Our whole house has been hit with sickness and flu these past two weeks. First it was my youngest two and now, me.
I don’t normally get sick. In fact, I usually manage to avoid it. And yet, even with me being able to stay healthy for most of it, the past two weeks have nearly driven me insane.
I’m pleased to say, though, I think we’re coming out of the worst of it and I’ve learned some things that I think I can pass on to make sure other Mums don’t make the same mistakes as me.
Here are 6 tips for maintaining your sanity when your little ones are sick.
Get out of the house! It’s tempting to stay at home all day everyday until the kids get better for fear they’ll get worse if you expose them to the cold outside. But honestly, my only saving grace was being forced to get out to do the school run for my oldest. The girls liked getting out of the house and though I didn’t keep them out too long, I think their sinuses appreciated the fresh air.
Don’t feel guilty about putting on the tele… When you don’t know how long your kids are going to be sick, you may start out all gung-ho with arts and crafts at the ready, play doh, baking and games. But it will take its toll. In between the whining and clinginess, you’ll just need a break from it all and putting on the tele is the easiest way to catch a break. Do what you need to do get through this and don’t feel guilty!
Leave the cleaning and laundry. Trust me you’ll need every last ounce of energy and patience to deal with two whiny babies so don’t waste it all on cleaning. There’s nobody around to see it anyway.
Arrange playdates at yours. Once the kids aren’t contagious anymore, it’s important that you (and your kids) don’t go insane being around each other all day everyday. Arrange a playdate at yours with one of your child’s friends and their mum. You’ll need the adult conversation just as much as they’ll need the playtime and seeing other children. Just make sure you remember number 3 above! Otherwise, it’s counter intuitive.
Make them sleep! No matter what age they are or how long they’ve been out of napping, when kids are feeling under the weather, they need to sleep. Even if they refuse to sleep, Insist on some ‘rest time’ that means they have to lie in their beds at least for a half an hour. It buys you some time but more often than not, they do fall asleep.
Take advantage of weekends when your partner is home. Let your spouse take over when they’re home. They can help in so many ways and help save your sanity. Even if it’s just to take over the cuddling.
Don’t skip your morning coffee! Coming from experience, you’re going to need this so make sure you get it in early so you can face the rest of the day.
As part of our new mixed race book review series, I will be starting to review books featuring or highlighting mixed race or multiracial characters.
Today’s feature is the book : My Two Grannies by Floella Benjamin– a favourite of mine and my daughters’.
There’s perhaps no-one more apt to write a children’s book than British children’s presenter Floella Benjamin, a black woman in an interracial relationship who has two mixed kids. She’s a household face and name to British 30 and 40 somethings who grew up with her face on their television sets and is today the Vice President of Barnardos Children’s Charity.
The story is about a little girl named Alvina whose parents are going away for the weekend. Alvina gets very excited that her two grannies, whom she loves with all her heart will be coming to take care of her.
But her grannies are from two very different places. Granny Vero is from Trinidad and Granny Rose is from England.
Both Grannies have very different taste in food, interests and things they like to do. And they soon begin to argue about how best to take care of Alvina. Alvina comes up with a way they can both work together and enjoy each other’s ideas, recipes and activities. In the end, they both both realise they can appreciate what the other brings and can even learn from each other! A celebration of the different parts of what makes Alvina who she is!
My Two Grannies is a lovely book for mixed heritage or mixed race children who have family members from different parts of the world or from different cultures. My two oldest daughters love the book because they can relate to having two grannies of different colours and from different cultures. It’s a great way to get them to celebrate diversity whilst engaging them in their own real-life experience of having two grannies hailing from different parts of the world.
We highly recommend My Two Grannies and love that it’s written by such a well-known children’s presenter. So do consider it for your next purchase!
For more book reviews with mixed race characters, click here…
There has been a lot written about the royal wedding since it aired on over 30 million television sets across the globe. Most of it is positive- even dramatically praiseworthy. Meghan’s dress, her poise, Harry’s nervousness, Prince Charles walking Meghan down the aisle and of course, who could forget Rev Curry’s poignant yet dramatic address. The day was filled with elegance and style but perfectly choreographed to pay homage to both sets of cultures uniting as one.
I watched William and Kate’s wedding with interest seven years ago, having never watched the amazing performance the Royal machine puts on during one of these affairs.
