Shakir has figured out that cartoon characters wear the same clothes all the time, in every single episode. He looked over at me during an episode of Scooby Doo and made mention of it. I'm sure he mentioned it last week during another cartoon. I smiled and gave him a slight nod, which seemed to satisfy him, strangely enough. I'm waiting for when he starts asking me about hygiene. I have to think long and hard about the way to approach that question, because right now, I'm trying to make sure he understands hygiene. Most mornings, it takes a lifetime to get Shakir into the bath and then he's out in a few seconds so I have to send him back in again. I've discovered that its a stage that all children go through and I keep praying that the stage will be over soon. I seriously don't think I can deal with it much longer.
The other annoying thing is that while I'm fighting to get Shakir to bathe properly, I've got Jaheim turning the TV on so he can watch Peppa Pig. He's gotten to the stage where he'll ask his father to watch Super Why on youtube and then once youtube loads, he'll change his mind and ask to watch Peppa Pig instead. I watch so much Peppa Pig that I have the accent and pitch perfected. Why do the people who make these cartoons see the need to make the cartoons so silly? I guess I should at least be glad that it isn't SpongeBob Squarepants. That is probably the worst cartoon of all time and my son Shakir made sure that I can say with honesty that I have watched nearly all the episodes of that wretched cartoon. I can actually name all the characters and give an okay imitation of a couple of the characters, if I tried. Can you just picture me trying to hold down an adult conversation and the most current event I'm able to present is what happened on Peppa Pig this morning? Its like that when you're a mom.
I can sing along to the theme song of Caillou. I'm now on a first name basis with Diego and Dora. And I sometimes wish that Phineas and Ferb would devise a way to travel to this actual timeline and build me one of those really awesome summer adventures so I could have fun like only a child could. I'm so zoinked (I hope I used that word correctly) from watching all these kiddie shows that I actually felt like I was on the verge of losing my mind when I was sitting at work and I could hear the Caillou theme song blaring loudly behind me. I wasn't. It was seriously playing and although it wasn't because someone was actually watching the show, for a moment, I felt a small semblance of normalcy and balance in my two worlds and it was good.
Tonight I had the esteemed privilege of watching my niece for a few hours while her father went to work. Jaheim and Shakir were eager to play but she looked exhausted and to be honest, I really didn't think I was up to the noise that their play and laughter would incite. I was on my computer, trying to occupy myself as the boys watched cartoons. Renee was reading a book. Then, the unthinkable happened... my computer's battery died.
Now Diary, it is important that you understand the level of boredom that came over me as I peered at the episode of Caillou that I was sure that I had watched previously. Worse, I have to say that as a mother, out of all the cartoons that I endure because I believe in watching TV with my kids, Caillou is actually one of the worse. I know I'm probably too hard on the show because it is designed for small kids and I believe the writers try their best to portray a small child, who is learning appropriate behaviour, but all I see is a spoilt little boy who needs a spanking. I'm not quite sure when I began to feel that way since Caillou was once a show I considered to be nice, wholesome and educational. So anyway, it is while I was there struggling with boredom that I remembered that earlier I had ominously informed Renee that we had planned something for her. I even gave her an evil laugh to make it good and Jaheim chimed in with an almost perfect imitation of my laugh, which although quite funny, lent weight to what I was concocting.
Unexpectedly, I jumped on top of Shakir and bit him in the neck. Jaheim attacked me and he too was taken down. All the while, Renee sits in her spot, watching quietly with a huge grin. "I've turned you two into vampires!" I declared with loud gusto.
"Mummy, make Renee a vampire too," Shakir stated.
"I was a vampire ever since!" She stated, matter of fact, obviously thinking that she would be left out.
Still, it startled me long enough for me to pause. "What?"
"You bit me ever since!"
With the help of my faithful spawn, Shakir, I managed to pin her down and bite her. Jaheim attacked us, valiantly trying to protect the fair damsel, but he was defeated!
Then, like a true master, I gave them all a little chocolate treat, for being good. Maybe when she comes again, I will teach her how to hunt.
