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Friday, June 14, 2024

The language we were born knowing The tragedy of childhood is the failings of parents…

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By Rohey Samba

Some kids love to laugh. Loud, boisterous, heartfelt laughter, which rings across like springs of water droplets that descend heavily on top of corrugated iron roofs in stormy weather and mighty rain in the mid of wet season. You’d be wise to stifle any attempts to make them stop, as it would only serve as a forerunner for even more sparkling laughter then on…
Some kids love to cry. Roaring, long and mournful cries that tear at the hearts of every feeling creature. Even the creepy crawlies of wet season are a trifle scared by the distressed cries. When a kid is a crier, chances are he/she would grow up with a very coarse voice imbibed at an early age and not easily disguised into adulthood, especially for women. I’m not saying all women with coarse voices were inclined to be hysterical criers as kids. But definitely, many were indeed. Mostly, criers are left to sob until they tire themselves out in certain households. I won’t do that anyway…what noise!
Some kids love to role-play. They could be doctors, masons, market women, farmers, teachers, musicians, give or take, at any given instance in time. In fact, they could be anything their creative minds fancy during play time. Parents are usually intrigued while courting the fine line between imagination and irrationality. Kids on the other hand, can carry their fancies to such a state that paradise would seem to be just around the corner.

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Other kids love to talk; meaningful blabber or meaningless chatter, they must talk. For a kid endowed to talk at an early age, this is a parent’s worse nightmare. He/she would repeat, distort and some times state barefaced facts to elders that would make the most profuse apologies by their parents useless afterwards, because it could not have been the kid’s idea to say what he/she had to say, must be the parent’s, the offended person would end up conjuring. This is not always true.

Fact is, the discovery of speech for a kid is like any other discovery on earth, a novel experience that ignites a friction of ideas on methods of application. Kids lack of sympathy in their directness results from their age and lack of knowledge in the nuances of speech due to their immaturity. Yet trying to shut up a kid in all manner of derogatory methods is going about it the wrong way and would not benefit anybody, the kid least of all.
It is quite clever that a sound routine must be established for all kids when visitors come to the house, such as kids must greet guests and leave the sitting room immediately afterwards and so forth. My friends are always baffled when I literally chase my kids out of the living room when they come over to visit me. Well, I have never heard my mum gossip or use derogatory words in my presence when I was young. I try to emulate her, minus her self-restraint, by ensuring my kids don’t hear me when I do just that by any chance in the course of conversing!
But kids are not mechanical toys you can control at wimp.
There are many occasions when a talker, a kid talker that is, would stubbornly stay on such occasions and no amount of eye signals or contorted facial expression from an adult, usually Mama, would exercise reasonable human influence on them to get them to leave the living room. Some kids would go as far as to challenge the adult trying to make them leave in front of the guest:
Mama’s contorted face.

Kid asks, “Mama, why are you pulling your face like this?”
Mama’s rolled eyeballs. Plus what looked like perplexity.
Kid asks again, “Is there something wrong with your eyes, Mama?”
Mama on realizing that the puzzled guest’s attention is directed at her, smiles benignly and makes a mental note in her head to severely reprimand her spoilt brat once Mr(s) Guest is gone for daring to flaunt her authority in front of her visitor!
Whilst many parents are frustrated that their kids cannot grasp a situation as fast as they would like them to, and therefore easily lose patience, they must realize that kids would be kids. Kids in general have far greater powers of resistance than we adults can muster, and a do-as-I-say attitude would backfire for most times if not exercised with tact.
Fundamentally, all human beings were once upon a time, little kids themselves, which should make understanding kids easy, right? Well wrong. Many parents are wounded from abusive and/or deprived childhoods, which present the gravest dangers of parenting their own kids appropriately. I once wrote in this column that marriage in the Gambian society is one of the most difficult jobs there is because it is hard, heart wrenching and stressful. And also because there is not a mock exam taken in advance to help you prepare for a lifetime of commitment to a man and his family.

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Well, guess what? Parenting tops the rank in the scale of difficult jobs in Gambian society because there are no ostentations in parenting; nobody watches you as you do your parenting. You either know how to do it right or you will go about it the wrong way altogether, leaving behind a trail of defective, radicalized kids for society to deal with.
Many parents are excessive in their parenting, outpouring gifts, money and materials to their kids in an effort to pander to themselves and their infantile desires. Some parents withhold any form of compassion and treat their kids with utter lack of demonstration. Other parents still, deal with their kids in the spirit of snobbery. All these are wrong forms of parenting. They are peculiar traits in parents, which kids fail to understand and forgive in later life.