And yet, this one stood out, not just because it incorporated the same pomp and performance that is behind all of the Royal Family events. But because of who it involved.
These six images below captivated my little ones’ faces.
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM – MAY 19: Meghan Markle leaves St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle after her wedding with Prince Harry on May 19, 2018 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Brian Lawless – WPA Pool/Getty Images)
For the same cliche reasons that many black Americans and Brits have been going on about. Let it not be overstated. This was history in the making.
And representation matters. Meghan shook up an establishment that is centuries’ old where black faces are/were rarely seen. (“They were coming out of every stockroom the BBC could find!”- one of my family members joked.)
And to have so many front and centre- to see a ‘princess’ (and I say this knowing that she will not officially get the title) who is biracial and PROUD! marrying into such an old, white and stodgy establishment. Well, what an absolute mind blower.
I cried and laughed for the same reasons that most others did watching. But I also cried for my children- because IF this is how the Royal Family wish to go forward, they have made a statement of intention that is both progressive and welcome.
Our children will grow up knowing and seeing a woman part of the royal family who is a feminist, an ambassador for growing up mixed race, proud of her black roots and most of all, willing and able to push against even the most stubborn of barriers.
It was a day that will go down in the history books and one that I’m certain my three daughters won’t forget. When they looked at Meghan and commented, “she’s mixed like ME!”, I knew it was a moment to remember….
Next step is for Meghan to wear her curly hair natural!
A lot of Mums these days are able to definitively say “I’m done”- after having their first, second or even fifth child. If you’ve never had that feeling and you’re undecided about whether you might have another one, there are some telltale signs you probably will go for the third…
If you’ve said yes to five or more of these, you might as well keep your old baby clothes!
You’re still hanging on to your now 4 year old’s onesie.
You have all girls but you find yourself reading the brochure about circumcision in your doctor’s waiting room.
Your youngest is a boy but you insist on buying neutral everything.
Your husband’s suggestion he get a vasectomy falls on deaf ears.
When looking for houses, the ‘spare’ bedroom is secretly you’re future child’s.
You can take the sleepless nights because you’re resigned you’ll do it differently next time.
You love playdates and lift shares because you get to practice handling more.
You’re not all that fussed about losing all the baby weight because you know you’ll just pack it on again for the next one.
You still track your ovulation cycle obsessively ‘just in case’ you organise a romantic night in.
The first set of school fees shock you because you’ve already multiplied it times 3 in your head.
You make sure you don’t use all your favourite names for your first child ‘just in case’.
You make sure you don’t reveal to friends and family what the other contenders were for baby names ‘just in case’.
You turn into a sloppy puppy every time you see or hold a newborn.
You recite in your head your kids’ and ‘future kids’ names to see if they go together ‘just in case’.
You drop not-so-subtle hints to your hubby about ‘if’ we were ever to have another one, I would definitely do….
You buy a people carrier when you a sedan will actually do.
Finally, you notice how helpful your kids are when it comes to little babies. Who wouldn’t want another one?!
Ten years ago I would have bet my left lung that we would never move to Nigeria. Sure my husband is Nigerian but we met in England and his whole family was here at the time. ‘Home’ was here and the idea of settling anywhere else just a nebulous reality.
Perhaps that’s the clincher though. When you marry someone who originates from somewhere else, the concept of ‘home’ represents different things to you and your partner and moving back always remains a possibility.
Three years and two kids into our marriage, my husband started to get those itchy feet that many of his friends and siblings had already succumbed to. The desire to return ‘home’ again, to embrace his identity and show his own children where they come from. The economic opportunities were nothing to turn your nose down to either. So off we went. Sure, it wasn’t my home but I was all for an adventure. I just didn’t have a clue what I was in for.
We moved to Nigeria in 2013, full of hopes of better opportunities in what was (at the time) a growing economy and a supportive extended family waiting for us.
The latter proved more than I could have asked for. The former, much less promising and harder work than we’d anticipated.
With two young children, it was tough.
I had been used to being quite independent over here. Although England isn’t my home country, it was similar enough to Canada that I’d been able to find what I needed, had formed a community around me and could function, for the most part, independently.
