24 Dec 2014

At What Point Do You Let Go?

The question of parents choosing careers for their children has been the reason behind many debates and arguments in times past. More parents have begun to see the reason and logic behind allowing their children follow their dreams and passions while only acting as supporters and guardians in the pursuing of these dreams. It is however sad to note that some parents still have the mindset that they hold the remote control over their children’s destinies and therefore exercise all their power in determining their wards’ future.

With school exams over and nothing to do but laze around during this festive season, I was quick to accept an old high school friend’s invitation to go swimming with him and a course mate of his. Although we study at the same university, we rarely get to see and I saw it as a good opportunity to try bonding with him and catch up with how university life has been since graduation from secondary school. I got to the pool all excited and met my friend already there with the aforementioned course mate of his.

That day remains significant because of for the first time I was daring enough to swim without a floater and it was really an amazing feeling knowing I could swim a bit without aid. The second reason is why this article was written in the first place. We had been swimming for about two hours when this little girl of not more than seven or eight comes in with a frown on her face. I quickly dismissed it as another child angry with her parents which must be one of the other pool users. She headed straight for the changing rooms and came back shortly after garbed in a swimming trunk. Suddenly the lifesaver at the entrance of the pool where tickets are usually sold barked out an order to her and she plopped into the water from its deepest end.

As I was a learner, I gasped from my corner but was relieved as I saw her surface and swim professionally to the other hand. Then the situation became clear, her father was one of the managers of the pool and apparently he was in the process of training her to be a professional swimmer. Her proficiency at swimming was very impressive for someone her age but what I couldn't get was why she was being forced to swim. I gathered from some other observers that she was a swimming champion that had won some competitions and that this was just part of her training.

As the girl’s cries rent the air as she swam back and forth under the tutorship of a relentless instructor who either had the complaint of her hands not being the in the right position or her legs not being right, I began to get agitated. It was clear the girl was in no mood for this and as I tried to discuss my concern with my swimming companions they all seemed to think I was over reacting. Some even found the situation of whipping her for failing to obey the instructor as hilarious and another observer cracked an insensitive joke about swimming while crying.

My mind kept on throbbing with the question of “Are they building another Michael Jackson?” The story of the late king of pop music, Michael Jackson is one that almost everyone is familiar with. Made to forego his childhood to pursue a talent obsessively, he goes on to grow up into a disturbed adult. Although the girl’s situation may not be half as bad, I just couldn't understand why she was being forced to do something she clearly loves doing but at that moment had no interest in. Where is the line between making someone a better person and forcing your own dreams on them? I realized then that we cannot fully solve the problem of parents choosing career paths for their wards. As she came out of the pool some hours later and was ‘bribed’ with a bottle of soft drink, her little child mind was quick to forget her tears as she settled down to her treat.

Is it right to force children to engage in extramural activities for their own ‘sake’? What do you think? Sound off in the comments.

University of Lagos
Dept of Mass Communication. 

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