By Toyin Olasimbo Kolawole
The social media chatter about African parents being ‘entitled’ and ‘toxic’ refuses to dissipate. Some say African/Naija parents make unfair demands of their, presumably, successful children because they laboured to train the children.
Others are more measured in their criticism, but still opine that parents should not feel entitled and should have planned better for their own future.
We should not forget important cultural context. I am Yoruba, that’s the context I will speak from. The Yoruba saying that ti okete ba d’agba, omu omo e lo ma mu, assumes a reciprocal caring relationship between parents and children.
Secondly, there is: Oluwa je ki ola omo wa ju ti wa lo, awa l’eni, omo eni l’ola. Here too, there is the assumption that parents should do their utmost to support their children, who would have better opportunities and greater substance in future.
You may have similar sayings in your culture.
Taken together, the scale of preference of parents with this understanding may put paying for extra tuition for their children to get better grades above savings or buying into additional retirement funds to secure their own future. Please remember that many worked in formal sectors with expectations of a liveable pension upon retirement. Those who were in big trades were wealthy and built properties.
This scenario is for city dwellers or educated parents in more remote government or private organizations. If the parents had little or no formal education, they may not have known about financial investments that grow with compounding over time. Their only investment may be in creating opportunities for their children along with expectations of benefits for them too in the future.
The point here is that the exposure of the generation of parents in consideration differed greatly over a spectrum of financial literacy.
Even parents who did invest in shares and bonds probably took bad hits in their investments a few years into a new millennium when values of hitherto safe stocks tumbled like Jack and Jill down the kindergarten hill.
Whatever else they failed at, they created some good in you. You are educated and enlightened. You have some or a lot of financial literacy. You can scan the environment and harness opportunities.
You are even savvy enough to see the flaws in a philosophy of parent/child reciprocity. You understand the potential pitfalls. You are planning better or plan to do so.
How does giving to even an ‘entitled’ parent diminish you, then? You have done better than your parents. You have it all under control and know what you are about.
Or, are you concerned because you know that time and chance happens to all? That your financial literacy is only as good as the markets are bullish? That your property investment is only as secure as it is not Wiked?
Maybe you realise that time and chance happened to the parents too. Or you know that they also supported their parents.
If you have parents who can rejoice in your success, please oblige them. If you find their requests burdensome, have loving conversations about it and do what you can.
If your relationship with your parent(s) was testy while you were growing up, reconcile it and forgive what needs to be forgotten.
If anyone struggles, remember that the commandment to honour your parents is not conditional upon them fulfilling any role other than giving you life. The commandment does come with a promise of blessings for you.
Be uncommonly kind to your parents.
Toyin Kolawole is an independent Public Health researcher. She just completed a doctorate in Public Health with University of Otago, New Zealand. She can be reached via [email protected]
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