Friday, May 23, 2008

Mothers and sons and Fathers..

Someone recounted a story of motherly interference in her son’s choice of a partner/wife today. The meddling was on a grand scale and resulted in mute and automatic obedience on the part of the son. If only I could gist you all – however it’s not possible to tell even the barest bones of the story without giving away the protagonist. This one will just have to go into the memoirs..

The question of how much parental consultation a son should indulge in can be seen as an index of transformation in any society. From family anecdotes as well as a more general historical sense, the post-war baby boomers in Europe and the US can be characterised as rejecting the wishes of their parents. This rejection reached its apogee in 1968, 23 years after the end of the Second World War. If the next generation do not question the wishes of their parents in any kind of radical way, what hope is there for social transformation?

I have heard Nigerian guys call their father Sir, Major, Chairman etc. I’m not sure I’ve heard a Nigerian call his father ‘Dad’ – ‘popsie’ seems to be the closest we get to an intimate nomination. The general trend seems to be one of Command and Control. The interesting question is what these guys will want their sons to call them.


Sandrine 4:26 pm  

Hi Jeremy,
I told my children that the most important feature to look for in the person they will marry is for them to be a good friend and accept them exactly the way they are.
I believe that different kind of marriages can work, arranged by family or chosen, as long as both people respect each other, understand that it is a commitment and work towards a common goal.
My kids call their dad "papa" and when they are little think that's his name!
Take care

culturalmiscellany 4:34 pm  

I'm heard a Nigerian call their parents Mum and Dad.

I have also noticed that Nigerian parents (from my limited experience) behave polar behaviour with respect to their children. With regards to their children's life partners they show an inordinate amount of interest however regarding their friends, whcih may be equally inappropriate and have as much if not more influence on their child's choices, they display little to no interest at all. Its always puzzled me but I don't suppose I'll ever understand it.

Currently reading 'Things Fall Apart' by Chinua Achebe and some of his discussions of family and relationships are spot on and fascinating.

Anonymous,  5:23 pm  

Are you INSANE?

I call my father dad or daddy, and I think the same is true for most Nigerians of my generation.

Easy does it with the sweeping generalizations.

Yes, there's definitely an "affection gap" between Nigerian fathers and sons. It's a very authoritarian society. Each man is a god over his household. But the dad/daddy thing is pure nonsense. (And, in any case, popsie is even more informal than dad).

Marin 5:39 pm  

I am Nigerian and call my parents mummy and daddy.

On the matter of a partner, its the seemengly blind acquiescence to the wishes of the parents that galls me. It is not a crime for ones parents to advice one on the choice of a life partner. It should however remain just advice which a child may or may not heed. In the case of most parents it seems to be like the law is laid down, und many young people behave like spineless creatures (trying not to make a sexist post).

Jeremy 5:45 pm  

ok ok - I'm sure there's a lot of you out there that call your folks mom and dad or mummy and daddy. Also, it might be that people refer to their parents as 'mom' and 'dad', but not so much directly.

But the more central point is how much Nigerians question the opinions and directives of their parents, and how this might relate to social change..

Sandrine 6:46 pm  

Your hypothesis is only true if the society you are talking about is repressive and does not respect everybody's rights.Is this your opinion of the Nigerian society?
Even though rebelling is the natural order for some cultures when children grow up, it does not have to be radical to make changes.
Also what do you make of societies that have been unchanged for centuries, like yanomanis or arborigenes?

14th and serenity,  7:05 pm  


guchi guchi 7:59 pm  

i'm 23, my father is in his late 40s i still call him daddy, we all do.

Jeremy 8:06 pm  

Guchi Guchi - I've already said the main point of the post is not about whether you call your father dad/daddy/popsie. How come you therefore only address this issue?

Anonymous,  8:54 pm  

isn't it generally easier to indulge your parents rather than fight with them? esp when it won't hurt you. most of the things they "ïmpose" on you is usually of the goodness of their hearts for your own good.

