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MAN & CHILD: The wine of children

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My daughter Jinaki, who will be four years old in May, is at that stage where children start mimicking the words of songs they hear around them. Most times, she will just pick up one or two lines and repeat them. Sometimes, she creates her own lyrics. So, last Monday, when I heard Jinaki singing a certain tune to nonsense words, I told her what the actual chorus was. And, when I picked her up by her grandmother later that day, she greeted me with a performance.

“All dem gyul have maaan,” she carolled, bobbing her head from side to side, “an actin like dey single.”

Now Jinaki speaks more or less standard English, but for this song she adopted an exaggerated dialect accent and the clownish head gesture. So, in case you were wondering, I don’t think I am laying a foundation for her to become a skettel when she’s older.

For one thing, her mother and I will tell her the facts about sex whenever she asks. Contrary to what the present Education Minister thinks, giving children such information doesn’t encourage them to have sex. In fact, young people in countries which have proper sex education programmes in schools start having sex later than youths from countries that don’t have sex education or which undermine such programmes with finger wagging. More importantly, societies where parents treat sexual activity as a normal part of their teenage children’s development have lower rates of teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases than societies which treat sex like a taboo topic.

Since schools in our country do not have effective sex education programmes, it is my wife’s and my responsibility to explain the facts of life to our daughter and son. Those facts will be told to them in the same age-appropriate detail, whenever they ask the question.

Even so, you may be wondering if letting her sing calypsoes with raunchy lyrics is a bad idea. But children do not understand the meaning or context of such words, so it is no different from them singing Humpty Dumpty. Even dancing with “suggestive” motions isn’t suggestive, because they are only indulging in mimicry. It is environmental cues that affect good or bad outcomes sexually–ie whether having sex gains them status in their peer groups or not–as well as knowledge about sex.

If my daughter is academically inclined in secondary school, the odds of her having sex early or getting pregnant go down drastically. This is even truer of my son Kyle, although in his case we will have to warn him about girls taking advantage of him, because he has long eyelashes and naturally curly hair and may be mistaken for a rich boy.

Even if they are not so inclined, however, just knowing the basic facts reduces the chances of their natural urges derailing their lives. From that point of view, not teaching young people about such an important topic effectively constitutes endangerment of the child. And, as a parent, I will never deliberately put my children in harm’s way.


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