In Nigeria however, I felt very out of my league. It’s not that I hadn’t travelled before. In fact, I’d lived in Ghana for six months, years earlier following my undergraduate degree. But this seemed different. It wasn’t just me anymore, I had kids to take care of, a husband to consider and in-laws living in close proximity. None of this was a problem in itself, but the context was so different, I remember feeling so alone.
My husband was busy jump starting his business and although he was supportive, he did need to be at work- that was the whole point of us being there. As I contemplated each day’s activities for the children, I was struck by how helpless I actually felt. You couldn’t just look up the local playgroup on the internet, there were few parks and open spaces where you could hang out (and even if you did, the height of the afternoon was too hot and the malaria-carrying mosquitoes were often a concern). In any case, much of what I wanted to do I couldn’t because it either wasn’t safe (Nigeria is plagued with many security issues and going out as a foreigner with little knowledge of where I was going and by myself would have been a recipe for disaster), too far or it was too hot to go there at that time of day.
I began to get swallowed up into that hole of despair, uniquely identified as stage 3 of the culture shock pendulum.
I blamed my husband for everything that went wrong. When the temperature hiked to plus 40 degrees, when the rain flooded our compound so we’d have to drive through water that came up to our side mirrors, when my girls got mosquito bites and we thought there was a threat of malaria, when they got a runny tummy, when the driver left and started sending us threatening texts asking for more money, when we couldn’t recruit another so I took to driving myself (which, if anyone knows anything about Lagos driving, is tough), when we found rats had somehow found a way into the car and had chewed holes in the girls’ car seats, when I couldn’t find a school for my daughter that wasn’t insisting that two year olds should be able to count to 100… the list went on…
I was frustrated, angry and ‘stuck’, feeling as if I’d never find happiness over there and it would never feel like home. I knew something had to change or I’d lose it and for the sake of my relationship with my husband and for my kids, I had to make a change.
I realised that in moving to a different country and one as different as Nigeria, I was still comparing it to England. And for that, I was paying the price. It wasn’t my ‘home’ but it could be.
Slowly, with this realisation, I stopped trying to compare my life in Nigeria to my life in England. I began to appreciate what Nigeria could offer me instead of what it couldn’t. Instead of crying over a £12 punnet of strawberries, I began to buy local fruit and relished the sweet organic taste of fresh watermelon, pineapple, papaya, mangoes and oranges.
‘Home’ began to take on a new meaning.
Crucially, I met a group of women who became my lifeline. They called themselves Nigerwives: foreign women married to Nigerian men who’d found in each other a sense of sisterhood for the very reasons I’d described. They recognised that they weren’t expats and they were far from local, even though some could have traced their roots back to Nigeria at some point in their gene pool. Instead, all these women had in common was the fact that we all identified with being foreign and were married to Nigerians. But that was all we needed.
In them, I found an outlet for all that I had been feeling towards the country and its differences. They not only understood my feelings but most of all, they were able to offer me community. Eventually, I found a couple of local parks which we frequented almost everyday and playdates became our daily dose of fun. I learned that to find something, it was really through word of mouth so I had tapped into a local community of knowledge. I was now, never lonely.
Eventually, I found a part time job at my daughter’s school. This too, gave me great solace and a community which was my own. When you move to one or the other’s country of origin, it’s hard for the foreign partner not to feel at a disadvantage because nothing is ‘theirs’ so to speak.
In my job, I had my own friends, community and even a little extra money in my pocket so that I could buy those strawberries and not feel guilty. I had made my new ‘home’ a reality.
At a birthday party
Nigerian Independence Day
At a local park
At a wedding
Eventually I settled into life and discovered that Nigeria’s people and its social life were its main attractions. Not its tourism industry or the cuisine you might find at the local market. It was the people. Our social lives were crammed with invitations to birthday party after birthday party, each one topping the other for the outlandish display of fun for children of all ages. Invitations to weddings, baptisms, engagements and birthdays flew in. It didn’t matter if you knew the bride and groom or not; so long as you knew someone close to the family, you were free to come, bring as many as you like, eat a good meal and dance the night away. Our family was happy.
The experience has brought my hubby and I closer, not just because he knows that I can live in his country and survive but because I got an insight into who he is, his family and a lot of understanding into his ‘isms’. I know exactly what he means when he talks about home.
