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BUTTONHOLING

This not going to be a long tad so stick with me for some few minutes, let me take you on a journey into my life as it was 25 years ago( It is a Thursday and a good day for a #tbt).

I am the first and only son of my parents so maybe like the adage, ‘to whom much is given much is expected’, my parents expected me to excel, be the model child, be responsible for my sisters and so on. This is because they had taught me to do so and given me all that I needed (and even wanted) as a child so it was normal for them to expect too much from me.

Let’s put the standards of my parents aside and use that of my peers at the time. I fit in perfectly. I was the cool kid on the block, I had the ‘shudders’, I had the games and I owned the ball and bicycle we rode at the time. Mess with me and you were going to have a boring weekend or vacation. But fitting in with my friends meant I was falling out with my parents.

I came home with bruises, infections and bad grades to top it up. I had bad grades all round but never did I perform poorly in P.E. I was always top with that. Even though my parents did not care that I performed well in an ‘irrelevant subject’, my teachers did not help by placing it last on the report card.  For a long time, they missed that score.  A typical open day went like this:

“Atsu, you were last-but-one in Math. In English, you only beat 3 people, Social Studies, you beat 5 people, what at all am I paying all these fees for? Do you have a problem? This is a total waste of time”. So, without looking at the other subjects, he tosses the report away.

During such moments, I felt like telling him that I did well in P.E and I did okay in Physics and Chemistry. I enjoyed P.E and did not mind studying Physics because the same teacher taught it and she made it as practical as playing football. Chemistry time meant time at the lab and I liked that too.

Having a mother who was a teacher of English and a father who was an accountant, it was no surprise that the focus was for me to excel in Math and English above all. I think I should ask them (now that I am not afraid of being lashed) whether they thought a firm grounding of Math and English were innate. LOL

After going through my bad grades episodes and complaints of the time I spend on courts and fields polishing my sports skills, it was time to choose courses and your guess is as good as mine, I chose to study Sporting. My mother retorted when she heard this: “My enemies have messed with my son’s head and now he confidently chooses to play as a profession”.  Others are buying law school forms, ACCA forms and even training college forms and mine wants to be sent overseas to study how to play. Yesu!”

Now, I cannot recall how many days she fasted but thankfully God did not listen to that prayer and I got admission with 96% scholarship. My father without a doubt, believed that the school was as crazy as me to not only admit me but also offer me this huge amount of scholarship. After all, preparations were done, my parents flew with me to my school in Europe, maybe out of curiosity. It was this encounter that changed my life as well as theirs forever.

My course supervisor noticed the excitement I had and the mixed feelings my parents had and explained the available opportunities to them in detail. I mentioned that my mum was a teacher right? She quizzed this lecturer well and there even instances where she said, “Hold on let me jot down what you said so I can research to authenticate”. They stayed for another week using my school’s library to read on sports, physiotherapy, psychology, chemistry, coaching and all the tenets of my chosen field of study.

As I said, this happened in the 1990s but it is painful to note that there are parents, teachers and even supervisors who do not approve of their wards’ choices of education not because it is wrong but because they believe they are not respectable, noble, acceptable or well -paying jobs.

In the formative years of their wards, they do not take the time to find their interests and guide them accordingly. They do not seek counsel on the prospects of the fields to have informed discussions with the children. Yes, some children do not know what they want or have little information on the choices they want to make but those are not the ones in question here. The children who have mentors, read books on their interests, pursue it tirelessly and excel at it when given the chance are those in question.

My choice caused feuds between my parents and I but I rebelled and went ahead and I should not have done that. I could have done extremely better if they understood my interest and helped me nurture it because obviously, I enjoyed practical learning. Math and English can be taught practically and they could afford extra tuition with practical teaching as the focus of attention and I would have amazed them.

As a parent now, I am really attentive to the kinds of books my children read fast, what interests them on T.V, the kind of conversations that they contribute to, what they want to do during their leisure, what subjects they perform well in, what their weak points are and what solutions I need to correct those weak points.

It is very easy for a parent to fall into the habit of buttonholing but this only creates resistance. Buttonholing is to attract the attention of and detain someone in conversation, typically against their will. It also refers to the act of stopping someone and making them listen to you against their will.In this instance, buttonholing is being used to refer to the act where parents force their children to listen or do their will without considering the actions or inactions of the child. 

Parents should know when to slow down (especially during the adolescent stages), when to apply force and when to listen before reacting in order not to unintentionally misguide the child. That is a pain and no parent will want to live it. There are parents whose children resent them for a position they imposed on them; ask and you will be told.

 

April 29, 2019

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