Letters For My Son

This is a excerpt from an insanely long letter i wrote to my son a couple of weeks ago around the time of his first birthday. I’ve been writing him little notes and letters here and there that i plan to give him to read when he turns 16. The notes are largely anecdotes on his life, growth, milestones, impressions, memorable moments from our family life and things i want to say to him in the time of experiencing life with him. Mostly, I am documenting our life in words for him but for me too. For us, for later, when time might have betrayed the memory of the beautiful details of our lives. Most of it is deeply personal and will only be read by him but the last part of this particular note, the tips, communicates some reminders i think other parents want to pass on to their children so i’m sharing it.

I’m happy to hear what aspirations, lessons and tips other parents have for their children so share away.

……And now some things to carry with you through life. Think of them as tips from mom’s handbook on how to hack life. 

God – Find him, know him, and cultivate a personal relationship with him. There is a superior being and I have lived in his Grace so I know it to be fact. He will be that sure calm inside of you amidst the chaos that is sometimes life. He will also be the unseen guardian, your constant champion, cheering you on for life so tune your heart to his presence. I have prayed for and with you every day since you were born and so i hope you will carry the spirit with you, for life. 

Read – Read books, stories, articles, things – just read. Cut out time expressly for reading. A good book will give you laughs, tug at your heart and allow you lose yourself in its pages. It’s a wonderful way to ‘experience’ things without actually living them. Reading will expand your knowledge in ways I or any formal education could never manage. I will raise you to read and I hope you love it but if you do not, just do it because Mom says so.

On Friends – Friends are that special kind of family we choose. People reciprocate as they are given so make some good ones and be generous with them. Care, be there and Love. You will always have me, and your family, and If you are genuine, some great friends to add to your life.

Travel and see the world – We live in such a diverse and beautiful world and travelling will give you the many aha moments of your life. I plan to raise you that way and I hope you will carry it with you. It does not matter where; just go somewhere new every so often. Explore, see the world. You will be better for it.

Hard work – For anything you do, give it everything – tasks at home, school and work. Soon you will have a job or even run your own company; either way, hard work will be the constant you will need to rise. Truly expend yourself and make your time count. You will reap from it, I promise.

Have fun – Whatever that means for you, do it. As long as you are not hurting anyone, pursue fun as passionately as you do hard work.

On kindness – There so few virtues I am passionate about as this one. Always, always, always choose kindness. Even if it is common behavior to behave otherwise, do not be mean spirited. It is not the most natural response and we have to consciously choose to be kinds but please try. Kindness is not one of those things we give to those who give it, we give it unreservedly, strangers and loved ones alike, deserving and not.

On treating everyone with respect – In our home, we treat Women and Men with respect and you will be raised that way but because the world is set up so women are disadvantaged in that esteem, I want you to be extra conscious of that. Because society will let you get away with many things as a boy/man, I want you to check yourself for male privilege, and stay grounded in the ideals of equal treatment of all persons in spite of their gender or beliefs.

Sorry and Please – These are good words, not just to say but to understand and mean too when you say them. You’ve got a stubborn gene from both sides so ‘sorry’ may be more difficult for you than most but try, try hard. Politeness never killed anyone so use the word ‘please’ as generously as is reasonable.

On love – I have learned that love is more present around us than we often acknowledge. It’s in the random phone calls to check in, the acts of kindness, effort to spend time together, common little sacrifices we make for each other here and there. You will know it by being present with your family and friends and when the time comes that special person. It is also good practice to tell the ones you love that you do. People like the reassurance. About that special person, take your time, worry not if you go through a couple of special ones, it’s the way of life – love each fully in the season within which they hold your eye.

You my light will always be my very best decision and I know I chose you but thank you for choosing me too; every day this past year with your enamoring eyes and little hands when they reach for mine, thank you. Continue to choose me like I will you, tell me things and stay close to me K, I promise you, you will always have me no matter what.

I hope you will grow to trust me, absolutely but above all to trust yourself.

I promise to write you only special days; birthdays, graduations and things but I will probably fail and write you many more notes. Bear with me, find them; read them, they are from my heart to yours.

Always,

Your mother

Let Them Play

I believe I am blessed to have one of the best views of the city. On any given evening, hues of yellow and orange peer through the windows and color our living room rich. It’s quite something, and in fact that streaming light serves as a reminder for me to go out to the balcony to enjoy the sunset. Some days are more magical than others but in general everyday is a real treat. As evening grows and the sun sets over the horizon, the skies begin to darken in anticipation of a rising moon and peeping stars. In a distance, the Northern bypass lights come alive and as people turn on the lights in their homes, all of it makes for such a pretty picture. Again, I am blessed.

