Keeping on with childhood

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Sometime last year I went on a boat trip with my host family on Nottingham on the Trent River. It is a big river with very lovely view. Ducks and swans swam along the river adding spice to the trip.

The most amazing thing for me on this trip was the point when the boat went below 550 meters. Everybody on the boat watched in amazement as we descended – kids, couples and old people. It was so amazing that at one moment you are up the river and the next moment you are going down. I just wonder the technology behind that.

Anyway, as we cruised on the princess cruise boat, my attention was drawn to my immediate environment, especially to this particular family. It was a family of three – father, mother and a little boy who I guess should be about 2+ years old. I was particularly drawn to them because of the little boy who was having so much fun playing and jumping around from one table to another chair. He was everywhere and nowhere in particular. He was so merry and full of life. At a point he dragged his father to join him in playing; and I was fascinated watching this full-fledged man transform to a child. He danced to the unknown tune playing just like his child, carried the kid up, wrestled him to the ground, sang to the unknown lyrics; he did everything the boy wanted him to do. In fact father and son thrilled all aboard with fun. Instantaneously I wanted to be like the child, to have as much fun as he was having, to laugh throwing caution to the wind of those watching me, to dance and make mistakes and wait for daddy to show me the right way to do it, just like I saw father and son do.

As I watched this duo, I observed that the father was much at ease becoming a child himself. For that moment he forgot who he was but had fun like a child obviously shown in his willingness to continue till the trip was over. While father danced and sang, he definitely forgot what may be lying ahead of him – family and daily struggle, official stress and stuffs like that. I got this feeling that childhood is a memory and experience everyone will love to have and reflect on occasionally just like this man did reflect on today.

The little boy in my story occasionally asked his father intelligent as well as silly questions to which his father replied accordingly; and the little boy believed him. How innocent children can be and how lovely their world is. As I watched this boy, I was taken down memory lane of when I was much younger and used to play in the sand with my sisters, brother and neighbours. We cooked grasses for soup and moulded clay for garri. We modelled our families in the mock-up family we acted. We learnt a lot from such experience which I am just beginning to appreciate. I remember at times when a person acting like a father or mother scolds or beats another, the rest of the group will yell at him not to shout like his or her mother. And when a person acting like a child does something wrong the rest will also reprimand him/her not to do so in real life. That was actually learning in disguise. In fact it was in this in childhood plays that I first learnt how to cook. Having cooked a lot with sand and grass, we all decided one day to cook real food and we contributed one thing or the other (when our parents had gone to work). Children do such things but I am not commending that act. We shall talk about that some other time.

The soup we cooked was okro and it was collectively done. Each one of us narrated how our individual mothers used to do the cooking and we had our first real soup. You need to see the joy and happiness as we ate from the milk container we used in cooking (it was a brand new empty container). And so we continued till we got the opportunity to cook in the real world.

But today, parents do not tolerate such stupid and dirty games by children as they term it – the same fun they had and enjoyed while growing up. Modernity has made 21st century parents deprive their kids once-in-a-lifetime childhood experience; an experience that teaches more than can be bought with money, an experience that is more valuable than … whatever, an experience they would probably love to share with their own children. Such experience is quite educative as children exchange ideas and learn from each other. Career parents in this century definitely cannot share their own childhood experiences with their kids because they work from dusk to dawn. Impressive?

My parents shared with us their own childhood days. Mum told us a story about a particular child who did not know how to even boil water not to mention cooking. The child was always unhappy whenever the other kids explained how their mum do the cooking and she had non to tell. She was finally forced to become her mother’s kitchen companion so she can have a story to share with her peers.

Civilization is absolutely a wonderful thing to embrace and worths it a million times over, but not to the detriment of vital things like this – childhood, it looks trivial but it is actually important. We cannot be more civilized than the western world that brought “civilization” to us. That will simply be becoming more Catholic than Pope which is impossible. The man in my boat trip experience is quite civilized but he was able to go back to his childhood so his son could have a memory to keep. If he had not experienced such childhood, I tell you he would have ended up ruining his son’s happiness for the day.

Be aware that a child without a childhood experience has missed out an importance development process in his life no matter how civil he becomes. Take heed.

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