I had a whole write-up planned about Valentine’s Day, and the importance of focusing on self-love, as well as other types of non-romantic love. Then I received this video from a friend this morning. It is about acts of kindness that cannot be reciprocated, at least not at the time they are given.
I am not affiliated with Microsoft, except as a customer using their Windows and Office products, and a couple of friends who work there. I am however strongly affiliated with anyone or any group that thinks beyond themselves and reaches out to those who cannot give them anything in return. It is not always about money; sometimes time invested is even more important.
As we go about celebrating today, spare a genuine thought for those less fortunate, and ask yourself whether you are truly doing all that you can do for those in your immediate vicinity, no matter how small it may seem.
On our way to school recently, Miss AB had been arguing with her brother about whether or not the sun had woken up. It was one of those hazy harmattan mornings, and the sun did not have its typical warm yellow glow. Miss AB was insisting the sun was still asleep; her brother was screaming that it was wide awake. So, being the wise little madam that she is, she decided to consult the oracle 😉 :
Miss AB: “Mama, is the sun awake?”
Moi: “Yes, it is.”
Mstr EB: “I told you!”
Miss AB: “Where is the sun mama?”
Moi: “It’s over there” pointing in the direction
Miss AB: “Mama how can I get to the sun?”
Moi: “The sun is actually very far away… Why do you want to go to the sun?”
My dear Mstr EB decided all by himself to become a vegetarian! Shortly after turning 18 months, he decided there was nothing cool about ingesting animal protein: fish, chicken, beef, goat meat – he was not interested in any of it! All attempts to convince him these meal items were worthy of being on his plate and going into his mouth had failed. So, you can imagine our surprise when he strongly requested for a piece of chicken last weekend; he not only asked for that one piece, he went on to eat about 4 pieces!
At dinner last night, I heard another request for chicken from the unusual suspect: Mstr EB! I had not included him in my chicken serving calculations as usual, so I did not have a piece to offer him as his request came after we had all cleared our plates and only had pieces of bone left. Mr B was rather curious about this wave of change, and the following conversation ensued between them:
Mr B: “Do you like chicken now?”
Mstr EB: “Yes!”
Mr B: “Interesting. Why didn’t you like chicken before?”
Mstr EB: “Erm… I didn’t like chicken before because it was not tasty.”
Mstr EB: “I only like delicious chicken.”
Lobatan! Who says little people do not appreciate good things? He he… But wait o, is this young man trying to say my cooking used to be crappy??? Hian!!!
My dad has worked with the same utility guy, who we call Uncle B, for almost 3 decades! I call him THE utility guy because he is the one that is called whenever anything needs to be done regarding any of the utilities in the house. Uncle B is an electrician by profession, so it is not a big deal that he gets called when a fuse blows out, or a new electrical line needs to be run from one point to another. He is, however, also called when there is a leak in the plumbing system. He is the one who then gets a plumber, and supervises him (I am yet to meet a female plumber in the city of Lagos 🙂 ) to ensure the job is done properly. If my folks are unhappy with the way the job was done, do they go harass the plumber? No! That falls on Uncle B. A wooden room divider needs to be built? Call Uncle B. The roof is leaking? Call Uncle B. You get the picture – Uncle B knows his business, knows how to handle his business (read people), and delivers quality service (only reason he is still around).
When Mr B and I got married, our new home was situated about 15 minutes away from my folks (without traffic – a necessary disclaimer in the city of Lagos, even the Google Maps application uses it, he he). Who was the obvious person to call when we needed electrical work done in our home? No awards if you responded “Uncle B!” :). A no-brainer right, especially since we were well within Uncle B’s jurisdiction – in fact, he would have to go past our neighbourhood to get to my folks’. Well, here is the conversation that ensued between myself and my dad just after narrating to him about the electrical issues we were having that needed resolution:
Me: “Daddy, I am going to call Uncle B tomorrow.”
Me: (wondering whether the answer was not obvious) “So he can help us out with the electrical issues” (I almost added “now,” but I no get liver! 😀 )
Dad: “Go and find your own electrician.”
Me: (bewildered) “Ah, ah… Why do I have to go and reinvent the wheel when we have a tried and tested person at home?”
