Tag Archives: parents

For My Sister Merline – I Will Always Love You

Dear Big Sister

I was heartbroken when Dad told me you had finally gone to meet our Creator and Maker; that after 33 years of torment, you finally went to rest. I felt hurt and sad but now that I have fully accepted that you are not here anymore, I am relieved, knowing that you will not suffer any further.

I will miss you my dearest Merline,though I was already missing you while you were still here. You were the big sister that I always wanted and somehow didn’t have because your illness stole your mind, your very self from us. We all grew up watching you struggle, suffer through countless seizures having lost your mind. Mom and Dad told us painfully how you became like that from a ghastly motor accident at a very tender age of 6.

You had to learn to walk again, talk, eat and then the seizures started. That wasn’t the bad part of it, what made it worse was that from that day, Mom and Dad lost a daughter and we would never truly know how wonderful a big sister you could be to us because you lost your mind and sense of self in that accident.

I saw Dad and Mom cry countless times, most times after an incident or when you’d occasionally wander away, asking God to restore you. I couldn’t stand the hurt in their eyes and because of that I learned how to pray. I prayed that God would heal you, that the seizures would stop, that you would get your mind again so that Dad and Mom would have their first daughter again and we can finally have our big sister whole.

When that didn’t happen, I changed my prayer and asked God to relieve you of your sufferings because it was getting harder by the day watching you helplessly. We could never fully tell how much pain you were in because you never complained but it was heart-wrenching seeing you like that day-in day-out. More than we knew it, you were strong and resilient, bouncing back after every episode but never fully recovering or healing.

So I figured if you survived all those years, surely God was up to something.So I went back to Him and asked, begged and cried that he restores you wholly again. Instead I got a call of your death.

I had the picture in my head, of the fun we would have when you finally received your healing. The places I would show you, the things we would do, the adventures we would go, I would finally have my big sister again but most importantly, watching you bond with our parents. My dream never came true. I want you to know a few things though:

You would have loved Mom and Dad for sure. They are not perfect but they are the best parents we could have ever asked for and they have loved you every single step of the way. They never gave up on you, always seeking new treatments and solutions to your ailment. In your short life, you saw more doctors than anyone human being should in their lifetime. That is how loving and resilient our parents were towards you. They never gave up and loved you just as much they love us if not more, because you were their special child.

Know that I miss you. I have been missing you since I was born; missing the older sister who should have been if the accident didn’t happen. Know that I am sorry for the times that I wasn’t a good sister; for the times when I didn’t care for you as I should have because I was always away at boarding school, for the times when I was ashamed of you and failed to mention that I had a sick sister at home, for the times when I stole your birthrights and introduced myself as the first while you were still clearly with us, for not loving you as I should have loved you, Merline I am so sorry.

I was initially angry with God for letting the devil win,for letting the devil have access to you and hurt you  the way he did, for abandoning you. Now I know better, though I will never understand why He let the devil have access to you, I know for a fact that the devil did not win. I know that God did not abandon you, He was always there protecting you from harm even in the seizures. I know that God won because you died a very peaceful death,in your sleep.

You might have not lived the life that was meant for you but even in your sickness, you have left us a legacy. A legacy of how to love someone when they don’t know they are being loved, how to care for someone who is unaware, how to be strong and look to God in the midst of adversity. Apart from being born in a world with original sin, you were blameless, spotless and if there is anyone close in perfection, it would be you. We have lost you on earth but we have gained an angel in heaven. I know you are next to Jesus in God’s kingdom, watching even as I type this.

This is not the healing I was praying God for recently but I know it is not about me but you, and because of that I know you finally got your healing, you are finally free. Fly Angel. We would never forget you Merline, you will live in our hearts forever.Together with God and Jesus, I know you will be watching over us and guiding us. We will do our best to live our lives in your honor.

Indeed, God knows best.

No,We Are Not Pregnant.

Last week I wrote a poetic article of gratitude for my mom in honor of her 50th birthday. I was privileged to have the article featured on a popular African blog and had a few people comment on it. Everyone expressed their well wishes for my mom but there was one comment though that got me thinking.

The commenter wished my mom well and said she hopes the upcoming generation can raise children while multitasking as “our” moms did. In this context, “our” moms refers to African mothers/women. For those who are not Africans and might not know about the culture, an African mother is basically EVERYTHING in the home. (This is true for 95% of African households.)

