He sped past us on that cold rainy Saturday night. He couldn’t have been going at less than 160km/hr. And just as I was still wondering why anyone would endanger their life and those of others, especially when weather conditions were less than ideal for the semblance of a Michael Schumacher spin, my worst fears came to pass. Less than 100 metres down the highway lay what was left of what had been a beautiful Volkswagen Jetta. Burst airbags, mangled aluminium and a car that had spun to a precarious halt. A ghastly crash, a drunk driver, passengers scrambling to get out of the wreck. A senseless accident.
As we approach yet another Children’s day – a day set aside to honor children globally, beyond the fanfare, it is important for parents and guardians to do a little introspection and reassess their roles in the upbringing of the special breed of humanity whom they have been privileged to raise the best possible way. Children like adults consist of both male and female. But today, I am focusing of the boy child. And for good reason.
Many times we are inundated with information on how to raise the female child. How the girl must be raised into a responsible woman. A budding home maker who must grow up to not only be desired by a man, but hold his attention enough to keep him and ultimately metamorphose from a girlfriend and fiancee to a wife. In this part of the world, it is tacitly seen as the best a female can aspire to.
From the moment she is born, the girl child is under pressure to fit into the box that the society has specially constructed for her. She is born to serve. She must be domesticated to the point of subservience. She has to work twice as hard in school, and eventually in the corporate world to be considered near good enough. The result – now, we have females doing better than their male counterparts not only within the four walls of the classroom, but in many areas of life.
A research carried out by the University of Missouri and the University of Scotland in 70 countries across the globe showed that regardless of gender, political, economic or social equality; and even in those countries where women’s liberties are severely restricted, girls are outperforming boys in reading, mathematics and science literacy. It was further revealed that girls succeed over boys in school because they are more apt to plan ahead, set academic goals and put effort into achieving those goals.
As if to lend credence to the results of the research above, as I journey through the streets of Lagos everyday, it’s hard for me not to notice the sheer number of young, able-bodied men wasting away doing nothing. Young men between the ages of 15 and 25 who would rather sit around the neighbourhood whiling away time or literally attempting to strike gold by gambling at the nearest sport betting outlet. Young men at the peak of their God-given strength who feel no shame scrambling to clean windshields, begging aggressively or attempting to dispossess motorists of their valuables rather than engage in any legitimate venture.
These days, we have married men…head of households whose only vocation is to splurge at beer parlours, vent their frustrations on their hapless wives and beat them to a pulp rather than embrace dialogue. Wife-beaters, drunks. fraudsters, political thugs and irresponsible “baby daddies” are fast becoming the image for the average Nigerian man. A situation vastly different from what used to obtain in the days of old when men were far more responsible.
Every time I read or hear about a yet another kidnapping saga, Boko Haram onslaught or watch criminals paraded by the Nigerian police and observe that the alleged suspects are almost always male, I cannot help but marvel that they too were celebrated at birth. This is Africa, and there are very few things or events that are celebrated with more gusto than the birth of a boy. The highest premium is placed on the birth of a male child into any African household. A progeny to carry on the family name. An offspring to ensure the tradition of patriarchy never ends. A boy…a man who is imbued with the natural strength that a female child can only dream of in another lifetime.
Right from an early age, he is treated like a king. He knows he has an edge over his sister, it doesn’t matter that she is older. He is pampered and catered to by his mother and sister. By virtue of simply possessing a phallus, he stands heads and shoulders above all the females in his family. Mundane chores like doing dishes and sweeping are not delegated to him. Heaven forbid he steps into the kitchen save to see what is cooking or get a toothpick. And so, right from a young age he develops a sense of entitlement.
He cannot cook or clean and whether he does well in school or not, he knows his position as the next in line to head his ageing father’s company is sacrosanct. He gets married and becomes a dictator. Woe betide the woman who has the effrontery to question his authority, after all even the good book says she should submit to him. Forget that right after that piece of scripture is the command that he should love his wife. It’s irrelevant. The average boy/man is spoiled. And we wonder why we have a crisis on our hands today.
The present trend of domestic violence gives an insight into the situation of things and how badly things may degenerate if nothing is done quickly. We have more and more masculine slackers. Boys who grow up to become men who aren’t exactly the sort of role models the next generation can look up to.
As we celebrate yet another children’s day, it behoves us as parents (especially young and aspiring parents) to make it a point of duty to raise children who are useful to themselves first of all, and then the society. We need to quit the discrimination among genders. Every child needs life skills like cooking and cleaning. They are not chores specific to a certain gender. As a girl, I washed my father’s car. He didn’t consider it out of place because he believed any child regardless of their gender should be useful to their parents. And today, I still don’t regard it a big deal to wash my own car or change the cooking gas or light bulb at home.
A huge part of the problems we are facing as a nation can be traced back to the family unit. Parents and guardians need to stand up and be counted in discharging their duties. If the only thing I achieve in life is to raise good, responsible children, then I would no doubt feel some sense of fulfillment.
A pragmatic shift in the way we raise our sons is needed if we are even a tad serious about the changes we pray to see in our society.
This is an SOS call. Let’s save our sons. You and I.