When I was a small child, I asked a child in class what she was insinuating. That was enough to warrant me going to the teacher's desk. They told us not to use words we didn't know the meaning of and she thought I didn't know the meaning. When I was able to tell her the meaning in my own words, it was with a look of disgruntled admiration that she allowed me to return to my seat without punishment. My mother was famous for spewing certain big words at will and we learned never to ask what the word meant or we would be told to go and read our dictionary. Needless to say, the dictionary became my friend at an early age and I was armed with numerous words to drop in sentences at will. Still, I preferred to use small words and to simplify sentences where possible. I guess it was the teacher in me and that would certainly explain why for years, I have been told I would do well in the profession.
Anyway, having children teaches you to further simplify things or be prepared to answer a litany of questions. I've learnt that there are some people who can't help themselves. To give a simple explanation, they feel it is necessary to spew the most elaborate words they can think up. I guess the point of it is to send the child to a dictionary or in this day and age, to the internet so they would be forced to do further research. The children met such a person tonight.
It so happened that we found ourselves in the church office and they became fascinated with the photocopier. In true kid-like fashion, they asked the gentleman who was using it how the machine worked. Me, I would have shown them how I lined the paper up on the glass and then shown them which button to push and where the paper came out from. If they had any further questions after that, well, I'd take it from there. But noooo. This gentleman started talking about the machinations and photographic lens and my niece shot me a look. I gave her an imperceptible nod and she took this as a cue to break the question down into simpler terms. "What we mean is how you get it to work," she explained.
The poor gentleman began talking about positioning the paper with precision and some other mess I really didn't hear. All this while, my niece is shooting glances my way as if to ask if this man was really serious with the German he was speaking, while Shakir continued to listen carefully, soaking it all up like a well informed scholar and asking well placed questions that kept the man fumbling to find answers. I finally rescued him, by telling them to just watch and they would soon see how the machine works, but we all know this could have gone on for a really long time.
"Girl, if I was a stop light, I would had to turn red every time I see you..." I was too busy laughing to hear the rest.
I want to ask all men seriously, what is it with you and these lines? Is there a book? Do you seriously invest time thinking these up and what exactly is the expected reaction? You should know that my seven year old had better moves at four. I can recall him giving a little half smile and asking grown women for their names. These unsuspecting women would just melt and croon about how cute he is. This routine has gotten him money, food and toys and what more could a four year old want, huh?
Looking back, I've come to realise that my son has always had a way with words. You know that old saying "he could sell ice to an eskimo"? Pretty sure who ever said it first was looking thousands of years into the future and saying it to Shakir. This child of mine looked at me one day and asked me quite seriously when I would be giving up my job. A little thrown by his question, I asked him what he was talking about, only to have him inform me that I needed to find things to sell so that I could make money and give up the job. Recently, I sorted through my clothes to get rid of what could no longer fit. As I placed what still looked nice in a bag to give to the needy, he asked me if I was setting them aside to sell. When I said I wasn't, he got quite upset and told me this was a way I could be making money. I smiled. He has the mind of an entrepreneur. I explained that there are times when you can help someone out instead of just thinking about what you can get for yourself. He understood and as he grows, he will understand more.
Although it can be tiring answering his many questions, I'm so thankful for a child who can express himself clearly.
I've made up in my mind to throw a tantrum. I keep wondering if I lay down on the floor at the supermarket and bawl my eyes out over the high costs we must endure if anyone will come to my rescue. Have you ever been waiting in a ridiculously long line at the bank and then have someone standing a few people behind you in queue collapse? I witnessed this once and it was amazing how quickly tellers moved to give the woman some water, even asking if she wanted a cup of tea. And don't you know, she was placed in a seat and she was served and out of there before I could properly blink my eye. Now, I'm not in any position to say what type of physical condition the woman was in before, during or after, and neither am I making fun of her. It just seems amazing how slowly people seem to move when you are at their mercy as opposed to when the tables are turned. So, I devised a plan to put this thing into action. Today would have been a classic day to try my experiment. I was at my district polyclinic trying to get some free medical attention and I was tempted. The only flaw in my plan was the close proximity to the psychiatric hospital. I'm sure those men in white would have been there before I could finish executing my plan. But seriously though, I got there a few minutes before half past eight this morning and I left there after two this afternoon. I kid you not.
