS DIFFERENT. So, I do think her blanket approach is a bit too autocratic.

However, a lot of what she talks about is similar to the general Nigerian style of parenting - a great emphasis on academic success, minimal emphasis on creativity/ extra-curricular activities and little or no emphasis on nurturing individuality.

So, this book got me thinking about how I was raised by my parents AND how I am now raising my children:

Parenting Styles - My Parents:
With regards to parenting styles, I like to imagine parenting as equivalent to leadership (which largely involves exerting control and giving direction to your followers/ subordinates).

With regards to how much discipline and control parents dish out to their kids; I see parents as falling between a 1 and 10 on the 'Parenting dial'.

At No.1 is the Passive Parent who rarely disciplines his/her child, does not set any expectations for the child and allows the child do whatever s/he wants. This kind of parent rarely reprimands and is more likely to place more emphasis on nurturing the child's self esteem.

On the other hand, at No.10 is the Autocratic Parent who is quick to discipline, dictates expectations to the child, attempts to control the child's choice of activities, friends, clothes etc. This kind of parent is also more likely to reprimand slight failings and will not place much emphasis on nurturing a child's self esteem.

I would rate my parents as an 8.

This is because I often felt very much misunderstood. I also felt that sometimes, the punishment meted out by my parents exceeded whatever offence I had committed. To be honest, I often felt that their reaction was heightened by other issues they were facing (i.e. financial pressures, family squabbles etc) rather than whatever mischief I had perpetrated. *smile*

What I did not particularly like was that they took a 'one size fits all' approach to parenting i.e. if A did this, B must do this....If A misbehaved like this, we assume B might also misbehave...........*sigh*

However, I totally accept that this was generally the parenting style of that time. While their style has shaped me into a disciplined and organised person; it has also placed some distance between us - as we never could communicate with each other freely.

Parenting Styles - Mine:
My childhood experiences now make me question myself all the time - especially whenever I am disciplining the kids.

I am definitely no saint and I know I have - and will - make parenting mistakes BUT I always try to make sure I do not let other issues (financial worries, office tensions, deadlines etc) push me into overeacting to the kids' occasional mischief.

In relation to the 'parenting dial' - If I am honest, I would say hubby and I are a 6 - uncompromising when it comes to school work, strict when it comes to behaviour; but relaxed when it comes to pursuing whatever extra-curricular activity the child likes. Again, while each child has a chore - sweeping, washing dishes or tidying up; they can also 'earn' pocket money by doing extra housework or excelling at school.

In my last post, Mimi B reminded me of the proverb - 'If you beat a child with your left hand, you use your right hand to draw him back to you chest'. This sums up my approach to parenting.

I believe that even when you do discipline a child, it is only fair that you (a) tell the child exactly why he is being punished and (b) Later - after the child has shown remorse - pull him close to you and play with him - so he is reminded of your love.

Children are like wet clay - a parent is supposed to help mould them. However, like wet clay, if you press too hard, the intended 'shape' can become damaged. Discipline does not always have to be physical reprimands i.e. smacking. Again, it is wise to note that the parenting style that MAKES one child folurish, can BREAK another child.

Indeed, the author I mentioned earlier (Amy Chua) confirms that while her first child blossomed under such strict parenting, her younger child (Lulu) rebelled - 'First, Lulu hacks off her hair with a pair of scissors; then, on a family holiday to Moscow, Lulu and I get into a public argument that culminates in Lulu smashing a glass in a cafe, screaming - "I'm not what you want – I'm not Chinese! I don't want to be Chinese. Why can't you get that through your head? I hate the violin. I hate my life. I hate you, and I hate this family!" - Her relationship with Lulu in crisis, Amy, finally, thankfully, raises the white flag.'

Yes, its lovely to have all your children turn into lawyers, doctors and engineers BUT what would this world be without Authors like Malcolm Gladwell or Chinua Achebe; Sportsmen like Muhammad Ali or Tiger Woods; Visionaries like Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Fela, Steve Jobs or Mother Theresa, ..................?

