It’s OK to Be Different


So, we are entering a new phase…not entirely new…but in a new context…It is called K-Class….

My son is going to start Kindergarten in America. Recall that he has been away for three-and-a-half years…in Norway, South Africa and Uganda. He started going to school at one-year old. Not by choice, but because mom had to do school, as well. So, he’s always been ahead of his age. But I trust, he has enjoyed and learned a lot from his international exposure, even at such a tender age. He’s well-groomed to blend in EVERYWHERE! He adjusts, just fine! 

Yes! A couple of my friends thought I was an ‘evil’ parent, for putting my son in school so early. But, a single mom gatsa do, what she gatsa do. Ok, maybe I do not fully embrace that label of “single mom”…especially since I have ALWAYS had the support of family and friends. But I have had to do most of this work on my own. In Norway and South Africa, I really did not have the luxury of abundant family, although my friends would chip in, whenever I called on them. In Uganda, I had an entire family and friends. I had the Mungatis, who allowed to pick up my son and also babysit for me on Mondays when I did Hash. My brother and wife did babysit for me too for hash, and then my nephew and nieces and mom and sister. So, I am grateful.

Still, I was the sole biological parent responsible for purchasing breakfast and snack, getting him ready for school in morning, preparing breakfast, picking him up on other days, the whole nine yard. I went to parent-teacher days, class days, sports days, barber shop, and all playdates and kids birthday parties with him. I enjoyed doing it.

ImageThis year, he was gonna be done with pre-primary and going off to Primary One (in Uganda) or Grade One (in America). But because he just turned five years, he is gonna be in K-class in America. And we are moving from Georgia to Pennsylvania. A better school district, if you ask me. and I love being close to the North East. My life rotates around that. Although, I wonder how it’s gonna be out of the city. I am a city girl…

Which brings meback to my topic, “It’s Ok to Be Different”! Daddy is already freaked out about “the being different”. You know, he grew up on soy sausages, and he says he did not have cool clothes like other kids. His mom cut his hair, unlike other kids who went to the barber shop. So, he’s worried about Biko, who has a different accent, different cultural experience coming back to America -where he was born and his country, and obviously with a different mom -“with an accent”. 

So, daddy and I have had a mini-conversation about this. I have also talked to my son about this…especially as it relates to eating. See, I do not like meaty products, wheat, colored juices, unnecessary snacks like Pringles or chips. I have tried to keep my son away from all things junk. Partly for his health -he’s had plenty of constipation growing up and lots of air in this stomach. But also because I do not like junk food. It is unnecessary for kids. And in America where most food is processed, I insist on home-made meals for myself and my son.

I made ALL the baby food when he started eating, fresh from the market – carrots, squash, peas, apple sauce, prunes..I fed him soy milk and NO meat. His first meat experience was in his playgroup class in Oslo, Norway. Sometimes, you cannot win every battle. But I did mention to them that “we stay away from meat, as much as we can.” I let them have it a couple of times, considering that Europe tends to be more careful with the quality of their food than America. So, this is ALL different…and IT IS OK, says mom.

But aren’t we all different? Yes! Mom is from Uganda. She has an accent by American standards. Although some find it “exotic”. “Are you from England?”, they ask. “No! Uganda.” Yet in Uganda, they all think I am VERY AMERICAN! Even the Americans in Uganda think I am “VERY AMERICAN”. I do not disagree though:) 

I am also white haired. I write, dress, talk, do what I like. I do not conform to the “normative”. Yet, I have my place in the world. So rather than drain my son with the worry about, “Oh! you are different and you gatta fit in”, I am just gonna let him realize there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with being different. He just needs to stand tall and do it. Fortunately, he is NOT a snooty boy. He has his head over his shoulders.

Moreover, we get complements for the fact that “he is different”. Whenever we are on the train, he travels real good without throwing tantrums, whining or being a nuisance to our aisle neighbors…and everyone appreciates that. He does not fall into other people’s refrigerators to ask for a snack when we visit friends, he knows that a child needs to get permission from her/his daddy to do anything, and he does not have to eat everything everyone eats. 

So, I want him to appreciate that, we are ALL not the same. Especially since he is growing up in a world with all sorts of people, sorts of cultures and sorts of identities, this is an opportune moment for him to start learning, not to shy away from “Being Different”.

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4 thoughts on “It’s OK to Be Different

  1. Being different is what makes the world go ’round! I wish you much luck and love in your journey, and extra good thoughts to your son in his first days of kindergarten! I will be following along to see what you are up to here, and invite you to check out my blog of kids projects, if you have the time and interest. Good thoughts!
    Karen
    http://kartwheels.org/

  2. Interesting read from article by columnist Jean Barker
    “But after six months in the USA, having gradually succumbed first to the amazing sushi, then to the lure of their amazing hamburgers, carne asada and Mexican deliciousness fried in pork fat, I managed to actually lose weight, but grew in other places that proved that, yes, there are a lot of weird hormones in American meat. I bought a bunch of new bras and contemplated the future.”

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