When you don’t want a child to handle cash
I was around this place recently, one of those environments where you could still find many mothers who stay at home most of the day, because they are engaged in businesses of their own.
It is also the type of setting where you still see families living with their legions of extended relations-sisters, brothers, nephews and in-laws and many stay at home because they have finished school and were looking for employment. Many, especially the youths among them, could be found sitting about doing nothing but watching movies all day.
One day after schools closing time, I observed as children trooped in through the gates in all colours of uniform imaginable.Within a short time, some had changed from their school uniforms; some removed only the outer- wears, and wore games wear. Many, however, did not change before they rushed to the “all purpose store” where I was to buy food items. They bought all sorts of food, all light meals that raised the eyebrows. They bought biscuits, meat pies and sausage rolls with those coloured drinks.
It was evident that these little ones are aware that prices of commodities are never stable for a moment these days. So, as they came, few who had a reasonable amount of money were the ones who made choices, others simply stretched their money and were given what the owners saw fit to serve. One of them, a little girl, came with N40 and made a big haul, her money fetched two packets of biscuits and one those coloured things, ‘fruit juice’, I think, they are.
A boy came and announced that he wanted a drink that is quite popular with children these days. “How many?” the girl asked. He bought six and matched away, head in the air. His satisfied look was something a parent should not miss.
Then the bigger son of the house, a boy of 14 years, came back from school, changed only the outer uniform and came back to the shop again. He stepped in gingerly, looked around, by-passed the biscuits, sausage rolls and the pies then made a dive. He dived for Garri Ijebu with which he heaped a bowlful. He poured pure water that he snatched from the freezer and swallowed it right there in front of us all- in record time too. The gratified look on his face was not lost on us.
Now, what happened to the traditional pot of soup? I asked myself. The pot of soup meant for occasions such as this when children came back from school craving home-cooked meal that told the difference between home and school; that heartfelt lunch, not junk of snacks which they have probably eaten at school.
What happened to the pot of egusi soup, the okra soup that a child chases ferociously with his tongue and licks up just as it is about to flow down his elbow? What has happened to the good lunch that children ate after school before doing house chores and school’s homework?
It was a cause for concern because I saw children who looked very tired from walking back from school; all of them were sweating and hungry, no doubt. I took particular note of this girl of about seven years with sweat on her face. She was so thin that she looked like all bones. It was difficult for her to go into the shop but finally, she put a hand on a knee, and finally succeeded in making the short step up. That was the one that her N40 and made a big purchase.
All these children needed to eat and drink something, but if what they were fed should serve as a nourishing food was the question. What are the drinks made with, for one?
I was still thinking of what they ate when a boy of about four years came; he looked well-fed and well cared for. As he sauntered in, I had seen the one N5 note he clutched or hid in his left hand and wondered. I think one of the girls saw it too. But the little boy demanded in an important voice; “g-a-l-a” he announced. “Your money no reach anything”, the girl answered promptly. Then the two sent off insults that went beyond the little man’s root.
Why did the mother give so small an amount? Was she skint or plain parsimonious? I wondered.But it also came to my mind that she may not want him to go about with money or does not want him to buy things all the time, if he has eaten food at home. She does not want him to buy because others are buying, I thought.
It is convenient to give snacks to children at midday. However if it is not supervised, it could take the place of the real meal. It would, therefore, be helpful if you insist that they eat lunch when they come back from school-that plate of rice, eba, semolina or whatever you have on offer. Who says parenting is easy or getting a child to eat what you want him to is any easier? But you can get them to eat these filling and health-giving foods by telling them that biscuit is only available after they have eaten their food.
But when you don’t want a child to handle money or when you want to be in control of what they buy with it, make these things available at home, the cakes and others. But add the fruits. A child who spends his money to buy a fruit is rare.
And when the biscuits are made available at home, inform them that they are meant for school only. They will understand and see it as a responsibility to make them last. It is also possible that the job seeker that lolls about on the sofa all day sees these foods as his right and eats them; but as he is your husband’s brother should you complain? What do you do? Help him to get a job.
It is also possible that you keep the heavier meal for supper or for much later at night, but a heavy lunch and healthful lighter meal benefits a child better. It may be expensive but what you plan as the child’s meal is better than what he could choose to eat when you give him the money. And take advantage of foods in season and make them attractive to children. The corn, for example, can be blended and made into a pudding; just go easy on the spices and seasoning; children will get much nourishment from corn when it is in season.