The Trials and Tribulations of Extroverts

IMG_2934You think Introverts have it tough? Pity Extroverts!

True, Introverts are often ridiculed as bad communicators, lone souls, poor social buddies and individualist. While Extroverts are [perceived as] jovial, positive, friendly, giving, sociable, with an infinite joie de vivre!

Extroverts are expected to light up the room at a party and mingle, offer a free hand to the stumblers, a shoulder to the criers and bright lamp to broken spirits. Extroverts are to smile, laugh and cater to everybody’s happiness and pleasure, it is presumed and expected.

Me-time” is not [acceptably] synonymous with extrovert. How can the light of the party fold into oneself to deal with own issues? But that is seemingly not considered unfair!

True story!

I know an extrovert in my social circles. She loves life, she is spontaneous, adventurous, athletic and earthy. She loves everything natural, loves entertaining, and volunteering a helping hand to others, solicited or not. She is full of vigor, smiles and laughs out loud, and a pretty funny jokester

She will pick up the slack with no prompts. She will be the one cleaning up the mess, while everyone in the room is sitting watching TV or fingering their phones. She will feed the children, entertain them, play with them, read with them, put on an impromptu picnic for them and support their childhood dreams unsolicited.

Even if none of the children’s parents returns the favor for her own kids, she is never swayed from cooking up a storm, cleaning and caring for the sick or bereaved. Because giving a helping hand is the humane thing to do, that no religion, politics or economics can indoctrinate. It is also a key tenet of her social upbringing, which impressed on her the importance of service to others.

But what happens when she needs her “Me-time”? What if she does not want to sit around and laugh or play with anybody? Is she being rude, mean, nasty, causing tension? Is she entitled to claim her space, amidst others? Is she allowed to have “Me-time”? For the same reasons we give our children “time out”, to recover, to recuperate, to reflect and come back with positive energy and relaxed.

From what I know about her, she has come a long way, in controlling how much and how long she “zones out” and “shuts the world away”, and takes her time-out. She confessed to me that, she never used to stretch her tolerance and patience a lot like she does now.

For instance, she was never a “morning person”, until she became obliged to take care of another person — her own child. Correct, she had had experience taking care of children, but with the option of bailing out, at will, because they were not her own responsibility.

Before becoming a mother, she did not enjoy talking to anyone in the morning. No small talk, unless it was urgent and very important life concerns, morning transcontinental conference calls or checking in at airport gates on early morning flights!

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To reload her to morning ‘sugar’, she started going on morning running to wake her up to lift her spirits up. To her, running is not simply for “weight loss” —it has never been—but to pump her blood up. When others grabbed a coffee to jumpstart them in the morning, she goes for a run.

Since becoming a mother, her child has supplemented the morning run. He wakes up every morning with a smile and a positive attitude, that are so contagious! That alone, lifts her spirits up, though she goes crazy sometimes, when his happiness slows down, his on getting out of bed and getting dressed.

Reading and social media also keep her busy, and revives her energies. They give her new perspective about life, and give her the umph to keep going amid turmoil. So, blogging, reading online news, tweeting, FB, Instagram, and sharing with her online crowd is a joy to her!

Some might say it “escapism” from her immediate surroundings, but it is positive escapism. It allows her to spare others her agony and misery, until she can bounce back with renewed vigor and positive energy. It stirs joy in her, and helps her regain her stamina. It clears her thoughts, and allows her mould and transform herself strategically.

What bewilders, though, is when others take her quiet and “down-time” personal? Why they perceive her “hibernation” as directed at them, and causing tension around them, when she does not take their availability or lack thereof for granted?

If she can find the peace and joy within herself, why can’t others do the same? If she can still offer a helping hand even when her social circles do not return the favor, why is it hard to accept her without judgement, those times she is not an “Upbeat Extrovert”?

I wonder, why we should expect extroverts to carry other people’s 100th problem, when they have their 99 problems! Why can’t we accepted that everyone is a lot like the British weather; it fluctuates at from time to time, not permanently, and still brings us happy memories!

