Choosing Motherhood [2] A Daughter of My Own

baby shoe

I scarcely told anyone about my decision to adopt a child. Although I felt the decision was right for me, questions gnawed at me. Moreover, I did not think people would react kindly to a forty-something-year-old unmarried female adopting a baby; Nigeria is a patriarchal society steeped in tradition. I shared the sentiments of whoever coined the saying: give me the benefit of your convictions if you have any, but keep your doubts to yourself for I have enough of my own.

A few years prior, I overcame my fear of surgery and finally scheduled an operation to remove the fibroids in my womb. After the myomectomy, my doctor gently told me, “Nature abhors a vacuum. You should get pregnant soon.” His words stirred buried desire. I wanted to be more than the best-aunt-ever or best-godmother-ever, two roles I cherished. I longed to be the best-mum-ever.

Two years after my myomectomy, I was no closer to realising my dream of having children under the conventional umbrella of marriage. My anxiety over not having a family increased.

Do sperm banks exist in Nigeria? I don’t know, but a couple of friends offered to father my child. I weighed the complications such an arrangement may present in future and declined. I went to a fertility clinic to enquire about IVF treatment. They asked, “Have you and your partner been trying consistently for up to a year?” I laughed, as I did not have a partner. They recommended I return after my partner and I had tried unsuccessfully for a year.

As time rolled by, all I heard was tick tock ringing in my ears. Even the most self-assured woman would be tempted to ask, “What is wrong with me?” About twenty years earlier, my friends at university had tipped me as the one most likely to marry and have kids first. Life, it seems, did not get the memo. Nevertheless, I still believe I owe myself better than settling with just any partner for marriage sake.

During a holiday abroad, my sister suggested adoption. The idea was novel to me and I toyed with it until I accepted it. I returned to Lagos, thinking of all the babies in orphanages who need parents and rushed to one to find my child.

However, it wasn’t that simple. Lagos state government has an adoption process and a screening procedure. There is also a long waiting list and I had no idea what number I was on the list. While the waiting period can seem long for anxious parents-to-be, I appreciated the forward thinking of the state ministry of youth and culture in preparing parents and adopted children for a new life.

Months later, I was invited to meet baby Folasade. She was a few days old, beautiful, light complexioned, and long-limbed. I fell in love with her immediately. She smiled at me each time I spoke to her as I held her in my arms. Later the orphanage staff explained that babies do that when they are experiencing stomach gripe!

Due to the Lagos state doctor’s strike at the time, she had not undergone medical check-up. She barely opened her eyes and mucus oozed from one eye. I arranged private medical care. The doctors confirmed she was born HIV-positive. I refused to leave her side. The social workers, doctors, and psychologists cautioned me about attachments, which form while bonding and advised me not to set my heart on Folasade because of her condition. I could not; to my mind, she was already my daughter. That weekend they moved her to an undisclosed orphanage where she could get special care. My heart broke.

During my visits to the orphanage, a three-year-old boy always ran to meet me and we became close. He had two sisters. Lagos state has a policy of not separating siblings where possible. I prayed that a family would adopt them all. He was not attending school because he didn’t have sponsors so I organized a successful charity campaign to pay for his schooling.

My heart still bled for Folasade and I wondered what became of her and other babies like her. Should I have fought harder for her, disregarding professional counsel and insisting on an exception to policy as the state would not put her up for adoption? Biological parents do not get to ‘pick’ their kids, but in a sense, parents of adopted kids do.

Sometime later, I was called to meet a two-week-old baby girl, Alison, who appeared shy and reserved. We did not bond immediately. Maybe she sensed part of my heart was still with Folasade. During the three-month bonding period when I spent every spare moment at the orphanage changing her diapers, feeding her, and talking to her, she avoided making eye contact. Was she testing me? Did she think I would bail?

As I persisted in bonding with Alison despite my confusion, I understood a mother’s fierce love—she loves whether her child responds or not. Coincidentally, I was allowed to take Alison home on my birthday, what a gift!

I was nervous as I gave her a bath, fed her, and cuddled her to sleep. I worried she would miss her regular carers and judge me for the novice I was. Instead, she was patient with me as I navigated our first few days. She barely cried.

Tended gardens blossom. Alison and I learnt to relax. Before long, her eyes followed me everywhere I went. She rewarded me with her beautiful smile more and more and we drew closer still, clinging to each other.

My daughter is now one and a half and it’s a privilege and pleasure to raise her. When I held a welcome party to introduce her to my close friends and family, they showered us with understanding and warmth. I was overwhelmed. Does love differentiate? Could they love my biological child, when I have one, any more than they love Alison?

Tentatively, I posted our photos on Facebook. My friends responded with resounding support, surprising me.

Alison’s birth certificate bears my surname. When people ask about her dad, I smile and reply, “I’m her mum and dad.” I realise that soon, she will ask questions. The pre-adoption counselling organised by Lagos state prepares parents for this inevitability. I still cherish hopes of getting married and having a family like the one I grew up in, with a mother and father.

