For four years in high school, she tailed in her studies. They used euphemisms for students like her and called them academic challenged students. Sometimes, they would slip their tongues and use the term lazy or poor performers.
The academically challenged students,after the school holidays, would open school a day earlier for counselling. I was so embarrassed when bus conductors asked mocking questions about why we went to school earlier.
“See this shame! Why are you this lazy? How does my daughter achieve all Es in all subjects! You are worse off than a student who did not do the exam.” She would just walk on, silent , expressionless, chewing gum. She would spit it out when we arrived at the school. Then she would listen keenly as teachers counselled on how to achieve better the next time.
“I will do my best. ” She would reply politely. But the next exam would see her do even worse. At one exam ,she just wrote her name and index number.
The national exam at the end of the four years saw no miracle. She flopped, legs up. I cried when her father brought the results to her. It was a D. Her father looked at her, shook his head and left the room as if he could not stand to be in the same room as her. Ironically, her three siblings were razor-sharp. They played around top positions one ,two or three. I was a peacock about them.
“Sheila,who cursed you, what will you make of your life!” I asked. She would not reply. She would just bend her head and wait for my scolding. Then she would in her kindest way possible ask me to permit her to go to social hall.
“Go! I don’t even want to see your lazy self here.”
“Thank you mum!” She would say.
The social hall, I learnt from her sister was a place she met her four friends. They had contributed some money and bought stereo speakers. From these, they would do choreography dances . When they started to dance they lost track of time. It would take one of her brothers to go fetch her late in the evening.
” Next time you will be late, I will ground you!” I said.
“Sorry mum, it will not happen again.It’s just that we have created a new dance move.It took some time for all of us to get it right…!” She would try to explain.
“Aaargh! I have heard that story before. What will you do with the dance move?Eat it? At least your brothers and sister will benefit from their grades,you?” I asked her irked at the excitement she always portrayed when she talked about dancing.
“I wish you exhibited such enthusiasm on your exams like you did on dancing.” She recoiled and sat on her corner to watch TV.
“And for Pete’s sake, switch that dance show off! Start thinking about what you will do with your life now that you dismally failed in your exam.” Sheila would do as I asked and then take out her earphones, wear them and silently sing along the lyrics. I often wondered why it was easy for her to sing along Rihanna’s songs, word for word but could not capture the concept of reproductive system in Biology or The WWI in History or even the homophones in English.
Sheila was a quiet girl,unlike her brothers. She loved to keep aloof. Her best company was music. I once banned her from listening to music. She wrote a long letter to her father and I pleading for mercy amd leniency. This played on her father’s sympathy. He asked me to lift the ban. She was in cloud nine. She hugged her father and screamt profuse ‘thank yous’.
“You are too compassionate sometimes.” I reproofed him that night.
“No I think you are too harsh on Sheila sometimes. You forget how you loved music too in our youth. Remember your love for Mama G?” He said as he changed into his pyjamas.
Mama G was a famous singer. I loved her songs. I played her cassettes often times. She had retired from singing and was now a radio presenter.I listened to her morning show religiously.
” Well…I was not as obsessed to abandon the important things in life. Sheila forgets even her studies. What will happen when she cannot dance anymore? Is there a degree in dancing that she can gat a salary from? What will she gain from dancing in the social hall all day?” I asked agitated at my daughter wasting her life away. This were the questions I asked her often whose answers she never gave.
But one Saturday morning changed it all. My daughters and I were doing laundry. My sons and husband were not too far away from where we were. We were listening to Sheila’s phone radio. She had tuned to Mama G’s station.
“Once again my loyal listeners, thank you all for tuning to Sweet fm with me here Mama G! Today I want to applaud The Dotcom Dance Crew, a five-girl dance crew from a small town in the capital city ! Their video of them dancing is trending with three million views and 1 million subscribers on YouTube! ” Mama G’s mellow voice spoke on radio.
Sheila screamt. We stared at her. Her eyes were teary as she stared at all of us shockingly. We stared back at her in bewilderment.
“What is wrong Sheila?” Her father asked.
“Dad, Dotcom Dance Crew. “She said trembling.
“What has it done, you know it? ” He continued to inquire. She nodded.
” It is us dad. Julie, Liz, Mercy, Edith and I. ”
“What? ” Her siblings asked and sprang up to hug her as they all shrieked excitedly. I was dumbfounded. Then Mama G spoke again. We were all ears.
“Oh My! Dotcome Dance Crew, today is your day. A dance production company from abroad has just contacted us. They have seen your dance moves on YouTube and are requesting to meet you and offer you a three year contract to work with you. The deal has a handsome amount of money. Dotcom Dance Crew, get your passports ready, you are about to travel the world!”
We were over the moon! I could not believe this was happening. Suddenly, phones were ringing, people were thronging at the gates to congratulate my daughter.
Life for Shiela changed. She was instantaneously a celebrity. Companies were calling her and her friends for endorsements. Mama G invited them to the Fm station for an interview. We waited for that day in bated breath.
She was a captivating radio presenter. She asked the audience to call her station to congratulate Dotcom Dance Crew. The love was overwhelming. She asked simple questions that Shiela and her friends answered at ease with excitement.
“So tell us girls what would you say to the most special person in your lives right now?” Mama G asked. They gave different answers acknowledging the support of either their parents, boyfriends or friends. Sheila’s made me cry a river.
“For me, I would like to tell my mother that I love her. She is the one person that I would love to see proud of me. I want you to know mum, because I know that you are listening that I am sorry I have disappointed you so many times but I dedicate all these success to you. Your smile at my achievement means the world to me.” Sheila said trying to hide the tremor in her voice.
My eyes rained heavy drops of rue. I did not deserve to be called a mother.I was the person she had struggled so much to please yet I had dwelled on capitalising on her weaknesses and trivialising her passion. She had the chance to tell the world how much I scathed her but she chose love. She taught me to be the better person. She taught me to love unconditionally.
I changed henceforth. I am her greatest fan now. I have learnt that children are blessed differently. It is our duty as parents to show them love and support in their choices.