This and that

First off, I am dead tired, worn out! I have been up and down the past four weeks, work and other obligations. It does not help that I am also experiencing a loss I truly had not anticipated. It caught me flat-footed. But being a grown up comes with such, you just deal as best as you can.

In the aforementioned ups and downs, I missed spending quality time with my son. I am riddled with guilt. Life and work balance they say. I might have to call bullshit on that. You just do your best I think. And focus on the quality as opposed to quantity. Make every second count. I am trying to remember the exact words a friend used to describe this, something about the sum total of work and of life that then makes the balance. I truly am exhausted, I can barely think, remember, I doubt I can find my elbow with either hand and a flash light. But I need to write, it is my therapy. So stubbornly I will continue, hopefully it goes well, my musings on totally unrelated topics, this and that.

I learnt some, doing my other non work related obligations. That you can give your time and skill to a cause, you do not necessarily have to give money. That in my own small way I can bring change. And that it feels so damn good when you do this. Giving of your time and knowledge and other resources disposable to you is the ultimate goal. You could go to your old primary school in the village and get involved in some activity, mobilizing the parents and wider community to do some improvements to the classrooms for instance. Visit your college Alma mater and give a talk to the continuing students in your former faculty, explain to them the realities of the work place so they are able to translate the knowledge they learn in class and be better prepared for the marketplace once they graduate.

Have you ever met a total stranger in the most random of places, who then becomes a good friend? A supermarket for instance. You are queuing at the till in Nakumatt and you start talking to the person in front/ behind you. Maybe about the cashier and how friendly he is (because a friendly human in this Nairobi is a strange and rare thing, when it happens you gawk, speak about it. Have you ever said hi to a random person and they just look at you not responding? I do this a lot and usually wonder what triggers the lack of response, they were not anticipating a greeting?) Or the trolley ahead and how full it is, how long does it take to go through all that cereal, you ask each other. Maybe they have it for dinner too? Then the chit chat morphs into a serious conversation.

You go through an aha moment, a change of perspective, an awareness or understanding of subjects in a way you had never thought of before. Totally makes you reexamine your life. Like the story of that Uber driver that was doing rounds a while back, how the experience he went through made him make some changes. I guess that’s why we are told to travel, mingle with people of different cultures, class, read. We pick so much, that hopefully makes us better people.

Change is difficult. When you decide to do something different, that is actually good for you, but out of the norm, what society and culture perceives as acceptable, you best be ready to rub people off the wrong way. People close to you, your family even. Change makes people uncomfortable. And as much as they know it’s good for you, the natural way to react is object? I still can’t figure it out. I guess once you have made your mind you just go on and do it. And pray it works. And if it does not, learn from this and try again a different way. Now I see and understand why people stay in comfort zones however uncomfortable. Change is too much work.

Djasiri asked how I got him out of my stomach. I told him they cut my lower abdomen and got him out. He then asks what they used to cut my stomach. I said a scalpel. “You are lying , if they cut you, you would be dead”, he says. I am tempted to tell him I got him off the shelves of Carrefour, or I wrote a letter to the Storks, and the birds dropped him home just like in the movie. I strongly suspect he would believe this version than my truth. I also wonder how you could possibly explain a vaginal birth to a six year old?

It’s school break, grandma and Easter are here! Wish you a good one. Be kind to one another.

xo, mamadjasiri

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Understanding Overvaluation

A short while back, I attended the prize giving ceremony for my sons school. It was a good function. Sonny however did not feature in the awards list.

Why I am writing is because in all honesty I felt a bit disappointed. Now don’t get me wrong, he still is the smartest kid I know (not just because he is mine, hehe). And his grades in school are perfect. I felt terrible for feeling the way I did. Then I stumbled upon a subtopic in Dan Ariely’s book, The Upside of Irrationality, that cleared things up for me.

