How to be the favourite child
Hint: shut up often
I remember the day my mother taught me how to peel potatoes. I remember because with only a few more slaps, she would have made me ambidextrous. But that is another story.
I’m the first of four kids. No, I don’t have a huge inheritance waiting for me in a will. And no, I haven’t been betrothed to settle a family feud.
I grew up with both parents and learned life the typical Cameroonian way — knocks on the head, occasional flurry of slaps and what many might consider today as verbal abuse. We call it banter.
In most Cameroonian communities, there are unwritten rules on how a child is supposed to behave. On what makes a child a child. A lot of these things are imbibed from a very young age.
Don’t look your elders in the eyes.
When talking to an older person, the child is not allowed to maintain eye contact. It shows …brazenness. This show of attention is interpreted as being rude. I still find it hard to talk with lecturers and look at them in the face without glancing away instinctively.
Greet elders with both hands
I think the idea here is to express humility. As though I can’t bear the weight of the older person’s arm without strain. Oh, you’re so full of wisdom my hand hurts! I still do it today. It’s automatic. I greet my parents that way, their friends, my lecturers etc. When in doubt of status, greet with both hands.
Fathers eat first
This, I can’t rationalize. As the kid, there are chances your ability to stay calm under (feeding) duress is not fully developed. However, if you attend any gathering which comprises older and younger persons, the ones closer to their graves eat first. I never got this. If you want the wrath of the village, dare to eat first.
Most questions are statements
I have been able to spend a peaceful e Christmas this 2016 because I mastered this art. Cameroonian parents have the answers to every question they ask you. Unless it’s a light hearted conversation on the economy or something more or less banal, DO NOT answer any questions that start with:
Why haven’t you…?
Why have you…?
Why is there…here…?
Are you not supposed to…?
Are you a(n) idiot/fool/goat?
I repeat DO NOT attempt to give an answer to these questions.
But there is a caveat: unless they want you to.
Now, the skill is knowing when they want you to answer. There is no easy way to say this…you can’t. You’re better off waiting for them to give you the go ahead with the simple, yet powerful passkey: answer me.
When you have to provide an answer keep this in mind:
- Look at the floor ( just in case they might mistake your empty gaze for eye contact.
- Lower your voice and speak clearly. Limit your sentences to “Yes, mum” or “No, mum”.
- Stand at least a meter away. Be ready to receive a hard massage that may require palm contact with your face. Unless you can…
- Show remorse by every means necessary. Slouch your shoulders. Get teary eyed. Apologize — for no reason.
Bonus: When in doubt, apologize or say nothing. Never talk back. Always ask for permission before doing anything. Express immense gratitude for any and all gifts. Grovel — especially when you’re treated unfairly.
Do all this, and you might end up as a semi-functional Medium blog post writer looking for reasons to express his need for approval.
Text based on stories I have heard. Some happened to me. Some. And oh, just in case you were doubting: I love my parents very much. I know my Dad will read this. That is how cool they are. *wink*
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He co-writes with C. Befoune on this publication — Self-ish . Their goal is to share the lessons they’ve learnt from multiple sources in the domains of Self-improvement, Content Creation and Human Relationships.
*Now that he’s single, he may reply your DMs.