School On Monday Morning.
I was at Princess’ old school earlier today. The one she had been a student at before we transferred her to her present one. After we completed the business we had come for, I sat at the entrance by the temperature check gizmo.
I put my head down refusing to look at anything or anyone as I waited for my ride back to town.
I knew that if I looked at the young people who populated the school I would start constructing a backstory to each one of them.
Based on their body language and the way they related to their friends my fertile mind and my doesn’t-know-what-is-good-for it-heart would start the wondering.
I would wonder whether when they go home there is an ear eager to listen to them. Or a warm embrace after all the troubles studentship in Kenya (and teenagehood) can bring.
I would wonder what insecurities they felt; what fears kept them from speaking up; what dreams and castles in the sky they were building- what they were looking forward to.
I didn’t want to sit and feel a tug of motherly love.
Because I would spend the rest of the day overwhelmed by the emotions that would come up to the surface.
If I looked at them, these young, awkward human beings all arms and legs, still in the process of finding themselves; the empath in me would screech in solidarity. These young people some of them loud, boisterous and outspoken; others already over six feet tall and others who, even from my lowered eyes, I could sense were trying to blend into the background.
I would see my Junior in all of them.
My protective instincts would go into overdrive and I just don’t have the emotional capacity today.
I was there once, a hundred years ago, in school uniform like them, with stars in my eyes and a rose coloured view about everything adulthood would bring.
I had not been prepared for the Islamophobia I would encounter in and out of Kenya.
I didn’t recognise imposter syndrome when it showed up to mock my achievements.
I gasped helplessly at paychecks that wouldn’t stretch to the middle of the month let alone the end of it.
I was floored by the demon that was post natal depression.
I felt humbled by the overwhelming challenges of parenthood.
I didn’t know what to do with the grief at the loss of a loved one.
And the humdinger of them all: searching for and failing to find a place where I fit in perfectly.
I did not realise until a few blinks ago that it is always okay to be different, to stand out, to be uniquely you. It has taken a while to lovingly rejoice in knowing that I should never ever feel the need to squeeze my squareness into a circular hole of conformity.
The mother in me- but mostly the teenage me- wants to shield them all from the disappointments that they will definitely face, the heartache, the rude awakenings. I am well aware that I cannot do that. Even if I could, they would miss a lot of the growing up that they need to do. Still I can’t help but feel sad that their bubble has to burst.
I can only pray it doesn’t steal their sense of wonderment and joy; that it doesn’t leave them jaded.
I want to let them know that sometimes our plans don’t work out not because we didn’t want them enough but because Allah has better things in store for us.
I want to let them know it is going to be alright regardless of the bumps on the road and how many slip ups they face.
My ride is late and I am eager to get back. But I sit staring at the water fountain in the middle of the courtyard; not speaking to or greeting anyone.
How many young ones had sat staring at the glorious water display?
How many would return, like I did, as a former student (in my case at Little Man’s school) and review the Then and the Now?
Usually this Mombasa Mommy would be engaging in small talk with the security guard. I would be moving around enjoying the scenery or asking if I could take pics.
I would feverishly be calling to demand why we are still here more than an hour after concluding our business.
I look away from a couple who come in carrying an adorable baby. The father, it turns out, is a former student. He is soon showing his wife his old classroom and pointing out the school library.
I stop myself from constructing a backstory for him.
The little redcheeked angel with them stares heartwarmingly at me. I refuse to smile at her even from under my niqab.
JD, however, waves and makes funny faces at her trying to make her laugh.
Usually I would be asking her name and requesting if I can shake her tiny little hand but not today.
I return to watching the droplets of water raise up and splash back down to repeat the cycle.
I still have questions I would usually ask being in a place like this but I don’t.
I am spent. I am keeping my energy to myself today.
Let someone else ask the questions or reach out to me. My cup could do with refilling. Maybe someone will reach out and ask “how are you, really?”
And I will tell them honestly : “I am doing just great, thank you.”