So yesterday, I jumped into a ZR van to take Shakir to school. There was a chubby conductor with his hair plait in cornrows, who looked like he should still be in school. Anyway, the van leaves the van stand full, but since they like to squeeze a fourth person in seats that are designed for three, the driver stopped at a nearby bus stop to pick up a woman who was waiting there. Now this woman wasn't small. She wasn't fat but she was round and had a lovely big backside, unlike me who is a little on the flat, broad side. Its not self bashing, its the honest truth and I accept it. Anyway, the people in the seats didn't move. There was a man who tried to go around, but the schoolboy sitting beside him didn't budge and neither did the matter woman on his other side. The girl told the conductor she would love to get in but there is no room and he gestured again to the space. The space looked like a shallow river between two mountains. Now, sitting right behind the people who refused to budge, I had an excellent view of the situation, so I was extremely surprised when the woman got into the van and attempted to sit down. I bit down on my lip to stifle the laughter that rose in my throat as I saw the large, round bottom lowering slowly onto the people who didn't move. I made a quiet comment about the woman's fat behind and the girl next to me snickered. I couldn't believe that she got into the van. Half her butt cheek was on top a woman's leg and the woman yelled to the conductor, "this going to be just a dollar right?" The conductor told her he could put her out and eventually he did. Me, I had a terrific laugh.
When I was pregnant with Shakir, I told my husband that I wanted to give him a name that had a great, positive meaning. I had the idea that I should speak positive things into his life from the very beginning, starting with his name. I figured that even if it was a 'made-up' name that he would set his own destiny and blaze a positive trail as long as I could inspire him from birth. Well, its all still a work in progress obviously, but there are days when I look at his attitude and think to myself that I had no idea what kind of monster I was really creating.
When Shakir was born, I told my husband that I wanted Shakir to speak his mind and not be afraid of his voice. Too many times I clam up and don't say the thing that bothers me and I still struggle with that. I never wanted my son to be unable to explain anything to me and I wanted him to be comfortable enough with me to express himself. From very early, I encouraged him to talk out frustrations and to ask questions. I also tried my best to encourage him to think of words to describe things if he was unsure what something was, rather than point to some obscure thing in the distance and expect me to pick the right thing at random. One thing I've always told him is that I'll never be able to read his mind, even if I do sometimes get a pretty good idea what he's thinking, so instead of assuming that I know what he needs, he has to open his mouth and speak. I knew it paid off when he went to school. His first teacher was quite impressed with the way he expressed himself, saying that he makes her job worthwhile. His questions challenge and there are times when his hand is the only one pointing in the air. That was a proud mummy moment for me.
The thing that I didn't realise though, is that this wonderful talent of his also has some serious drawbacks... at least for me. For instance, I've been in situations where I would be poised to punish him and Shakir would come up with a smart and logical explanation to what happened and I'd have to put the weapon of mass destruction down. He has even chastised me after punishing him on occasion by logically explaining why the punishment was unjust. If ever you want someone to feel a little guilt about something that they're doing, I'm willing to offer my son's services as he has a serious talent when it comes to that sort of thing, or maybe its just limited to me. I don't know.
This morning, Shakir was in one of his moods. He got up earlier than he should have and certainly earlier than he needed to so he was still tired. The thing with Shakir is that you can't tell him to go back to sleep. From the time he was just a few days old, I realised that he doesn't like to sleep. I don't know what sleep did to him, but that child sees sleep as another form of being idle. It took be a long time to get him to understand that the body needs sleep to revive and even longer, to get him to realise that its not always possible for the house to be pitch black so you can sleep. Anyway, from the moment he cracked his eyes open, he was fretting about something. It finally got the best of me and I had to speak to him. This is led to a discussion - its always a discussion. I was frustrated. I raised my voice. "Mummy, you tell me that I mustn't raise my voice to you and yet you do it to me," he said and if he had sounded less whiny and miserable and more like he does when he's reasoning something out, I might have felt less annoyed. I did what I thought was the best thing to do in that instance and I didn't answer. Instead, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that this is what I wanted.
I found myself some Spanish music online and downloaded it for its lively beat so I could dancercise. I am a closet dancer and I am in desperate need of exercise. Its one thing when you're under twenty-five and you've got a metabolism that bounces back like a rubber band but when you're a little older, well... you have to work at it. I gave my husband fair warning from early on and he made himself scarce, which suit me just fine because if I was about to make a fool of myself, I'd prefer to do it in the presence of just the kids. They're a bit unforgiving, but at least with them, I might hope to live down any humiliation without it leaving these four walls. My husband might be tempted to spill the beans to my mother.
Well anyway, I turned the music on and by the time the first song was done, I realised that I still had some sort of soul left in me after all. I felt strangely proud of myself as I heard Shakir oohing and ahhing. "Mummy, I didn't know you had such good moves," he said in awe and I thanked God that he doesn't know a great deal about dancing yet.