The highlight of my visit was listening to the women talk about their experiences with their kids and shopping for them. I honestly got scared. I need someone to tell me if this is what I have to look forward to in a few years. These women spoke of children telling them they can't be seen in Dallas Discount and SY Adams. One woman told of how she bought her son a blue shirt with a pink rabbit on it and that she found matching blue shoes, but the rabbit was yellow and this was a problem. Another mentioned a child who doesn't like taking lunch to school so she has to give him lunch money - has to. All this while, this super hero mom is listening, mouth open and silently going "what?" My brain found all of this mess hard to compute. Are you trying to tell me that after I work my butt off to instil the concept of individuality and the value of money into my child, that once he goes to secondary school all my teachings will go through the window? And here I was thinking that I was being proactive by having these conversations with my boys all now.
I realise that I come from a different generation and by nature, I'm a pretty contented person. I learned early on that with five children, it would be next to impossible for each of us to have a Nintendo or our own bedroom and being the last of three girls, I expected to get hand-me-downs sometimes. If I'm totally honest, there were times when my sisters had clothes that I kept my eye on and lay in wait until they would be all mine. I remember being teased and my clothes being referred to as "wearalls". But I also remember watching sitcoms where friends wore friends' clothing and I couldn't see how what my sisters and I did was any different. My mother told me the people teasing me were jealous and though that didn't make a lick a sense to me at the time, I leaned on her wisdom and found a way to cope.
I like to think that I'm stronger for the teasing I endured; there are some things that I think are just ignorant. When someone is going to make fun of you because your parents shop in Dallas Discounts, there is something wrong with that person's rationale. You've got parents that are struggling to ensure that you are fed, clothed, sheltered and educated and so much more, where others are not so lucky. What does it matter if you wear a brand name? Parents: teach your children attributes like self worth, value and to have a grateful heart and these will see you through these situations. People tell their children to lead and not follow, but what does that really mean? Even great leaders have to learn to follow sometimes. But if your child learns that his mind, actions and upbringing are what define him, rather than clothing, it will do him a greater service.
So even though I intended throwing a completely different type of tantrum, I'm satisfied.
As a mother, you repeat yourself so often the words are like lyrics to a song. All that's needed is a rhythm and a beat. And all through the day, the song doesn't change all that much. It goes like this:
Get in the bath,
Hurry up and eat,
Stop wasting time.
Did you brush your teeth?
Did get your things together?
Have you forgotten anything?
Did you comb your hair and put lotion on your skin?
Put away the toys,
Is that a book on the floor?
What should you be doing right now?
Do I have to repeat myself?
I could go on writing lyrics, but it wouldn't change anything. And this has nothing to do with the many conversations I have with my boys about behaviour and conduct. One time, it got so bad that when I began to lecture, Shakir jumped right in reciting my words like a well rehearsed choral speaking piece. Once I realised he knew it so well, I talked less and let my weapon be my voice. These days, when I begin to tell Shakir the consequences of his bad behaviour, he calmly looks at me and asks a question that will further define the level of his punishment. For example, I say; "if you don't stop, I'm going to put you in a corner to stand up!"
His response: "and I have to put my hands in the air?"
I used to wonder why this child would ask these things. I mean, doesn't he realise that he is giving me ideas on how to further punish him? I've come to realise that he does it so that he can be fully aware of the consequences, then he makes a conscious decision based on if he can handle the punishment or not. One time, his father told him he would be on ban until further notice, meaning no games or any electronic devices. The phrase "until further notice" seemed not to compute in his mind. He kept asking how long. When he realised the answer wasn't as clear cut as he thought, he told his father he would rather be spanked.
