Cheating Fate: To African Parents, with Love, From Your Children
“Honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on the earth…[Parents], do not provoke your children to wrath; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
— Ephesians 6:3-4
In one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, we see Macbeth, with a difficult past, rise through ranks and upon hearing a prophecy, try to avoid his fate. In trying to cheat it, to circumvent this future, he finds himself paving the way to his own end.
You lived in a world that we can’t truly understand, a harder world that didn’t show any indication of caring. A world where in so many, and so few ways, you were alone. I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for you.
In this world, a lot of you had issues with your society, your education, your parents.
But, the fact of the matter is this: You are not there anymore. You are now our society, our education, our parents.
And, we won’t lie to you, it’s been hard on the receiving end.
A lot of you dealt with mental health issues as children, teenagers, and still deal with them now, as adults. You may have gotten through these situations alive, but did you come out unhurt? You are like soldiers whose bodies have come back from war, but whose minds are still on the battlefield, fighting a fight that’s long gone.
But we are not your enemies. The war you fight is with yourself. Your own anger, your own self consciousness, your own past.
We, your children, no matter how hard you try, aren’t you. And, we don’t always want the things you want for us. We grew up in a world so, so different from the one you grew up in, and so we see the world in different ways, we can’t help it. But, you also saw the world in a different way from than your parents, didn’t you?
It must be hard, I admit, to see this baby you raised, turn into an adult in years that feel like blinks. But it’s the deal you made having us, and our lives cannot be lived up to an expectation we had nothing to do with.
Why did you have children? Was it to have a human being to love, or one to control?
Do you know your children, truly? Or is it an illusion, a half-truth you tell yourself? To justify everything you do, or don’t do.
But then again, do we know you, our parents, truly?
We’re willing to meet you halfway. Maybe you’re speaking a different language of love that’s been lost on us all this time. Maybe there’s words you want to say, on the tip of your tongue, that are turned into insults when they leave you.
Maybe you have honest words to say.
Words with no pride, or fear, or ego. Words that speak the truth of your experience.
But, until you tell us, we can’t know.
To meet halfway, you have to come along on this uncomfortable journey of realizing that those little babies you once held in your arms, with eyes that only saw the future, are now adults. Adults who want to be heard, acknowledged.
But, you are also adults, and this is a suggestion.
You can always leave it the way things are. You can force us into schools, degrees, alienate us further from yourselves. You can hurl insults, invalidate our feelings, manipulate us, compare us to our mates, and be exactly what you ran from all those years ago when you were a child.
And so you create the same problem in a different generation.
You will then be like Macbeth, having seen a past with parent and child at odds. And, in a rush to cheat your fate, to circumvent this future, you will end up paving the way to our own end.
And the future that we could have had, that you dreamed of as a child, that you worked for as an adult, a future of peace, and love, and family, will be gone.
With you, and with us.
Till the next time.