What Mr. Ariely describes in Understanding Overvaluation is that most parents think very highly of their children, so much so that they do not realize that other people do not see them in the same way as they do.

Think about it, those who have children. You can go on and on about them showing pictures to anyone who cares to stop, look and listen, but lose interest or struggle to listen immediately the other person starts to share about their kids.

The author further writes that, in reality, he suspects that very few people are either wholly unaware or aware of their children’s gifts and faults. This translates to that, not only do most parents think their children are the best thing on earth, but that they think other people think so, too.

This tendency by the way does not just manifest in how we view our children. Naturally we view anything we create like this, the IKEA Effect.

In my unsolicited opinion, I feel it is good to be aware of our overvaluation so we are able for instance to discipline our kids when they err instead of defending them. It also makes as not make unrealistic demands of them since we understand their capabilities. And in understanding their capabilities, we are also able to nudge them when they are slacking.

 

xo, mamadjasiri.

 

Questions Galore 2

It’s been a while, three weeks going on four to be precise, since my last post. As expected, a lot has happened over this time. Two weeks ago, in a span of five days, I lost a cousin, grandfather and a friend from our office block in that order. Shook me pretty good.

In the sermon, at my Uncle’s house, the pastor said something that is relevant with parenthood and that stuck with me, “our children are not ours, we are just custodians”. I have quoted Khalil Gibran, actually used the quote as the featured image, in one of my posts, Worry How you wonder are these words supposed to console a grieving parent? Life.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the Subject. Something has piqued Djasiri’s curiosity, necessitating a second installment of Questions Galore Clearly I have discovered the insert/edit link button, hehehe. Or maybe my son has positively influenced me to be curious and try out things.

So he had reading homework, the CRE book. The chapter we are reading covers good habits, how God’s children should behave. Whether I am in complete agreement with some of the content in this book is subject for another day.

Does Jesus look like God? He asks. So I tell him yes, I think Jesus looks like God since He is God’s son. And besides we are all created in Gods image I add. “So I look like God?” Yes, I say and urge him to continue reading, before he hits me with another difficult query.

Then the book lists smoking cigarettes and taking alcohol as bad habits that children should desist from. What are cigarettes he asks? What are cigarettes I ask myself, the things people smoke? I tell him its tobacco rolled in paper that people smoke. Why? He asks. I don’t know Djasiri, I guess it is a habit that people acquire and become addicted. Before I am asked what addiction is I say we proceed. But he wants to know what alcohol is. He is on a roll. So I say it is a beverage that makes you drunk. I am aware i really haven’t answered his question. It is hard to tell children the truth but in simple terms, I find out.

Where is hell? Is it like a trillion kilometers away? “I don’t know where hell is, I have not been to the actual hell, I have not heard or read of anyone who has come back and given us the directions” I am tempted to say. But I say, all I know is how the place is described. I am not sure if the bible actually says where hell is. Thankfully we are done for that day.

Next day during breakfast,do bees make honey? Yes honey, bees do make honey. I look to see whether he caught that, nope. Do bees cough? Are you shitting me? I am just a mom, not an expert on Apiology. Oh, even you the readers have a question? Apiology is the study of honey bees. The Jungle book movie comes to my rescue, I tell him to recall the scene where Mowgli is getting honeycombs for Baloo, the bear. We just saw the bees sting Mowgli not cough.

“Mommy, can a working man go to work with just a vest?” I try to imagine what goes on in his head but I come up short. The questions are so random. Anyway, I answer and say no, they have to put a shirt on. What if they feel hot, he asks. Then they do the adult thing and put on the AC, fun, open the windows, or just sweat it out I respond. And wear a deodorant too I add laughing. I check to see again if he gets me attempting humor, nope, I am alone on this one too.

I guess I am trying to say a couple of things today, honestly I am not exactly clear if and how they gel together. I just needed to write, share all this. Please bear with me.