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Perhaps, we should all learn to accept that nobody is in a permanent state of bliss or misery. Nobody, in my imagination wants to be surrounded by people or be the entertainment for others all the time. Nobody wants to be the fortress for others all the time, or the last man/woman standing, when others are tucked in their loneliness, sorrow or “me-time”.

Nor does anybody want to be lonely and gloomy all the time, tucked away from others, without friends to laugh, play and talk to. We all enjoy to love, support and surround ourselves with others. But can we understand that Extroverts do not have an elasticity of happiness, and just show some love when they do not wanna be disturbed!

Happy Turkey-giving Y’all!

‘Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity. It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.’
- Melodie Beattie

 

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An article in Chicago Tribune profiles former Stanford Dean Lythcott-Haims, among other writers like Jessica Lahey (“The Gift of Failure”) and Jennifer Senior (“All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood”), speaking to “Helicopter Parents” to Let It Go! Let the children be, children! Have a life of your own! You can also call them “Socca moms” or Drill Surgeons, they are in the face of their children, and anyone involved with their children.

Lythcott-Halms cites statistics on the rise of depression and other mental and emotional health problems among the nation’s young people, as justification that, perhaps Helicopter Parents are doing more harm than good, by micromanaging their children’s lives, trying to churn them into super-high achievers. Points to the growing concern that many young people are “adultscents” stuck in “waithood”!

I wrote recently about Parenting on a Shoe-String of Hope, that, regardless of how much we invest into our kids, there is no guarantee that they will turn out with the discipline, commitment, self-drive, kindness and love, we so strive to impart in them and desire! Parenting is not a game, yet it is a “Hit and Miss”!

Now, we have more parents, parent psychologists and scholars sharing their experiences and views on how we, as a society of parents, are fairing in grooming our children, the critical thinkers, national builders and leaders of after years. Or could it be “now years,” since children no longer waiting till adulthood to woo their societies as inventors, leaders, scholars, business gurus, artists, and employers.

At least children are gaining some recognition, that they are not just diaper-clad, video game, Minecrafters, demanding their “me-time” and “me-decide,” while expecting for papa and mama to make their bed, provide a food and monthly allowances, after-college rent, and plane tickets to global vacation destinations! Perhaps, here, we could boast that our “Helicopter parenting” has paid off, or are the ‘mature’ ones not products of helicopter parenting?

But, are we “Helicopter Parenting” out of unfounded paranoia, or are we justified?
Fear of the “known unknown” — rapists, kidnappers, murderers, has driven us to safeguard our children much more. I would argue that they rise of the known-unknowns could be an outcrop of the diminishing family size, progressively excluding aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and grandparents [referred to in Western Culture as “Extended Family”], and collapsing into a nuclear family of mom, dad, plus one or two children. Additionally family is increasingly “private and estranged from community relationships and neighborhood watch.

Back in the days, a child belonged to the community, which kept a watchful eye, disciplined, freely interacted and played with one another. Today, our children need [in]formal permission, an invitation and scheduled playdate with the neighbor’s child. We are scared of our neighbor(s), do not always know our neighbor, and have replaced innocent trust with restraint. The neighbor [though not all neighbors] is no longer looking out to protect but harm our children and restrict our children’s play.

Ironically, the “fear of thy neighbor,” has undermined our much celebrated “neighborhood watch,” diminished social responsibility to protect our kids, instead churning out more predators with harmful and malicious intent and practices in our neighborhoods. We as neighbors are distancing ourselves further away from each another, with a diminishing obligation to commit and love one other.

Nothing speaks to the shrinking “modern family” size, values and protection than the ‘disappearance’ of blood relatives in raising our children. Not even the unconditional support of family in raising our children, can be taken for granted anymore! Grandparents and younger siblings are no longer “automatic babysitters” for our children; they have lives to live! Growing up, I babysat my nieces and nephews, supported my older siblings households without question, protest or bitterness.

