I had quite an interesting childhood – my mum, my Dad, my siblings and me. At some point, I had to play the role of single parent to my 4 siblings – both parents were pursuing their careers. I will tell you more about this some other time. Well my parents, at some point both came back to resume their role as parents. By this time, I had already formed my views. Some of these views were from the Church, and from books, in addition to the family values my parents instilled.
Yes, I loved reading and I read a lot. I read all the Blyton series then. Read all the books in the library and was the proud recipient of a regional award from the library for being the best user of the library. Now, come to think of this, I do not think my parents ever got to know about this award. I was also a church girl, took part in a lot of church activities, in addition to my “single parent” status – but I digress.
When my parents came back to resume their roles as parents, we had quite an interesting relationship. I disagreed vehemently with some of their parenting styles or skills, whatever you call them. I was probably about 13/14 years then. I seemed to want to play the role of their coach – passing commentary on their parenting, disagreeing, and offering my perspective on the better way to do it. To my parents’ credit, they took my “coaching” in their stride, although my mum occasionally got irritated and told me to stop interfering and leave her to raise her kids. I remember one day in her frustration, she complained that I had ‘stolen’ her children. You see, she had a very hard time getting her 3 older children to obey her, (the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ). Her last child and me, (her first) had no problem co-operating with her, but not the other kids. The irony was that these other ones very easily obeyed and co-operated with me, and she disliked the fact that it sometimes took me to get them to do her, (mummy’s) bidding. That was the thank you I got from her for making me a single parent of her 4 children at about age 13. But I digress again.
One of the biggest points of disagreement between my parents and me was in the area of finance. I strongly believed that they both mismanaged their finances with the result that the family had to go without some if not most of its needs. My Dad often blamed it on poverty. I often retorted that poverty had nothing to do with it, rather, it was mismanagement that had everything to do with it. He often ignored this. But he had a very hard time convincing any his children that he was unable to meet their demands because of poverty – all of his children bought into my view – he couldn’t provide for their needs because he did not want to – he was mismanaging his finances. And that was how it stayed, he blaming it on poverty and we blaming it on him.
One day, money was given to me to give to my father. I must have been about age 15. The person came home to deliver the money to Daddy personally. But Daddy wasn’t home, so it was given to me, his oldest child to give to him when he returned home. I do not now remember what exactly the money was for nor how much it was. But I do recall that it was payment to him for services rendered – it must have been services as a referee in a football tournament. How happy I was! Finally, I had got the opportunity to show my Dad what I had been saying all along! I took a paper and made a list. I bought everything needed for the home. I also put aside monies for unpaid school fees – I went and gave this to a trusted person to keep for me so I could go and make the payments the following day. I also apportioned some for my Dad – as his pocket money to chill with his friends, and waited patiently for him to come home.
He did come home. I handed over his pocket money to him. I then proceeded to tell him who had brought the money; the total amount brought, showed him my list, and informed him of my apportionment. I accounted for every penny to him. He thought I was joking. But when he saw I wasn’t smiling, he knew it was no joke. He asked my mum if she put me up to this – but he soon realised my mum had no clue what he wasn’t talking about. So he knew without a doubt that it was my own deed.
He tried to cajole me to bring the rest of the monies – the ones that were yet to be spent. He promised me all kinds of things if I would just give him the money. I refused. He threatened, but that didn’t work either. So he asked my mum to talk to me. My mum told me it was not proper for me to spend my Dad’s money without his permission. I quickly responded that I did not spend it. I had used it for what it ought to be used for. I added that at least I was right in my assertion all along – that their earnings were capable of providing for all of our needs, and there would still be ‘change’ for them to do what they wanted with such ‘change’. She made unconvincing attempts to persuade me to give the rest of my Dad’s unspent money to him. You see, she didn’t even seem convinced herself that what I had done was wrong. There was the look of satisfaction and contentment in her eyes – all the family’s needs were provided for. She had a hard time pretending she didn’t like what I had done – although I knew she didn’t like the fact that I did all of that without my Dad’s permission. The two of them often took each other’s side. None ever took our side against the other. In a completely indefensible situation, (by either of them, usually Dad), our mum would “not get involved”. My Dad soon saw that my mum was not and would not be successful in convincing me to hand over the money. He therefore considered his final option- take me to the Catholic Priest, report me to the Priest, and have the Priest ask me to hand over the money. He knew I wouldn’t say no if the Catholic Priest asked me to hand over the money. So he picked me on his motorbike, and together, he and I on his motorbike, went to see the Catholic Priest.
My Dad narrated all of the events to the Catholic Priest. The Priest just listened – never interrupted. I also did not interrupt my Dad. I just sat there, listening while he laid his charges against me to the Priest. The Priest listened with calm, dignity, equanimity and patience. I could not read his expression, the Priest. So I did not know whether he saw me as evil or not. But I just sat there. Finally, my Dad ended his narrative, his story. I was waiting for the Priest to ask me for my version. Instead, the Priest went something like this – “Mr. Beeri, I appreciate the confidence you put in me to bring your daughter for us to discuss this issue. But I must be quite frank with you. I have heard many numerous reports about your daughter. Each and every one of those reports has been how wonderful your daughter is, how helpful your daughter is, how brilliant your daughter is, how talented your daughter is, (singing and poetry), etc. I have indeed heard many stories about your daughter. But like I told you, each of them has been a good report. This is the first time I am hearing a report from you, her father, and in all of your narration, you have not stated one positive thing about your daughter. Rather, you are telling me what to you is a negative thing. I must tell you, that many a Dad would be grateful for a daughter like yours”.
I was stunned. I was waiting for the Priest to next turn to me to reprimand me for spoiling my otherwise “spotless” record. He turned to me, smiled and said, “how are you Clara?” I timidly mouthed my answer. He then said – you are a wonderful girl. Keep it up. He did not ask me to return Daddy’s money to him.
Daddy knew that without an express command from the Catholic Priest to return the money, I would not return it. My Dad also knew I would not fail to notice the implied approval of my conduct. His only place of ‘refuge’ had failed. But you see, my Dad was a good sportsman. He was graceful even in his ‘loss.’ So Daddy got up, thanked the Catholic Priest, picked me on his motorbike, and we went back home. He never mentioned the money again. Never. I also never mentioned what took place at the Catholic Priest, (until now). That month, we had everything we needed, all outstanding school fees were paid, and there was pocket money left for Dad, and a little present for Mum. I was right after all – the seeming lack was not caused by Mr. poverty, it was caused mismanagement.
I believe that Ghana is not poor. Ghana’s poverty is an artificial one caused by mismanagement, rather than the want of resources.
Enjoy your weekend, friends.