I swear, these children challenge your parenting skills. You learn to toss everything you think you know through the window and just deal with the monster that is your child. You begin to realise that with some children, banning them from games and TV means they'll find other ways to annoy you and you won't have any release. Thankfully, God blessed me with a child that will get his colouring book and crayons or pencil and paper and occupy himself. For those of you who aren't so blessed, I'll leave with you the cliché phrase that all children are different. I'm sorry, I honestly don't have any magical words of wisdom that will help you.
Its Shakir's birthday and the kids had a blast. They woke early and were pretending to be a van driver and the conductor. It is amazing what children pick up when you think they're oblivious. I noticed that Jaheim was the driver and Shakir was the conductor. Several times, the van stopped to pick up passengers and I could hear Shakir telling the people to come quickly. I think it must have been a ZR they were driving because I noticed that Shakir was unable to stand upright in the vehicle. When I heard him ask Jaheim if the police was behind them, I knew it was time to put an end to the game, so I found two scarves and tied up their heads so they could play pirates instead. The game was decidedly less action-packed, but they had miniature pirates and a toy pirate ship and even some armed bandits from the wild west put in an appearance. If I hadn't been busy, I would have had to join in the play.
Anyway, later in the day, we met up with a cousin whose son will be celebrating his birthday on Monday. We took the boys to Chefette for a treat and play park fun. I told Shakir to keep an eye on his brother and sent them on their way. Asking Shakir to keep an eye on his brother in the midst of having fun is a futile exercise. The truth is, despite my words to Shakir, I usually I say a prayer that neither of them get hurt and try to forget that they're even around. I know a few of you are probably gasping at my audacity right about now, but believe me, you have to step back sometimes and allow the children to be... well, children. As parents, we're supposed to prepare them to be independent and we can't do that by hovering. Think of all the different stages they have to go through in life, starting with school. You can't be there all the time.
So as I'm sitting there making conversation with my companion, I notice Jaheim climbing the steep ladder to the third and highest level, close behind his brother and cousin. Now, if it had been the first time I had seen him do this, I would have probably had my heart in my hand, so I suppose I could understand people marvelling at him. But there is his brother urging him on like its no big deal and I find myself thinking how as adults we let fear paralyse us, but not kids. Soon after, Jaheim goes off on his own enjoying himself alone, sliding and jumping. With each shenanigan, he shouts, "you see what me just do, mummy?" It is while he is yelling this that a boy comes down the slide and bounces him. It was a clear accident and he was extremely apologetic. Jaheim responds by pointing a finger at him, his face bent, and in a loud, stern voice, he says, "don't do that again."
The boy and his companion, clearly stuck at the sight of this tiny boy with attitude, paused for a heartbeat and apologised some more. Then, as Jaheim proceeded to climb up the slide the wrong way, I heard one say "gimme a knock." They knocked each other, high-fived and the matter was solved. At the end of it, I found myself thinking, not for the first time, that Jaheim is not easily intimidated. I also wondered at how easily children solve their differences sometimes. Why can't adults do the same?
This blog's heading might give the false impression that I'm about to launch into a long diatribe about black heritage and pride, but I assure you its not about that and it is pretty short. Years ago, I saw an episode of Golden Girls where this Cuban guy was interviewing for a prestigious college. Initially, he hoped to apply for the music program, but due to a slight head trauma, he decided to apply for performing arts instead. His performance was a monologue about prejudice entitled, "its because I'm Cuban." After that, I started to tell people that they were prejudiced toward me because I'm black, which is quite amusing since the population in Barbados is probably about 80% black.