Omo Alagbede 9:31 pm  

Jeremy, I think the acquiescence is largely encouraged by the fact that no one wants their parents [whose acceptance and opinions of you will continue to be a big deal till they pass on] to have cause to tell them, years down the line "we told you so" (in case things don't work out in the marriage)...

And then, in this culture of near-absolute deference, there is a firm belief in the ability of fate to turn against those who spurn the words and wishes of elders.

Controversial Anon,  10:52 pm  

This is one of your more stupid posts. Unfortunately.

Does questioning your parents mean running around with a machete? I don't get it.

Is not this the society that abondoned its belief to accept Christianity and Islam? Is our aspirations not markedly different to those of our parents? Is our acceptance of one another not a testament to our refusal to 'think' the way our parents think? We have been through worse than they did yet we have resisted going through a civil war like they did, we are building businesses rather than work for people, we are inter-marrying rather than have a wife from the same ethnic group, we want radically different things for our children to what our parents wanted for us, a whole generation of people now worship in pentecostal churches unlike their parents (I still think christianity/religion is stupid though), we dress different, listen to different kinds of music, we have developed (in many cases) entire subcultures, and its not limited to us, even our parents are radically different to their parents, and the trend will continue, it's normal, we don't have to do it your way Mr Jeremy, sometimes questioning your parents is a lot more subtle than you may want it to be.

As for the Dad/Mum thing, is that meant to be a positive thing? calling your father Dad and your mother Mum? What the fuck has that got to do with anything? If i'm not mistaken, it's socially lower class to use the terms mum/dad, so what the heck?

Anonymous,  1:29 am  

how do asian societies like south korea and japan fit into your theory

Chad 5:44 am  

Regarding parents controlling their children, I find my father an Ishan man from Edo State controlled my whole life. He picked my classes and decided what I should study. He also had the intention of picking my wife, a good Ishan girl, as he said. This will not be, because as an overgrown 20-something, I rebelled against his over -protectiveness, as he would call it. I never liked as a child but I came from a culture that considered expressing a difference of opinion ; logical or not as insulting your father or mother. My father is used to it now; though not happy. I think this culture has a negative effect on Nigerians. They are used to being subservient. That is why military dictatorships succeed and corruption thrives. The people are used to not raising their voice and standing up for their rights because the harsh subservient culture passed on and used to subjugate women, children and even adults backed by the good old fagging and bulling of Secondary School, all in the name of respect and African values, retards expression.

Anonymous,  6:47 am  

My parents meddle when it comes to a number of things:

1) Ethnicity of the partner I choose to be with (No oyinbo, nobody Hausa, and certainly no Igbos). I have a ranking of peoples, and on this list of 'forbidden' ethnic groups, oyinbo is second to last. Igbo is last. Hausas are too subhuman ti register. The three large ethnic groups in Nigeria are like oil and water.

2) Religion. Islam and Christianity are like oil and water.

Anonymous,  7:42 am  

I think what jeremy was trying to say is in regards to reference. How others refer their parents, some people even use "old man", yes very common.

Anonymous,  10:02 am  

Jeremy, until and unless you are very close to most Nigerian males, I can understand where you are coming from, although i find it quite odd.Most people call their fathers Daddy, some Papa and Baba etc, very rarely will you get the short "Dad", except of course in home movies. Most males in their teens do not want to call their fathers, Daddy, in public, lest they are called babies or soft by their peers.So it is easier for them to refer to their fathers as Chairman,Popsie, Major(or any other uniformed title cos their father displays soldier like tendencies), Chief e.t.c. Trust, they do not call their fathers that to their faces. At home it is Daddy as usual.I have seen fathers and sons show PDA,I have seen fathers come to campus and hug their sons in front of over 200 students,Fathers hug their sons after droping them off at the motorpark for school.Fathers coming to campus to see their sons,"because I was passing through" ( and I am not talking about the overprotective fathers that come every other weekend or the ones who came to check if their sons spend weekends away from school)Growing up, I am thankful that I got to see fathers who shared interests with their sons, like belong to the same men's choral group,golf together,go fishing(yes,in Naija),go on road trips, even play football. BTW i am 29 and these sons i am refering to are in the 30 -40 age bracket,few with fathers educated abroad,fathers who went to university in nigeria, and some who barely made it out of secondary school, none of them elitist, some civil servants without the government stolen money,most naija standard midddle class.

