Uchenna's blog: Life lessons from the tooth fairy

clock Released On 24th Apr 2021

Uchenna's blog: Life lessons from the tooth fairy

When we run out of household items these days, the tooth fairy is our go-to banker.

A lover of yoghurt, my five-year son, aka Commander-in-Chief Junior, was upset that none was provided for breakfast. Pointing to the gold coins on his table, he insisted: “Mummy, I have been saving the gold coins from the tooth fairy, so can’t you just buy another one from Tesco?”

Four of his teeth have fallen out since January. Outside of the fact that the tooth fairy was clocking overtime to meet this additional cost, I was so alarmed at his fast track into adulthood teeth, I asked my dentist if this was normal.

“He’s fine,” my dentist assured.

Acquiring the gold coins elevated Commander-in-Chief Junior’s status to town crier: “We’re not poor anymore!” he beamed. “I told people in school that we were poor and they didn’t believe me.”

I was so taken aback by this revelation, I burst out laughing.

“Why did you say that?” I asked.

“Because you said you can’t buy me more than one present for my birthday, so we are poor.”

Haba - just like that I realised how much my Nigerian thriftiness switched my son’s mindset sideways.  It is peppered in my thinking, in my upbringing. Growing up in Nigeria during the Biafran war when the Igbos tried to secede, my parents stretched the concept of recyclable. A skipping rope becomes a laundry line which metamorphisizes into the mat beater to shake off the dust in the summer sun. My parents drummed the mantra home of learn to value things as I grew up with my four siblings where there was no option but to share. We didn’t challenge what was said; we accepted it because there were hierarchies and unspoken rules about parental engagement.

This is the thread that stitches my Nigerian and Caribbean sisterhood conversations about balancing this tension in raising our children. How do we make them appreciate where they’re coming from and fire them up with the courage to soar like eagles? The pain is raw when the government gaslights our lived experiences and obstacles in its racial disparity report.

We were raised on council estates, now our children live in houses because we bought into the obsession of property ownership to show our parents’ sacrifices and struggles were not in vain. They fuelled their desire to become educated by doing cleaning jobs and childminding. Very few made it into white-collar work because they didn’t have the secret access code for the cultural pass to get in. Their modest salaries raised families here and villages at home.

Consumerism has led to default thinking of entitlement – my children included. But my friend Ava also pointed out to me the power of words. “Hun, you need to think about how you frame these things – you have got to think about his future mindset," she said. "He’s a little black boy and you’re teaching him about the psychology of money.”

As his toothy grin extends from ear to ear looking under his pillow exclaiming that he’s rich, I ask myself: where is the ending, and what is the beginning?

How do I know which is which?

Uchenna works in strategic communications and engagement. Her/She has led initiatives on employee engagement and diversity and recruitment for different companies. Uchenna marvels at the new zest of life and clarity her Commanders-in-Chief have given her.


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