A few years ago, my husband and I were school hunting for our children. It was then we met with the owner of a school we had been considering. In one of our conversations, the school owner asked us if our family would be going abroad for the summer holidays.
Immediately, I knew she had overstepped her boundaries. I also knew that even if her school ranked high in our personal assessment, she wouldn’t get high marks herself. Thinking all these in my heart, I still managed to answer her with a smile. I told her we weren’t sure about our plans. My husband and I then completed the tour of the school and left.
What’s The Deal With Summer Holidays?
Back in the car, my husband told me he didn’t understand how our choice of where to spend the summer holidays was relevant to our child’s admission. Was it to assess our financial capabilities? He wondered. Even if so, it still didn’t make sense. There were many banks that offered travel advance products. So judging prospective candidates based on where they spent their summer holidays did not reflect their true financial status.
I tried to make light the woman’s slip in the hope that the school would be included in our shortlist. After all, I truly liked the seeming diversity of the school. I also liked their proposed teaching methodology. Sadly, my husband was already put off so that school owner never made it to our final shortlist.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that issues such as where a family spends summer holidays has become a thing among urban working class in Lagos.
How About A Vacation Close To Home?
Some years ago, a woman regaled us in the salon about how she shocked her children that year when she took them to Ibadan to spend the summer holidays with her Mother. She said she had overheard her children make assumptions about what she could afford. Specifically, she heard them making arrangements to meet up their friends somewhere in the UK. She said she enjoyed the look on their faces when she bundled them off, telling them Ibadan’ made for a good summer holidays essay.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against families who spend their summer holidays outside the country. I do not quarrel with taking children for summer vacations outside the country. If anything, travelling abroad is a hobby I delight in. But with my family, we only take our children who can ‘experience it’. Otherwise we holiday alone if we must.
My children only recently began travelling when they were old enough to experience a new environment. Taking my 9-month-old back then to Disney would have amounted to a bad use of my time and money. The only challenge I have is the assumption we leave with children that summer holidays must amount to going abroad! What happens when the parents can no longer afford it? Will the children then be able to deal with this? Are they going to want to write their essays when they get back to school?
The truth is, children need to know very early that there are two sides to life. Like my home teacher Olu often says (and I agree): Children should not make assumptions about their parents’ financial capabilities. It is not their money (as yet). They must know that parents do not owe them a trip abroad during the summer. Yes, our primary obligation to our children is to motivate them to be their best. We owe them rewards when they perform. And we also owe them lessons on how to delay gratification.
Apart of the presumption of annual summer holidays, another indulgence I have observed is the recent outbreak of graduations and proms. Everyone appears to be graduating—and with a pull out all stops ceremony too. A friend’s two year old, another friend’s five year old, another friend’s nanny. What is most interesting is the fuss, the pomp and the pageantry that is put into these graduations.
In my friend’s nanny’s class for instance, they specified the colour codes the parents/guardians should wear. Trust my friend. She arrived in a different colour daring them to send her away. Another friend of mine, Mr. E, who owns a salon, told me he was asked to come and offer home service to two ten year olds who were having their graduation. When he got there, the dressing room was rife with makeup artists and outfitters. He said he couldn’t resist asking the mum if the little ones were having their weddings.
So naturally, I sometimes wonder why we give our children so much, so early. How much is enough at each time, one might ask? Are we really trying to give them the best or are we simply over-indulging them?