Alison’s facial features now resemble mine and she displays my zest for life—or has love blinded me? Often, friends look at her and comment that she’s very lucky to have me. I shake my head and say, “No, I’m the lucky one. I am the lucky one.”

Ogo Williams is a banker by day and a mother 24/7. She is an avid Chelsea fan who enjoys meeting interesting people, travelling, and reading.

 

 

© Timi Yeseibo, 2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Choosing Motherhood [1] Learning to Dance

Dance

Learning to Dance

I got married at twenty-one. Our first son was born a year later when I was in my second year at the University of Nigeria, studying radiological science. My Parents tried to make me see reasons to wait before starting a family, but the day I stopped breastfeeding my son, I became pregnant with my second son. My husband, Ben, at twenty-nine had lost his job before our first son was born and was still unemployed by the time our second son was born.

My Parents harboured us, providing emotional and financial assistance. Ben was studying for an MBA, while I combined schooling with business, selling anything to support my growing family.

One day on campus, I cried in frustration from exhaustion. I practised exclusive breast-feeding so I breastfed all night while studying. Then I slept for less than five hours and drove to the university every morning. A lecturer tried to talk me into moving to campus and leaving my boys in the care of my parents and their nannies. I declined. I told him being a mother came first. Motherhood had chosen me because every family planning method I tried had failed.

I had few friends because I was the only married girl among my peers. They left me alone to work out my new challenges. I was not socially aware. I never partied and didn’t have fashion sense. Ben and I couldn’t afford to go out like other unmarried couples. I was devoted to my family and I wanted to prove to my parents and everyone else that I knew what I was doing.

By my final year, I was looking forward to moving out of my parent’s home. My dream came true when I landed a job in Lagos using my mum’s connections. Ben and the boys joined me shortly. After a while, I fell sick. To my dismay, I found out that I was pregnant for the third time. I was twenty-six.

I was depressed. We still faced financial pressures and I resented this intrusion to my dreams. I scheduled an abortion although it was against my values. On the day of my abortion, a doctor who is also a family friend disclosed my plan to my mum and she called to discourage me. I cancelled the procedure.

After my only daughter was born, my husband found his bearing. He got a job that enabled us move to our own house in Lagos. I also started a cleaning company that became very successful in no time. While we prospered in career and business, our marriage suffered.

From the beginning, Ben only wanted one child and he had not even wanted a child so early in our marriage. He came from a large family while my family was small and I had always looked forward to having many children. Four years after our daughter was born, we had another son. This put more pressure on our strained marriage. When we moved to South Africa, Ben eventually left me and the children.

It takes a village to raise a child. I could not have navigated my motherhood journey without support from family and friends. Looking back, I see that although I have always wanted to be a mother, I did not plan to be one. Children are precious gifts from God and deserve a home with parents who have lovingly considered the ramifications of their presence. Given another chance, I would choose motherhood in a heartbeat, but would wait until I finish school before starting a family.

My children are now 22, 20, 17, and 13. There is no time for regret only gratitude to God as I watch them mature into adulthood. I tell them that there is time for everything under the sun. We need to give ourselves time to grow and allow school to pass through us instead of just passing through school before settling down.

Motherhood cannot be distilled to a formula. It is a privilege to be embraced and it requires determination and wisdom. I grew up with my children, teaching them respect, compassion, responsibility, and love. They in turn gave me lessons in patience and hope. I am learning about fashion and music from them, practicing the latest dance steps and cool moves with them. We laugh together like siblings, when I go off beat.

 

Ada Obi-Okafor makes her home in South Africa. She’s a licensed radiographer who enjoys soccer, movies, a good book, and a clean house.

 

© Timi Yeseibo, 2016

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Love is Bridging the Gulf

African proverb

My grandmother was a darker smaller version of my mum. Parents do not resemble their children. It is the other way round, but that is how I keep my memory of her alive—in my mother’s strong arms, I see hers, ready to cradle the world. My mother tells me she was the daughter of a prince, who thought it a waste of time for her to acquire formal education and that she ran away from her first marriage due to harsh treatment from her husband.

She was kind. She only spoke her dialect and Pidgin English. I could neither speak nor understand her dialect. Her pidgin was the Warri-Sapele variety, which was difficult for me to understand and I barely spoke pidgin. Her eyes told me she had more to say than the little she did. She must have felt even more frustrated than I did; harbouring experience she could not transfer.

The conversations we managed to have, centred on her concerns that I could not speak her dialect. She would ask worry etched on her face, about what I would do when the war starts. I had heard about the Nigerian Civil War just as I had heard of World War 1 and 2, events in history, far from my reality. In her broken English, she would tell me how soldiers used language to determine if you were on the Nigerian or Biafran side. Those who could not speak their language were at the mercy of the soldiers.

