Monday 20 March 2017


Image: Kiwa

There is this woman in the neighborhood I currently reside in. She has a shop where she sells provisions, food items and…wait for it…even fuel! Her shop is right at the corner and every time I have passed her shop on my way back from anywhere, there always seems to be a myriad of people she is attending to. Let me put this out there…I like her hustle.

She is a mother of four kids, with a bulging belly that announces a fifth. A first born son, a second daughter and twin girls make up her brood. Her son should be maybe six while the twins are just learning to walk so I will peg them at less than a year.

This is what I don’t like.

Every single time I have had reason to pass by her shop or buy something from her, I have taken note of something off with the way she handles her children. First with the twins. They are always so dirty-looking. Their hair – what little they have – is almost always covered with mud. Their clothes are a study in filth and because you can bet they are never wearing diapers, their panties are always an eyesore. What completely freaks me out is that I have never seen either of the girls with both pair of shoes. One twin is always with the right pair and the other with the left. I cannot imagine the kind of callouses those babies will have, seeing how bad our road is. And those babies are always on the road! I can count the number of times I have seen bikes and tricycles and even cars break quickly to avoid hitting them. When this happens, the mother just screams for the older brother who gets his sisters out of the way and gets back to whatever has his attention.

The son worries me too. He is always playing – which isn’t a bad thing – but his level of disregard for people is alarming. It isn’t unusual for him to shove people aside (without as much as an apology) when he wants to get into the shop. And when he gets into his play time, he forgets he has baby sisters. Yes, he is a baby himself but you can see he doesn’t seem to care about the twins. He can watch them play with fecal matter or walk towards the road where a vehicle is approaching and would only do something when his mother, or a neighbor, shouts in alarm.

The person I worry most about is the second child who takes off for hours and returns when she feels like. I know this because I have seen her mother beat her couple of times for going somewhere and only returning at night. She reprimands her and the very next day, the child is out again. This is scary because of the number of sick individuals we have out there. Someone who knows the girl can go out and return when she likes may set an ambush for her; an ambush that may be lead to her kidnap or sexual abuse.

What does the mother do in all these? Apart from the occasional shout, she seems to just let her children be. There are times when the babies are crying and she looks away. I must say I believe she cares for her children; she gets them food and changes the babies clothes when it is super dirty. But she is overwhelmed. Managing one kid is a lot of work, managing four hyperactive kids with one on the way can be too much. In the three months since I have been in this neighborhood, I haven’t seen a father figure who should be helping out with the kids. Apart from members of the community helping out here and there, she is basically doing all she can on her own.

Here is what I feel. Parents should be able to care for their children or provide the means to have them cared for. Those children are at great risks because their mother is overwhelmed. Though the road is bad, it does not stop a reckless driver from going fast if (s)he chooses. Also, any number of things can make a vehicle skid out of control. What happens if these kids are waddling across the road when something horribly bad happens? And these are babies! They shouldn’t have to live in filth when there are a myriad of diseases they can contract from the harmful microorganisms that abound in dirt? And though I mentioned the possibility of sexual assault for the second child, the truth is, all the children are at risk.

While I advocate for minding your business, there are cases where we just shouldn’t. Here is my dilemma. How do I convey this worry to the mother without coming off as a ‘busybody’, ‘akproko’ or ‘gossip’? How can we get parents to space their birth so they are better able to deal with raising each of their children properly? Would it be fair to report to social services, knowing that the woman cares for her children but is overwhelmed?

This has been plaguing me for weeks now and I would really like advice. What can a sister do?

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