Dad: “Exactly, we have a tried and tested person in my home. You have set up your own home now, so go and look for your own person.”
Me: “Ha! Ok o…” (feeling dejected and wondering why this man was “hoarding” his utility guy) “But why?”
Dad: “You see, you need to learn how to use your resources to solve your own problems. There are three main reasons for this: (1) I have raised you to be a confident and creative problem-solver 🙂 ; (2) who says Uncle B is the best available? You may just discover a better and more up-to-date gem that will beat Uncle B at his trade; and (3) if Uncle B messes up, I will be able to come to you for recommendations for his replacement :).”
The light bulb did not go off at the time – I was dwelling on how we were going to be gambling with artisans neither Mr B nor myself were familiar with, and praying nothing would be fundamentally destroyed in the process. So, I went off with my tail in between my legs – what I thought was merely an FYI conversation had somehow turned into a rejection; who gets rejected when one was not even asking for permission??? Sigh.
So, Mr B and I reached out to our friends requesting for recommendations for a good electrician. There were a couple of frogs, but we very quickly found our gem, Mr G. Mr G did such a good job for us, and very responsively sorted all issues we had afterwards.
Fast forward 7 years: not only do we have a very good and responsive electrician in our utilities “tool kit,” we also have other very good and responsive utility guys (again, I am yet to meet any female that provides these services in the city of Lagos 🙂 ): plumbing, water treatment, furniture-making, gas stove service and repair, air conditioner service and repair, and laundry service. We are now the go-to people our friends (and yes, my Dad 🙂 ) call when they need recommendations for such service providers because our rather-limited-threshold-for-nonsense standards have helped us separate the wheat from the chaff. We still come across frogs every now and again, but we have developed the ability to very quickly see through them and give the boot if necessary before wasting any financial, emotional, or time resources.
What is the main takeaway from all this? As parents and people of influence (if to no one else, we have a significant influence on our kids), we have to consciously encourage (and force if necessary) those within our spheres of influence to solve their problems with their own resources, the most fundamental of which is their brains. Necessity is truly the mother of invention, and unless a human being has opportunities to truly apply herself/himself, she/he will never actually grow. This process starts from babyhood, through adulthood, right until our old ages. The more of such opportunities a person is presented with, the more of an asset that person will become. If we go about solving their problems for them, even if they ask, we are ultimately doing them a huge disservice. Even though I did not appreciate it at the time, I am now very glad that my Dad rejected my non-permission-request :D.
EB: “Erm…” (I can see his brain cells churning) “A baby pig is a piglet!” (with a big grin on his face)
Me: “That is true, but I did not ask you about a baby pig” 😮
I am sure we have all been in conversations like this at one time or the other, and not only with kids! Want to share yours 🙂 ? What do you think it is that makes people ignore the question asked, formulate a question of their own, and then go ahead to answer it with all confidence?
We had just arrived home from the kids’ school on this day about three months ago. We met our next-door neighbour, who had also just returned home from work. She was trying to gather her things from her car, when one of the items dropped from her arms. Mstr EB noticed this and ran to help her pick it up. She was appreciative of his gesture, and said:
Thank you darling.
Mstr EB looked bewildered!
His immediate response was:
My name is not darling! My name is EB 😀
As we head into the thick of the holiday season, wear your name (faith) with pride and be kind to one another.
I was having a chat with the editor of LagosMums some months ago, and mentioned this seemingly inconsequential fact, or so I thought. She didn’t seem to think so, as she asked if I could write an article about that for her to share with her readers. She thought it would bring a perspective different from the more common “horror nanny” stories.
It took me a few months (*whew*), but “it’s better late than never” as they say :). Here is the link to the article: I Don’t Have a Nanny (LagosMums); please note that the images and links were included at the editor’s discretion.
Mstr EB has become quite the inquisitive commentator, as is the case with most 4-year-olds :-). I had told him about how the marks made by his shoes after stepping into a puddle are called “footprints.” Now, we hear all about the footprints that he has made or were made by others!
A few days ago, he points to footprints Miss AB made, and goes:
Mstr EB: “See! AB’s ‘foot prince””
Me: “No…” (shaking my head to let him know what he said is not quite correct)
Mstr EB: “Erm…“
I can see the wheels turning in his mind as he tries to solve the puzzle that seems to have presented itself… then I see the light bulb go off!