One is the importance of living our lives fully, forget being comfortable, taking risks. My sister said to me about our departed cousin, she was much younger than us, but she did live her life. Striving to make each day count. Friedrich Nietzshe put it best when he said, we should consider each day lost on which we have not danced even once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh. And then my favorite, Rumi, “Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.” Nice, yes? come on,  lets all say it together, “I’ll be mad!” Hahaha.

Secondly the innocence and abandon with which children ask questions, go about everything. Can we learn something from that? Everyone is a mjuaji in this city. Getting consensus in your work place is an uphill task, everyone has a different opinion.

And lastly, learning to accept life as is. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us – Epictetus.

XO, mamadjasiri.

Life is not an Emergency

Life Isn’t an emergency. Point number 22 in Richard Carlson’s Don’t sweat the small stuff…Omnibus. I read the two pages this point covers twice, then a third time more slowly.

Parenting, being a mother specifically has managed to make me feel so inadequate. I take it so seriously, I forget I am only human, I have two hands, and only so much energy. Looking at a house cluttered with toys, snacks, shoes and feeling an urge that everything has to be in place, always. Each time telling my son not to pour this, return your books to the shelf, do that. Is having the house in order such an emergency? Whats the worst that could happen really? We manage to stress ourselves on things that should not even. I do not endorse clutter, but I am learning to let the kid play, he can put everything back in place when done. And if visitors find it too messy maybe they should come back years later when he is grown.

In my future posts, once in a while, I will be talking about some points in this book, and what I am learning so far from it, how I am translating the points specifically as regards motherhood, the category this blog revolves around.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Tied to life is not an emergency. Richard Carlson put it simply and perfectly, we spend so much energy sweating the small stuff we miss the beauty of what is going on around us, of raising our children. Now I know, this city of Nairobi manages to drive even the best of us crazy right from the traffic in the morning. For some, right from their gates. By the time you get to work you are irritated, then work, maybe a difficult colleague or client, by the time you get home in the evening you are ready to explode, snowball effect. How about you let it go? Why are you competing with that lunatic on the road? Why not let them go? Do you have to be the one who is always right in the office? Letting your colleagues be right does not in anyway mean you are wrong! Think about it.

Sounds too easy, case of easier said than done? It is easy I believe, just a mind switch. Making a mental note that you are not going to get worked up, seeing the bigger picture which is getting home calm, not a seething monster breathing out fire. I have noticed that when I am irritated from work by the time I get home I snap even on the smallest things. We spend so much time away from our kids, I think we should spend the few hours before they get to sleep catching up on their day not shouting at them, projecting our anger and frustrations. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It is all small stuff.

If he is not concentrating on the homework, I don’t shout, instead I tell him the importance of focusing on the task at hand. We finish quickly and then get time to play a game or for him to tell me something he wants to.

Don’t interrupt others or finish their sentences. How annoyed do you feel/ get when someone does this to you? It’s easy not to pay attention to the fact that you probably do this a lot to your children, maybe even spouses, friends, but that is not my focus. I notice when my son speaks he does not always get to the point immediately, the story takes twists and turns at times I do not even get the message. But I am learning to listen, then ask questions when I do not understand so he can explain himself clearly. Becoming more patient. Listening without getting an urge to interrupt requires it. I have noticed how relaxed we both are when conversing. He notices I am listening, paying attention, looking at him, nodding, asking questions. It is fantastic. You are actually teaching them the same too.

Lastly, for today, Allow yourself to be bored. The authors friend put it this way to him, “People are no longer human beings. We should be called human doings.” I am not sure why we get this urge that we need to keep the children occupied all the time! From the moment they wake up, till they get to bed, every minute is scheduled. Weekends see us moving our kids from one activity to another, they are signed up for so many clubs their little heads must be spinning. How about we schedule time to be bored too. Allowing them to fill this time makes them create their own games, activities to do. I have heard Djasiri sing songs he makes up as he goes during this time, it is hilarious. But most importantly it shows me that he can come up with ideas to occupy himself. He does not need me to tell him or plan for him what to do. It obviously translates to parents also slowing down, taking a minute to just relax. Take a nap Sunday afternoon when you feel the urge to engage in an activity instead of just being.