Even today, when my husband or any of my friends do anything, I'll sometimes insist that its a prejudice as a result of me being black. It's all in the name of foolish talk because I'm not insecure about my dark colour. Anyway, so I come home from work tonight and my husband says that he and Jaheim had just come out of the bath. I smile and remark that they both look white, but I swear I wasn't being wicked. There was a nice glow to their skin and there is no other way I could think to describe it. Feeling pretty good, I decided to get an early shower myself. So there I am in the bath when my husband yells that I came in and didn't give him any attention. "That's not true," I say, "you were on the phone so I'm going to bathe and make myself smell pretty."
"Oh! You want to be like Jaheim and me!" He yells back.
Before I can respond, I hear Shakir say, "but she can't be like we daddy. She black!" My husband is very fair in complexion and Shakir favours him greatly. Jaheim is darker, but still slightly clearer than I am. His words caught me by surprise, I have to admit, but I'm not upset. It just reminded me of my jokes.
Later, he came to me smiling asking me if I had heard him. I just smiled. Let him enjoy his little joke. Vengeance will be mine and she who laughs last, laughs loudest!
The school term has officially started in my household. I had a hell of a time with those boys this morning. Sending Shakir in the shower resulted in him bursting into whiny complaints of unfairness as he pointed fingers at his brother. I took the weapon in hand early. Today was the wrong day to start with me. You'd think he'd retract, but noooo. Anyway, you can be sure that as I dispensed justice, it honestly hurt him way more than it hurt me. As a child, I wondered at the cliché that punishment hurts me more than the child, but to date, I can honestly say I've found this to be untrue. A child who is not disciplined will be an embarrassment to me publicly and I'm not dealing with that. Better you learn now than cause your own destruction later.
There are those who will disagree with my methods and I'm not saying you should beat a child for everything, but you've got to declare your hand early. Its important to have your children at the stage where once you're in public, you only need to whisper to them and they straighten up. I say this because we live in a society where people are malicious. Don't get me wrong, there is genuine concern and then there is blatant interference. People who will tell you how not to discipline your children and try to beg for them, but then, behind your back, will talk about how disgusting said child is. Back chat and those type things are cute to these people when the child is now learning to speak, but once that child is past five, those same people will say he's rude. Don't mistreat your children, but make sure that they understand that you mean business with that one look and be prepared to take away privileges, etc. Yes, they will pout, they will tell you they aren't friends with you and things like that, but these lessons will ensure that in future you aren't communicating with them at Her Majesty's pleasure.
On a lighter note, sitting in the bus this evening, it was amazing to see the number of school children with cell phones. And not just regular run of the mill cell phones either, but fancy, expensive phones that put mine in the shade. All of a sudden, this boy who had vacated his seat because he would soon be getting out, asks his friends to call his phone because he can't find it. As I glance up, I see the outline of what appears to be a phone in his top pocket and all I'm thinking is, let him sweat a little. Wicked of me? Maybe. When one of his friend's pointed out the phone in his pocket, I heard him say, "that's embarrassing." LOL! Don't feel no pressure youngster, we mothers have similar episodes daily.
I hate roaches. I say hate because it is not a matter of being afraid of them. I've stomped on roaches, smashed them with my shoe and even drowned a few that dared to find themselves in my kitchen sink.
Well I haven't seen a roach in a few days so tonight, imagine my surprise when I noticed one in the sink. I have to admit, these things bring out the worst in me. I turned the water on and turned the hose on that little sucker, hoping not to kill it this time, but to scare it. I wanted to keep it alive to leave a message for its friends that this isn't the place for trespassing. Sure enough, I turned the pipe off to give it a minute to catch itself and escape. In seconds, the creature kind of half scurried, half wobbled to the edge of the sink. Perched there for a few seconds, it seemed to try to get its bearings to determine if its legs were strong enough to allow it to climb down the slope or whether it could simply jump the rest of the way. All the while, there I am with the hose in my hand, wondering at this strange bought of mercy I was dispensing. The next thing I know, the creature dove for the floor in a desperate and equally foolish attempt at escape and landed on its back. Its little legs danced around for a few seconds as it tried to turn over, but I guess it had not fully recovered from its swim and soon it stopped. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure its dead. I can't begin to express the level of grief and disappointment that I feel. I should have just drowned the stupid bastard. SIGH!
