Growing up in an African home and being raised by African parents meant there was a set of rules meant to be followed. These rules  indicated how well mannered one was in front of visitors and neighbours. Following those rules meant that the parents have made it in the parenting life. No matter how ungoverned we could be sometimes, we knew how to behave when visitors were around. There were words we would not say and things we would not touch. At the end of the day you will hear our visitors marvelling at how well mannered we were, making our moms proud and raising the bar on their parenting graph.

If the rules were broken, or should one be found on the wrong side of the rules, there was an “eye” you would get from mom. We would call it ilihlo likamama, meaning mom’s eye. When you see that eye  piercing you, just know you would be dealt with later on without fail. At my mother’s house it was either that or she would aim with whatever (shoe, comb, lemon, onion etc.) and never missed her aim.

There were some common rules which were found in almost every household, and I know some of you will quickly remember them as I will grow through them now.
Here’s a list of the most common rules that we dared not break in any home.

Do not ask for anything
I mean who are you trying to tell you whatever in the house? That includes your new toy you wanted to show to your cousins who came to visit with their parents.

Do not ask for food (meat)
If there’s no meat in your plate do not ask why, even if the others have it. Food is understandable but meat…never. I know a friend of mine whose mom taught her and her siblings that the name of meat was BEANS. They say the kids would shout “we want beans” and everyone will be like “aww such lovely kids who don’t care about meat”. That just raised the bar of parenting for her parents.

Do not watch TV
You cannot sit around and watch TV while the elders are in the living room. Never. The television set is for the elders as long as there are visitors around.

Stay clear of the room with the elders (visitors)
That is considered as rude and eavesdropping. Technically you’re just lowering the bar for your parents. Just go and play outside with your friends. Stay there until they call for you.

You never cry
If there is anything we knew better, to not cry. We never cried when there are visitors around. Especially when they can with theirs kids. That would mean we’re weak and might lead to endless bullying and torture from our cousins.

Quit playing tour guide to their kids
Just go and play outside. You can’t show them your friends, some might embarrass you. And you cannot show them around the house. You might expose whatever is going on your home. New property or anything. Ok so we had to hide some of our new toys, in case cousin X steals them (we wouldn’t say that but our parents made us believe its true). Those were the rules.

Do not report on anything
Awucebi noma kanjani! You would never report on your sibling’s mischief openly. Rather wait for your parents to be alone and go and whisper in their ear of whatever is going on. Remember “the eye”? Go out there bursting with reports in front of visitors and the eye will cut off your wings.

Do not stare at the elders
Never look them in the eyes, especially when they are talking or eating. It is rude to stare, that is the universal rule of society. This one was hard. I mean you have to look at someone when they are talking to you right? Now you have to do that and not stare at them the same time. Just know  I, myself used to get by around that. I will not speak for the others.

We knew if we followed these rules our parents would be proud of us in front of their relatives and friends and in their minds,their visitors will be jealous  of them. Or whatever the reasons I believe I will understand when I become a parent perhaps.

Chipo K

6 thoughts on “Growing up African: what not to do when there are visitors.”

  1. It was tough growing up, but it seems these things have mellowed out and we are raising a generation mannerless softies, if you judge by the parenting graph of yesteryear…
    The things kids are getting away with these days throwing tantrums and wanting to watch cartoons whilst the main news bulletin is showing, well I guess the main news no longer carries the importance it used to have nor is it still the mark that if its a school night it means bedtime

    1. I believe the 90s generation is the last one who grew up that way. How I wish they understood that the rules are the reason our generation was well discipled unlike now

  2. This just took me back to my childhood. I am 24 now and still, my mother gives me the eye and I behave!You also could not ask about the money that the visitors left for you when they left on some “mozotengera mwana ma chips”.
    At that moment you would know that it’s the end of it, my mother would respond “ko chikafu these chaunodya” good old days!

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