Because “Y” Has A Long Tail & Other Things African Parents Say

I grew up with two very Nigerian parents who imbibed my siblings and I with their culture even though we did not live on the continent and many times did not understand their discipline. In this post, I’m going to be walking down memory lane with you and inviting you in to the Ezekwenna household circa 1980’s to early 2000’s, since the topics for day two of the #30DayAfriBlogger and BlogTember challenges are about the top 10 house rules and childhood memories of growing up African respectively; I’ll be fusing them both. Below you will find ten rules that guided my childhood, and ultimately shaped me into the person I am today.

1. Don’t Ask Me Why

As a child, my siblings and I learned quickly that asking why was not only futile, but also detrimental to our health. Just kidding about that last part. However, I remember my mom specifically always told us to never ask her why, and if we did should would simply state that infamous saying, “Because ‘y’ has a long tale.” I’m still siding my memory of her. Thankfully we all grew out of that stage, and she welcomes my questions and inputs.

2. The Nonexistence of Left-handedness

My parents ensured that my siblings and I were right handed by force. We were forbidden to take or receive anything with our left hand.

3. Family Prayer Time

Every night my family had family prayers for many years. This meeting lasted for a couple hours and was mandatory. There was lots of singing, sometimes shouting, reading, and praying.

4. No Sleepovers

My parents would go back and forth on this issue. I remember times when I was explicitly forbidden from staying the night at anyone’s hose. As a teenager in the United States, there were times I felt left out due to this.

5. No Secular Music

Read: no non-Christian music. I grew up in a very conservative Christian household where even the music my siblings and I listened to were regulated. Only Christian music and radio were allowed, although rebelliously I sneaked other types of music since I discovered at a young age that Jesus-freak music wasn’t enough for me, and also I was very much into rock, pop, and American hip hop.

6. No Kissing (Dating)

I think this one may be common in most African households. My sister, brothers, and I were all forbidden to date. Funny enough how now parents will start asking about marriage and fiancés as if these things happen overnight.

7. No Sleeping In…Church

This rule was twofold. My siblings and I were punished if we slept off in church. To be honest you couldn’t really blame us. My parents would take us to Friday or Saturday night mass and then a Protestant service every Sunday not to mention Protestant midweek service every Wednesday as well as the additional Friday night vigil, which like this run-on sentence is A LOT.

And then my parents also didn’t like us to sleep in during the summer. For whatever reason they had an aversion to us children being well-rested, so they would wake us up at the crack of dawn with cold water.

 

The last three house rules are about preventing waste; I get my thrifty nature from them.

8. Water Conservation

Since my dad was so particular about the water usage in my house, my early childhood actually consisted of everyone taking bucket baths. Essentially I would fill up a bucket and use a pail to control how much water I would use.

9. Let There (Not) Be Light

“Turn off any lights that aren’t being used!” I used to think this was my dad’s favorite phrase (he still says this to this day). Growing up we had to be selective with how much energy we consumed.

10. Bon Appetit

I can still remember my parents’ response whenever I couldn’t finish the food on my plate as a small child. They would simply smile and save the food for my next meal. So that coconut rice I couldn’t eat for dinner would turn into my breakfast the next morning and when I still couldn’t finish it, it would turn into my lunch.

 

I have sooo many more, but I thought I would stop here! Omolayo Nkem shared her Nigerian childhood memories as well, and there are actually quite a few similarities. We joked that Nigerian parents must all go to the same parenting school. Lol. If you grew up in an African household, comment below some of the craziest or most memorable household rules that shaped your childhood.

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16 thoughts on “Because “Y” Has A Long Tail & Other Things African Parents Say

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  1. How did i miss this important read, my mom whenever i asked for anything always said “tell jesus” lol. Well most times i took it as No buh i realized she was building up my faith cause even our parents dont have to abilities to provide all we need. I can relate with “dont ask me why too”

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    1. Kess, you no get my time again. 😛
      The funny thing is that when I look back over my childhood I’m now grateful for all most of the beatings, scoldings, restrictions, etc. I wouldn’t be who I am today without my strict and conservative upbringing. I’m glad that my parents now treat me as an adult and even fan the independence they instilled in me and my siblings at a young age. They really tried their best, and I’m forever grateful.

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    1. Hi Daniel. Thanks for reading! As a child my siblings and I were very curious and inquisitive. It was very frustrating to rebuffed by that statement, rather than getting a real answer to a question 🙂

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  2. This is SOO funny!! Especially this line for some reason: “For whatever reason they had an aversion to us children being well-rested, so they would wake us up at the crack of dawn with cold water.” LOL! My parents were not about the sleeping in either! I remember one time, when my grandma was living with us, I took a nap after I got home from school. My grandma went and took a branch from the Cherry Blossom tree in our yard and whipped me across the back of my knees…the gap between my high white socks and my Catholic school skirt. Let’s just say…I didn’t take naps again til college. LOLOLOLOL!!

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    1. Chai! Omolayo ndo o! That’s not funny at all.

      I literally blinked and reread read this part from your own post: “Going over, and especially sleeping over at friends’ houses was no easy trait. Our parents first had to know – and like – that person’s parents. Suffice to say, there was only a handful of houses I ever slept over at. Sometimes, even when my parents knew and liked their parents, AND we had slept over at their house before…my parents would just say no.” This was LITERALLY my childhood!! I didn’t go into these nitty gritties, so I’m glad you did lol

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  3. Left handedness, funny one for me because I am a left-hander. In my early ages, I often heard this sentence “and your parents let you be a left-hander” (as an adult too by the way loool), a sign that my household was somehow strange.

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    1. You’re from Cameroon right?! To be honest, I really don’t get it. As a Nigerian, I really don’t see the necessity of shunning left hand usage. If it was a country like Senegal, where people presently still use their left hand for their toilet business (sans toilet paper!) I would understand. I’m glad that your parents lived outside of society’s expectations 🙂

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      1. I honestly don’t understand this either. Like people will straight refuse to receive things you hand them with you left hand…I get the sense it’s like evil or devilish or some nonesense like that? Anyways sha, they just look at you like you have no home training and are rude as all hell when you forget for a sec and hand things over with your left hand. When shop owners do it, it’s extra annoying cuz I’m like…so you don’t want my money?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Girlll it doesn’t make any type of sense! Also, I love our people, but we seriously do the most.

          In Senegal though it’s no joking matter. I don’t even dear doing left hand anything, because I know what people here do, and I don’t want to be on the receiving end of any type of nonsense 😂😂😂

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