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FRIDAY TRACK: The ‘Agbaya’ in Sparkles!

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Kilon Sparkles!

Playing Uncle is a tough tough thing; it’s like a weird popularity contest which involves profusely faking excitement, allowing your body to be used as a play board for practicing back flips and karate kicks – all endured with a smile of course.

Then there’s the zillion questions which you are guaranteed to deal with every time you have two or more children in the same room – Einstein questions such as ‘why is the Internet called internet?’ or ‘Did you know Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana are sisters?’, as bizarre as these are, you’ll be amazed that for some strange reason, I never have a correct answer. Instead, I have mastered the art of being unavailable to help whenever they need help with homework – science, in particular is my worst subject. God forbid my cute 6-year old niece thinks I’m daft.

My one goal and obligation to my team of 13 nephews and nieces remains to be ‘the cool uncle’, the one that will give them money to go clubbing in roughly a decade – under the caveat that we can all roll together. I want them to come to me for advice on shoes and music and whether or not they should boycott Willow Smith.

I have managed to do this very successfully for thirteen years but I think I crossed the line two nights ago, during a conversation with my thirteen-year old nephew who just recently started boarding school. In the course of our chat about the new school and its trappings, I asked “…how are the girls…?”

I could see his right eye do a weird twitch almost like he’d been hit with a DUI. Immediately, I entered my own personal time zone, back to the mid-90s when I used to loathe my eldest brother’s friends come to visit. I hated it so much that I remember I’d go and essentially sit in the neighbourhood corner shop reading labels and pretending to be fascinated with the ‘fat free’ Kelloggs’ option. Why? Because whenever the older ones or ‘uncles’ would come visit, it often meant I would be reminded about how much game I had or how behind I was with ‘doing it’.

Before I traded in baseball caps for aso ebi fila, I hated all family gatherings and functions where more than one uncle would be at one time. I tried my best to avoid placing myself in situations where conversations would lead to “….so how are the girls?” (for the relatively PC ones); for the ones who couldn’t give a shit about your feelings they’d go straight for the kill with “….have you lost your virginity…”or my personal favourite “have you disvirgined all the girls in your class yet…?”

I had an Uncle who was in my house almost once a week and every week he’d ask the same question ‘…so how far?’ I mean, c’mon!

Time does indeed heal, because back then, as you could imagine for any 13-year old boy fighting Kinder surprise spots with his kwashiorkor physique, intrusive questions into his sex life – existent or otherwise – was a pain in the groin (pun INTENDED!).

It was never my reality that one day I would be asking that same question completely naive of what effect that could trigger in my nephew’s mind.

The truth is striking up a conversation with your nephew or niece is no easy thing. Besides ‘how’s school?’ or ‘what have you been doing all holiday?’ what do most of us say to our nephews and nieces? I’ve quickly realized that my Uncles who tortured me about my ‘dryness’ and ‘inactivity’ didn’t do it out of cruelty, they just didn’t know what to say to a teenager boy apart from well, girls!

I don’t want to be that kind of Uncle so abeg I’m welcoming suggestions on how to engage my nephews and nieces without giving them an unnecessary complex.

This week’s Friday Track is Aloe Blacc – this is the second time Aloe has been chosen as our Friday Track in 6 months – his much anticipated new album ‘Good Things’ is out on Stone Throw Records and it is very good indeed.

16 Comments

  1. ajebota

    October 29, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Does everyone sing in Nigera? Uncle ‘agbaya’, just joking. Please just be yourself. Ask about school first without being specific, and please await for their response. Listen, then respond. They will love you… 🙂

  2. KarmaYve

    October 29, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Hmmm… interesting.

  3. Gorgeous

    October 29, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    how about how is school? And giving them good advice, so they could be productive rather than opening his eyes to the possibility of women. When they get more interested in women at that age, everything takes a back seat. My judgment, you are guilty of corrupting this child! I kid. But you can be cool and also constructive. You can lead them on a good path and make them know its cool to be focused and hardworking! Girls will die for them later when they are successful.