Basking in the glory of his attention, I got a little braver, despite the way perspiration was pouring off me. I was literally drenched as if someone had dumped a load of water over my head. I could feel muscles that I didn't realise I had stopped using wake up and as weariness set in, I determined that I wasn't going to stop. It was kind of hard to keep on since with every move I made, I had to duck out of Jaheim's way. Unlike Shakir who I need only to give 'the look' to, Jaheim stands firmly in place and gives me a look of his own. I suppose the extra manoeuvring means I got additional exercise. I'm sure I'll know when I wake in the morning.
My selection was a mere seven songs and when the number six song started, I drew Shakir up and started to dance with him. He giggled the whole time as he tried to keep in step with me and it did my heart a good measure of joy. The funny part was that when that selection finished, I looked over and saw Jaheim dancing across the floor with the ease of an expert and then as the music stopped, he looked over and asked, "so mummy, you can put on a picture for me to watch now?"
"Yes, baby," I answered, realising that the few minutes that he had deigned to allow me for my 'foolishness' was over. I hope he'll let me squeeze in an hour tomorrow.
The only thing worse than a sleepy child that won't go to sleep is two sleepy children who refuse to sleep. That's me right there. I had a hard day, although it was mainly due to this unforgivable heat. Almost as soon as I got out bed I sorted through the laundry, separating it into loads. When I put the second batch of clothes on the line, I looked up at the sky and I swear I could see the makings of rain. For all those that say there is no such thing as the power of prayer, take note that pray is exactly what I did and the rain didn't fall. But I did have to abide with the heat and that just leaves you feeling tired and lazy. I kind of hoped the heat would have the same effect on the children, but to be sure, I took them to their cousin's house so they could play and exhaust themselves. When it seemed they were suitably tired, I brought them home and prepared lunch. In between preparing lunch, I continued to wash and the children helped to keep me active by doing just about everything they could think of to make me talk. That said, I'm sure you can totally understand my desire for them to go to bed early - at least one of them, preferably Jaheim. No such luck.
With his stomach finally filled with food, I can only imagine that Jaheim felt sated and it gave him a second wind. He immediately started to tell me that he wanted to finish watch Daniel Tiger. He had watched a few episodes this morning before we went over to his cousin's. His father promptly teasingly told him that there would be no Daniel Tiger. Well, Mr. Smarty waited until I was in his sight and said, "mummy, me and you could watch Daniel Tiger?" Generally, I believe in watching television with my kids. I like being aware of what they see and doing damage control where necessary. Plus, I remember my parents, mostly my dad, sitting down to watch television with us as kids. All that said, I can see where Jaheim would get the notion that I might actually enjoy watching Daniel Tiger, but he was also very much aware that if daddy said he wasn't allowed to watch it, the trick was to get mummy to want to watch it.
Tony and I exchanged a look at the boy's quick thinking and as Tony began to protest this new plan, I told Jaheim that I would come soon so that we could watch TV together. I had the fool notion that we would lay down in the bed with the fan on full blast, which really isn't much of a blast, and in time, Jaheim would fall asleep. The reality was that my stomach was too bloated for me to lay down so I put him in my lap. He held a small toy in his hand and nestled his head against my bosom as he tried to convince me to put on Daniel Tiger. I decided we would watch Robin Williams' Mrs. Doubtfire, which they had started last weekend but never finished. After a few minutes, I lost Jaheim and I only had to tell him to come back for him to let out a loud scream and force tears. I sat there watching him thinking they ought to make Oscars and Tonys for the kind of acting a kid can do. When he figured he had served whatever purpose he had intended, he dragged his toy box from the corner where it normally stays and turned it on its side. Whatever toys were still in the box after that, he used his arm like a shovel and removed. "Jaheim, put up all those toys off the floor," I said, firmly. I could hear the frustration in my voice, but by now, I knew this child wasn't going to succumb to sleep as easily as I'd hoped. He tossed two things into the box and I, satisfied that he was obeying, allowed myself to be distracted momentarily. When I looked around again, to Tony's amusement, Jaheim was sitting in the box, with a makeshift steering wheel, driving. I began to pray for night fall.
Shakir, on the other hand, was less conspicuous about his trouble. He appeared to be absorbed in the movie at least and it wasn't until much later that I realised that although he was quiet, he was not curled up nicely on his pillow, letting his body settle so that an early sleep could claim him. That's when I realised that I had two sleep shirkers on my hand. Somebody needs to give these kids a manual and explain to them what's expected of them... Oh, right... its called parenting. SIGH. Parenting, the only job where you don't collect a salary but you put in way more than a forty-hour week, but if I've learnt anything at all, it is that time is longer than twine and you can only outrun sleep for so long.
