There are things only African parents do. Things most of us who were brought up on this continent, regardless of the country, can relate to. Things like scare their children. Drama mamas are the ones who, when they catch you talking to a boy, say, “So you want to get pregnant, right? Just go ahead and get pregnant and see!”
Drama mamas speak paragraphs with just one look. One look that says, “Just you wait until you get home and I’ll beat the living daylights out of you!” Mamas who show up at the discotheque in their night gowns and head-scarfs to search you out if you have the nerve to sneak out of home at night.
Mamas who don’t try to cajole or beg you to eat your vegetables. If you do not like what is on the menu that night, you can sleep hungry.
Mamas who, when they find you crying say, “Keep quiet or I’ll give you something to really cry about!” Mamas who, when you drop utensils, shout, “So you want to break all my dishes?! Break them all!”
There was never a dull childhood with drama mamas. They put the fear of God or the fear of themselves in our hearts. Even though she passed away over 10 years ago, the thought of my mama watching from on high tends to keep me on the narrow path. Truth be told, I’m still afraid of her. Nowadays there are too many parents trying to be “cool” with their children. They say things like: “I want to be friends with my children.” Problem is, our children already have lots of friends and only one mother or father.
Parents who will not spank junior or even discipline him. It is not politically correct, apparently. When I threaten to spank them, my children throw back the “children’s rights” caveat. When I tell them that my mother used to take a break to catch her breath when she beat — not spanked — my siblings and I, they ask: “Are you just making that up?” They have no idea.
The other day, I came across a group of young men at a petrol station’s convenient store. They were lounging about, looking suspicious and not trying to hide it. My “drama mama” antennas went up. It was all I could do not to walk over and ask to sniff their soda bottles. Even though it was late in the afternoon, one was dressed in slacks that looked like he had slept in them all week. Apparently it is now a fashion trend to go out in pyjamas. Don’t be fooled. No one is dying and they have to rush them to hospital in sleepwear. No.
They actually go out wanting to look like they just woke up and couldn’t be bothered to wash their face. His hair was not combed, and that too, I am told, is a fashion statement. So why was I bothered? Why was my blood pressure slowly but surely rising as I watched them take sips of whatever was in that bottle?
I went home instead and let my children have it. I gave them my; “If-I-ever-see-you-or-hear-you-were-at-a-petrol-station-drinking-something-from-a-bottle-in-pyjamas-with-uncombed hair!” speech. So yes, perhaps it was a bit much. In hindsight. A little too dramatic for their liking. Since I read minds too, I could tell that they were thinking, “I’ll never grow up and become a crazy woman like my mother!” So yes, I am not a cool parent. I have too much of my mama’s genes in my blood.
Seriously though, our teens are getting pregnant in school and cursing authority while claiming to have cheated in national exams. They are drinking themselves silly out of it, partying till they drop and sending us warnings on ifikiewazazi. They are out of control. Perhaps the problem is we have lost sight of our parental standards, roles and obligations. Perhaps it is time we rethink our authoritarian parenting style on one hand or permissive parenting on the other.
Our parents may have been dramatic but they got a few things right. The only time anyone dared to insult an authority figure was if they were on serious drugs. There was that little issue of the fear of God or the fear of our parents. And whatever we may think of those old fashioned ways, that was probably a healthy thing.