Today, the true meaning of family is not a social network you can take for granted, or a social guarantor of love and support, unconditionally. Family is now a site of wary, each on collision course of survival for the fittest. Parents are struggling to stay afloat on their own, as the main guardians of their children, sometimes separately.

The expectation that every parent contributes to parenting, regardless and with no emphasis on how much overt love was expressed toward the children. Now, the phenomenon of absentee father is a huge blight on parenting, and the survival and proper functioning of families, The absentee father is not only non-custodial, but also pops in and out of his child’s life at own convenience, or lives-in with both child and child’s mother, but is more focused on his own life than family welfare.

Thus, the rise of the “Helicopter Parent(s),” not primarily to outpace others children in a survival for the fittest, but also to compensate for the burden and responsibility of raising children as single parent and/or without the additional support of relatives and society. Helicopter parents are as much concerned about the future success of our children and ability to stay afloat in a cut-throat world.

Yet, we are constant bombarded with parenting practices, suggestive but guilt-tripping us, national laws and policies to adhere to, ‘concerned neighbors’ and ‘social watchers’ quick to condemn our parenting skills, and tell on us to the authorities, because in their view, we are not good parents.

Why We Celebrate Birthdays

A BBC World Service interview this week got me thinking that, perhaps, I should say something about, “Why I Celebrate Birthdays. The interviewee was a former Somali refugee, resettled to Australia, where she has since campaigned for a seat in the Australian Parliament [If I listened to that correctly.]Mas

In the course of the interview, the interviewee mentioned that on her nineteenth birthday, she found out that the Australian government had granted her resettlement to its country. She was living in a Kenya refugee camp, with her family had lived since fleeing Somalia at the age of twelve.

“I had not celebrated my birthday since fleeing to the camp because I did not have reason to, with my family not well. But that was the best birthday gift,” she said.

Her statement made perfect sense to me, given my attachment to celebrating Child of Mine’s and my birthday! Regardless of what others may say to me or think about birthdays, I will continue to celebrate our birthdays. I treat each birthday, as a very significant milestone in our lives. Plus, it is a memorable tradition I carry from my childhood, and a family tradition.

“Why do I care to explain,” you may ask?

Because within Child of Mine’s family, are religious opinions that, “Birthdays are pagan celebrations”. Recall, I have said before that, I do not pre-empt discussions about religion or politics with family. I stray very far away, to avoid antagonizing any souls, especially on subjects often very passionately, very dogmatically adhered to by the followers.

I will discuss or comment on politics and religion to “The World”, that is people within my social network, whom I do not share very close personal relationships. Folks, I am not exactly concerned would explode into eternally wounded hearts, if we were to disagree. I am comfortable on platforms, where I believe are for intellectual public discussions and interrogation of our differences and different understandings of social life, not personal attacks.

Beeks 3rdStill, I pride myself as tolerant of differences, never to dictate to others their ways of life, nor speak ill of their life choices and dogmas. I will raise concern and disagreement, but never to do harm to anybody! I am not religious, but I have family and friends across the religious divide – Protestant, Catholic, Pentecostal, Muslim, Seventhly Adventist, Mormon, Mennonite, and plenty more religions. Religious tolerance is not a cliché in my life; it is a way of life. After all, we are all humans first!
So, I take offense to anyone trying to dissuade me from celebrating a birthday using, “Because it is evil!” I do not speak ill about your religious practices, regardless of my views on religion, and I would expect the same respect. Anyway, no arrows from here, but let me give a little insight into why others, like me celebrate birthdays, and will keep doing so.

For the Somali refugee on BBC, she left behind a lavish middle class family background in Somalia, when she fled to a life of living displaced, desperate and disposable in a refugee camp in Kenya. Thus, her nineteenth birthday gave her an insurmountable reason to celebrate, yet again!Beeks 4th

In her words, she had not celebrate since she left Mogadishu at twelve years of age! Her father and brother were shot and killed in front of her mother and herself. Her family had been involved in a life-threatening accident while in the refugee camp, and had remained terribly sick; conditions had never been the same again. In fact, she turned down a scholarship opportunity to study in Canada, deciding against leaving her family without a caretaker.