For many of those households, the woman’s place is believed to be in the kitchen but in examining it, it stretches far beyond the kitchen. The African woman/mother is considered the primary domestic; tending the laundry, doing all the household chores, she is expected to bear children and raise them properly while the man is regarded as the king of the household because he goes out to work, he brings home the bacon.  There would have been nothing wrong with this scenario if many African mothers willingly chose to be home-makers, but that is rarely the case in most homes. (topic for another day, I digress).

The comment struck a nerve because it left me wondering if many women in my generation can be an all encompassing woman like “our” mothers; willing to be the brunt of the household and if they honestly “want” kids. Don’t get me wrong, personally heaven knows I love babies and kids. I was a nanny/babysitter for about five years, I grew up in a big family and I “practically” raised our last born. I am surrounded by nephews and nieces every where in my family and I have been on Godmother duties for about 3 years now. So you see, I am constantly being hedged by kids.

I am positive there are women who feel a certain nag in the gut about whether or not they want to procreate kids themselves either biologically or otherwise. From where I stand, the world we live in today is becoming very peculiar and the results from the lens with which I am observing that world looks very gloomy. If many of these women are looking at the world the way I am, I think a lot will be leaning towards the nay side of that argument and here is why:

  • Will Your Partner Be Committed?

A few days back, there was an article published on this same popular site which struck a nerve with a lot of people and everyone was agreeing with it, yours truly inclusive (this post is partly inspired by the article). The article discussed the nature of the African man, his pride and ill manners and the little or almost non-existent help they offer to their partners in marriage because of the way they were raised.I am very open when it comes to dating, not limited to my African brothers alone( I am generous like that…lol) which I am sure many women are. But just in case you end up the African brother (or any man) whose thinking faculties still reside in 1980, do you really want to start a family with him? With a man who believes it is a woman’s duty to do everything in the house and raise the kids properly without any form of contribution from him except financially? A man who would be afraid to express his emotions before his kids because according to him, it makes him look weak? A man who thinks bringing home the bacon is all there is to keeping a happy home? A man who would not change diapers because he grew up knowing that it was a woman’s duty and not his? God forbids that any one ends up with such a man but if that were to be the case, I am sure you would be leaning towards the negative side of the equation about not having kids.

  • Peer Pressure

We all know there is no handbook for raising kids out there and especially none on how to be the “best” parent or ” perfect” parent to your kids. (Trust me, those books out there claiming to be expert advice are only guess work). Every parent who made the conscious decision to have kids do the very best that they can to raise their children in the very best way that they know how to. Being a nanny for that many years, I know first hand that you only have that much time to shape your child’s thought process and empower them. It is those early years between the ages of 0-10. After that, you have to rely on prayers because your child would be fair game to whoever has a more convincing voice when they are not around you. You want to teach your child independence and protect them at the same time, so it becomes a bit of dilemma. I am sure if many parents had their way, they would follow their kids every step of their life and choose their friends. But we live in a realistic world where that is just not possible. If you are unfortunate to have a child who can be easily swayed, can you imagine what influence their peers would have on them? It can go either way, bad influence or good influence.? So there is that fear sometimes because God – willing, we would all do our darnedest to raise the best kids, but what about those times when they are not around us, when we cannot control what they consume emotionally, physically, and spiritually? God help us because  this is a legitimate concern.

  • Does he/she really want kids.

No one and I dare say no one African person (except me of course..lol)  wants to believe that not everyone is cut out for having kids and that not everyone is fit to have them or that not everyone wants them in the first place. I know this is not just relegated to Africans as I stumbled on an article some months back on Yahoo about a Caucasian lady who tied her tubes at 26 because she was convinced she never wanted to have anything to do with children. The amount of backlash she received on that article was enough to send her reeling into a hole never to peep out again. The only comment I might have agreed with on the article was someone who said she should have given herself until her 30s to do that because as humans, we change our minds all the time. I don’t even want to imagine what people would have said if that same article found it’s way on this popular African site.( My African people would have helped her parents curse the day she was born albeit unsolicited). We have already established that there is no guide to parenting set in stone, but I am sure most of us have witnessed some parents in action and shook our heads in denial of those actions. There are those whom after careful observation, you can deduce that they unfit to parent? So why would all these people go ahead to have kids if they were honest with themselves in the first place? In most cases, the woman falls culprit the most and the men get off pretty easy. No one questions the man when he gets a vasectomy young or when he decides to not be a father, but it is another ball game when it comes to women. Also, the man can just become a deadbeat dad and whilst that is not acceptable, he will get away with it. But it is hard for a woman with conscience to walk away like that, which leaves us with many disgruntled parents who had kids not because they wanted them but because they were trying to conform to society.