This magnificent view however pales in comparison to the satisfaction of living within view and earshot of a slum. What I suffer in the occasional late night church and club noise, I more than make up for in the enjoyment I derive observing the lives of my neighbors. From the top floor of our apartment block, I have a good view of quite a bit; ranging from the activity at the nearby nursery school to the contents of my neighbors sauce pan on the sigiri (fire stove). On some mornings, I will make my bowl of cereal and sit out on the balcony just to take in these scenes. Lately I’ve made a habit of bringing my 1 year old along, he watches our surroundings with such intent; I always end up watching him watch them – its now a thing.

Early in the mornings, mothers with their head wraps still intact and lesus tightly wrapped around their waists escort their sons and daughters to the neighborhood nursery school. The little ones’ faces bear stamps of interrupted sleep, masked by such ample petroleum jelly, they shine almost as much as their well-polished shoes. There is, of course, occasionally, the crier, who pensively waves goodbye and watches their mother walk away till she is out of sight, but, mostly, their eagerness against the morning chill is admirable. Evenings are even better than the mornings – the children are louder, and their games more active; they sing and mime songs and tell stories and its all so entertaining to watch and listen to.

One evening, my friend and I while walking our babies chanced upon an interesting scene in the empty lot where the kids like to play. The lot, once a slum dwelling had recently been graded and so there were remnants of life; some pieces of clothing, tins and debris from the demolition. Before us were what looked like tents that the kids had constructed; as if in memory of the houses that once stood there. Stones had been used to clearly demarcate the walls and rooms of the houses, and old rags, and sisal bags for the roof. In the rooms, were items as you would find in a typical house; a big stone for a TV, sticks for chairs, rags for doormats and on and on. In one of the houses we ‘visited,’ one of the girls was busying herself sweeping and tidying up, loudly dismissing the ‘kids’ in this role play who apparently wanted to make a mess. It was fascinating to watch, and when I asked if we could enter, they were happy to host us as long we removed our shoes. We let our kids enter the house. My friend’s daughter started to lift things about and I could see the ‘mother’ looking on uncomfortably. She did not want anyone messing up her house; like their own mothers probably do. I watched in wonder, at their imitation of life as they experience it in their home environments.

kids-play

I have often thought about that scene, fondly, but sometimes somberly too at the thought that my kids will not have as many of the experiences the slum kids do; the active and engaging games they come up with, the interacting and socializing, the careless abandon with which they play and create in the dirt -wet and dry seasons alike. I keep making notes to myself to encourage my kids to go out and play, of course in as safe an environment as I can control. It also impressed upon me that play is a great way to engage children but also a good simulation to observe their forming ideas, skills, attitudes and behavior. That play with peers and adults is as important to their well-being as is food and shelter. Also, important is that our kids are watching, and everything we do so make it count!

According to the recently launched National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy (NIECDP), a baby is born with billions of brain cells that present lifelong potential, but, to develop, these brain cells need to connect with one another. One highly recommended means to nurture these connections is play. The role therefore of play in the wholesome development of a child certainly cannot be underrated. While this is a government initiative and GoU has subsequently committed to invest more in this area, I submit that the onus lies greatly with parents to make conscious decisions to invest resources and time in the growth of their children. Recognizing that the first 5 years of a child represent the most critical phase of life, during which their brains develop at a pace faster than ever, parents and other stakeholders are called to action and action NOW.

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To learn more about the campaign on the National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy, follow UNICEF UGANDA on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and join the conversation via #BestStartInLife

They let me keep the baby!!

Stories are recounted of the life-changing experience it is to go from being a woman, to a mother. Some would even reach as far as to call it a paradigm shift. Those people are not lying. That change, I can attest is a real thing, and, but, you have to experience it first-hand to truly get it. You think you understand it because you’ve watched your mother love and hope on you, always unfaltering, but, I can guarantee that you don’t quite grasp it until you are one.