So, a resettlement opportunity to Australia, to start life anew was more than enough reason to celebrate her nineteenth birthday; as a promise of living life anew and rebuilding hers and that of her family. And to smile again, in safety, away from the fear of rape and physical violence that characterize life within the refugee camp.

I am also reminded that, where I am from, children are not guaranteed to live beyond their fifth birthday. For instance, in my country of origin Uganda, under-five childhood mortality, the number of children who do not live to their fifth birthday, is 69 out of 1,000 live births. And with life expectancy at birth at 59 years, these are more than justifiable reason to celebrate every year beyond the fifth birthday, and every year beyond 59 years of age.  Beeks 6th gang

Perhaps more personal to me, celebrating birthdays was a significant part of my family tradition, growing up. Even if we ate popcorn and black tea, we still celebrated each and everyone’s birthday in my family.  Only my father did not know his exact birthday, but guesstimated from his mother’s death.Beeks 6th

My paternal grandmother died when my father was still breastfeeding. Nor did his father keep an exact record of his birthday.  Popsy finally settled for one date December 12, he would get rather excited, order whatever anyone wanted, and made all us danced the night away on our living room floor!  We partied! We enjoyed each other!

All the many ways why I love celebrating birthdays, believe in the social value of celebrating birthdays, and as I have said, will continue, until child of mine says, No More!  Beeks 7th

April is All the Kool Kids Month! Let’s….!

It is here….and….It is Official! Sun over the First Spring Lake

April is All the Kool Kids Month! Go Figure!

Sorry y’all who don’t fit the profile! I know the, “Damn! Why was I born on March 31? I don’t blame you, I would too…If I happened to fall off the “Kool Kids Train”…oops 🙂

I love April! Nor more ‘smell’ of Spring; it is upon us…in all the realness! The rain, the sun, the pollen, the cooler temperatures, and the flower blossoms! I love April, because I share this coolness with my other most important person in this world…the one who gave me a life —Sweet dear Mother (April 6)! My very beautiful niece too, is also a Kool Kid (April 6).

I love April because it is National Families and Reading Month. Who does not love reading? Thankfully, I gave birth to a reader; we know how to turn the pages, one after another. Often sharing our “pages” with the “paws”,who surely enjoy the magic of our reading! This April, we are both reading to Child’s class: child is reading on April 22, and I will be Guest Reading on April 28 – which also happens to be my Birthday!

What else will I do for my birthday? Not sure yet, but traditionally since childhood, I celebrate and make merry! At the very least, we celebrated with popcorn and tea, which were very big features of birthday celebrations in my family household. Last year, Child treated me to a special birthday, when he won the Student of April Month, with a coupon for a free meal at Friendly’s. So, we decided to dine out on my Birthday! I am sure we’ll be doing something funky and blinged this year as well, including receiving lots of love with y’all! Right?Spring Tree Climber

What I am sure about this April, I will be running my maiden Big City Marathon, the oldest and most prestigious City Marathon born in 1897. It is The Big City Marathon, the rest are races, so they say. I have butterflies, self-doubts, thrills that a bride gets the morning of her wedding night. I am thinking, since I have never been one. Yet, I am super determined to do it. It is not my first time, but this is a Big Deal, Big City Deal! Lets…

Glad to be sharing April with some of the Koolest Kids on planet earth, especially since I am getting cooler myself! Now I know about Star Wars, Super Sonic, Beyblade and Wonder Woman. Now I know all about the solar system, and learning lots of astronomy, thanks to the Child. Plus, my birthday also happens to be International Astronomy Day.

