Seeing the issues that big sister Julie seems to have with her parents, ignited debate among my youngest brother, my mother and me, in an old school versus the new school sort of way.
AFFECTION FROM PARENTS: Julie wishes that her father Sunday showed his love to them more, giving cuddles and being her friend as well as her parent. She also thinks her mum finds it too easy to point out the negative things about her and never praises her
I think Julie needs to realise that African parents – especially the dads – are almost nothing like those who were born and raised here in the UK. The cultures are very different. The men are very proud, almost to a fault, but that’s just how it is. In one scene on the show, Julie tells her mother that she nor her father have ever given her a pat on the back or encouraged her in any positive way, but can rather count numerous times when she’s been told she’s not doing well, no matter how hard she tries. I can understand what Julie is saying to a point, because when I was young I felt the same way about my own dad. I didn’t think he ever had a good word to say about me, I didn’t think he was ever proud of me, and I even felt at one point that he rather wished that my cousin was his daughter, because I’m pretty sure he frowned when speaking to me, but smiled when speaking to her. My mum says that my dad has never really been the affectionate sort, and that stems from his own childhood issues, but it has never meant that he doesn’t loves us, and I agree, because we have never been mistreated, and there were a lot of nice things he did for us. He was just never an outright “I love you” type. I was 20 when I remember receiving my first proper hug from my dad, and ask my bro, I was talking about it for ages after. My mum says that she tried to show us affection when we were younger, but we’d tell her not to because we were embarrassed! That may well have been the case (I don’t remember) but in my defence I’d say that maybe she tried it a bit later when we noticed and felt a little conscious. Maybe.
TAKING AN INTEREST IN YOUR CHILD’S LIFE: Julie complained on the show that her parents sent her younger sister Ola to boarding school, and that while she was at home for the summer they never really sat down with her to find out what was going on in her life at school or otherwise
I argued that a lot of African parents (from my parents’ generation) don’t really acknowledge that their children are actually people, and my brother agreed. Of course my mum disagreed. By ‘people’ I mean that we have feelings, issues and experiences that go further than education and housework. Many parents don’t really try and find out what their children are up to, what their interests are, etc, and many times if it doesn’t lead to a profession in Medicine, Law or Business, it is dismissed as a waste of time. My dad is an accountant, and until recent years, was pretty much in denial about my interest in the media. He wanted me to go to university to study Political Science. I don’t know what the hell that is! Either that or become an accountant like himself, or an architect. He even chose my GCSE subjects for me. I think that was also another reason I felt he would rather have had my cousin as his daughter – she followed in her father’s professional footsteps. My dad has now accepted what I would like to do in life, because I guess he can now see how broad the media industry is. I know it’s not completely their fault, it’s just they way they know, and things were different for them back home.
I spent the first few episodes of this series of ’The Family’ screaming and tweeting about how crazy and full of issues I thought Julie was. She still needs to watch how she speaks to people, especially her parents, but I also rate her for at least trying to express herself and get through to them. Her argumentative methods are a bit much, but really all she craves is a loving family environment. To African parents, children will always be children, regardless of whether they are eight or 80, and they will always know better. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times my mum has said to me, “Oh you’re a child, you don’t understand” – even now! Please don’t misunderstand me though, my family get on absolutely fine, we laugh a lot, we all love and care for each other, and I wouldn’t change anything about my upbringing. It’s just a case of the two generations meeting in the middle and learning from each other, because as my brother said to my mum, we didn’t ask to be born here, so we can’t help that some things are not being done the way they would “back home.” It was nice to see that Julie’s mum is slowly coming to this realisation too.