Dad’s on the naughty step

30 May

As if  ‘Open evenings’ are traumatic enough, what with being summoned to your child’s classroom, made to sit on those tiny plastic chairs that stopped being suitable for your size decades ago and having the teacher sitting opposite you on a higher chair, I get a summons to the headmaster’s office.

If you read my other post on the consequence of having no consequence then you’ll know what the summons was about. At this point in time I didn’t, so you can imagine all the thoughts going through my head like ‘What has she done now?‘ and ‘You don’t get a summons for not paying the Orange juice money on time do you?‘ So off I went with all these theories whirling around in my head. I get shown into the office by a teacher who has the enviable task of being known as the Child Protection Officer.

Ah! Gears start to click into place and it all becomes apparent now. Flashback one week earlier to a school trip where the class went to learn about what life was like in Victorian times. I asked my daughter as I tend to do (just to make sure my taxes are being put to good use) what they learnt and talked about.

“We learnt that times were really hard for children in Victorian times and if you were naughty you got smacked.” Before I say a word she continued: “We played a game where it was like in Victorian times and the teacher pretended to smack us for being naughty.”

“Really? Did you know you I got smacked for forgetting things in my school?” I volunteer. It’s all about engagement isn’t it. I doubt she heard me, she was now talking about conversations they had on the coach back to school.

“Did you know [insert name]’s parents smack him with a wooden spoon? I told Miss that you smack me with a wire and sometimes a belt. And [insert another name]’s dad smacks him…”

Again. “Ah.”

It’s a ‘kid’ thing to try and outdo your mate’s dad so if kid A gets smacked with a twig, the next kid has to get smacked with a bough. I can only imagine how horrified that teacher would have been on a coach full of 6-7 year olds with predominantly African parents.

OK that was the flashback, here I am sitting opposite this teacher whos 6ft plus height is adequately complemented by his width. Intimidated? Moi? You wouldn’t have known it from my calm exterior.

“Your daughter tells us that you smack her when she is naughty.”

From his expression it appeared he was waiting for me to feign surprise and come out with “Ah! Me? No oo!” in my best naija accent, so I thought I’d put him at ease.

“Yes, that’s correct.” I replied, adding “only when she lies or steals.”

“Do you use an implement?” Huh? I’m not in the habit of going through the kitchen drawer for some weapon to chastise my daughter. The raised eyebrow elicits clarification. “Something other than your hands; she says you use a computer flex.”

“I use a cane and very rarely, often the threat is enough to get the desired result.” Well, she is daddy’s girl after all isn’t she.

Then follows a ‘clarification’ of the law on smacking, background to how they got their information – we’ve done that bit, and then a leaflet. Yes, that threw me too; who knew there was published guidance written on how to smack your child? After all the (un)pleasantries I had to sign an undertaking of sorts to follow the guidance which had such gems like ‘when smacking your child you should not leave any visible marks such as a reddening of the skin’. This in a leaflet designed, printed and aimed at predominantly people of African descent. I would have loved to see what research went into that project.

“I do hope that your daughter will not suffer any consequences for telling us what she did.” It wasn’t a question, more like a threat or warning.

“No, as I said earlier, I only punish her for lying and stealing so I’m not about to start punishing her for telling the truth.” We’ll put the flex detail down to trying to outdo her peers and the “Daddy’s girl” effect. After his undertaking that he won’t be sharing what we discussed, with my daughter, I received the obligatory bone crushing handshake and left feeling suitably chastised and emasculated.

In a way I did sympathise with the guy; apart from clarifying what is acceptable by law in punishing your child, all the other proffered information was like teaching me to suck eggs and no-one wants to be told how to raise their own children. I doubt there would be much of a success rate with other parents using this approach. Standard procedure for Nigerian parents would be to pack the offending child off ‘home’ to learn some manners. This only works if you get sent somewhere like Igbo-oja, in Ondo where there’s no electricity and by default no X-box by the way, not if you get sent to live with some rich uncle and spend your days in the shopping malls.

“My teacher said you are not allowed to smack me Daddy.” Time for some clarification methinks.

“Er, actually I can as long as I don’t use an implement or leave any marks on you.”

Puzzled expression, then her face falls as she realises her dad comes equipped with “farmer’s hands”. I turn back to the documentary on the TV trying hard not to smile and making a mental note to accompany her on the next school trip.

The balance of power has been restored.

Naughty step

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2 Responses to “Dad’s on the naughty step”

  1. Clara May 30, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

    Ha ha Pele Pele

  2. Celia May 30, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    I laughed myself silly as I read this, then I remembered a similar situation when I was young

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