My children are my life. Have you ever said those words or heard someone say them? Did you ever think about those words? How important are our children to us? Have we really thought about that question? More importantly, do we have the answer?
As a mother struggling to survive and do the best for my child I have asked myself that question and I am often stumped when I search for an answer. I know we all strive to do the best for our children and we honestly have their best interest at heart. However, some of us have lost track of our role as parents and the responsibilities that the position thrusts on us. In our search for the ever-elusive dollar in America, we have abandoned the very things that give us pride, respect and joy. We have sacrificed the real happiness of our children for the transient things in life.
When we left our motherland for this country we all came in search of the things that would make our lives better. We struggle everyday to make sense of the things we come in contact with in this country that are unheard of back home, we struggle with work, children, education and struggle even more to help our families back home. In our struggle, we have forgotten the very thing that makes us who we are. We have forgotten that unless we go back to our yesterday, we cannot step confidently into today. In fact, without our yesterday, there can be no today.
We have forgotten our culture. And so, our children are going through a crisis. They are ashamed of their culture, disrespectful and most of the time just confused. They are wandering in tunnels searching for their way out and we will be failing in our duties as parents if we do not show them the way.
Do you know the way?
We need to go back to the way we were raised. We learnt respect for our elders, obedience and the value of a good upbringing. Above all, we learnt about the important things in life. We learnt that our family comes first in all we do because they will be there when no one else will stand by us, a good education is priceless and that you are never too old to be yelled at by your parents. We can all relate to the whole village raising a child because the community and a whole network of people who truly cared about us and what we did with our time and ultimately our life raised us.
In this country, we live alone, bear our burdens alone and raise our children alone. It is so easy to think that we have all the answers but the truth is that no one person has all the answers. When our children do those things that children must do to test our limits, we need to be able to choose right from wrong not based on the American perspective but based on our African perspectives. Let’s face it, we may live here but we are not from here. Our children are first and foremost, Africans who just happen to have been born in America and live in America. They have another home to relate to and can always go there anytime because that is the real HOME. We have a choice as to how our children are brought up, we have the privilege of having our own individual experiences to draw on. We need to appreciate our past because living here, we see what the lack of family and community support has done for American children.
We all need to take a good look at our lives and our children. Are we really doing the best we can for them? When your 5-year-old child says ‘OH SHUT UP MUMMY’, is it really cute? When your child tells you ‘YOU ARE SO SILLY’, is it a reason to smile? We need to instill in our children the values that were instilled in us as children. Remember when you would not do something because the neighbour might see and tell your parents? Those days are long gone now but the lessons still remain.
Let us show our children that respect for elders and authority is very important. We do not need anyone to influence our children outside because we have the first contact and opportunity to influence them. When you have done your job, you will not need to worry about what choices your children are making outside the home because you have taught them right from wrong.
Let us all strive to really give our children our all so that the next time we say ‘my children are my life’ we know in our hearts that we have demonstrated that by giving them all we have from our African culture mixed with the good things from this place we call home.