Take It From Me

Children are not here to make our lives easier. They are here to make them better.

This month my youngest sat for his final year of primary school examinations known here in Kenya as KCPE.

For his father and I it was a bitter sweet moment. Our littlest one is no longer so little- literally standing at half a foot taller than me. Already we have  eye rolling and exasperated “Maaaaaa…!” when his teenage speak goes over my head.

It seems like just yesterday my kids were babies. Junior used to get up to all sorts of mischief and shenanigans with his posse of cousins and friends. This was much to the dismay of all the strict and discipline loving Mommas on our street. Coming home with cuts and bruises was par for the course for our first born. He thoroughly enjoyed his childhood I am happy to say. His name has become synonymous with unfettered glee and childish mischief 🙂

It was just the other day that his sister, Princess, was playing with tiaras and picking out the daintiest cutest shoes for herself and her dolls. Now she is busy choosing- and rejecting- which career paths to take while still in high school. She portrays a wisdom and maturity far beyond her years.

I find I don’t know where the years have gone or how come it is that with so short a time my kids are no longer kids. I find that I want to unwind the spool of life and live it all over again with them. I want to savour each moment. I want to take back all the times- when I was younger and did not know any better- that I wished they would grow so I could enjoy at least half a night of uninterrupted sleep.

I weep for all the moments that went unrecorded of their angelic smiles, and their innocent faces. I want to undo all the mistakes I made with them, the moments of crossness and impatience.

I know I cannot possibly remember every moment of their childhoods or keep every last picture they drew or their creative art projects- Allah knows I have tried 🙂

I also know that it was necessary for my growth to lose balance on this slippery parenting slope. I know that at any given time we do our best with what we have.

Even so, I want to gather all three of them once again in a hug like I used to when they were still just little seedlings. I want to pretend and play and tell stories with them like we used to at bedtime when it was more likely that Mama Bear would fall asleep before her energetic cubs…

I want to take walks like we used to with Junior holding his sister’s right hand while I carried his baby brother and held Princess’ left hand. I want to relive the joy and excitement only children can have on Eid and other special ocassions. I looked up  and the years had flown. I had been too busy with other- now that I look at them with the benefit of hindsight- unimportant matters.

Often I meet younger mothers in my line of work as school administrator. They feel harassed, they are impatient, and they have long to do lists. I see the younger me in them.

They speak resignedly of their kids’ behaviour, of their dangerous attachment to gadgets and their aversion to vegetables and I remember my own quibbles.

They tell me they have neither the time nor the energy to employ wisdom or reverse psychology when their kids are acting up. They are spent after long days at work or at university, sometimes both, or caring for elderly parents or attempting to get done all the things that need doing.

I meet mothers who confess to me that they wish their kids did not need them so much as they were exhausted from all the demands on them.

And I tell the same thing over and over. Find a way to get the unimportant out of the way. Make your kids and yourself a must.

Children are not here to make our lives easier. They are here to make them better.

They will grow quickly- it would seem almost between dawn and dusk- for how fast the years pass. They will leave home to go make their own paths like my Junior has; they will have their own lives and interests and you will miss them. You will miss their ‘neediness’, and their toys scattered everywhere around the house.

You will miss their messiness; and you will not even mind the crayon art they made on your walls. You will miss them flooding the bathroom and saying they did not do it. You will miss breaking up their fights and playing judge and jury to their never ending sibling ‘court’ cases. You will miss shouting for the nth time for them to turn off the lights or else! And you will miss their moodiness and their one word answers.

Children are meant to be treasured, enjoyed, nurtured and given enough space to grow and bloom to be the best of themselves. They cannot be pushed to the backburners of our lives; they have to be given center stage if they are to develop any sense of self worth and belonging. They are not impediments or baggage- they are here to be seen, heard, valued and validated.

My Junior lives in a different time zone from us now so we have to orchestrate our timings so that we don’t end up calling him at 3am his time. It is not lost on me that all I had had to do a few short years ago was to rap loudly on his bedroom door(headphones were part of his anatomy then :-)) to speak to him.

I have saved this poem as Junior’s contact photo on my phone to remind me to savour and cherish all the moments with my loved ones but especially with my kids….:

” cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow    for babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow.      so settle down cobwebs. dust go to sleep.    i’m rocking my baby, and babies don’t keep.”                                                                                                                                Song for a Fifth Child- Ruth H. Hamilton.

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I am a mother of three, born and bred in Mombasa, Kenya. I am passionate about books, writing, healthy living and getting people to see the best of themselves. Especially getting people to see the best of themselves.

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