The whole scenario reminded me of this one night, I was on the phone with my mother, carrying on a rather hearty conversation when all of a sudden, she remarked quite loudly, "wait, you's an idiot?" Struck by this random, out of place comment, I paused. "Wait, hold on Allison," she continued. "He got to be an idiot. Let me get the weapon of mass destruction."
It was at this point that I realised my mother was speaking to some unsuspecting roach who either had a death wish, or one of his friends probably dared him to go into that crazy woman's house. I could just picture them all huddled around like its some sort of Halloween prank, if you believe in those things, cheering him on and telling him to try his luck by going in. He probably new in town and was a bit sceptical about the tales of other young, dare devil roaches that dared to cross my mother's path, but never lived to tell the tale. Anyway, there I sat listening to sound of insecticide being sprayed and I pictured the roach brethren outside with their heads bowed in sorrowful silence as they realised that yet another one had bit the dust. Another few seconds later, my mother came back to the phone to begin to explain to me how she had to go and deal with the idiot cockroach.
So, by now, you've probably deduced two things: 1. I have inherited my mother's obvious aversion to roaches and 2. My mother also has a weapon of mass destruction, but hers is quite different to mine. These days, the only villains it fights are the occasional insect and that isn't too often.
Would you believe I was so wiped out last night that I turned the computer on, wrote one line and promptly fell asleep? I'm really not adjusting well to being back at work. Used to be that I still had a little energy after work, but these days that is surely not the case. And its easy for me to sit here and say, its the kids that have me wiped out, but in this case its simply not true.
As a mother, I enjoy listening to my boys tell me all about their respective days. I find it amusing how once one starts to tell me something, how the other one suddenly remembers that he had something he needed to say. Most times I end up listening to two different stories at the same time. Right now, Jaheim is on a mission to get his hair cut. He has been telling absolutely everyone that he needs a haircut. He even most recently gave me instructions to tell Aunty Lena that she needs to cut his hair. He isn't bothered who cuts it as long as it gets done. You'd think that the boy's hair is whipping him in his back with each step he takes because its so long, or that it keeps getting in his way in the shower or the wind is blowing it in his eyes. Nope. If this child has an inch of hair on his head, he has a lot. But everyday until its cut, he will be there to remind me that it needs to be done.
Then, even though I picked Shakir up from by my mom when I left work and was with him in virtual silence all the way home, he suddenly thinks of a burning question, like, "mummy, why didn't cover my hymn book?"
"You told me you didn't want it covered," I say.
"Oh." And then, after a pause, "is that braids on your head?" He knows it isn't, but he just wants to be sure he has my attention, I suppose.
My response: "Shakir, go and get undressed, please!"
Trust that a similar dialogue occurs later when his father and I are talking, or when I announce that it is lights out and its time to sleep. Suddenly, his little brain starts to remember all the things he wants to know, like how street lights work. To the colleague who told me he tells his son that there is monkey inside playing with coloured candles, I totally understand and endorse it 100% if it works for you. My son would simply look at me with a straight with and wide, intelligent eyes and ask me how the money gets inside or some random question that would throw me for a loop.
But anyway, last night, none of the usual stuff I mentioned happened. I sent Shakir in the bath and I heard him telling Jaheim in a rather firm, adult-sounding voice, "take off your clothes and let us go and bathe. I'm going to bathe you." Well, I nipped that in the bud because as tired as I was, I couldn't take the bickering and stress that would ensue. I also had Miss Makayla with me so I set them to watch some TV after they were all bathed, then I cooked a very quick pot of food. By the time I turned the TV off and put everyone to bed, I was all geared up for a nice blogging session, but it seemed sleep was there waiting in the wings.
