It’s a beautiful feeling hearing the sweet shrieks of playful children as they run around the sitting room. I was immersed in this sweetness as I watched my nieces run around with so much energy when it dawned on me that something was wrong. Like gas molecules they just seemed to be zapping around inside a container, they had so much energy but so little space.
A nostalgic feeling swept through me as I remembered how much space we used to have to run around in when we were much younger – the world was our space –
‘Will you sit down?’ Their mom screamed at them.
The girls aged 7 and 4 respectively, froze, their eyes twinkling as they sat down on the chair. It was obvious they were not comfortable. They looked pitiable and I felt their pain.
The above is a typical example of what I call the ‘bedroom-flat’ generation. Whether a one bedroom, two bedroom, three bedroom, four bedroom or even a duplex, it’s all bedroom flat generation to me. Children who have become prisoners in their homes, caged by their parents, having so much energy but no possible outlet of expression.
Where has the outdoor life disappeared to?
Is it just me, or are our children looking queerer and queerer by the day? I ease into a smile as I think of the phrase ‘queerer and queerer.’ My little niece actually does look like one of the power-puff girls especially when she’s in her elements –and that’s a fact.
‘If I see your legs outside, I’ll cut it off,’ I heard a friend tell his child.
I wondered to myself, which outside is this guy talking about? Is it the compound that has a massive gate entrance or the streets outside the gate?
‘Which outside are you talking about Frank?’ I asked him on one of my visits.
‘This one we’re in,’ he replied, pointing to the sprawling compound.
I just couldn’t help but chuckle, ‘No be me and u dey jump about for inside rain for Benin?’ I asked. The expression on my face clearly showing my amusement.
‘I don’t want them to live the life I lived,’ he replied me with a straight face. ‘Besides which of the neighbours’ children do they see playing outside?’
Just then Ronke his wife joined us and jokingly added, ‘abeg leave us alone, this is how we train our aje-butters’.
I just couldn’t hold it anymore, I cracked up in laughter. ‘So this is the reason?’ I muttered to myself, ‘aje-butters are trained within the confines of bedroom flats.’
Thinking about this always makes me smile, especially when I see how these kids look like released rats every-time they have the opportunity to step foot outside their sitting room into the compound. And if you’re wondering what this piece is for, I’ll tell you – my niece actually asked me if there’s a law against kidnapping in Nigeria?
I replied in the affirmative
‘What do they do with the conspirators?’ She probed further.
I was shocked with the level of questioning from a 7 year old. ‘They go in for it too,’ I replied reluctantly, not sure where the discussion was headed.
‘Hmmm,’ she sighed and started to walk away.
‘Radiant,’ I called to her – don’t ask me where the parents got the name from, (BEDROOM FLAT parents) – ‘why did you ask?’ I queried, now very curious.
‘I was going to report to the police that mummy and daddy have kidnapped me and Bliss (her 4yr old younger sister), but since they would arrest you too as their conspirator, I decided not to report anymore’.
With eyes wide open in surprise and mouth agape like a welcoming cave, I watched as the little girl retreated into her room – the kidnappers’ lair.
This piece is meant to be my alibi, just in case she ever changes her mind and goes to the police. I am shouting at the top of my voice – ‘I don’t support the parental kidnap of children under the guise of bedroom flat upbringing!’