I’m Sorry… Or Am I…

There are five magic words, there are five magic words, there are five magic words that I know; please, excuse me, sorry, thank you; and the last one: pardon me…

We all grew up singing that little song; a reminder to respect the feelings of others, to be polite, and to apologise when we’re wrong. That’s what you do as a good child. You’re supposed to say sorry because when you broke that plate, you hurt mommy’s feelings; fine. My bad. I’m sorry. I take full responsibility, maybe an ass whooping; but what about the times when it’s the other way round? When mommy and I have a misunderstanding and she hurts my feelings with her words or when daddy blames me for what I can’t control or didn’t do? What then? Why don’t I get an apology? Why won’t anybody tell me sorry?
As an African child, values like respecting your elders and doing what we’re told are a huge part of our culture; part and parcel of what makes us African. We’re taught to do what mommy and daddy say; not because it may be the right thing to do, but because they’re our elders: our parents to be very precise. We’re not allowed to say ‘no’ to anyone older than us and more often than not we’re not really allowed to have opinions and so we’re brought up to not question authority, therefore we teach our children as we’ve been taught: Do what you’re told, don’t complain, shut up etc etc.
I love my parents to the death, but honestly, it’d be nice to get an apology once in a while. I do have feelings too y’know. It is said that a child will pen ultimately copy what he sees not what he hears, so is it really Chike’s fault his first instinct is not an apology when he’s wrong? He’s probably thinking “Daddy doesn’t apologise when he makes me sad, so why should I?”. Daddy doesn’t know this, so as an able bodied African dad, he’s going to give Chike the beating of his life; something Chike is eventually going to get used to and then stop fretting about. Mommy might be more lenient with Chike: she’ll raise her voice and call him silly or stupid; this will hurt Chike in the beginning, but overtime, Chike will get used to this also and learn to ‘switch off’ such that he hears what mommy is saying and calling him, but, he doesn’t listen so he won’t internalize all those hurtful things she’s saying. Once in a while, Chike is going to talk back because he feels like he’s being backed into a corner and he doesn’t like it, but mommy as an African woman will slap him and restore him to factory settings for being rude.
Chike loves his parents to death so he won’t say anything. His silence will become his defense mechanism both when he’s reprimanded for wrongdoing and when he’s been misunderstood. He won’t tell mommy he was bullied at school or tell daddy he’s crushing on Hasanat because he’s scared of their reaction. He’ll just learn to live with it or fight it; whichever comes first or he’ll just grow really thick skin and learn to mask his feelings because he doesn’t want wahala…


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