When you meet your partner abroad, it’s easy to think you know him/her because of who they are when they’re in that country. But inevitably, when your partner returns home, another part of them emerges. It’s not to say that my hubby became entirely Nigerian, his experience was fraught with frustrations as well, having lived abroad for almost 20 years and this being his only experience living in his home country as an adult. But it is and remains where he calls ‘home’.
We have no regrets, only broader minds, lifelong friends and a deeper desire to ensure our daughters know their Nigerian home. For me, it highlighted the fact that we are a family of many cultures and no matter where we live, Nigeria is definitely one more place we can authentically call home.
Did you know the most googled parenting topic is child modelling? That means every other mother and father next to you also secretly thinks their kid is the cutest kid out there and needs to be seen.
With mixed kids, the look is unique and online retailers are increasingly realising their advertising should reflect the world their customers live in. Children and babies litter online and retail advertising. So inevitably, child models of colour have been included in their search.
I have been meaning to write this post for a while to shed some light on these elusive but highly sought-after opportunities that many parents might hope (secretly or otherwise) their kids could land.
I say secretly, because there are many dilemmas that parents will go through thinking about child modeling and its impact on their kids, what it means in our society and what we are teaching them by suggesting that looks matter. On the other hand, it can offer opportunities for children to save towards their futures and it can be (not always though) a glamorous, enjoyable scene for children. As long as it’s genuinely the child who wants to do it.
Many children, my oldest included, enjoy being in the spotlight. They love being filmed, photographed and performing and even love trying on different clothing. I never engendered that into my dd1, it’s just the way she is. And so, it may not seem far-fetched to try your luck and see if child modeling is for them.
Of course, it’s not always so glamorous for parents. It takes time getting to and from castings and making sure there is childcare for siblings- often at the last minute. Although agencies and clients will try to schedule these out of school hours, it can still be a big commitment to travel across the city with only a day’s notice straight from school.
It’s not just cherubic looks that can score your darlings a paid gig, companies will have set criteria for what they are looking for- ranging in age range, different races, ginger hair, blonde hair, black hair or curly hair, the list goes on. If your little one is not what they are looking for, no matter how cute they are, they are not going to be called back.
So auditions or castings, as they call it, can be disappointing. Agencies will call you and say a particular company is interested. You need to show up, take a few photos and it may turn out that your child is not what they are looking for. You don’t get compensation for those hours of travelling to and from different auditions.
So what about the money? Earnings for babies and tots begins at about £50 an hour (or £300 per day) and rises with age to about £70 an hour for a 16-year-old. Money must be put into an account in the child’s name or in a trust fund for the child so forget about that dream home. Laws ensure the money is for the child. It can be a perfect opportunity to teach your child about the value of money and that earning can be fun.
Knowing that child modeling is not as easy as it may appear, you should also know it’s not always as glamorous either. Child models also need the right temperament to cope with the camera. A friend of mine recently told me about her experience on the client side working for a PR agency that had requested child models for their advertising. The shoot was going well but, inevitably, a 4-year-old girl began to fuss about wearing glasses. Although photographers, agency reps and the girl in question were all familiar with and understanding of the challenges that go along with working with children, at the end of the day, the job needs to get done. Luckily, the child’s parent stepped in and declared she’d had enough. This parent knew that the priority for her was that her daughter continued to enjoy it. As soon as it became a chore, she called it quits.
And that’s the most important thing to remember. If your child loves performing and has a cute face to go with it, being in front of the camera for a couple of hours may be something you’d like to try out. Just make sure it’s for them, not you.
I’d lived and worked in the UK almost 7 years before we had kids, so I thought I’d pretty much mastered the lingo I needed to get by in British circles. But becoming a parent in England has often made me feel as if I’ve just stepped off that plane starting out on a journey I thought I’d mastered all those many years ago.
No, Dummy it’s a nappy!
Learning the names of baby items is a steep learning curve for any Mum, let alone someone who is not native to England. But there were some I just thought were universal or at least familiar enough to be used interchangeably. Nope. Tell someone your baby uses a pacifier and most Mums will do a double take. Why the name dummy anyway? Nappies, prams, buggies and pushchairs. Why do we need 3 words to describe a child’s mobile chair? And really what is the difference from diapers, strollers, playpens and bassinets?