The instructions on the test say to wait a minute. Every second is slow and painful and time seems to stands still, but as sure as the morning sun, that second line, faint at first, starts to darken and blinking harder does not make it go away. Motherhood does not settle in then. It doesn’t either when you text him “two lines”, far from it, in fact, you freeze, and then swing from being 100 degrees scared shitless to somewhat excited at the idea of being a mother and that pendulum bobs on until you find your center, or you don’t and that is alright too. While its tempting to think that the fundamental change happens at some point during the eleven hours of harrowing pain in labor, do not be deceived, it does not. It is also not in the hazy seconds during which they pull an alien looking life form from your lady parts. When I felt my son squirm about on my suddenly empty stomach where the doctor had placed him, the tears flowed freely from my eyes to the plastic of the delivery bed. The mid-wife held him up in my face, urging me to look at him before she could take him away. To confirm his sex, she pointed out his ample balls and willy but I was a less than alert participant so she proceeded to the business of weighing and cleaning him on the other end of the room. Then, he cried, a little but sure cry and new tears formed in my eyes, and as if following my cue, he cried harder and shrieked through the clothing and cleaning. Oh to hear that, the sound of a life is ineffable joy. Even then, I still did not feel like I had crossed over from womanhood to motherhood.

Holding your perfectly swaddled baby in your arms for the first time, feeling them champion through their first futile attempts at breastfeeding is great, really great, probably only comparable to taking home your adopted child for the first time and introducing them to their new family and the home you’ve been preparing for them for years. The real mothering though begins when the  mundane routine of life as a mother overtakes the many emotional firsts. I cannot pinpoint exactly when it happened, but, i know, certainly, I’ve crossed over. For me, being a mother, thus far, has been a summation of all the ways things are different, measured between then and now.

You know things have changed when you finally give up on watching a series because you have already rewound the same scene in an episode 6 times because focus on one thing, anything, while the baby is awake is a dream. You try for a while though before you relent because after you bring forth a little human being, you have an exaggerated view of oneself, your abilities, multitasking notwithstanding. The paradoxes are unending. That while focus is impossible, mothering means you are able to do 4 things at the same exact time, and do at least three of those things perfectly well. That sleep after a long day can be sweetly deep and yet shallow enough for you to hear the baby on their first coo in the other room. That time gains its value, not in the number of hours, but in moments with the baby and so I get unusually antsy when work tasks drag past 4:45pm. I’m diligent with my time so I can be home with my son by 5:30pm, which is when he wakes from his nap. Small wins are made of beating the traffic to be home in time for me to be the face he sees when he wakes from his evening nap.

Extra curricular activities can be sacrifices, many worth it because balance is key but one must pace themselves, dip their toes in the water before taking the plunge. Short of this and you might find yourself in my shoes, sobbing on a boda boda home after a fun activity, because in spite of choosing the fastest means home, I had, for the first time in 6 months missed my son’s strict bath time. I wallowed that evening and was oddly consoled when he didn’t sleep too well that night. God heard my little weeping heart and sent me a sign, to let me know that I had made my mark. I was his mother and missing ‘our things’ was important to him too. And so now I pace myself in taking time away from him, approaching it in bite size portions that my fickle heart can manage.

Reflecting upon becoming a mother, I have deduced that, first, one makes a conscious decision to immerse themselves wholly into the role, and then, you experiment and grow your way lovingly through the responsibility as life gives.

Happy Mother’s day everyone

A tragedy desired

I only remembered yesterday was mother’s day when an old friend messaged me

Her: Happy mother’s day

Me: Its mother’s day? I didn’t know

Her: The British one

Me: Eeeeee, all along, Thank you

That message was what snapped me out of the heat induced vegetative state I’d been slipping into. For too long, I’d been dozing painfully on the couch, wanting very badly to sleep but alas the sun was raging, as if from a bad period and making it impossible to sleep.

For the past few years, my siblings and I have taken to mother’s day. We often got a cake, wrote little notes and once or twice we even got flowers for mother supreme. The constant though, was our excitement in anticipation of the day’s little plan, and my mother’s face when it was unveiled. I live for that look, her eyes, a thousand hues of love, some, colors I know from being her child so long and others, the rare ones, I’m only discovering now that I have my own. I beat myself up a little for not remembering but thankfully, we were visiting with her for the day and so redemption was ours.

