I remember then… we needed a minimum of 500 Euros just to survive as a student in Firenze monthly; especially if you decided to rent a place in the city centre, a mere 5-10 minute walk from our design school. Between a furnished house/room rent, phone bills, internet costs, transportation, feeding, gas bills and the grocery shopping you had to do to buy the items needed to cook your meals- if you couldn’t afford to eat out every time you had to feed – 500 bucks was just about enough.
700 bucks was ideal, because then you had some change do some chewing-gum shopping (AKA I-don’t-need-that-but-I-like-it-so-I-will-buy-it-anyway-shopping). 350 bucks meant you were struggling in one way or the other. Anything less than 300 meant you were living far, far away from the city centre where accommodation was cheapest (sometimes yama-yama-est). Italy in general was not a cheap place to live in, particularly Firenze, with all its tourists who came with big, fat wallets and their cameras, in awe of the wonder that was the Duomo.
And so, that day we had finished classes, and many of our oyinbo brethren had gone to the nearest cafeteria to discuss ideas over coffee and gelato while a few other Nigerian students and I converged outside our school. Another of our friends needed our help in the form of a quick loan. His father was a week late sending his monthly allowance and he needed to pay his house rent ASAP. We all decided to contribute a fraction of what he needed so he could pay his rent on time.
He thanked us and then started to complain about his dad not sending the money on time. That it was embarrassing having to ask his friends for the money and this-and-that. It went on for a while we listened and empathized, until out of curiosity I had to ask him, “Wait o, didn’t your dad pay for you to be here?”
To which he answered, “Yes…”
“He bought your ticket, paid your school fees, pays your rent, and still sends you spending money every month?” I pressed on.
“Of course… am I not his child? What else is he supposed to use his money for?”
“I understand that, but my dear… that man is really trying sha. You should thank him.” I said.
“How do you mean?” he asked in return.
I scratched my chin and wondered how I was going to phrase my thoughts on the matter, then I continued, “Well, personally, I think that it is a parent’s duty to take care of a child to a certain age and educate the child to a certain level. Primary, secondary and then university. But when a child is done with their university education, and their parent still goes ahead to pay for any further education the child (now a young adult) may choose to acquire, omo mehnnnn, that goes beyond the child’s right and is a testament to the parent’s generosity. At that point – the child should be very grateful that the parent extends him/her that courtesy. Because at that age, your parents don’t owe you shi-shi. Dem don try.”
And that was how a heated debate ensued amongst the five of us.
Some believed and argued that it is a parent’s duty to care for the needs of their child AS LONG AS THE CHILD STILL NEEDED THEM, while I argued my stance. They believed that the parent was bound by blood and responsibility to place a child’s needs first as long as they are able to do so/could afford it. I was astonished by what I was hearing. More amazing was the fact that the youngest amongst us at the time was about twenty-five. All sound, healthy, from upper middle class families. I could see that they strongly believed their parents’ continual financial support of them was their right, not a privilege their parents accorded them. They seemed to think they parents owed them just by giving birth to them.
To be honest, I find this attitude of entitlement troubling. Especially this entitlement some have to another person’s money. Even more so by those (children, relatives, friends, lovers, staff, or people one is trying to help) who don’t have to earn money to live, but still complain about that which they are given…by those who actually work hard to earn that money. But then, who is really to blame? The child to whom much is given and nothing expected in return? Or the parents who enable this sense of entitlement and dependency in their kids?
So, again I ask. How much do your parents owe you? Be honest about what they have already done/provided for you, food/clothing/shelter/education/assets…
But before you answer, consider this… a young man who came from nothing worked his fingers to the bone until he had something to his name. He decided to get married at 32, had his first child a year later and had his fourth and last child at 40… He worked even harder, promising his wife and himself that his children would never have to suffer for bread the way he did when he was younger. He made many deals, got richer. He sent them to the best schools and gave them the best aje-butter life money could buy – they lacked for nothing.
At 62, he has had to retire. He doesn’t have much left. He is tired, and just wants to live the rest of his life in serenity and relative comfort. He has “just enough” to sustain him and his wife’s basic needs. And so, they decide to fulfil their life-long dream of seeing Niagara Falls together. Then, their oldest child demands a lump sum of money from them to start yet another business. A sum that is equivalent to what he and his wife would need for their trip.
So please, pray tell. Be just and judge what you think is fair. Is it his child’s right to get this money from his father? Or isn’t the father the gracious one? Should he consider to grant this request?
A truly, lovely and terrific Tuesday to everyone as we contemplate this!