Dress for confusion
Once my daughter became old enough to go to preschool, her confusion multiplied when I asked her to put on her pants and a sweater. She told me she already had her pants (undies) on and this is called a jumper. Too many times I’ve been the butt of the joke referring to my pants getting wet and needing to change. Don’t laugh, it’s embarrassing.
The class divide
Who knew the age of entering school could be a whole new set of learning that we have to master? Brits do love their acronyms- after all, none of these seem to require any explanation if you’re a regular reader of the Guardian: EYFS, KS1 and KS2, GCSEs and A levels. And don’t get confused by the fact that public schools are actually private schools, state schools is an umbrella term for anything not private and you’re left to figure out the rest of them from community, voluntary, religious, grammar schools or academies…I could go on.
Accentuating our differences
With a Mum who says, “waaader” to a Dad who might say “watah” and living in a country that pronounces it “woortah”, our poor daughters are confused.
I’ve always gone to the bathroom where you do a pee. Now, I find myself asking my daughter if she needs to wee or, if we’re alone ‘wee wee’. No matter what, I always feel silly.
Questionable Subject matter
How is ‘maths’ plural but ‘sport’ is not?
Sesame Street anyone?
I thought Sesame Street was universal until I started singing the ‘Rubber Duckey’ song to blank stares from my fellow Mums. It seems I’m out of the loop when it comes to remembering child’s programming. I’ve never actually watched Blue Peter or Top of the Pops – so if you refer to an episode growing up, it’s pretty much guaranteed I won’t get it.
Songs for kids. I thought these were universal. Especially when you hear the familiar tune and words to the wheels on the bus. But which clever person decided the bus should go all through the town instead of all day long?? Who decided that the spider should be itsy bitsy instead of incey wincey? And really what difference does it make if we do the Hokey Pokey instead of the Hokey Cokey? If you’re going to make a change, make it worth it people!
The rest is child’s play
At the end of the day, we have more in common than I’ve let on. Somersaults might be called roley poleys and popsicles are ice lollies but my daughters are products of their multicultural living. Some things change but a lot remains the same. Pancakes are still thick and fluffy and costumes are not swimsuits. It’s the little things that count.
My oldest daughter can cry. When she starts, my husband and I brace ourselves that she may cry for another half hour if we let her.
I have to be honest. My patience for it wears thin. I’ve read everything under the sun and do consider myself a good parent when it comes to being understanding and acknowledging feelings.
But sometimes it’s hard. It’s bloody hard because it doesn’t work like the ‘guru nannies’ describe it. “If your child is sulking or having a hard time with something, acknowledge why she might be upset and validate her feelings on the subject- that, yes, it might be unfair. Then, offer her an alternative.”
Sounds easy, right? Well, here’s how mine went down.
Daughter finishes gymnastics. Comes outside, plays awhile in the playground, never mentioning anything is amiss. I say it’s time to go. Five minutes into walk home, whining starts: “I’m thirsty”, she says. I say, “wait ten minutes, we’ll be home soon”.
Whining gets louder and more insistent. Now turns to cries. We’re literally seven minutes from home. “I’m thirsty!,” she cries.
I say, “I know, I’m sorry, I should have brought water. You must be thirsty after gym. Can you wait?” “NOOOOOOOO!”
Sobbing starts. Real tears. I try to reason. I acknowledge her frustration, her thirst, I encourage her to hurry and it will take less time. I tell her her crying is probably making her more thirsty. It goes on… and eventually, I get angry and threaten her with all sorts of punishments/consequences if she just doesn’t stop.
Not my greatest mum moment. I get it. It’s tough when you feel “h-angry”- as we like to call it- a combination of hunger and anger. But this was long. So hunger is a trigger. Now so is thirst. What about when she got home and had some water?
My daughter later confesses she couldn’t stop crying. She just didn’t know how. Heart brakes. I know she’s a good kid. Though I tried to get her to calm down, she just didn’t have the tools to manage her emotions.
It got me thinking, what can we as parents do to encourage our children to manage their emotions and calm down in those moments? Just like adults, kids get overwhelmed and don’t have the tools or understanding to know that the moment will pass or to put it into perspective. In reality, I’ve been known to have a tantrum or lose it because I just needed to let it out.
So how can we allow kids to do the same without it getting out of control?
Here are a few tips..
