Being a parent does not always mean being responsible

The year was 1983 (A very, very long time ago according to my children's standards). Having spent three school years living with my grandmother, three with my parents, it was now time for my uncle Edward to take care of me for the next few years. At the beginning I thought that was so cool, because uncle Edward was only five years older than me. He was my father's youngest brother, by the way. I thought we would have a lot in common, lots of fun, etc. But, boy, was I mistaken! He turned out to be more responsible than my parents, which I now believe to have been a good thing, but back then I would have paid a million dollars for a more outgoing, fun loving and less strict guardian. Fortunately, it all turned out to be a blessing in disguise. 
a hut in a remote village in Zimbabwe
Simple life in the village (image credit: al_green)

Going back in time

Let's go back a bit for you to get a clear picture. I believe I was born with slightly above average intelligence. I was at the top of my class for the first three years of my education. Although there were people much older than me in the class, I managed to easily stay at the top of the pack. And we are not talking about people one or two years older. Since it was a school in a remote village, I was in the same class with my uncles, aunts, sisters, cousins and whoever else wanted to go to school. Age didn't seem to be an issue during the enrollment process.
Here is a short story to prove my top-of-the-pack story. When I was in class three, my parents gave some money to my grandmother to give to me on price-giving day, if I managed to be in the top three of the class, which I was. I was actually number one, but my grandmother didn't realise it was me because at home no one called me Churchill. They all used a special nickname that was so popular that up to this very day some of my best friends do not know my real name. So I only got the money when we got home and my grandma found out from my aunts and uncles that she had missed the occasion to show how proud of me she was, in front of the school. What a pity!
The next school year I moved to the capital city to live with my parents. Most people would assume that living with my parents would enable me to do even better since my parents could help and guide me better than my grandmother, but the reverse was true. Over the three years with my parents, I went from bad to worse and then from worse to worst regarding school results. I have to say it wasn't all my parents's fault. Like they say, the environment in which you leave influences everything you do, including your future. The change from village to city life took its toll. In the village, life was all about herding cattle, building clay toys and reading. There was nothing else one could do besides, maybe learning how to whistle and shooting birds using a slingshot. 

Living with my parents and the temptations of life in the city

City life was so different. There were lots of children in the neighbourhood to play with, I could go to the cinema any time I wanted, if I just managed to raise the 15 cents entrance fee. Gambling was as important and common as breathing in our neighborhood. I can't even think of any childhood friend of mine who didn't gamble. There was just so much to do that I had very little time for education. Our house was like a hotel to me. I only went there to eat and sleep. There was even a time I stopped going to school for a few weeks. My parents did not even notice, until someone from school came and informed them. I was a child, but my parents were not, that's why I believe they should have helped me set my sight on the relevant stuff; things that would build my future, because back then I didn't know that my future would depend on the small, systematic steps that I made every day. I wasn't a difficult child, so I am sure I would have paid attention. May be they did their best, but Uncle Edward did much better, despite his tender age. 

The responsible young man takes over as a gurdian

So I was lucky that 18-year old Uncle Edward stepped in to stop this downward spiral just in time. Who knows how bad things would have ended had it not been for his life-saving, swift action. I actually believe I might not even have finished secondary school had I stayed with my parents a little longer. There is tangible evidence to support that theory, which I will not go into right now. For now, all you need to know is that at the age of 13 I went to live with my 18-year old uncle. My knowledge was not impressive and neither was the end-of-year report that he had to present to the school he had to get me enrolled. I can only imagine how embarassed he must have felt throughout the enrollment process. But that was all to suddenly change. My uncle made sure of that. How you ask? You will find out soon.
And if you are wondering why I didn't live with my parents all my life, well it's an African tradition that I will get into in the near future. So stay tuned.
Sun, 21 Jul 2013