When I was younger and prepaid meter was introduced to our building, Dad would frown at you for forgetting to put off the light. It was an issue for me whenever he makes it a big deal. Going to market with Mum, she would always want to carry me on her laps so that she doesn’t pay an extra fee on the public bus. I always felt irritated by that.
Why wouldn’t she allow me to have my own seat? Sometimes, she would ask me to seat on the hot platform that backs the driver, separating the driver from the passengers. I didn’t just feel bad sitting on her laps, I usually felt ashamed. I thought maybe, only babies should be carried around like that.
I also remember those days, we could be giving a small packet of biscuit to share. We were five siblings and if we are to share a packet of biscuit, we usually had to break the biscuits. I wondered why my parents shouldn’t just buy us enough biscuits. They were very cheap after all. Mum would buy a cup of groundnut and ask us to share. We will pick the groundnuts one after another until it goes round.
To cook foods, they were heavily measured. For example, when cutting up the yam, it is counted and even divided before cooking so that after the food is done everyone knows what is going to be his or her share. Most times, we were not allowed to add extra yam. The same was applicable to rice, beans and other kinds of foods. Once we were done eating, there was usually no second plate and we will have to wait till it’s night to eat dinner.
Those days, before dishing out the soup, if it was thick, mum would add water to the soup. sometimes, it doesn’t have to be thick, mum would just add water and salt so that the soup can go round. We hardly eat meat and if we must eat meat, two or three persons may have to share one small piece of meat. I was wondering why mum couldn’t just give us a piece of meat each! Why can’t she allow us to enjoy the soup in its original taste?
All those while, we would murmur and get displeased with the whole thing, we usually thought that we were being maltreated.
Sometimes, the television would go bad and never get repaired for a long time, the bulb would go bad and never get replaced for a long time and we thought it made no sense not repairing them. We had a satellite decoder that never got used, we wondered why Dad wouldn’t just sacrifice a little money to get it fixed so that we can enjoy cartoon network and so on.
I can go on and on to give instances! The worst part was that we would see Dad come home with money, we would see him count bundles of money and the only places money was spent were in things we didn’t necessarily fancy.
Our family was not that kind of family that goes for Christmas shopping, there was no such thing as Christmas clothes. We always had a great feast at home during Christmas but whenever our peers discuss what was bought for them on Christmas, we would keep quiet.
I felt I would do better whenever I stop depending on them, I felt I would paint the walls of my house once every three months, I felt I would replace my bulbs immediately they get bad, I felt I would be eating as many meats as I wanted. I did not see the need for management, it did not exist in my dictionary then.
After secondary school, I started working and earning small money every month. I wanted to enjoy those things that seemed to have been denied me, I wanted to drink Malt until it becomes tasteless, I wanted to eat sausage and sweetened soda every midnight. I got myself a phone and I would recharge it making long calls discussing what isn’t important. At this point, I felt I would be able to take care of myself better.
As each day draws by and as my responsibilities increases, I see more clearly, I see myself doing those things I criticised, I see myself trying to save, trying to manage the little I have and trying to overlook some needs. I see myself not replacing a bulb that has gone bad, I see myself switching off every appliances and light that I am not using immediately to cut down my energy spending.
Sometimes, I don’t renew my tv subscription, I rather switch to books! The same books we felt mum was punishing us with whenever she forces us to read them.
Those things I never wanted to eat, I see myself eating them because I wanted to stay healthy. I see myself eating lots of vegetables, avoiding some unhealthy but sweet foods. I eat cucumber with a smile, I drink tea with less sugar and this is because my health has become my responsibility, I now understand better.
Even as a child who had teeth issues, I thought Mum wasn’t being nice by denying us candy and other sugars but now I would reject some candy if you offer them to me.
Responsibility became a sudden cure for my coke addiction, it became a sudden cure for certain excesses. There are addictions that won’t disappear by fasting and prayer, it will disappear the moment responsibilities come.
I am not married with kids yet but to some extent, I now know what it is going to be like. We faulted our parents for not taking us to the best schools, for not giving us everything we wanted, for not giving us big meats, for not buying us every single thing we see other kids enjoying. We would see them count money sometimes, we felt the money was there but they just decided to do nothing with it. We faulted them for not buying us Christmas clothes and doing all manner of things.
Responsibility opened our eyes to see that they were doing the best they can and they were avoiding those things they felt were less important. They may have given you a good life that the parents of those rich kids may have denied them.
Another thing responsibility does is that it makes us see and act clearly. When you have a child who is not doing so well in school, instead of beating them and always making them feel bad for not passing exams, ask them to teach their younger ones. By giving them that responsibility to teach, they come out of their comfort zone and study harder just so that they can have what to give out and not even necessarily to pass exams. This way, they become smarter kids.
Some things we have been fighting hard to change will only change when responsibility comes, some excesses will be curbed in the face of responsibility. When we are busy taking care of things, it handles are part of us that used to be careless. When we are busy serving others, it handles a part of us that is arrogant.
Just so you know, your kids will not like every one of your decisions, they won’t even understand some of them even if you try explaining. In the face of responsibility, they will understand it. When they have their own kids, they may give them all the meat they want but not all the toys they want, they may give them all the toys they want but not all the cars they want. They may take them to good schools but not to better schools, they may give them the money they want but not the kind of life they want. Your own kids will look back and understand your struggles.
The struggles are the same but they come in different levels based on what you are able to handle and offer.