First step is realising that getting kids to calm down with words or distraction is not always possible.I was on my way home for example and I was doing everything I could to just speed through and try to talk her down. But I’ve found it goes a long way if I can just stop what I’m doing and hold her. Creating a space where she can feel safe and calm almost immediately helps her to calm down, stop crying and move on. At least until we can sort out the matter that’s upsetting her. The sobbing stops and she lets her body fall (literally) into me.
Listening and responding.If I could, I would have gotten her that water. But I couldn’t at that moment and I didn’t have access to any. If she had said she wanted it ten minutes earlier, I would have needed to run back inside the gymnasium to get some. Because at that point, I would be able to see it coming. So the earliest signs should have been there to alert me to sort it out before it erupts. We talk about that later, knowing her body and when she might need to drink before it gets that bad.
That’s where the third tip comes in. Recognise and anticipate trigger points.By tracking her meltdowns, we’ve understood that my daughter gets ‘unreasonable’ (i.e. not herself) when her blood sugar is low. Carrying around extra snacks or recognising hunger or thirst before it happens is one more way to limit these episodes. Tiredness, attachment to certain things or people can also be triggers that you may wish to avoid if you know your child is triggered. I now make it a point to always have water and a snack. She in turn, is more aware of her hunger or thirst when the crying begins.
Safe words. When my daughter told me that she couldn’t calm down because she didn’t know how, it made me realise she needed to tell me something but couldn’t. We’ve since developed ‘safe words’. A word she can say to me to let me know she just needs me to hold her, no questions, no debate, even if she’s in trouble. It’s been mind blowing how much effect it’s had in calming us both down when we’re worked up.
Talking about it and discussing it after it happens when the child is calm.We’ve joked about how, when we’re about 50 metres from home, she begins to whine and sometimes cry about being tired or hungry. It’s always in the same spot so we joked that it’s like the switch has been pushed. It makes her more aware of how she’s reacting, what her body is saying to her in that moment and how she can control it knowing it’s coming.
I try to remind my daughter to become aware of her breathing, to take in deep breaths. It’s a distraction but it’s also effective in calming her down. She focuses on breathing in through her nose, out through her mouth and eventually, it works. Mindfulness. It doesn’t always work but if she concentrates, it does distract her a bit to focus on something else.
Let go of expectations. It’s not going to sort out every tantrum but it goes a long way in her understanding her emotions. I don’t force it, if she needs to cry, I let her cry but she does tend to calm down sooner than she might have before because she is more aware.
That first day when I realised my kid was global both in heritage and in mindset was when she was three. My Mum and I were talking at the kitchen table, and the subject of China came up in conversation. My firstborn piped up, “Mama, did we fly over China to get to Canada?”
She’s referring to our move from Nigeria to Canada. And, no, we didn’t fly over China. But to hear the question come from a 3 year old suggested she knew that it was both a country far away and that other places in the world existed outside of her familiar environment. We hadn’t spoken about China before but her exposure, we knew, already included an array of foreign countries.
My daughter began her awareness going to a genuinely international school in Lagos, Nigeria. Friends of hers hailed from all over- South Africa, Netherlands, India, Greece, America, England, Israel, Lebanon and of course, Nigeria. It was and still is normal for her friends to speak two, if not more languages and having parents of different colours/ races was no big deal.
We’re now living in London, England. And as she becomes more aware, she’s also talking more about accents, vocabulary, geography and social norms. Having lived in 3 different continents in her 6 short years, my dd1’s own accent and vocab shifts according to whom she’s talking to. Like any child with access to an ipad, her favourite shows include BBC’s Ben and Holly alongside American cartoons Paw Patrol and Lego Friends. She’s savvy enough to realise the characters speak differently and that “Hi guys” is not common all over the world.
For her, asking Mama where the garbage is and saying, “Odaro” (goodnight in Yoruba) to grandparents via facetime is normal. For her, assuming “Nepa took light” (an affectionate way of referring to the frequent power outages in Lagos) when the phone cuts midway through phone calls with grandparents and cousins that are two shades darker than her, is normal. And showing off her collection of shopkins to cousins three shades lighter, blonde and blue eyed, in Canada where the 15 inch snow glistens off their window is also just as normal.
She doesn’t yet know that friends won’t know what she’s talking about when the day comes she proudly refers to her “Bababozorg” (farsi for her maternal grandfather). Just as it came as a surprise to her recently when her friend asked her why she was referring to the ‘bathroom’. What’s that?, her friend asked.