Yeah! There are a couple of more Kool days you too would know about, if you were an April Kool Kid! I plan to enjoy a fair share of those, starting with Fooling Around (April 1); Read a Book with Children (April 2); Skip Work (April 3)Hug A Newman (April 4); Say no to Housework (April 7); Go Patriot [on the Boston Marathon trail] (April 20); pay homage to Earth Planet (April 22); Take a Chance (April 23); and Hug an Australian (April 26) who would become My Mate to Kiss (April 28), very appropriately on my Birthday! How Kool is That!

Oh! Before I go, CrowdRise asked me to tell you that I should ‘give up my birthday to raise money for my favorite cause. I think this is awesome! Wait, how did CrowdRise know that I was already raising $$$ for my favorite charity of the year? Y’all know that I am running Boston Marathon 2015 with the Tufts Marathon Team (TMT); yeah, that’s what’s up!

All proceeds from my fundraising are going directly toward the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition toward support for research on nutrition, obesity, hunger and famine, and to sustain programs that promote health and wellness across the university and within our host communities of Medford, Somerville and Boston’s Chinatown.  Here is the link to my fundraiser; your gift is big to me, and will mean a lot to me and everyone who benefits from Tufts University Medical Services! Please support, and make me the Koolest Kid, ever!

Happy Koolest Kids Month! Bring on April!

Geese on the LakeOnly one Big City Marathon

New Year Resolutions from A Mother to A Wimpy Child

I have heard people claiming that making New Year Resolutions is so cliché! Everyone goes on to breaks their resolutions, so why bother?
Well, I still believe there is reason to set annual resolutions at the beginning of each year. Similar to academic life, professional or business ventures, everybody needs goals. Something to aspire to or to keep one grounded; something against which to judge oneself -successes or failures, losses or wins; or cause a celebration, and plan for more celebrations. We all need that oomph; a year is too long not to want to prove, reform or redeem oneself.
So yes, I will be keeping some resolutions around this year. But I will not tell you what they are, except to give you a clue: SECURITY!
There you have it, all my New Years resolutions summed up in one word. And sorry no! I will not be quitting social media, anytime soon.
While we are at resolutions, here is something I thought would be perfect New Year Resolutions from Mother to A Wimpy Child.
 
1. No more thumb sucking, apparently because it tastes like milk. Next time you want milk, feel free to suck on the farm cows like calves do.
2. If you get up and do not make your bed, kindly get rid of your beddings by throwing them out of the house for good.
3. You do not like the food I make you, be my guest. Pick up a fruit of your choice, with a bottle of water for dinner.
Wimpy Child
4. If you have nothing good to say, allow your mouth to remain closed, including from sulking and sobbing.
5. You think homework is too hard and boring? Try listening to yourself whining.
6. Always remember that I brought you into this world, and I can swiftly take you back where you came from.
7. You’re just jealous that I am boss-lady. Try being the servant, then tell me which one you prefer.
8. I am the tree, you are the plane. Last time I checked, a tree does not get out of the way for a plane’s passage.
9. I know it is hard being a boy. Don’t worry, your Scottish roots allow you to escape into your skirts, and your Baganda roots a man-dress.
10. And if your birthday seems to take too long to come around, always remember there are typically 365, and February 29 is not an annual guarantee.
Happy New Year Wimpy Child, the world would be such a dull place without your sulk to make the sky cloudy, your tears to make rain fall, and your cold shoulder to freeze into snow!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are said to be those of this person’s “alter ego”…and do not necessarily represent the “other person” 😉😘

