Best Of Both Worlds

Are You A Bystander Parent?


I believe that it is important to nurture a close and loving relationship with one’s children. Some people don’t agree and many practices that we used to consider irresponsible are now being accepted by many parents as markers of financial, social and career success.

I started thinking about this a couple of weeks ago when someone I know told me she would not bring her three children with her on summer holidays to the UK this year. Money was not the issue. She laughingly admitted that she could not cope with their noise and demands. Her kids were usually in the care of her housekeeper and the nanny and even so, she found their constant chatter and demands very draining and avoided spending time with them. ‘Their wahala was too much’, she said. Hear me, was she forced into having children?

There is fire on the mountain and there really is nobody on the run. If young parents who are meant to be bringing up the future leaders can’t be bothered to raise their own children but are happy to pay someone else to do it then the future looks bleak.

I have had the privilege of acting as guardian to a few Nigerian children who have been sent to boarding school in the UK. I can say that most of them have made their parents proud with their excellent behaviour and performance at school. But what do you do with children who are already proving difficult to manage while at home in Nigeria? Can sending such children thousands of miles from their parents’ control help?

I was asked to act as guardian to two teenage brothers who arrived in the UK a couple of years ago. Unknown to me, they had been expelled from a prestigious boarding school in Nigeria. They acted all innocent and calm every time they came to visit my family.

However, after a couple of visits, I noticed that something had changed about them. For starters, they both dressed like rock-star drug addicts. One looked dazed throughout the visit and fell asleep on my sofa, drooling like an old man. I knew something was up but my hubby thought I was too hard on them, and suggested that they had probably been partying very hard. But I am a mum (an African mum o!) and I know that whatever stinks is dirty.

I subtly raised my concerns with their parents but they laughed it off as boys being boys until one of the boys was arrested and cautioned for unruly behaviour in front of a nightclub. At this point, their mom flew in from Nigeria to ‘talk sense into her boy’. She ended up spending all her time visiting Oxford Street, Bluewater shopping mall and Liverpool Street buying all the latest handbags, Italian shoes and clothes, while her rebellious son sniggered behind her back. She didn’t even manage to see any of his teachers at his school!

Any parent knows how hard it is to bring up children. The curfews, constant attention to school work and their friends, meetings with teachers, discipline and arguments are all rites of passage that all parents sign up for as soon as they have a child. It can’t be right that some parents are happy to look on as disinterested by-standers while kids run off the rails. If parents aren’t aware of what their children are doing and with whom, disasters are bound to happen.

We have all heard of the two notorious young men who killed a soldier in cold blood in London a couple of years ago. They were of Nigerian origin and the BBC announced this fact barely a day after the ghastly incident, never mind that they had hardly ever lived in Nigeria. They both claimed to have reasons for doing what they did. The main reason was obvious: they were stark raving mad. They were not representing Nigerians in any way.

However, one of the men, whose last name bears an unfortunate resemblance to mine, came from a respectable middle-class family. His father was a medical doctor and the other killer’s dad worked for the Nigeria High Commission in the UK (don’t get me started again on the NHC!)

So how did these two young men from seemingly good homes become cold blooded meat cleaver-welding killers?

You can only do your best as a parent.  It is only after having done so will you be able to say with confidence that you did everything humanly possible to raise your kids well. This doesn’t mean that they will turn out perfect but they are very likely to become decent members of society with good values. If (heaven forbid) they turn bad, the blame won’t be on bad parenting. If you waste away their formative years and leave them to the devices of the media, friends, games and the internet, you may well regret the outcome.

Oh, you really think you are doing all you can? It starts from not having time to see your kids during the week because you are too busy and your weekends are filled with parties and events. Both parents can’t spend all the time chasing money. Grandparents can’t be made to do the work of parents; neither can you expect the school to discipline your child for you.

A child spends a maximum of 7 hours at school and the remaining 17 hours of the day under your control. Seriously, who should be doing the disciplining?  Contrary to what some ‘yuppie dads’ think, it is not cool not to know what your child’s favourite meals are, let alone their favourite TV programmes. If you aren’t aware that they love watching Ben Ten and Disney channel now, you won’t know when they start watching internet pornography or violent or extremist websites (and you are the one paying the TV cable and internet subscription o!)

No one has the recipe for perfect parenting but I daresay one principle applies to life in general as well as to raising kids: you will surely reap what you sow. Better start sowing wisely now. Give your children your time, your love, your knowledge and guidance: gifts only a parent or guardian can provide. Material things can be provided by anyone, including paedophiles!

Enough said.


Writer – Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK, with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listening to her musings on everything.

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