Don’t let your kids squeal around Ndu­miso Ng­cobo

Sunday Times - - Contents -

Here’s a rid­dle for you. What’s short, full of snot, more self­ab­sorbed than Don­ald Trump, eats more food than the 5,000strong mul­ti­tude that Je­sus fed, and can­not be trusted with any se­cret? Noth­ing comes to mind? Here’s an­other: how do you know some­one does not have chil­dren of their own? An­swer: they think chil­dren are cute.

I’ve got news for you: chil­dren are mean, mean minia­ture hu­man be­ings. More im­por­tantly, kids are snivelling lit­tle snitches.

I have a friend who has a two-yearold son. The boy had, un­til re­cently, not both­ered to par­tic­i­pate in the whole hu­man speech scene. He re­lied heav­ily on hand sig­nals and mono­syl­labic noises to con­vey the min­i­mum re­quire­ments in his life, such as food, PlayS­ta­tion and poop­ing.

My friend and his part­ner were wor­ried about this. I warned them against rush­ing him to talk but they ig­nored my wise coun­sel and took him to kin­der­garten. Peer pres­sure from the dozens of mid­get ter­ror­ists yielded the de­sired re­sults and voila! he has ac­quired full speech.

Fast-for­ward a few weeks and my friend is in bed when a car rolls up his drive­way. In the car is a friend who hasn’t both­ered to fore­warn him of the im­pend­ing visit. My friend is busy nurs­ing a gi­nor­mous morn­ing-af­ter headache. While he loves his friend dearly, he’s in no mood to en­ter­tain an id­iot who just pitches up at his house. Be­sides, he’s ex­tremely busy with some­thing very im­por­tant.

Think­ing quickly, he calls his do­mes­tic helper and in­structs her to tell the un­wanted vis­i­tor that he’s not at home. This is ex­actly what he hears the helper tell the mo­ron. Ex­cel­lent.

But then, hor­ror of hor­rors, he hears a third voice in­ter­rupt­ing. It’s his two-year-old. Nope, Daddy is very much in the house, he tells the vis­i­tor. The helper is mor­ti­fied, tells the in­truder that the kid is con­fused. The lit­tle raga­muf­fin is shak­ing his head vig­or­ously at this point. He switches to full Dali Mpofu mode, point­ing out ir­refutable ev­i­dence such as his car keys ly­ing on the ta­ble. He is just mo­ments from yelling, “Need I re­mind you that you are un­der oath? I put it to you that you are ly­ing!”

The price of eggs re­cently soared to un­heard-of lev­els. The only other time eggs had been so ex­or­bi­tant, I must have been about 10. Those were the days of the Egg Board and the Milk Board. I re­mem­ber my mom talk­ing to my aunts about the fact that it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore there was a need for a stokvel to be able to af­ford eggs. So imag­ine her an­noy­ance when she came home one day and found that the egg tray was short of at least half a dozen eggs.

We ve­he­mently de­nied that we had any­thing to do with the Great Egg

Rob­bery. Our helper also de­nied pos­sess­ing any knowl­edge that could help un­ravel the mys­tery of the dis­ap­peared eggs.

It is at this point that one of our play­mates, a boy called Ma­torho, walked into the house car­ry­ing an OK Bazaars plas­tic bag with six eggs. When my mom asked him where he’d found the eggs, Ma­torho sang like a ca­nary in front of a crowd at The Dome. “I saw Aun­tie Mum­sie [our helper] place the eggs in the dump site by the fence. I think she prob­a­bly thought they were rot­ten but they look OK to me. So I brought them back.”

This is how it came to pass that poor Aun­tie Mum­sie found her­self on the Pull­man bus headed back to the East­ern Cape without a job, for egg smug­gling. All be­cause of a ca­nary who couldn’t keep his beak shut. And I liked Aun­tie Mum­sie be­cause she al­ways put ex­tra Mar­mite on my bread.

Be­ing a par­ent is a com­plex, dif­fi­cult job. We have more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties than non-par­ents could pos­si­bly fathom. We have to teach our chil­dren many things, such as the value of an hon­est day’s work, be­ing kind to oth­ers, suc­ceed­ing without be­ing un­gra­cious, hon­esty and in­tegrity.

But we also have to train them while they are still young to tell green, rot­ten lies for self-preser­va­tion’s sake.

I bet Bab’ Ngubane, an il­licit booze trader from my hood, wished he’d in­stilled the whole­some fam­ily val­ues of nec­es­sary lies in his son the day three apartheid booze cop­pers came knock­ing. He’d been fore­warned about the im­pend­ing raid and had taken the nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions, so he was in the clear. But while the other two were in­ter­ro­gat­ing Bab’ Ngubane, one of the po­lice­men started ask­ing his son where the siqatha (toxic home brew) was. The lil’ urchin led him by the hand to a pit be­hind the peach trees and pointed.

Some­times it’s not even a se­ri­ous mat­ter of il­licit booze boot­leg­ging, it’s just over­shar­ing, such as hear­ing your son tell some­one on the phone, “Please hold on while I give Dad the phone. He’s busy tak­ing a crap in the toi­let.”

The raga­muf­fin is shak­ing his head vig­or­ously

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