Lost In Translation…Between Santa and Religion…

I am revisiting the discussion about parents celebrating with their children, or is it children celebrating with their parents, or parents imposing their will on their children. I am still “Lost in Translation”, not an outcome of feedback I received on my most recent piece parent-children relations, but a feeling of “unfinished business”. I still cannot understand how a parent would expect his/her children’s excitements to be about or around them, not the opposite!
I have heard that, if your message does not come out as you expected, it is most likely because you did not communicate effectively. At least that is agreed upon by those who put the interests of their audience over and above theirs, and are comfortable accepting blame for not being understood. Others would be quick to blame their audience for “not understanding them” or missing the point. I tend to belong to the former, preferably because it helps me grow as a public communicator.
N’way, I still believe that every person has a right to their beliefs, grounded in own social, economic, cultural political or religious understanding. I am comfortable tolerating different belief systems, as part of my commitment to humane social living. I lose nothing by not disagreeing with others about their beliefs. Everybody believes in some unexplained power or authority: buddha, meditation, yoga, running, deity, karma, giving, good luck, prayer, handwork, capitalism, democracy, community, social living, family, religion, or something.
I am a great observer and learner from different belief systems. Though, I steer clear of directly confronting anyone about their belief systems, unless of course they are a source of social injustice and disharmony. I will not hesitate to challenge notions or pronouncements that undermine other forms of social organization or social living, like racism, sexism, ethnocentrism or capitalism. However, I have made my peace, to never engage in arguments about politics or religion with anyone in my circles, who I do not care so much about, but I would not dare to lose. Typically, anyone I regard as an acquaintances or not very close relationship. I am comfortable engaging my family and close friends because of the relationship and trust we have cultivated overtime, which would unlikely end due to religious or politics disagreement.
And while many religious followers often emphasize that their faith embodies love, peace and hope, on the contrary, I have experienced religion as a source of high social exclusion, intolerance and self-centeredness. Many religious believers preoccupy themselves with convincing you that their way is right, righteous and loving, while implicitly judging your [alternative or non-religious] beliefs and lifestyle choices. I was once told that I would not pass the test on “Judgement Day” [whenever and wherever that would be], because I have no religious backbone to lean on, other than my belief in humanity. I have sat down with a religious family, where one stated in my face that a child born out of wedlock brings great shame to the family. I was also scolded for privileging “Santa” over “Jesus Christ”! I could not be more misunderstood than in the last incidence!
For those who know me, I do not subscribe to “organized belief system”, except perhaps my cultural affinity as a Muganda. Even then, I pick and choose what works in different situations. I do not subscribe to most fantasies either, like Santa, dead people or nativity. Put more appropriately, I ceased subscribing to such fantasies, the more I learned about the world. Then I became a mother, and my ‘mystical-free world’ made a u-Turn. Now I sit through TV or Video shows of action figures, ninjas, anime; open myself up to learn about fictional characters through books, outdoor activities or tales from my child. Sometimes I am tasked by my little one to research facts about all sorts of characters in videos, TV and children’s reading books, or listen to long and windy stories that I have no interest in, but because that’s “What’s hot in the KidZone”!
Lately, I am a victim of the expectation to honor all sorts of celebrations and holidays that were never of any interest to me in my solo world. For my son’s birthday, I have to come up with cakes of all shapes, sizes and toppings from what fascinates him at the time. I have directed the production of cakes that look like Lightning McQueen, fire-spitting dinosaur or Sonic the Hedgehog. For Halloween, I lost the right to present him with a costume of my choice, such as Curious George custome for his first year. Now, it has to be either Ben10, Captain America, Ninja Turtles or some other Ninja, in addition to coming up with a costume for myself, per his request.
For Christmas, he does not care whether I give him any presents. My presents are highly expected and appreciated any other time, except Christmas, when it is “Santa” comes down the chimney with presents from his workshop in the North Pole. While I do not worship at the altar of Christmas, I have to ensure that gifts are purchased, wrapped, and left under the chimney the night before Christmas, so that he wakes up to the magical giving for that kindhearted mysterious creature. While others might find their mystery through God, Jesus Christ, Allah, Jehovah or Messiah, to many children, it is the Tooth Fairy, Ninja Turtles, Sonic or Santa. Mysteries help children cast their imaginations far and wide, expanding their brain power to dream big, and that is why I support my son in fully experiencing them.
So, do not demand that your child’s fantastic mysteries be about you or what you believe to be the “perfect or acceptable mysteries”. Allow them to create their own mysteries, and support their ability to enjoy their mysteries. Until such a time when their world view changes, when they will learn that there is more to life than mystical characters and fantasies. Social living involves thinking beyond oneself, accommodating everyone’s belief systems and lifestyles, which might one day have to be their own children!