Tonight my son told me he was disappointed in me. "Why?" I asked, my face bland and devoid of any emotion. The moment he learned to speak, he has been whipping out these zingers at me and so I have learned to mask any surprise or amusement. I feel it necessary to add that while it would certainly be an exaggeration to say that its been seven years since he learned to speak, when he is only now seven, it feels like there was never a time that he couldn't speak. And if you should ever chance to meet Shakir and hear the eloquence with which he speaks and experience the feeling of watching precious time slip away as he drills you with question after question, you would understand me completely.
"You weren't outside to wait for me," he stated, his eyebrows twisted into a perfect V as he sternly glared at me. To clarify his meaning, let me explain that he was at choir practice at church and I had asked the choir mistress to bring him home after. Apparently, he expected that upon his arrival I should be outside waiting to greet him. Perhaps he would have felt less peeved if I had taken the time shed my clothes for a suitable loin cloth and prepare him a platter of food in preparation of his arrival, as some slaves must have done in earlier days. I swear these kids look at you and they don't see a human - they see someone who was put her for their convenience to treat as they like.
"Shakir," I said. "I was out there earlier waiting and your father told me he would wait for you so I came in."
"I was out there for a bit," he complained. "Did he tell you he would play dominoes until I came?"
"No," I said unsure now how to placate him. He was in a ripe old frenzy and it was probably best to let him see it through. As irritating as they can be, sometimes children need a good tantrum. Its the first step in learning self expression and self control.
"And why is Jaheim sleeping? I thought he would be awake. I came in later than this already and I more sure that he was awake." In case you missed the unspoken accusation here, he was insinuating that I had deliberately put his brother to sleep when he was supposed to be a part of the welcoming party Shakir obviously expected.
"You wanted him to be awake when you came in?"
"Well, I'm sorry but Jaheim was tired and he was awake for a while too,"
"Hmm! Now how am I supposed to jump him?"
What? I admit it was a couple of seconds before it sank in and I asked him what he'd said.
"I had planned to surprise him,," he said and I mentally took note that he had replaced the word 'jump' with surprise. He hoped to frighten my child and enjoy a laugh at Jaheim's expense and he was seriously annoyed that I had put a spoke in his plans by allowing Jaheim to sleep. I swear these little monsters are borne with the understanding of how to manipulate and guilt-trip.
"Shakir, get undressed and go to bed," I told him firmly, effectively putting an end to the conversation. I still can't get over his nerve!
Shakir didn't have any school today. A decision was made to close the school to rectify an electrical problem. From yesterday, Shakir was extremely excited at the prospect of an extra day home. He told everyone that he didn't have any school and he asked his father if he could stay at home with him. Tony agreed and so this morning, when I finally dragged myself out of bed, I felt something close to relief with a mix of joy that I didn't have to yell at him to get a move on, etc. I didn't even mind one bit when Tony decided to put a cartoon on for the boys to watch. For the first time since having kids, I had a leisurely morning... sort of.
Well, I laid out clothes for myself and for Jaheim and I got the boys up. I told Shakir he still needed to take a shower and I gave him a little work so he wouldn't idle in front of TV or tablet all day. I told him to make sure to do some reading. It isn't that I don't trust my husband to make sure these things happen, but rather that I want Shakir to learn from now to be responsible for himself. I'm hoping that one of these days he'll take the dictionary up and read or that he'll pull out a text book on his own to go over something he didn't understand in class. I'm hoping and I'm praying hard.
I made certain that both boys took their baths and had a light breakfast before I even stepped into the shower. And when I did at last, I felt like I was truly in heaven when that cold water hit my skin. If I could have changed anything, I'd have been stepping into a bathtub of bubbles for a proper soak, but then, I might not have made it to work today. Anyway, once my shower was done, I noted the time and hastened to ready myself. I called Jaheim to get his clothes on and was advised that he wouldn't be going anywhere today as he would staying with his father. Eyes wide with surprise, I told him that Aunty Lena would be there for him soon and he needed to get dressed. I further added that handling both him and Shakir might be too hard on Tony. Honestly, I subscribe to the theory that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and I'm sure that had I left both boys in their father's care, upon returning home this evening, all three of them would still be very much alive. But I wasn't about to share all this with that little two year old who behaves like he's been around the bend more times than I can say. So, eventually, Jaheim gets up and comes to me so that I can dress him and he says quite loudly, "my daddy can handle me and Shakir!"
I can still recall the way Tony's eyes shot open and the look of surprise, dread and amazement that filled his face. A laugh spilled from me and if I was anything other than a super hero, I think wickedness would have gotten the best of me right then. And I can assure you that he would have had a chance to test his mettle today and tonight's blog would have been about the kind of strengths my super villain husbands possesses. But there will be other times...