I don't know how long I slept with my hands posed on the computer keys before my husband called my name to tell me I was falling asleep. That might have been slightly amusing if I was coherent enough to consider it or to actually wake up, but I was too wiped out. Thankfully, it was a quiet evening in Metro-bados and there was no need to dispense justice and restore peace.
Shakir was excited to wear his new school shoes from since last night so getting him ready for school today was relatively easy. He was eager to get dressed and nobody had to tell him to hurry up today. If anything, he had to be told to slow down and relax a little.
Anyway, since he is a growing child, I had to outfit him from head to toe, but I drew the line when it came to buying him a new school bag. I saw no reason to replace an almost new bag that I had only bought last term. It's not likely to last out the whole year, since its one of those cheap bags, but there's no reason for the added expense right now. Shakir didn't appear to mind either, but when a boy in his class asked him if he had gotten a new bag, I wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't sure if he'd mind that the other children appeared to have new bags and he didn't. His father and I try to encourage him to be an individual and to not be concerned with what other people have, but sometimes its a challenge. An invisible smile lit my face when he tossed me a look that seemed to ask, "is he serious? A new bag? There's nothing wrong with this one." Then, as he returned his attention to the boy, he said no in a manner that sort of mirrored the look on his face.
It got me thinking about the manner in which a lot of us spend money and the impression we give children. Children aren't likely to think that money has value if we just give them everything they want. It feels good to buy your kids the things they want and to be able to do so, but there are times when you have to draw the line. When Shakir was younger, each time we went to town, he'd bring me a bunch of things to show me and ask if he could have them. Well one day, I sat him down and we had a long discussion about money and expenses and why I cannot and would not give him everything that his little eye spies and likes. Now, we go to town and yes, he still asks for things, but he asks differently. "Mummy, when you get money, could you get me one of these?" "Mummy, if I behave myself, will you get me one of these?" "Look mummy, this one only costs $20." "Mummy, I have money, I want to buy this." Bless his heart, I hope he never changes.
This evening now, on the van heading to town, he asks me the strangest question. "Mummy, you know that the principal can send you home for behaving bad for a certain amount of days?"
"Yes. It is called being suspended."
"What you does have to do to get suspended?"
"Be really naughty and probably the teachers can't control you."
"Yes, but how?"
The trouble with having a conversation with this child, is his need for specifics. He can keep you talking for several minutes with his hundred questions and then when you get all warmed up in your subject, he'll switch it up by throwing a question that bowls you clear out of the ballpark. "Shakir, I just told you."
"Okay." Hoping he's finished, but knowing better, I wait. A few seconds later, "you get suspended if you're naughty by making a pool at school?"
A pool? Something is clearly up. "Shakir, are you planning something?"
"No. I just want to know."
"I'm not going to get into specifics with you. You need to behave yourself and be a good boy. You mustn't do anything to find yourself in trouble and its important to know that if you ever do anything bad enough for the principal to think you need to be suspended, that will be nothing compared to the punishment I will dispense at home."
"What will you do?"
Ever felt like you were moving in circles? Its always like this with this kid. He wants to know everything about everything and then why and how. Thankfully, I have amazing super mom powers of improvising. "I'm pretty sure you don't really want to know," I say. "You getting suspended means I will have to take time out from work to be home with you, and it means I will be forced to spend money on lessons for you, etc. None of this pleases me, so punishment will be severe. Be sure that there will be no TV, no wii, no DS, no tablet, no bicycle, no outside and whatever else comes to mind at that point in time, because none of that is enough. You can use your imagination here, but trust me, you don't want to ever find out what will happen."
For the first time ever, I actually rendered him silent. My powers are growing.
Allison is mother to two active boys who challenge her on a day to day basis with their escapades. In her other life, Allison juggles a regular day job as a marketing executive in a health food organization. At night, when everyone is asleep, she dreams of being a fulltime writer and super hero.