Games every other day include role play as a waitress carrying a pizza. Not in her hand though. “On my head”, she insists, “like they do in Nigeria”. Dressing up as a princess includes a jewel-like ‘bindhi’ in the middle of her forehead “because it’s pretty”. And books at night spin riveting tales of African villagers, Middle Eastern parables and American kids playing on the ‘teeter totter’ and doing ‘somersaults’.
We didn’t set out to give our daughters such varied exposure. Sure we both love travelling but we thought learning about the world came later, when children are interested in learning about their own history and culture.
But without our intervention, it’s just happened. Our daughter’s everyday exposure and experience is littered with variety. Whether we tried or not, just her being is a mixture of colour, race, history, culture and language. As mixed race kids, our children were bound to be multicultural and perhaps there’s no getting around it these days.
So in that respect the term ‘third culture kid’ is perhaps outdated. Kids can’t help but be soaking up four, five even ten different cultures blended into their little beings. So when their experiences span continents, their loved ones hail from different corners of the globe and their conversations are packed with language, intonation and dialects bridging nations. Well, folks, it gives new meaning to the word ‘globalisation’.
“Mama, tell Brianna’s mum that I don’t want a playdate.” I ignore her and keep talking, entertaining the idea of the playdate that Brianna herself has asked me for before and for which I now find myself being approached by her Mum.
Sensing the fact that this might just go ahead without her approval, my daughter panics and jumps in, patting Brianna’s mum on the arm. “I don’t want a playdate with Brianna.” Simple, short and to the point. She knows I’m embarrassed and the silence hangs in the air as I struggle to find words that might dull the sharpness of her declaration.
Public Domain Image via Pixabay.
“A, don’t say that. That’s not nice. She’s just tired,” I apologise to Brianna’s Mum.
I don’t know why I’m embarrassed. My daughter should be able to decide who she likes and with whom she wants to have a playdate. It’s not everyone that my daughter will become friendly with and it looks like despite my having a great relationship with her Mum, A does not like Brianna.
It’s a familiar story in our household, where after school conversations are dominated by who A played with, whom she didn’t and why or why not. “Why don’t you ever play with Sam?” “Because I just don’t, Mama. I don’t like him.” I wince at the matter-of-fact tone she adopts, taking me back to that place of pain at being the one left out when I was growing up.
My daughter is reasonably popular in her class, having gone through a period of settling in earlier in the year and experiencing her dose of feeling left out of the already-established peer groups. She came home a couple of times crying because she wasn’t asked to join in with the girls who were playing a game outside.
Slowly and gradually, I was able to convince her that she shouldn’t take it personally and that she should just continue being herself and people would like her.
Months later and she’s more at ease now, less desperate to be friends with certain people and confident in herself that she can do her own thing and others may or may not join her, but it doesn’t matter. It’s had a profound effect on her confidence and it seems others are now doing the chasing.
As she gets older, of course she is going to have more established peer groups which will form according to their likes and dislikes and what they have in common. But I thought at such a young age, most of the kids play with each other. Is this is an opportunity to teach her inclusion using her valuable after-school time as the forfeit, I wonder?
And now that she is the one being chased, how do I instill in her that feeling of compassion for others, careful not to live out my own childhood feelings of exclusion and bullying through her just because she is popular and confident. She hasn’t done anything wrong and she doesn’t want the playdate. So why can’t I leave it at that?
She groans as I gently suggest to her after school that we should have a playdate with Brianna. “Nooooo, Mama.”
I’m out of my element here, caught between respecting my child and what she wants and using this as an opportunity to teach. I drop it and make the decision to tell her a story about how it feels to be left out at bedtime.
The next day A comes home to tell me that she sat beside Brianna at lunchtime. “I saved her a spot in line as well,” she says proudly. Before I can respond, she’s already skipping off happily showing her sister the daffodils that have just begun to sprout.
A didn’t want the playdate and she shouldn’t have to. She knows that being kind is the lesson here. But extending that to two hours of forced play seems unfair when she’s done exactly what she knows I want her to do.
I smile as I realise the rest of the lesson is for me. To trust that she can and will do the right thing. On her own terms. And it’s that simple.