I in no way do justice to how good this book is. Grab a copy if you can, hopefully you enjoy it as much as I am doing and that it gives you a different, better perspective. There are a total of a hundred points, I am thrilled and hope to put them in practice in my day to day and also as a mother. I will try at least.

xo, mamadjasiri

 

 

Weekends

It’s Sunday evening and I am spent. Djasiri is serving me a krabby patty, only it’s the sofa cushion. The name of the game is make believe. I have to not only eat it, but also enjoy it, make conversation, you know, the way you do in a restaurant.

The krabby patty is served at krasty krab restaurant, in SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon series and movie. It is a sea hamburger. Residents of bikini bottom are addicted to the krabby patty. Djasiri just loves this series, not the patty. Each time we have gotten him one, he never eats it! He will take boiled maize over it. So that’s what we do every Sunday after church, eat boiled maize.

We have watched the SpongeBob movie so so many times, I can recite the lines. He still laughs and jumps all over the place each time he sees it. It is amazing really, that he does not tire of it. In the spirit of getting into my role, I ask for extra mayo. What pray will I be brought for? Anything that is not planted on the floor, nailed to the walls, not too heavy is fair game. Immediately,  Djasiri dashes off to the kitchen, fetches a mug and fills it with water. “Extra mayo coming right up!” he says. Thankfully it is water. This I can easily work with, drink without trying too hard.

The house looks like a circus, a little tornado christened Djasiri swept through. All the cushions big and small, toys, balls, blankets, throws are on the floor. Minus three cushions, that I have been served and I am eating that is. It is a good thing it is pretend, otherwise we would have weight issues in this world from being served huge portions. Standard portion sizes are a myth here it seems. My krabby pattys’ are blocking my view of the TV where we were watching, but mostly I was enjoying, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn. It is hilarious, quadruplets with such different personalities.

Is it just me or are there other adults who enjoy cartoon? At times I think I enjoy more than Djasiri. Cartoon humor is the best. You should see us, laughing so hard, playing back sometimes just so we see a scene again. We acquire new names after a movie we have seen. For instance after watching good dinosaur he was Arlo, I was Momma. In Mr. Peabody, he was Sherman or Shermansky as I liked to call him. I wanted to be Agamemnon but Djasiri insisted so I was Penny. It it tonnes of fun. Just vet the movies, some cartoons have language that will leave you scrambling for the remote. Both of us want to be a particular turtle after watching the teenage mutant ninja turtles movie. Hopefully we will come to a settlement soon. Hopefully in there too, will be a lesson that everything does not revolve around him, he does not get what he wants always. Learning to lose.

It is Sunday evening and I am aching. The tight hugs and being jumped on when you least expect it. Boys are rough little monkeys. He almost chokes me at times in those tight hugs. My neck truly is sore. He steps on me like he is walking on the floor, whether the foot lands on my leg, belly, doesn’t matter. I am not sure whether he understands the concept of pain, or maybe he just thinks it applies only to him. He had extra swimming classes on Saturday. I am now the student, on the floor. “you need to hold the rail and kick your legs” he says. “a rail is something that is round and on the wall of the pool mummy” I know what a goddamned rail is, but this is a cooking stick! He is tough this little man.

It is Sunday evening and I am  happy, feeling blessed. So many wet kisses. So many I love yous. I know more than half of it is bribes so he can get his way, but I will take it. We have done the homework and I am glad he is enjoying school, making new friends, learning new things. Creating his own circle outside of his family. Fighting his own battles. He is also helping to clear the table,pack his school bag and other manageable chores. What more can you ask for?

Stay blessed folks,

xo, mamadjasiri.