Parenthood can be stressful and frustrating. Several factors trigger certain reactions towards the needs and demands of raising children as parents juggle between responsibilities in the home, at work, church and elsewhere. All these can lead to unprecedented eventualities, including animosity and hostility. I am referring to those outbursts in the heat of the moment to our children that many of us live to regret once the heat cools down. Words we utter to our innocent children that we apologise for—if at all we do, but keep resurfacing each time we are angry or faced head on with the reality of parenthood.
Many times, we hear angry parents, mostly women taking a bad occurrence way too far with questions that seem to emanate from an unsolved psychological encounter within the parent. They take out their hidden hurts on little and foolish things children do. Take for instance when a child breaks a plate. He/she is bombarded with puzzling inquisitions that baffle onlookers. Questions such as: Agogo ako anagula mbale pano. Abambo ako sagula kalikonse pano koma ukufuna kundithera katundu. Iwe nde sudzatheka ngati amalume ako che Biliati (Did your grand parents buy plates in this home? Your father barely fends for you, but you want to ruin my property. You are as useless as your uncle Biliati).
And children, in their naivety or foolishness will climb unprecedented heights to which some women retort; ukaswa mutu wakowo atakutengele kuchitpatala ndani wakoyo. Ukudziwa busy ili ndi ine iwe? Usazandipatse busy ine ukasanduka cabbage. Umalipila Masm kapena kupanga geni yoti uziwonongela ndalama paza zii? Komatu undisamale iwe wamva. Sindikufuna kukagona ku pulizoni ine chifukwa cha iwe. (If you get hurt, who has the time to take you to the hospital? Do you realise how busy I am, let alone have time to take care of your cabbage state should you hurt yourself? Do you even pay for the medical aid? Don’t make me hurt you to the extent that I face a prison sentence).
Maybe even the above instances are mild compared to yet others I have heard. Tamuoneni galuyi zomwe akuchita. Ukungoti makutu kangalakangala ngati mbava bwanji? Si iwe mthakati koma? Wakutumayo akupweteketsa. Kaya ndi malemu agogo, kaya a neba? (Look at what this dog is doing. Are you not a witch/wizard? Whoever has put you up to this, will get you in serious trouble, whether it’s your late grandmother or the neighbour).
All these hurtful words are uttered to our children almost on daily basis so much so that they have become routine. You only have to observe children playing to know the extent of their damaging effected. They practise these sentiments on friends and when the same are thrown back at us, we become angry and punish them for repeating our own lessons.
When we compare the love and kindness that Westerners exercise when dealing with their children, even for the worst atrocity, it leaves one wondering where our society derives such hostility. It’s not that the Western world does not harbour anger, but I am sure they have learnt to tame those emotions and exercise restraint lest they allow their damaging effects penetrate innocence. Without even copying any culture, isn’t it expected that we tame our tongues and practise normalcy not just with our children, but everybody else? I am not suggesting tolerating nonsense or spoiling children. Just mildness. n