I would like to conclude by recalling a confrontation between a demanding mother (aged 60 yrs) and an exasperated daughter (aged 36 yrs):

Mom: 'Your behaviour is not Christian-like'
Daughter: 'What do you mean?'
Mum: (steadily raising her voice) 'Hmmph......Ephesians 6! Ephesians 6!!
Daughter: (quizzically) 'Ephesians 6? What part?'
Mum: (shouting and wagging her finger) 'Ephesians 6 - Honour your father and mother so that it may be well with you and your days on Earth may be long!'
Daughter: (smiling) ' always quote the passages that suit you!'
Mum: (frowning) 'How?'
Daughter: 'Read further...after that statement its continues to say - 'Fathers, do not exasperate your children...instead bring them up in the way of the Lord.'
Mum: (sighing and walking away) 'You no be beta person at all!'

I would now love to hear from you:
- If you are already a parent: How would you describe your parenting style?
- If you are not a parent yet: What kind of parenting style would you ideally prefer to adopt in future?
- From all (parents/ non parents): How would you describe your parents' parenting style? What did you like/ not like?

Indeed, how far should one push his/her child?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Verbal Lashes (1)

One of the beautiful things about language is the way we express ourselves in different ways.

For example, I can immediately tell whether a speaker is Nigerian if they come up to me and say 'Please, I want to ease myself' instead of 'I would like to use the bathroom, please' LOL

Anyway, I told my son off recently and I ended our conversation by using a pidgin English saying:
Me: 'Anyway, I have finished warning you oh.....who get ear make im hear!'
Cool2: (looking confused) 'Mummy, what did you say?'
Me: (raising my voice)...'I said - who get ear, make im hear! Don't you understand?!'
Cool2: 'I think so mummy. You mean that I should use my ears!'
Me: (calming down) 'Exactly! A word is enough for the wise'
Cool2: (now looking more confused) 'Huh?'
Me: (sighing deeply) 'This means if you are really smart, this one warning I have just given you should be enough or else..............mmmh!'
Cool2: 'Ohhhhhh.....but, mum....I don't mean to be rude, but........'

His remark is cut short as I throw him 'The look.' This is because whenever he says 'I dont mean to be rude'....he usually goes ahead and says something inappropriate - and I have warned him about this, so................

Me: (narrowing my eyes and looking at him closely) 'Yes? Carry on....'
Cool2: 'I don't mean to be rude....but....why do you like saying things like ...'a word is enough for the wise'......?'
Me: 'Because I like them. They are called proverbs or sayings. You will learn to use them as you grow older!'
Cool2: (skeptically) 'Mmmmm'

LOL.....As you can tell, this conversation that was supposed to end with my witty proverb gradually progressed into a lecture about proverbs

Like Cool2, when I was growing up, I was at the recieving end of proverbs, sayings and witty retorts from the older people around me. At that time, this annoyed me because the remarks were often delivered to admonish me or to end a conversation!  Most times, I went away feeling 'emotionally bruised' because I felt I had been verbally lashed - given a 'verbal caning' - by the adult addressing me.

However, I have grown to admire the wit behind most of them - particularly the ones in Pidgin English and my native language. While they were often not welcome in the past, they often did serve as a wake up call!

Here are a few of my favourites sayings/ proverbs in Pidgin English and English (my native language will be too difficult for most to read) - and the situations they were used.

1st fave Proverb/ Saying:
In Pidgin: 'U no fit say make pickin no grow big teeth.......But, u must pray say d pickin go get big lips wey go fit cover d teeth.'
In English: 'One cannot prevent a child from becoming buck-toothed. However, one must pray that his lips are big enough to cover the teeth.'
Situation Used: Whenever - after several warnings - I still went ahead and did something/ insisted on doing something. It's almost like saying - 'As you lay your bed, so you shall lay on it!'
My reaction: Ouch!

