Parents in the third world take it for granted that kids will find their way. Back then, parents never thought it was necessary to learn about parenting. They experimented with their children. And they always prefered easy solutions to end any situation.. like screaming at a noisy child to shut up.. or threatening him/her. Most of our parents had financial problems. They cared so much about educating their children, and they always pushed us to score the highest grades.
It was the trend in the 80s to be preoccupied with financial security. This time witnessed a massive wave of immigration. And those who stayed in Egypt had to work several jobs in order to be able to face the huge rise in prices. Money was talking and everybody was all ears. We don't own the right to blame them. Things are much easier said than done. And those who are criticizing the generation to whom our parents belong have got no idea about what they were going through. It was a tough time for everybody.. adults and children. Education was deteriorating and schools were packed with unqualified teachers whose basic task was to stuff the kids' minds with whatever is written in their textbooks. As children we did not study, we memorized. We were supposed to be able to read our textbooks with our eyes closed. Such a skill was later on discovered to be useless and resulted in millions of unemployed youth who are now ending their lives by the Italian shores.
We.. a generation raised in fear. Fear of adults.. Fear of exams.. Fear of the future.. Fear of society.. Fear of God. We had no clues. We were left behind in the absence of a view to govern us. We were denied any useful experience or knowledge. We felt like a burden on our families who were toiling to satisfy our needs. We didn't want to disappoint them, even if they had disappointed us many times. And we struggled with life as best as we could. We.. a generation raised in weakness. Physical weakness (rarely encouraged to play sports with playcourts disappearing from our schools, and sports clubs being too expensive).. Cultural weakness.. Financial weakness.. Low self-esteem.. Dependency. We dwelt in the allies of narrow minds and low ceilings.
As a child, I tried to talk more with my parents.. but they were either too tired or too busy. Air conditions were not so common at homes back then, and the summer heat sucked all their energy. In winter, it was so difficult to keep warm. I liked to curl up beside my mom in bed. She always fell asleep while watching TV. And I had to wrap myself in a woolen blanket while doing my homework. Dad came home at night, and I was usually awake. We drank tea and eat cheese sandwiches before I went to bed. I had to wake up very early to be able to catch the schoolbus. In winter, the morning light could hardly be seen at 6:00 am when I left home. I walked for about 5 minutes while shivering, usually followed by stray dogs, until I reached the place where I waited for the bus. I come back in the afternoon to an empty home. Our neighbor hears our door being opened.. She opens her door to check that it is me.
- "Hi ya tante. How are you?"
- "Hi, Fantasia. Come in and have some food with us."
- "Thank you. I'm not hungry. How are A, M, N, and Y (her children)?"
- "They are having dinner. Please join us."
- "You're always generous, tante. I'll eat with mom and dad. They'll be back soon."
- "OK, my dear. Lock the door well and always check who is there before you open."
- "Of course. Don't worry. Have a nice dinner. Excuse me."
I changed my clothes, put my shirt and socks in the laundry basket, turned on the water heater, measured 2 cups of rice and put them in a big tray, sat at the dinning table and started searching the rice for tiny solid objects (we did not have the ready packed rice back then). Once I finish, I set it aside and start washing and cutting vegetables for the salade. After a while my mother came home and took over from there. My mother was always tired and while we had dinner she didn't utter a word. I tried having a conversation with her several times, but she always avoided opening up. I try talking about what happened at school, doing my best to make it sound funny. "Can you imagine? The girl actually told the teacher the nobody understood anything of what she said. haha.. And the teacher kept asking her what exactly didn't you understand. Then the girl said 'Everything'." If I considered something like that to be funny, my mother made sure not to laugh, and then she would warn me against being rude to my teachers: "Do you know how much we pay to keep you in this school? We could have easily sent you to a school near us for half the fees. But we want you to have the best education. This girl is so bad, keep away from her or teachers will have a negative impression about you."
I so much wanted to tell her how much I appreciate what they were doing. I so much wanted to tell her not to be so serious all the time. I was just trying to cheer her up. My attempt failed, but I didn't deserve a reminder and a warning. I wished my mom was less serious at times. I knew that she could not bring herself to see anything other than the possible negative influence that this classmate might have on me. She thus used this opportunity to play her role as a parent. But I could not help feeling hurt. I kept thinking: "Can't we communicate on a human level, away from this mother/child scenario? Can't she say anything other than giving instructions and warnings? Why does my age seem to prevent me from being treated as a person? Why must a child always be addressed as an inferior? Yes, I am young.. but I can communicate with adults. I understand how you feel and I can get you out of this mood. Why don't you give me a chance?"
- "Huh? Yes, mom."
- "Did you hear what I said?"
- "Yes, sure mom. I don't approve of what she did. But it was not usual to hear this in class."
- "OK. After you finish your food, clean your plate. Will you take a nap?"
- "No, I don't think so. I've got an oral test tomorrow, and there's so much homework to do."
- "Alright. Don't waste your time so that you can sleep early. Don't watch too much TV."
- "I'll only watch one show and the evening news."
- "Evening news? Do you understand anything from the news?"
- "Yes.. I.. think I do. I tell dad all the news when he returns home."
- "Did dad ask you to watch the news for him?"
- "No. I watch it anyway. I like knowing what's going on with the world. They also show interesting stuff from around the world right after the news in Nafezzah 3ala El3alam (A Window View on the World)"
- "That's not for your age dear. You should watch Cinema Elatfal (Kids' Cinema), Mama Nagwa, Baba Maged.. Things that suit your age, Fantasia."
- "I watch those too. And I like watching the news and 3alam elteknologya (World of Technology)."
- "I am so worried about you, Fantasia. You don't want to live your age."
- "There's no need to worry, mom. Tell you what?.. Why don't you watch TV with me? I always want to know more about many things I see on TV."
- "But I don't like watching the news. Besides, I have many things to do around the house. Maybe tomorrow."
Needless to say.. Tomorrow never came. And as I was growing up I realized that I didn't know Fantasia. It suddenly hit me in the face.. Lack of real communication or experience handover made all the orders and warnings become pointless.. And whatever came between those two were lies. How were we able to forgive our parents for lying to us? All adults lie to children. All adults think that they must lie to children. All adults don't feel ashamed when they lie to children. Children?.. Who are the children? What age removes you from the childish category to place you on the other side? And once you step in, how do you stop being a child? Is it supposed to be an automatic process? Or are you supposed to do some ritual or rite of passage?