  • The World Is No Longer Safe

If you are looking to be depressed, you need not look any further than the nightly news and the local news is the worst offender. Almost every minute there is something atrocious happening somewhere in the world and it is scary. I am sure many people who consider starting a family think about these things. If you are not in the 1% of the world, then you are living every day looking over your shoulder because there is no telling where the next ill is coming from. The natural disasters have multiplied by a zillion with earthquakes, mudslides and tornadoes threatening from all angles. Air travel which used to be considered one of the safest is slowly becoming one of the worst; who would have thought that sending your kid to be an exchange student would result in them becoming a casualty on a plane ? Just staying in your house these days doesn’t seem to be a good preventive mechanism anymore as stray bullets are constantly flying in the air. There is a saying that ” it takes a village to raise a child”, well, these days, it takes the same village to kill a child. So many people taking this into consideration will decide to just ride solo.

  • Freedom

Whether you agree with me or not, having children takes away some level of your freedom which many people are not just ready to give up yet. Even for those who can afford to employ nannies, it is not easy to just get up and go. You can’t do that anymore,not with children who depend on you. Your every move and activity revolves around those children. Even when you are able to have the night off and go on date with hubby, your mind is never off your children.I know because I was a nanny for those many years. Now imagine what it must be like for those who can’t afford a nanny/babysitter. There are people who want to earn just enough to look after themselves and having kids means working extra hard, double hours and forgoing so many things like clubbing and all which they are not ready to. For these people, having kids is not part of the equation.

These are just some of the reasons why some people may decide to not have kids and it is entirely their prerogative. I don’t think anyone should judge them for it or hold them in contempt because those who have kids also made a decision to have them. Everyone is free to live their life in the way that they see fit and I don’t think they owe anyone any explanations for those decisions or be looked down on because of them. Life is full of choices and not having kids is one of them. We have just one life to live and we deserve to live the very best version of it even if that version doesn’t include kids. Live and let live.

I’d like to know, what is your take? Hope you have a nice start to the weekend.

 

The Switch

“When are you graduating?”

“When are we celebrating you?”

“When are you finishing school?”

These are the questions I get now when I visit my aunt and uncle and happen on some of their friends. These are friends with whom I have no ties or relations to, but they however find the need to ask about my educational prowess, despite the fact that they have no stake in it. Some of them, might have come to get used to my graduation date shifting further with each year.

My uncle stopped asking me questions along those lines two years ago. We now have this silence agreement of ” ask me no questions about my education and I shall tell you no lies”. If he noticed whenever he asked me such questions, then he must be wondering why my school load tends to increase with the years instead of reducing.

It is not that I don’t like talking about my education or tell my inquirers proudly and confidently about when I will finally graduate. The problem is whenever I delve into answering all those questions, the conversation almost always takes a life all its own. In the past, people have not been very understanding and the fear of been judged nudges me to embellish the truth instead of full disclosure.

If any of you are Africans reading this or have African friends who share their experiences, then you will realize that in most of our cultures, it is the norm for our parents to dictate what we study in school and what career path we follow. We simply obey and do as they say because after all, they are in charge of the tuition.

Back in secondary school, I was a well balanced student. I did well in both the arts and sciences but excelled particularly in the sciences. My parents noticed and pushed me towards science more,never stopping to ask what I would have wanted to do. They wanted to have a doctor in the family, if that didn’t pan out, an engineer would do and if all else failed, then a pilot.

And so it was that I found myself studying Microbiology my first semester in the states. My uncle convinced me to switch to nursing, citing my families financial situation to which I obliged the following semester. Still at the advice of my uncle, I moved from pre-nursing to pre-LPN. Subsequently, I kept shuffling back and forth between micro, pre-nursing and pre-med and back to micro. You can imagine what this back and forth movement would do to one’s psyche.

It took me moving out of my uncle’s house before finding my voice (as long as I wasn’t under his roof anymore, he couldn’t dictate my life) and deciding what it was I actually wanted to do as a career path.