My idea was to wake her from her afternoon nap with a show, a mini concert of sorts, song and dancing, and other awkwardness only my siblings and I know to pull off. She would try to protest our advances, throw in a warning or two about never disturbing her sleep but she would fail terribly and quickly give in to the laughs. For good measure, we would regroup by enlisting my son…..and his eyes. One look at his black bean in snow eyes and she would be enamored. And then she would get into full laughs mode like only she does, heaving chest, teary eyes amidst half baked pleas for us to stop lest we give her a heart attack.The whole shebang. I love it when my mother laughs. When we are laughing together, all our tiffs and little fights fade into oblivion. Much like a dictator’s promises on ‘winning’ a rigged election. When we laugh, I am not the child who at the height of prepubescent self actualization declared that her mother did not understand her and therefore needed space. Oh the audacity of me! Nor am I that problematic child who was suspended from school because she refused to be canned, embarrassing her mother who had short of prostrated at the feet of the headmaster to secure a place in the school. When we are laughing, together, I am simply her daughter and she my mother and our words and pauses are punctuated only by love.

Plan in hand, I went about setting it in motion by rallying my siblings, but first I thought to check in on her. I peeped into her room and there she was, fighting sleep, not to a Daily Show omnibus like I had been but to my son’s enthusiasm. His infant agility in spite of the heat was clearly no match for her experienced bones. I stayed there for a while and held that moment, the scene with them together like that, my mother holding my son’s little hands and yet my heart while at it. I walked away muttering a prayer of thanksgiving. Later when i thought of that sight, I confidently wished for that tragedy, the one Oscar Wilde referred to in his 1985 play, The Importance of Being Earnest.

All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his – Oscar Wilde

Happy Belated Mother’s day everyone

Happiness as a constellation of stars

Picture a constellation of stars on a dark starry night. Against the backdrop of a dark sky, the contrast of bright, shiny stars – the big, the little and  the in betweeners, all aligning to make a beautiful constellation.

Sunday mornings are every working mothers’ favorite time of the week. I am a working mother. On those precious mornings, i am up at the first sound of my son waking. I  go over to his crib where i find him bobbing his head up as he takes in his surroundings and the moment he sees me, his face contorts into the sweetest toothless smile ever. I pick him up and bring him over to my bed because that’s what we do on Sunday. We sleep in, have breakfast in bed and when we should get up, we don’t. Instead, we sleep in some more. I rain kisses on him, linger with the cuddles and also spend many many minutes just taking in his scent. Yes, I sniff my son. We have conversations, i make up songs, he babbles along, we play games and I read to him. On those mornings, time is not a factor and my eyes do not keep darting to the little white box clock on my bedside table. These mornings are fleeting but for a while, we are transfixed in the moments and forever could be ours. This, is my big one.

There is no satisfaction like that from killing a blood sucking mosquito the morning after a night of torturous ringing in my ear. Only people that hate mosquitoes as much as i do can attest to this. People like my mother. Growing up, i was roused from my sleep by sounds of my my mother chasing after and beating mosquitoes in our room. Our walls in the morning resembled a battle scene, littered with the squashed bodies of the enemy – victims of my mother’s triumph. It was my sister’s job because she was younger to do the cleaning up. In retrospect, we should have used mosquito nets as surely that should have been easier than my mother’s night creeping all over the house. Anyway, over time, a seed of hate must have been sown and so now i sleep within arms reach of a mosquito buzzer so i can swat them in a swing. I live for the kill and the joy it brings. And this, is my little one.

 

When you know, you know

I’ve had a bottle of champagne in my fridge for 14 months. Its the really good stuff and so when my friend gifted it to me, I decided to save it for a special occasion. I have since moved house, spring cleaned my fridge many times, celebrated two of my own birthdays and hosted maybe four other parties in my home and yet never touched it. I did not even  once take it out of the fridge for consideration. I was not sure what day I was holding out for but I knew that all those supposedly special days did not suffice.

Last night, on an ordinary Tuesday evening, after I put my son to sleep, I went about my routine, tidying up the house. I opened the fridge to put away some food and my eyes were immediately fixed on that wine bottle and just like that, I knew, it was time. I picked it up, placed it on the counter and looked at it – not in doubt, but in wonder of how and why this moment. I did not ponder long though, I popped the bottle and poured myself a glass. I’m usually only proper about crockery when I serve or eat with others. Alone, I’m happy to sip my wine from a mug but like I said, there was something about this time and so in honor of that I even brought out the good glasses. As we have established, I am only a little refined so obviously I used an ordinary wine glass as I don’t have any champagne ones.

Because it was a hot night and I felt like it, I stripped down to my essentials, and there, sprawled on the floor, I took my first sip of the good stuff. Here is where I would insert the expertise praises of a wine connoisseur  but I am only an ignorant wine lover so inept. I can say this though – it was splendid. It had a sensual tingle to it, a confidence of taste, exactly as I imagined.