With regards to the parents vetoing who you are going to marry, I do not see anything wrong with it, as long as it is not for some truly frivolous reason, like tribalism.Being in love is like a drug, there are a lot of things you do not see that your parents or siblings see.And i am referring to a spouse you chose by yourself , not a semi-arranged marriage that some people go into( Aunty/Mummy says she is a good girl, lets get married in 6 months)

Relying on ones parents' opinion with regards to marrige does not stop you from thinking.In Nigeria there is such a thing as family, village and community.It is difficult enough to be married much less to someone your entire family hates. That is why we are different from the west, most can marry whomever, from wherever and call parents on their honeymoon. Most cultures in Naija come to marry as a community and as long as your parents are not being ridiculously difficult, you will be hard pressed to find any senior member of the family to accompany you to the woman's home, if your folks do not approve. The girl's family on the other hand will be extremely reluctant to give their daughter's hand out in marriage if the groom's extended family is not represented, no one wants their daughter to go where she is not wanted.

Like I said before,relying on your parents approval or advise does not stop you from thinking / social change. Besides, not all change is good, and not all change will work for the Nigerian simply because the white man practises it or says so.

Joy, Toronto.

Standtall 5:36 pm  

Parents interference in the choice of partner for thier sons and daughters seems not so good as they will base their judgement on the kind of life they thought they have built for you not minding what he or she want. I tire

But daddy nd mummy are freely used where I grew up even with those parents you are not related to. Just to show you are respectful. This doesnt neccessarily mean that you are close to even your own parents!!! Command and control kill the affections btw children and parents

I have vivisted ur blog severally and thank God it was easier get in to ur comment box today

Waffarian 2:35 am  

Basically, there are two types of societies..."individual based" ie,...think the pedagogy practised in scandanavian schools where unlike treating kids as "children" they should be treated as "individuals"(you can not "decide" to give a boy child a car and a baby girl a doll...thats a BIG NO NO cos they should decide for themselves what kind of toys they would like, so from a very young age, they are already thought to think and make their own decisions) you get the drift? vs. the more "community based" societies like in the middle east or Africa or even the mediterrenian. Families in these kind of socities rely on the "external family" network which is a huge advantage for help with taking care of kids, emergency cases etc...the fucked up part is all that "decision making" which usually falls on the elders of the society. Which can also paralyse a society, eg those old cargoes that will just not let go in the government...and all the young people just waiting in the sidelines hoping they will die off...think Zimbabwe...

Both societies have advantages and disadvantages....for the individual based one, well, people tend to get independent at a very young age but at their old age, they are also left alone...hence the need for homes....

Anyway, its something like that...I had a very good book about all was quite interesting...although it does not tell you anything you do not already know...just the fact that perhaps when one has kids, there should be some sort of balance, right? I wouldn't want my child to be a selfish mutherfucker but at the same time I would not like him living at home at the age of thirty right?

Anonymous,  4:08 pm  

that isnt common in the north.

we call our fathers hausa for dad (baabaa) or in some cases even uncle (for no clear reason- common in fulani culture - 'bappa'). i think the issue of respect is not so bad in the north for guys especially, fathers expect to be respected but not like the south (women are an entirely different matter of course).

Anonymous,  4:10 pm  

'Hausas are too subhuman ti register'

wow. thats all i can say.

Chxta 7:45 am  

So, I just had a quarrel with my dad over this article.

How did the quarrel come about? Someone read it, then called him to 'call his son to order'...

Yes, we can't make real progress if every sign of 'dissent' is wiped out as soon as it manifests itself...

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