Why did it take me so long to admit to myself that this was not the career path I wanted? Or that I was never really cut out for the sciences , considering how I have been dabbling in writing for a long time and honing my skills for God-knows how long. Well, there is the fear of my parents (reason why I have still not told my dad I am not pursuing a nursing degree anymore, he would find out like everybody else on graduation day) , the fear of disappointing them or dashing their hopes and there is the ballast factor. The guarantee of a stable income and better life that a career in one of those fields promises.

What these unlicensed and unauthorized journalists fail to realize is that no one is more perturbed about my education than I am. It would feel really good to be able to say I am a graduate but the simple fact is I am not. But I am working towards that every day and giving it my best shot.

I have come to the conclusion that I am a late bloomer. By my culture’s standards, I should have been working on my PHD or a second masters now (no pressure) but I am not. I always have my epiphanies when they are long overdue and my hindsight is always 20/20.

If you are like me, know that is totally allowed for you to feel frustrated but what is not ok is accepting defeat, accepting the statusquo. You are not in competition with anybody and even if you were, what matters is that you make it to the finish line. It is not how about how fast you get there but how far you make it, and that finish line is the goal.

Have a blessed rest of the week y’all.

 

Community Parenting

Recently, my girlfriend and I went to a tavern on a weekend night to catch up over wings, drinks and some good ol’ gossip. Being a weekend night, you can imagine how crowded it was and true to a tavern atmosphere, there was mellow music playing in the background and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Out of the blues, two kids were bellowing down the aisles in boisterous excitement,they caught every diners attention and unanimously, we all turned in an unrehearsed fashion searching the tavern for their parents. People were whispering to each other, obviously, everyone wondering why their parents would let their kids loose in a restaurant. Some minutes passed before intertwined voices tried calling them back to their sits; all eyes turned in their direction,which probably intimidated them, causing them to retreat.

My friend, who by the way is a mother was visibly upset and offended; she wondered aloud why parents would bring their kids out and allow them to run loose with no discipline. It got us talking about the different scenarios when parents fail to discipline their kids or call them to order.

There have been so many reports about rowdy kids on airlines or kids whose parents plainly were paying them no attention. More recently was the story of the lady who traveled with her disabled kid and cried foul from the airline by generating a  thread on instagram/twitter to rally support for “undeserving treatment” to her disabled daughter. When the story broke, it turned out she and her husband were flying business class while their four kids including her disabled daughter were flying economic class. After reading that, I was baffled why a mother would willingly and intentionally separate her disabled daughter from herself on a flight. Was she expecting fellow passengers to take pity on her daughter and help her when the need arose?

These days, it feels like there are unattended kids everywhere and their parents are no where in sight; be it at church, restaurants and so on, putting people like us without kids in a tough spot. Many a times I have found myself in awkward situations with disorderly kids but torn on what to do. On the one hand, if I reprimanded them, the parent might get angry and call me names of which my favorites is the “wait until you have your own kids” jab and on the other,if you don’t, your space is infringed on and you can’t enjoy your time out.

My sister who is a mother, was appalled when a kid wouldn’t stop screaming in church one Sunday, I found it strange that was coming from her because she is mother and we were there with my nephew. When I asked her why she felt so and if she forgot she had a kid, she answered me ” just because I have a child doesn’t mean I should inconvenience other people”. That was exhilarating to hear her say that.

I understand that not every one can afford a nanny but in such cases, you should be your child’s sole disciplinarian and teach them how to act in public, especially in spaces where people particularly come out to enjoy themselves and have a good time. To those who would always make the excuse of  “wait until you are mother” or “that is because you are not parent” , well, have you considered if said person might have made a personal choice not to have kids and reserve the right to enjoy that decision without being made to feel less like a person or as though their lives lack meaning? Or have you considered that they in fact might have kids but chose not to inconvenience others?

All I am saying is, people should be considerate of others and attend to their kids when they are out in public. You wouldn’t want some random person meeting out unacceptable discipline on your child, neither would want people looking at you like you deserve the worst parent of the year award. Groom your kids and teach them from home, when they are still very young; they get the message easier and better and makes it easy for you to be out with them in public.

And before anyone calls me out, I am a nanny and I am surrounded by kids all around me; nephews, nieces and God-children. I might not have any kids now but I sure know a thing or two about attending to kids. Kids are very manipulative and they would do as they please if they know you would let them get away with it. Please pay attention to your kids, if not  even to curb their rowdiness in public, then for their safety. Surely, you didn’t birth a child so the rest of the community would raise them for you, did you?

Thank God it’s Friday!. Hope you are having a good one and do share your views on the topic.