Parenting: Another Chance at Living Selflessly

My Little Ninja

My Little Ninja

Perhaps no other life experience has given me the opportunity to learn to live selflessly like Parenting. And I do not throw around the “P-Word” lightly, for anybody who ‘spews’ their ‘chemicals’ to produce a child. In my book, a parent is one who commits her/his self, actively to raising her/his children – born to them, born for them, adopted or as caretaker. It could be an aunt or uncle, or grandma raising children of their relative, or a stranger adopting a child unknown to them.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that parenting is the only way to live selfless or care for anything other than oneself. I know plenty of non-parents who are intimately engaged, or may I say, engrossed in all sorts of life ventures, as humanitarians, community mobilizers, mentors, fundraiser, trainers, teachers, friends or volunteers. I was one of anyone of those categories before I became a parent, and intimately committed to whatever and whoever I invested my time and energy into. Yet, as I have learned since becoming a parenting, while I could walk away from any of those preoccupation to create a just and friendly world, I do not have the same luxury with parenting. That is, if one is a parent – totally different from being a father or mother.

What prompted me to say all this? A couple of things. But, one most recent as this weekend. I took my son to participate his first ever Tae-Kwon-Do Tournament, Nam’s Veterans Martial Arts Tournament in Stroudsburg, PA. The organizer, his Tae-Kwon-Do teacher, is a Grand Master, international olympic judge, and trainer and National Coach for both Team USA and post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. By the way, Master Nam is a great teacher, I hate the thought of moving far away from him!

N’way, the whole experience at the tournament was amazing, so deep and personal. I watched, as parents, including grandparents, uncles and aunts, and siblings, braved the morning downpour to bring their children to competition. Parents preparing their children, investing energies and a whole day to stay with their children and see them through all the competition. There were plenty of joys and celebrations of wins, as well as tears of sorrow for losses and no wins. I cheered on my son, as well as friends, whom we know from our school

Though, one unfamiliar face stuck onto me and hit me deep. A father carrying a bag full of broken boards, and more in his arms, with his two children each carrying two giant trophies [girl- first and second place; and boy – two first place finishes], following him to departure. Daddy had a grin on his face, showing lots of excitement for his children’s achievements.

Nothing beat the feeling I had for my son’s achievements. While he did not win first or second place, he had three third place finishes, fetching him three trophies and three medals. I was a mixed bag of emotions; I cried and celebrated tears of joy and accomplishment. But also a little sad that he did not get first place, even though we had not expected anything more than a “certificate of participation”. I cried because he cried; he does not do losing very easily. I was even more surprised and saddened that another kid, usually not as good as my son is, beat him in “Forms”. How did he take second place from him!

As a parent, I had to hide my tears from his face, instead cheered him on for his achievements. I told him to pose for pictures with his trophies, with a smile. I asked for a picture with him. I reassured him that, the first time around is not always easy. But he should be proud of himself because some kids did not get a medal. I urged him on to try harder next time, grow his strength and scoop the top prize, next time around.

Perhaps we should participate in more tournaments going forward, to get him accustomed to competition and grow a spirit of fighting harder. My commitment to my son’s accomplishment has taught me a lot about myself and family. That my needs can take a back seat, as I nurture this little one, to partake of this world, and lay his footmark on this planet. Since becoming a parent, I have also learned a lot about my mother’s parenting style, and contextually appreciate the decisions she made [consciously or not] as a parent. I also much more appreciate, parents dedicated to raising their children, and providing the best they can afford and know how.

As I have always maintained, everyone is going through their hustle, do not judge! One must not sit on their high horse and judge the decisions of another parent, without stepping in those shoes, including for parents who seemingly or indeed go astray with decisions they make about parenting their children. Parenting is a wonderful thing. For some people, once they take that step to parenting, it is all they live for, and live selflessly for-ever-after!

celebrating his first Tae-Kwon-Do competition and medals

celebrating his first Tae-Kwon-Do competition and medals

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I Never Signed Up to do “Men’s Work….but…