2nd Fave Proverb/ Saying:
In Pidgin: ''If u wan advise person and everybody dey say - 'Leave am, leave am, na so im be' -  u go know say de person don dey craze''
In English: 'If you attempt giving out advice to a person and everyone around him says - 'Dont bother, that's the way he is' - that will indicate the  person is beyond redemption!'
Situation used: Whenever I complain that there's too much interference in my life. This proverb is a way of saying that 'If we stop interfering, you can take it that we don't care about you' OR
'We care about you and we believe you can do better, so that is why we interfere.'
My reaction: This is emotional blackmail!  *smile*

3rd Fave Proverb/ Saying:
In Pidgin: 'If u no let people laff you, dem go cry for you.'
In English: 'If you are afraid that people will mock you; then a time will come when they will find you tragic.'
Situation used: Whenever I was supposed to take decisive action about a major life event and I dithered - because I was worried about what 'people' will say. This saying is to let me know that indecision - usually because of fear of failure or people's comments - could have dire consequences.
My reaction: Damn! This is a wake up call!!

4th Fave Proverb/ Saying:
In Pidgin: 'If person dey sleep, d time wey im wake up na im day break for d  person.'
In English: 'Whatever time you do wake up from night sleep - is the time your day begins.'
Situation used: Whenever I had been complaining about things I should have done, could have done or would have done. This saying states that regret is futile. Basically, we all have different paths to personal development so whatever time you do 'Wake up' - is your personal dawn.
For example, a friend who has gone through a bad relationship recently made a difficult life changing decision - to call it quits.
When she opened up to me, she expressed regrets - about wasted opportunities, lost years etc.
However, she concluded our lenghty conversation by sighing and using this saying. The words really empowered her - to accept that while wrong decisions had been made, so long as she was healthy and alive; she still had a chance to achieve so much in life.
My reaction: Too true! 

5th Fave Proverb/ Saying:
In Pidgin: 'No be how bodi dey scratch person na im person dey scratch am.'
In English: 'When you are itchy, it is is not advisable to scratch the itch with the same ferocity with which you feel the itch.'
Situation used: Whenever I have wanted to take drastic action i.e. wanting to angrily confront someone who has been a pain! Basically, this saying is advising one to calm down and think rationally.
My reaction: Easier said than done! *smile*

Oh, I could go on and on and on......that's why I have titled this post No. 1 - because I hope to write a post with all the Pidgin English sayings I know (and add any interesting new ones I come across).

So, I would now like to hear from you - what is your favourite saying/ proverb?....OR....Better still, do tell me any saying/ proverb that has stuck in your head - possibly uttered by your parents, partner, friend, colleague. *eager smile*

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Stylish and Versatile Award

I have been awarded the THE STYLISH & VERSATILE AWARDS by Ibhade (Housewife Tales) and Atilola

Thanks for this honour. I feel really special - especially as I have only been blogging for two months.

Oh dear, I feel really emotional *sniff sniff*....and I really want to make an Oscar-type acceptance speech........Just Kidding!

According to the rules, I should say 7 things about myself. So here goes:

1) My faith in God is my strength. However, I believe in simplicity of worship so I hate Bible-bashers (people who constantly go around forcing the word of the Bible on everyone else - and claiming that everything BUT the Bible is evil). Being religous should not be a substitute for common sense.

2) I love Pidgin English! While my job is very academic (Research/ Education) and requires good English (spoken and written); I revert to Pidgin English whenever I talk with old Naija friends. If you see me dey nak pidgin, u go tink say I dey sell akara *smile*

3) I adore fashion - but I don't like spending too much money on it so I am not one to buy gold or expensive lace. So, it helps that I can sew and make costume jewellry!

4) I love learning new things - so I get excited whenever I meet fascinating people. This might explain why I enjoy having conversations with really old people and really young ones - because they say it as it is!

5) I absolutely love, love food  and entertaining. That's why I'm in my element when cooking, baking and organising events that involve good food, wine, dancing, friendly people and lots of laughter! Basically, I love a good party!

6) I love daydreaming so I love reading, writing and watching movies. Escapism - and prayer - are my solutions to stress!