  4. Dr Dee

    October 29, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    Mr Omotayo, where have thou been? I don miss my Friday Track die! Nice to have you back. Another great post, I shudder when I remember how my uncles used to harass me about girls. lol. Hope I wont do the same when I have nephews.

  5. KaiNaija

    October 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Awww you are a good uncle. Taking the time to reflect. Ask how is school, look at the things they are interested in and ask questions about that. Ask which classes they are doing well on. Be someone that listens so your nephews can come to you if they are having male issues other than the ones of a sexual nature. Bullying, harassment (this is alive and well in boarding schools). Strive to be the uncle that is non judgmental and always listens. Its not necessary to say something all the time. When the older teens visit, take them out…they will open up to you. Teens always have a lot to say.

  6. Kilonsparkles

    October 29, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Lol I had two horrid uncles like that.

  7. omotee

    October 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    Nice one uncle agbaya..lol,

    If that is awkward ,try this, after a very successful phoneversation with my cousin’s girlfriend ,I finally met her today and despite speaking on the phone for the first time for five minutes ,we did not last one minute in each other’s sight – i even called CD orientation,since she was wearing her coppers uniform,just because ,i dey find wetin i go say, and that is for some over 25year olds ,so any advice on who to converse with a bore

  8. Ready

    October 29, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Firstly, your sense of humor and awareness gives me hope for men in Nigeria. Just found your first article today, and let’s just say I’ve read about 9 of them instead of the book I’m supposed to present in my grad class in 5 days…but I digress.
    Now to the koko, maybe you should ask what he wants to do in the future and go from there..I wish someone had told me I could be more than a doctor, lawyer or engineer. If someone had talked to me about my interests, I would’ve liked them more because they treated me like an adult, and saved me the wahala of going through college confused.

  9. istidele

    October 30, 2010 at 9:05 am

    lol
    be carefull with kids nowadays, they’ve got a lot on their minds already

  10. angelica

    October 30, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Interests!!! thats a good place to start … i agree with Ready … i would have a whole lot more going on in my life today if i worked on other thing like my talent in sports and stuff like that other than just studying ( which i still find boring!! ). Do that and he’ll love you and never forget you for it.
    Life’s not realy all about having a big ego or being able to get attention from the opposite sex or even getting all the 1st grades in school …self discovery is VERY important 😀

  11. Lohi

    October 30, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Ask about their interest in technology, music, food, sports and even politics. A lot of older Nigerians do not believe kids have valid opinions when it comes to the aforementioned topics. but you would be very surprised what I knew about the music and food even at a very early age. Glad to have Friday track back..:)

  12. Miha

    October 31, 2010 at 12:04 am

    I think Africans spend too much time asking kids about school; school is great but how many kids actually enjoy talking about classes??? Instead ask about what they love to do, as in REALLY love to do…. help cultivate their interests and open their eyes to the world around them…

  13. Garnetcore "Boss"

    November 1, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Miha, i agree with your perspective. The African focus on education and jobs as a measure of success severely restricts conversation for both young and old alike.

    Well uncle, you could never go wrong with hobbies and interests, personal style and beliefs, and one of the most important of all: the curiosity/ ignorance streak. It’s a pity you are avoiding that now. Those questions decrease with with an increase in age and i dare say you will miss them later. Questions such as ‘why is the Internet called internet?’ (still laughing at that one) and the one my niece asked the other day: ‘Is French toast from France?’ are not so bad. If you know the answer, you spend some time explaining and if you don’t, all the better. Get digging, do your research and you both emerge the better for it.

  14. Garnetcore "Boss"

    November 1, 2010 at 2:24 am

    I forgot to add this: enjoyed your article as always.

  15. vickky

    November 20, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Bobo, you alwaya crack me up………”Traded baseball caps for aso-ebi fila!!!!” . You really are getting old too. Nice article though.

  16. Unpretty

    November 26, 2010 at 11:19 pm

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