The average Nigerian home contains, outside the nuclear family, at least one relative whose roots might require a few apostrophes to trace (uncle’s in-law’s daughter, father’s cousin’s son). Where this is not the case, a maid maybe exists. Or two.
And it makes sense. Our culture is one big on family. Ours is one where the status quo is to reach adulthood and start a family. A common rhetoric shared is It is God who takes care of the child. You hear this from your parents or in-laws or aunts and uncles after you’ve had two or three children and they want some more. How the child will be cared for is immaterial, the God of Papa works miracles.
So what happens when parents are unable to care for their children? They are shipped off to family members who are willing to help, no matter how distant. If none exist, there’s the option of giving your child out to a financially stable family, who in exchange for your child’s toiling will maybe send her to school but will definitely send you a small amount monthly.
What this inevitably results to is we grow up in homes where too much is happening for our parents to keep track of. Which would be easier if our culture was one that encouraged friendship between parents and their children. Not nearly enough grew up in homes where they could sit in the living room with their fathers after he returned home from work. And it’s only characteristic of children to hide things from adults.
Maybe it’s understandable then that too many today have a past experience of abuse. Not just the women, but the men, too, as a recent Twitter thread by @fireofola has shown. But where our society is one that allows women to be vulnerable, to share their trauma, men are expected – maybe even required – to be stoic. Keep shut and keep it to yourself. Be a man. This is synonymous with leaving a wound to fester, thinking ignoring it would bring its healing.
The experiences, painfully, include not only maids and cousins and distant relatives, but also sisters and mothers. And those are the ones who are willing to share.
It would be unrealistic to proffer an idea and proclaim it as an ultimate solution, but a few that come to mind will no doubt help.
Communicate With Your Kids
Have actual conversations with your kids. See them as humans with interesting, full and round lives, not just babies birthed by you. Take time to know them. More than their favourite colour or best friend, inquire about their teachers, how they spent the day. Tell jokes, make them laugh. Tell them about yourself, too, because nothing gains one’s trust more than someone who is willing to share their personal story. You may think they’re little and naive, haven’t seen enough of the world. And that’s probably true. But the little they’ve seen is enough, sometimes too much for their small minds. Let them share it.
See Boys as Humans Too
Maybe it’s time to squash the idea of man as this impenetrable being? Maybe it’s time to consider men as full humans, too, able to feel the entire spectrum of emotions, able to hurt and cry and suffer. “Stop crying like a girl,” is doubly offensive, because it not only dismisses their pain but it also makes them see women as weak illogical beings.
Anything short of this leaves us as people passing down an inheritance of trauma.
It’s important that we stop the chain of abuse, but also important that those with past history heal.
There are a few people ready to listen, for those willing to talk. Mentally Aware Nigeria has a team that’s been doing really decent work, and will attend to anyone really quick.
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