7) I am fascinated by Politics - and all the shenanigans that go with it. You can learn a lot about human psychology when you watch people with power (as well as those trying to get power)

I am now expected to give this award to 15 other here goes (in random order):


2) P.E.T





7) 2CUTE4U






13) MIMI B



Many thanks to you all's what you have to do as an awardee:
1) Thank the blogger that gave you the award.

2) Then list 7 things about yourself.

3) Give out the same awards to 15 other bloggers.

4) Then contact them.

*Phew* This has been fun...I'm now off to contact the awardees.

P.S:.........I beg your forgiveness IF:
I have failed to nominate you OR
I have given you extra work! *smile*

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Rhianna or Remi?

I'm sure you've heard the saying 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'....?

Well, in my experience, this saying rings true for most people who grew up in Nigeria and now live abroad.

It is when you have left home for some time that you truly begin to appreciate some of the simple things you took for granted - like suya; goat meat that actually tastes like goat meat; the earthy smell of sand after the rains; the feverish preparations for Christmas/ New year; the taste of jollof rice cooked over fire-wood; the ability to nip to your tailor and have an outfit specially created for you ................. *sigh*

You might have noticed that I have only highlighted the good memories *smile*

Well, that's a deliberate choice as I prefer good memories to bad ones. This is because the bad memories come alive whenever I return to Naija. *smile*

Anyway, before I of the things I have done to remind myself - and my kids - of my 'roots' is to give them traditional names. Each child's name was inspired by the events around his birth. I always love explaining what their name means to them because they then have a story to tell their inquisitive friends.

Like my kid's friends, I am also fascinated by the meaning of people's names - and the history behind the names. This is because I often feel that a person's name gives some insight into the parents' thought processes at the time the child was born - What the parents felt like.......What events occured around the time the child was born.........What the parents hoped the child would become in future .......etc

While I accept that every parent is entitled to choose their child's name, I have to ask why some Nigerians feel the need to name their kids after flash-in-the pan celebrities and random places, events or things. For example, I have actually come across Naija kids in London named Rhianna, Beyonce, Paris, Nefertiti, Winter and Tiger !!!

Why these names???.....when we have soooo many beautiful Nigerian/ African names to choose from????  Even if one has to choose a western name, I would think the choice of a meaningful  one would be better?

Don't get me wrong, I am not against western names. Indeed, my Catholic parents baptised me with an English name - along with a sackful of traditional names. However, I do find it difficult to understand how some Nigerian parents would prefer to name their precious children after things/ people that have no relationship to them, their culture or their background.

A fellow Nigerian (resident here) once told me that he felt that my decision to give my kids traditional Naija names was wrong! According to this man,  such names would 'hold them back in the western world as teachers and future employers would be biased against them whenever they saw their names'.

When he said this, I defended myself vigorously - saying that their names were chosen because they our native language..........exactly how hubby and I felt at the time the kids were born!

I really wish I could run into that man ask him if he's heard about how the name 'Barack Obama' has been an impediment to the personal and professional growth of a certain gentleman from Hawaii!! *smile*

Do let me know your take on this - traditional names or fashionable western names - what's your preference?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Understanding Women....Lesson 101

Are women complicated creatures?

I USED to think NOT!! However, I have come to think otherwise.


Well, while I grew up in a house full of girls where my dad was the only male (as mum had only daughters); I now live in a house full of boys where I'm the only female (as I have only sons). Over the years, I have become convinced that a man can never truly understand the mind of a woman.

Indeed, I even believe that men are simpler creatures and women are DEFINITELY a subject-matter that men need time and patience to truly understand. Wait!! Scrap that thought........even with all the time and patience in the world, I still doubt whether ANY man can successfully unravel the mysteries of the female mind!

However, I live in hope so I am doing my best to 'enlighten' my sons about the intricacies involved in dealing with females (i.e.  nieces, female classmates, cousins......). For example, whenever we have female guests come over to the house, I always remind them (the boys) to first find out what the girls' interests are............This is to help clarify whether the guest is, a 'girly-girl - who would rather watch a movie'; OR 'a tomboy - who is ready to play a game of football or even arm-wrestle'!