But this note is as much about my drinking habits as it is about my affinity for the nude – only slightly. Earlier that day, I had made a decision, a big decision, the stuff of turning points. It had been long coming and anxiously evaded but I was never truly ready until suddenly in a light bulb moment, I was. Lying there on my stomach and savoring every sip of that champagne, I couldn’t help but connect the two happenings. My ‘knowing’ and picking up that bottle. I decided then that when the time is right for the monumental changes in your life, you will know it and YOU will make them happen. You will not need to read another motivational book, spend weekends watching pirated Dr. Phil videos or endure another 5 step program to beating…insert your struggle. When its time, the stars will align in your favor, certainty will hold you in its sure steady arms and behold before you, your aha moment.  Like the feeling when i sipped from that glass of wine, your epiphany will mirror the predictability of coming home to oneself, obviously only possible if you believe in parallel universes.

In the meantime, be quick about forgiving yourself and bouncing right back on that soul searching horse and when in doubt of your persona, your strength and your values, be gentle with yourself. Again, when the time is right, you will know. Because certainty is the reward of long suffered doubtfulness, it is that much more pleasurable when arrived at.

Have a great week ahead and if you’re in the Uganda area, please go out and VOTE. I will be voting and so should you.

 

 

Of living in the NOW

 

Take a walk down memory lane with me. Remember when at the height of teenage angst you thought you were fat because your sports wear fit snuggly and didn’t hang loose like the other girls’. On sports day, while the other students loitered the field, showing off perfectly shaped calves as they moved from one tent to another, you sat still under one of the trees, eyes transfixed on the games in feigned interest. Honestly, you were only counting down the hours down till the day’s end when you could return to school and wash off the discomfort. What about that time in s.4 when after a physics paper, you overheard a group excitedly discuss the exam and realised you had messed up an entire section so of course you couldn’t quite share in their chatter but instead retreated to the coldness of your bed, to cry a little and make sweeping promises to God if he spared you an F. And remember that time you waited months for this moment, the school dance with those Namilyango boys, and instead of the giddy knots and butterflies you anticipated, you fought the sting of fresh tears and your palms felt clammy because that cool guy you had been exchanging letters with all term had only sheepishly waved at you before he proceeded to dance with another girl….for the entire event. Remember how small you felt in that red dress you had borrowed just for that special ocassion or how you swore off boys, at least Banyankole boys.

Fast track to the present. Now You have since dated atleast two Banyankole men, one you even loved deeply and could have married. As for that exam, well, you did fail it but went on to excel at other subjects and ultimately, who needs to know how a pulley system works when you’re so busy enjoying your dream job in PR. And about those weight and body image issues, now that has been the most pleasantly surprising of all because it is in fact true that you were the smallest you have ever been back then.  You are surely many kilograms heavier now and yet you couldn’t care any less. Bliss is the feeling when your lover’s hands delicately linger over your plentiful bosom – pleasure unbound!

That we can laugh light heartedly at what our younger selves thought to be monumental back then is exactly why we should not kill ourselves in the midst of today’s difficulties. Because in due course, time will wave its magic wand on them and alas oblivion. By this logic therefore, is it worth it then to kill oneself over today’s little tragedies? I submit not. There is a lot of beauty in the lives we are living NOW but only if we aren’t caught up in getting to that greater future. That while we hold out HOPE for better times ahead, we should be content and happy with the present – not only because it just might be our best times ever but mostly because there is nothing to be gained by living otherwise. That the human experience is best enjoyed and lived in the present – it is all we are guaranteed anyway!

Therefore, tune your heart and mind to all the goodness in your life and i promise you, there is alot if only you heighten your senses to it. And as for the difficult stuff, the trials you think will be the death of you, PERSEVERE through them in HOPE, rest assured that they WILL pass and as we have proven above, WILL NOT kill you and therefore not worth fretting over. I can attest that in the moment of experiencing hardships, the knowledge that things pass is such a comfort. It is however not the most innate thought process and one that you will need to consciously tune your heart and mind to. It takes practice.

If you have to dedicate valuable brain space to dwelling on something, let it be the bountiful blessings in your life. Be of a light spirit, forgive as many times as your heart will allow and watch yourself breeze through the tribulations of your life. Also, give to others, your time and heart if only but give all the same. Be thankful, gratitude is remedy for a greedy heart and giving is a good reminder of how good you have it, because in the grander scheme of things, you do.

Here is to good living, all year round.

Love and Light