Have you ever noticed that as a mom you could be sitting alone, completely bored and starving for attention and no one notices. In times like these, I take a moment to look around and often find my kids draped over their father, with their eyes glued to the TV set. The moment I decide that I'm going to go on my computer or read a book, I suddenly develop friends. It never ceases to amaze me.
Children never think that you ought to have lives that are separate from them, but they have absolutely no problem having their own friends and activities that are completely devoid of you. And then comes the time when your child decides that you are an embarrassment to them and they don't even want to be seen with you. Personally, I never went through that. Usually, I like having my mother around. I admit that when started to describe herself as the Original and tell me that I was a carbon copy, I didn't much appreciate her humour, but I took it in stride. And although the ride was bumpy at times, she now has the pleasure of telling people that she raised a super hero - me!
The other thing I've come to realise is that as a parent, you relinquish all rights to TV and anything that you might have claimed ownership of before the kids put in an appearance. Don't believe me? We purchased a 32" flat screen TV while I was pregnant with Shakir. Jaheim has declared that it is his. I purchased a small 7" tablet to use sometimes when I don't feel like using the laptop. Jaheim has declared that it is his. I can't put my cell phone down in piece for that little boy, because if he spots it, he changes my wallpaper, rearranges my apps, takes photos and most recently, he shot a video of the ceiling. His father dared to take the phone from his clutches and the way that child screamed and carried on, you would have taught it was child abuse. The moment he laid eyes on me, I had to hear about how daddy took up my phone and has it beside him. "Daddy, give mummy her phone, it not yours," he'll admonish, his lips pushed high to the ceiling and his eyebrows taking the shape of a V.
The first time I realised that nothing I owned was mine was around the time that I began to see Shakir playing with the army of stuffed toys that once slept on my bed. Now, he had a crib to sleep in, and my bed was mine alone so I kept an assortment of stuffed toys I had collected over the years on my bed. His little games were subtle at first, then I began to realise that one by one, each little creature had been relocated to his toy box, where he could resume play at his leisure. His father pointedly asked me what a grown woman needed toys for and promptly took Shakir's side. So, when Shakir took over his PS2 at less than a year old and demanded full control of the TV through shows like Elmo's World, Barney and Friends and Curious George, I told myself it was a divine proclamation and quietly watched with amusement.
I was sitting at the dining table at my mom's house when I heard what seemed to be someone calling at me. The sound was coming from in the direction of the backyard and I strained my eyes trying to see past the overgrown bush that spilled from the neighbouring yard, trying to determine who could see me. Then I remembered that no house was on that land and I told myself I was hearing things.
As I shovelled forkfuls of food into my mouth, I heard the sound again. "Psst. Pssssst." Again, I found myself peering into the distance doing my best to see what was causing the sound. A minute later, I remembered that my mother, on emerging from the bathroom minutes earlier, had asked with a look of utter distaste if someone was spraying. I had given her a blank stare and casually shrugged my shoulders. I figured she had smelt the chemical, but for me, inflamed sinuses prohibit luxuries like the sense of smell. I simply couldn't say. But upon hearing this psst sound coming from the direction of the backyard, I figured it could be someone pumping a spray can to finally spray the overgrown bushes from next door. That I managed to work this out all by myself in a relatively short space of time was a boost to my ego since recently I have been battling with stress, memory loss and moments of fogginess. I'd like to say that this is all related to juggling work and raising my boys, but a nutritionist might probably suggest that an adequate night's sleep and a good multivitamin would take care of all that. You'd think being in the health industry I'd be better off, but its true what they say about a carpenter's house never being done, I suppose.
Anyway, I yelled to my mother and told her what I had deduced and went to the kitchen to wash up my plate and anything that might be unwashed in the sink. I stood there humming softly and going about my merry duties when I spied my niece standing in a chair that usually stays by the backdoor, peering into the yard. "Renee, what are you doing?" I asked.
"Watching Davis," she said, referring to my mother's companion. That's when it all became clear and I realised that my mother and I were the two clueless ones in the house. He was outside spraying and for reasons unknown me, neither of us thought to look outside, thinking he had stepped out and was not at home at all. And he would have had to have heard when my mother asked if someone was spraying, but chose to stay in the yard, quietly working.
When I finally put pen to paper and write the graphic novel, he will be transformed into a mischievous villain. Real cartoon super villains need to take a leaf out of his book and not talk too much, lest they cause their own downfall. I still can't believe that the man was out there all along and must have even heard when the children were looking for him earlier and not a word did he utter.
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.