Perhaps, those who know me maybe surprised that I am making genderized statements. After all, I am that kind of girl often pigeon-holed as a Feminist. You know, feminism does not come with collar popping praises, similar to capitalism. It is too loaded, too abhorred by plenty, as much as it is celebrated and revered by others. To some, it is the “Coming of Age of a Woman as a [Public] Person”. To others, It is the end of Womanhood, as we love, know and expect of a good and worthy woman. I personally chose to stand aside and let the battles rage on.
I am a very proud woman; it is my third or fourth identity after: 1) Human; 2) Muganda; 2) Black; 4) PanAfrican; oops it is 5) Woman, in order of my identity. No one can ever take away from me the fact that I am born human; the rest I have annexed as I come of age into this world. It is possible that Black comes before Muganda, though my unequivocal allegiance to Ssabasajja Kabaka – King of Buganda supersedes my cling onto blackness. Biko grandpa got this
Then, if my “woman” identity is so far off, why I am making genderized statements that I Never Signed Up to Do Men’s Work..?
As I repeatedly say, to be human is to be contradictory. I hate to be pigeoned-holed into any form of identity, thought process, time period or affiliation. My thought process, my understanding of life, my allegiances, my desires and my commitments are as transient as my geographical belonging.
There was a time I thought it matter greatly that, My Mechanic is a Woman. Not anymore! I want my mechanic to be as knowledgeable, courteous, consistent and cost-effective, as possible. I do not know so much about cars, otherwise I would be fixing them like I do with parenting. Whereas I detest social constructionism, and repudiate structuralism, many a times, I cling on to certain structures with nostalgia.
I reminisce about the days when men and women lived their social lives in their equal right, without necessarily having to compete with each other for recognition. Men enjoyed things men do [hanging out, playing soccer, flexing muscles, and women did the same [chatting, laughing hysterically, and cooking meals], stories I learned through experience, passed on to me as tales from my mother or my social circles, or have read about.
As a woman, my grandmother, who did not go to school, commanded the house to order. My grandmother guaranteed that food was planted and grown on family land by family labor – boys or girls, gardens weeded, four Sonic 13 on all six lanesood harvested and cooked for the family to eat. She ensured that every member of her household actively engaged in household chores, kept them grounded with respectful behavior for elders, adults and the neighborhood, and supportive of one another. She was The Boss Lady in the household, who never shied away from sparing the rod..and… No! She did not climb trees to harvest the mangoes, or ladders to construct the houses and barns and kitchens. She did not fix broken bicycles or pans, or build cars with children. She was a good Muganda woman, with the necessary mechanics for sharpening a blunt knife.
My grandfather took on his role as the overall in-charge of the household, especially the financial provider for the family. He went out to work for financial compensation, paid his monthly tax burden, school tuition for over fifteen children and bought the meat, sugar, bread, whenever he could afford. He also bought the land on which his family house resides to date. Prior to his death, he demarcated a plot of land equally to each of his children regardless of their sex – girls or boys.
I can say the same about my father, who took to [not heart but] muscle being The Head of the Household. While not without his faults and shortcomings, my father ensured that school tuition fees were paid, land purchased to farm family food and build family houses, and builders paid. He bought food home, especially his favorite fish and meat, and clothed the family and toiled himself into retirement.
My mother contributed greatly to holding the family together and supported my father’s financial pursuits. She provided a clean and reliable supply of my father’s wardrobe, wore the pants and dresses whenever my father was away from home or traveled for work, supervised builders on site and ensured abundant supply of water and other building material, planted food, managed the farms and gardens and brought food on the table, contributed to the children’s wardrobe, scholastic needs and upkeep, and run the general household. She was Superwoman!
Then enters moi, who came into feminism embracing its mantra as, The Radical Notion That Women Are People, a bumper sticker on a Senior Female Law Lecturer that I greatly admired as a feminist and scholarly activist. That summed up all my attraction to feminism, as a young girl. I did not want anyone restricting the length of my dress, the style of my hair, the offices I could step into, the words I could public say, the arguments I could engage in, or the causes I chose to defend. I did not want anyone defining my public lifestyle and pursuits. I wanted to climb trees, speak about human rights violations, wear my knee-high dresses or saggy jeans pants, rock dreadlocks, party hard, and drink to this and that, whenever I felt like.
But NO! I did not want to take responsibility for climbing ladders to build or paint my house, fix my bulb, repair my car, wash my car, shove snow from the driveway, build cars, carry loads of household equipment, mow the lawn or pay my bill at a restaurant on a date. That is what men do. Nor did I sign up to be my son’s playmate, especially in ‘boys games”, or build his cars. I love watching and learning vicariously through him, but do not enjoy being the center of making it happen.
Fast forward, and here I am: dressed up as a Ninja, playing flash, sonic, spiderman, supergirl and batgirl. I am the ‘adult partner” to his Cub scout meetings, building cars, building rail tracks at home and anything boys do. I do not mind climbing trees, and chasing him around the yard. Though, I do not want the entire weight fitted onto me. I want him to build cars with boys and with males. Perhaps then, we will have a winning car in the next Pinewood Derby Car Race.Team Biko Sonic 13 at the Pinewood Derby Car Race