Well, recently my 'enlightenment programme' progressed to another level as my first son (Prof1)  had his first impromptu Understanding Women lesson/ lecture!

I confess that I was completely unprepared for this, but I did my best....:

You see, from time to time (whenever I'm alone with any of the boys); I usually ask if there's anything they want to discuss. This is because while we (hubby and I) accept they are unlikely to tell us everything; we are keen to keep the lines of communication open .........
Anyway on this day, I was alone in the car with Prof1, so I absentmindedly asked:
Me: 'Is there anything you want to ask me?'
Prof1: 'Mmmmm...not really.'
Me: 'Are you sure?'
Prof1: 'Well.........' He then clams up and starts to smile as he turns up the music
I am now officially intrigued and I am determined to 'squeeze' out this info.
So, I turn the music down, concentrate on the road ahead and using my 'good-mum' voice, I now ask as cooly and nonchalantly as possible:
Me: 'Well..........?'
Prof1: 'Well, there's this girl in my class who really likes me.'

Shock! Horror!!
My first thoughts are: Chineke! OMG!! These girls want to 'corrupt' my little boy who is not even a teenager yet! And by the way, how can a girl even like a boy I still have to remind to comb his hair and tuck in his shirt? Lord help me!!!
Outwardly, I remain composed as I maintain my nonchalant air and ask:
Me: 'Mmmmm...which girl is that?'
Prof1: 'Lily*'
Me: 'Did she tell you herself?'
Prof1: 'Her best-friend told me first and then she told me the next day.'
My heart is racing as I imagine the crafty little girls scheming to 'steal' my darling boy. *hissssss*
I still remain calm as I ask:
Me: 'Do you understand what she means by saying she likes you very much?'
Prof1: 'I really don't know but she just told me that. I think she wants me to say I like her best in the class'
Me: 'Mmm...Do you like her?'
Prof1: 'No! I don't really like her but I don't want to tell her that because she might be upset!'
My thoughts at this stage: Ewo! My boy is even learning to consider a woman's feelings?! Is this good or bad I wonder?
I take a deep breath and continue this conversation:
Me: 'Well, you must not tell her you don't like her. must never say you really like her also!'
Prof1: ...with a quizzical look on his face...... 'MMMMM?....How does that work?'
Me: 'Well, if she tells you she likes you, just say thank you. If she asks whether you like her, be polite and say you like ALL the girls and boys in the class. That way, you won't hurt her feelings.'
Prof1: .....nodding ......'Oh, basically, I shouldn't lie and I shouldn't hurt her feelings?!
Me: ....smiling.....'Exactly!!'

Well, I thought this issue had been resolved until he returned from school two days later. Taking me to one side, he blurted:
Prof1: 'Mum, Lily* was crying in school today!'
Me: 'Why? What happened?'
Prof1: 'Well, she found out I don't like her'
Me: ...alarmed....'How........?'
Prof1: 'Well, her best-friend asked me if I really liked Lily* and I said 'definitely not!'
Me: 'But I told you not to say that. didn't I?'
Prof1: 'Yes, but I never told Lily, I only answered her best-friend when she asked me.'
OMG.....I look at this boy in wonderment as I now understand how simple men are compared to women!

How could he not have know that Lily* sent her best-friend to quiz him?!
*Big sigh* So, this is how the Understanding Women - Lesson 101 was then imparted by me:
Me:.......'Anytime a girl's friend asks you a question, you must assume that (a) the girl sent her to ask the question and (b) whatever answer you give is going straight to the girl. Do you understand?'
Prof1: 'I think so.....So, should I tell Lily* that I might like her a bit?'
Me: 'No!!!! It's better this way. It's best she knows you don't really like her!'
Prof1: 'I thought you said its not nice to tell her I don't like her at all.'
Me: ....sighing.....'I know. But this time, you didnt tell her, her best-friend did. So, its all good!!!'
Prof1 walks away shaking his head confusedly. I have to stop myself from laughing out loud as I realise my son must now be thinking how complicated women are..........!
Well, do you agree that women are more complicated than men????

(PS: *Lily is not the girl's real name)