Mstr EB: “Mama, ‘foot princess?!’”
Me: (with a huge smile on my face) “Well… not quite, but I definitely agree with your logic!’“
A first-time expectant father recently asked me this question:
“any advice on preparing for a baby?”
When most people hear this question, the first responses are about baby clothes, the endless piles of diapers, the nursery, and the baby’s crib. When I heard the question however, I could not immediately respond because I truly believe that properly preparing for a baby has a lot of invisible items, most of which should start before the baby is even conceived – assuming there is no violence or other unplanned situation in the setup. I believe that preparing for a baby is really about preparing to be a parent!
Parenting (or child rearing) is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood.
Here’s my understanding of what this means in specific terms.
It is no longer about you
To decide to be the conduit through which another human being makes an entrance into the world is to accept the highest levels of responsibility for moulding a blank canvas into a creation – hopefully a well-balanced, decent, courteous, and humane one – and this is no easy feat. The 9-month process culminating in the birth of the child is actually just a precursor to the journey; the real journey starts once the little one arrives, and continues for as long as you both are alive. To effectively prepare for a baby, one has to mentally adjust from thinking anything is about you, to accepting that almost nothing is about you anymore when it comes to your little one; your primary assignment is to protect, guide, mentor, advocate for, encourage, discipline, teach, groom, nurse, and set boundaries for this human being such that when the person’s brain is fully developed and mature (this happens in the mid-20s) and s/he is out making his / her own path in the world, you the parent would be proud of the creation you have produced.
Chart a vision
In line with the giant nature of the assignment, a game plan is required. Here are some questions whose answers would provide some of the building blocks for charting your family vision, which includes the vision you have for your children.
What values do you want to instill in the child?
What types of education do you want the child to be exposed to?
What essential and non-essential skills do you want the child to have by the time s/he turns 25?
What mode(s) of discipline would you utilise to enable you meet your behavioural objectives?
What resources – financial and otherwise – do you need to achieve the desires above?
Are you and your spouse aligned on all these?
This vision would also include the optimal family size that you believe would enable you achieve same for all your children.
Become a child psychologist
Most of us adults tend to forget how our minds worked when we were ourselves little people :-). Children are designed to observe and notice everything, test all boundaries, investigate all open and not-open spaces, test all boundaries again, observe some more, absorb even more, and topmost of all, be selfish! That is the way they are designed, and that is because they have so much to learn, and very quickly too. It is by testing boundaries that they understand the extent of the boundaries. A good friend of mine says little people are like piranhas: once they smell weakness or inconsistency (blood), they go in for the kill, ha ha. A parent’s assignment is to be the grown-up and provide direction for the little and not-so-little ones. Do not expect to be fully understood or even appreciated – the fundamental thank-yous would only come after this little person has reached his / her mid-20s! Rather late in the game to correct any errors. Developing a thorough understanding of the different stages of child development, the expected behavioural patterns, and “ammunition” to manage expectations and combat each stage would ease the assignment a bit… or a lot :-). Note that those who have been observing little people for eons say that baby’s start forming habits and learning expectations from the day of birth, and the maximum absorption window closes by the time the child turns 12.
It only gets worse
When Mstr EB was an infant and lack of sleep had become a faithful partner, I remember hearing people say not to worry because it gets easier. It doesn’t! The assignment becomes less physical – the child develops fine and gross motor skills that allow them do more and more physical activities without needing your assistance – and more mental, emotional, and spiritual as the child’s mental, emotional, and spiritual exploration progresses to higher levels, in addition to the physical exploration they very quickly master. We all know that the physical stuff is most times easier to manage than the non-physical, so truth is it only gets worse until the child is in his / her mid-20s :o. Even then it does not disappear, but it is definitely easier (and preferred) to groom a child than to try repair an adult. So, be prepared for at least 2.5 decades of active work, after which it may or may not become passive.
A good education and good health care are the two biggest gifts any child can receive. Getting the right types of investment and insurance products would make it easier to achieve the objectives you have set out for your children and your family.
Being a parent is one of the biggest responsibilities, if not the biggest, that any human being can take on, as it is literally holding in your hands the clay that would form the future – so, be prepared!