As a mother of four, I appreciate and remember childhood through the eyes of my own little ones more than anyone of the Cartoon Network channels they coerce me to watch with them sometimes. Before they find themselves in a world of facts, the rich color of kids fancies light the corners of their little souls with possibilities and makes us adults drabber shades of authentic in comparison to them.
Thus kids in general with their fanciful ideas about themselves are able to hammer home, at early stages in their lives, informed for the most part by their inborn knowledge of themselves, the persons they would become. Yes, kids come into the world with a language they are born knowing. By language, I don’t necessarily mean dialect or parlance of some sort. Rather, I refer to a set of knowledge, intuition and Zen that neither experience nor longevity can teach any man.

A perfect day for me starts with a sated, satisfied and bubbly little Kabba Makumba, my last one; I have not decided which of the two names to call him yet, although I use Makumba when I want to impress my non-Gambian friends who find the name exotic. Well a perfect day starts when he wakes up only 2 times in the night to feed, without wailing from stomach cramps because gripe water is no longer allowed to administer to babies’ cramps; Matin, who is Momodou but prefers Martin Luther King, is chatting with neighborhood kids about Vybz Kartel and all the latest cars on YouTube, Agi Awa is reading books bigger than her age, Bobo is drawing like a professional artist and I am writing.

In fact, any kid left to flourish with ample creativity would early on in life begin to demonstrate his/her character, personality and abilities of latter years. This may sound incredible at the very least, without much background research to draw a conclusion upon, but as a writer predisposed to human observation, I will courageously state that children are born knowing…

If not so, how then can you rationalize a baby reaching out to suckle his/her mother’s bosom at birth? How can you explain away all the other things that happen as babies grow to become toddlers and so forth? Taking cue from my own experience, I knew I wanted to write the day I consciously put pen to paper at the age of five. It is an oft-repeated story in my family circles that I narrated my first story at the age of three years old.
It was a custom in our household that every night we gathered together to hear tales from the elders. On that occasion, I stunned everyone with a story of my own, a logical account of what had transpired earlier on in the household, giving a twist by cloaking the characters and tallying a befitting ending, to their utter bemusement. What surprised them most perhaps was the lucidity of my own narration at that tender age.

Since then, I could be at the hospital, attending a naming ceremony or chatting with my friends at the most unlikely places and scribbling away to immortalize the moment, which is usually lost when I try to reenact it later on after the act/fact. With technology, this propensity to document moments in time as clearly as the frozen snapshot of a digital camera has been made easier, when I am able to use my mobile phone pretending to respond to text messages, or if I can’t, use a notebook to memorialize moments/experiences/feelings and so forth.
Somehow, writing was the language I was born knowing…I knew I wanted to be a writer. And thank God I am able to do what I wanted to do many years later.

My cousin wanted to be a cook when we were young. She loved food and was interested early on, in understanding how food is made. One day, an uncle came over to the house on a visit and found us studying at the dining room, which was connected to the main sitting room where he was seated with other family. We were probably seven or eight years old then. For whatever reason, my uncle asked me first what I wanted to be when I grow up and I replied simply, ‘A writer.’
He asked my cousin next to me what she wanted to be, and without hesitating, she also replied, ‘A house help in order to cook and cook and cook…’ This statement did not go down well with my cousin’s mum, who was in the sitting room when the utterance was made. She took up arms and went all out to chasten her daughter for her lack of ambition and her gluttony.

Fast forward twenty years later, and my cousin in addition to being an accomplished banker, is a highly respected caterer in the community. Thus I rest my case.
The advantage of understanding kids ensures that we do nothing to disturb their mental pictures of a blissful adulthood. Many parents fail their children woefully by trying to manipulate and punish them to do their own bidding in an effort to compensate for what they could not achieve themselves. Many kids are going to spend the rest of their lives living according to the exact dictates and specifications of their parents rather than heed to their calling in the language that speaks to their capabilities, their satisfaction and their happiness in this ephemeral world.
The language we are all born knowing…

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