Dear Parents, Your Kids Celebrations Are Not About You…!

I typically do not write about family affairs. I have a self-censored rule that “I shall NOT wash my family dirty linen in public. Even with all my multiple identities: as a humanist, a Pan African, a Black person, a woman, a cosmopolitan, an internationalist, I still believe in the “private-public dichotomy. Yes, in my world, there is still a “public” and a “private”, and the private should be spared and jealously safe-guarded from public eyes and ears, and scrutiny. The more I have come of age, the more I realize that I do not have to say everything I feel or think. I am grateful that the heart is hidden inside our bodies; nobody can claim to know my feelings. Although, those who seek to find fault, will always claim knowledge of your sentiments, feelings and intentions. Nor, do I need to offer an opinion on everything that I read, observe or hear of. I am grateful that my fingers, mouth and head allow me to excuse myself from uncomfortable situations, until such a time when I am ready to resurface. As my mother always told me, who can claim that you hurt them when you did not say a thing? [Apparently some still take it personal, mommy].
N’way, allow me a minute to break my Code of Silence about “The Private”, and say,
“Dear Parents, your child or your children’s celebrations are not about you. Nor are their intrigues, their excitements, or their dreams. It is their moment. Please do not feel offended if they would like to play with their toys, friends or cousins instead of sitting around chatting with you. If you are on a phone call with them, please do not expect them to maintain a long attention span, unless of course they are talking to you about something that excites them, like their favorite fictional characters. When you give them presents, please let them enjoy the occasion for receiving your gifts: perhaps it is their birthday, they lost a tooth, Easter Bunny visited, it is Halloween or Santa came into town. That is what kids talk about; please allow them to enjoy their childhood. Sometimes they might offend you by saying that they wished for “Pokémon” instead of the “Spiderman” you got them. Please find a constructive way of reminding them the importance of being grateful, and hopefully they will receive what they had wished for next time. Although, as we all know, our children’s interests change as quickly as their attention span. The next time you think of gifting them, or another celebrations comes around, they might wish for snow or white sand from the forest!”
Why I am saying all of this? I presume that if you are a parent, you probably already know all these facts about your children. Though, I have learned that not all absentee parents have these facts at their finger tips. Some want their children’s excitements, beliefs, celebrations and interests to be centered around them. They want their children to follow their own trajectories, as scripted from their childhood, even when they have never spent an equivalent of a month per year, since their children were born! When the kids do not respond per their expectations, the custodial parent is to blame!
Perhaps the same is true that custodial parents also want our children to ‘be like us’. I must say though, I have learned to “let my son be”, allow him to dream as wildly, explore as wide, and seek as far and beyond. I have put on hold my needs and comfort for the sake of my son until that time when he comes of age, or says he does not desire me anymore. I have opened up my son to venture into territories I had abandoned long ago or had excluded from my lifestyle. For instance, I was never a cheese-easter, but I started eating cheese regularly while pregnant with my son, because my OB/GYN said I needed to eat more protein, particular cheese and eggs. I had vowed myself as a cosmo girl, who would never fit or be caught living in suburbia away from the bright city lights, until that all changed in pursuit of “the school district”. I abandoned my geographical place of comfort, in the name of “raising my child around his family”. I have even learned to make, and sometimes taste pancakes, pizza, muffins and donuts, for the sake of my son, although I ensure to make them as healthy as it comes. If you had told me six years ago, that I would be spending my Xmas morning googling, discovering and reading about action figures/fictional characters: Sonic the Hedgehog, Ninja Turtles, Pokémon, Spider-Man, …. Thank You Santa! Or that I would be consciously celebrating Christmas, again!
Talking about Christmas, I ceased celebrations when I parted ways with Christianity umpteen years ago. In my entire stay in America, I had never celebrated Halloween until after my child was born, and I partook in Thanksgiving fetes because friends or family invited me to share with their families. Generally, my personal politics and convictions determined my response to many celebrations and traditions, even though I respect the choices of those who follow these traditions. Halloween to me was a “ghostly blood sucking ‘orgy”, which I always skipped because I hate blood and was fear dead people. Thanksgiving robbed Native Americans of their lands and culture by invading colonialists, whom I did not wish to honor. Christmas and Easter were channels of institutionalized control, miseducation and European colonization of the black mind and erosion and denigrating African culture and traditions. I could say the same about Eid, but since I was not born into Islam [like Christianity], I embraced it, whenever it welcomed me to partake, until my recent departure from consciously seeking to enjoy it or any other inklings of organized religion. [Did I say that I was once engaged to be married to a Muslim African man? Uhm! Story for another day!] I believe the stronger basis for our existence is the fact that we are all humans first born onto this planet in human flesh, with one life to live, before we vanish, or perhaps re-incarnate or hang around our loved ones as spirits.
So, I have learned to let my son live his dream. I do not force him to adopt my own beliefs or confine him to my desires. Well, there are a few exceptions; to protect him or encourage him to learn, or teach him to be a strong and respectful man. I often tell my son that it is important to be polite, respectful and appreciative, than to have high academic grades. As a member of society, there are certain requirements I am gonna impose on him, to learn, to live and excel in human society. As a single mother raising a man, when I have never been a man, moreover a young American man, I am gonna go beyond his wishes to ensure that he becomes a man he, myself and well-wishers will be proud of.
I emphasize to him the importance of “Please”, “Sorry” and “Thank You”, drinking water with his meals, at least between meals, eating vegetables and fruits, getting his homework done and doing his weekly chores of cleaning the bathroom sink, toilet and wiping dressing mirror. I offer no apologies for that!
Still, I let my son dream his dreams. To him, Christmas is about “Santa coming down the Chimney to bring presents to kids who behave well.”  Who I am to tell him otherwise? The “Tooth Fairy” rewards kids who lose their teeth, Halloween is a “Trick-Or-Treat” moment for little kids, the only passport to going out very late at night, on Thanksgiving, it is time to eat turkey, even when mom would rather we ate “Tofurky”, and a Birthday is a very special day to eat cake and receive as many presents. It does not matter that I do not celebrate Christmas, which according to me it is a Christian holiday, my son will celebrate it for as long as he wants, and because I have plenty of family who are Christians. The same way I let him celebrate Eid with his muslim paternal family, [I too have muslim family and friends].
I am not gonna bombard him with the religious symbolism of Christianity or Eid; I parted ways and have no interest in exploring that with my son at this age. In fact, I tried to let him share his paternal families Islamic culture, until grandma gave us the ultimatum, “If he cannot attend Sunday School regularly, he should not come at all.” My intention was to give her an opportunity to spend some quality time with her grandson, since she did not see him a lot in his five years, and she does not ask to spend one-on-one time or take him out, until her other grandkids are visiting.
For as long as I am expected to be the sole parent for this child, I will continue allowing him to believe as he imagines, that Santa came down the chimney and dropped off all the presents, including any entrusted with me to ‘secretly’ give to him. I remain protective of my child’s excitements and wildest dreams, from unnecessary scrutiny and criticism, especially coming from anyone who offers no help or support in parenting him. I know and believe it takes a village to raise a child, but let the village not only come in to condemn.
Hopefully, we as parents will learn to support our children’s dreams and fantasies in their imagination, rather than stifling or suffocating them with our mystical convictions derived from religious dogmas that do not unite but divide us as humans. After all, I am learning that most of what my child is fascinated and get hysterical about is from interacting with age mates, exposure through reading, visual and digital images, his classroom teacher interaction, and lastly from myself as a parent [I know some might disagree]. Perhaps our children’s excitements will enable us to look back eighteen or twenty-one years later and say, “Job Well Done!”