Her stories did not motivate me to learn her dialect. I asked my parents where they had been during the war. “In Lagos,” my mum and dad answered respectively, and I filled in the blanks, “far from the war.” It showed in the priorities my parents chose for my life.

But those who have seen war speak of it with tremor in their voice. Does memory not erase the boom boom of falling bombs or the tikatikatikatika of machine gun rounds?

One time, she came to my university campus. Armed with my name and address she left her home in Sapele to visit me. When the driver who brought her came to call me, I hurried outside not believing. I met her smiling, and I loved her for taking a chance that she would find her eighteen-year old granddaughter in school on a Saturday evening.

“I bring fish for you,” she said, holding out some plastic bags.

Back at my apartment, we unpacked fish, plantain, spices, palm oil, yam, pepper. How could I tell her that I did not cook; did not really know how, especially did not know what to do with smoked fish and palm oil? That the gas cooker in my kitchen sat bemoaning its uselessness. That I nodded and said, “Mmm mmm,” to my mother whenever at the beginning of a new semester she admonished me not to set the kitchen on fire. That I was liable to throw the fish away because it ‘smelled’ and would go bad under my watch.

I thanked her instead. I did not want her to ask me what I would do when war broke out and I could not cook.

We sat in my room. She sipped a soft drink because I had nothing else to offer and because she said, “No, no,” when I wanted to go out and buy food. The silence made me restless and I longed to fill it, but you can only ask, “How your body? Home people? Sapele?” once.

She seemed content to look at me. Maybe I reminded her of her daughter. After a long time in which I started feeling uncomfortable and wished she would go before my friends came along, she broached the subject of language and war.

I let my silence speak for me.

After she lost her vitality, she came to live with us. Sometimes she would talk to no one in particular; it was no longer surprising to find her in her room alone, chatting. My mother made sure she was always within eye view because she could wander off into the sunset, her legs possessing an agility incongruent with the rest of her. By then, I was hardly home and when I was, I retreated to my world of youthful infallibility, busy with things I have no recollection of.

When she died, I felt the general sorrow, which accompanies loss of human life, and the particular sorrow that haunts a child who watches her mother grieve.

I am thinking of my grandmother because as I embark on a new series on motherhood and invite people to tell their stories, I wonder about the blank spaces in her life, which I cannot fill. I realize I did not do enough to bridge the gulf between us; there are languages other than pidgin and her dialect. My active presence is a language I denied her.

 

In loving memory of Princess Ajoritse-Debi Atsemudiara Etchie.

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2016

 

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Skype Dad

shoes & tie

He promised us that everything would be okay. I was a child, but I knew that everything would not be okay.
That did not make my father a liar. It made him my father.
– Jonathan Safran Foer –

I was raised in a time when being a man included protecting and providing for one’s family as the primary breadwinner. This drive, not my alarm clock, is the reason I am out of the house before 8 a.m. Due to the changing economic landscape, I can no longer marry one job for life. My friends and I have changed jobs at least thrice, foraging for choice assignments on different continents.

I work 6000km away from where my family resides. Every other fortnight, at the end of a six-hour flight and one-hour cab ride, I turn my key in the lock of our home. Depending on the time of the day, the sound of “Daddy! Daddy’s home!” fills the hallway extinguishing any trace of weariness. Some months I spend more time with them because of national holidays or meetings, which are scheduled near the city where they live.

One evening, exasperated that my eight-year old wasn’t concentrating on his homework, I let out, “I’ll soon knock some sense into your head!” I didn’t mean it of course. He must have thought I did, because he replied, “No, you can’t,” and laughed while throwing his pencil in the air.

He was right. I could not have. We were on Skype.

Skype gives me the illusion that I am there for breakfast on weekends and dinner and bedtime on some weeknights. I am sometimes forgotten on the kitchen table, left staring at the white ceiling, when TV or something else captures my children’s imagination. Their vocabulary includes poor connection and weak signal and we have learnt to decipher the ‘omens’ of the Wi-Fi signal bars on our devices like fortune-tellers predicting the future.

This present-absence weighs on my heart. Am I a good dad? Am I missing my children’s growing years? Will they grow up resenting me? Have I exhausted the options for securing a job closer home? Beyond financial security for my family, what about my self-actualization and professional growth?

There are stretches of time when my colleagues, men and women who live with their families in the city where I work, hunch over spreadsheets and reports, late into the night. As I leave them behind and head to my small apartment, I contemplate the difference between 11km and 6000km. Is it the weekends?

Absence can make the heart fonder or ponder. If I am fully present when I am with my children, the memories we create as I drop them off at school or play with them in the park, might put paid to questions my absence creates. Nevertheless, their mum’s constant sacrificial presence, for which I am tirelessly thankful, reinforces the answers they seek.

One night after I read my daughter a bedtime story and kiss her goodnight, my lips leave a tiny film of moisture on my iPad screen. The sensation is cool, but my heart remains warm for a long time afterwards.

 

Skype Dad travels round the globe on business assignments, but is home at every opportunity. He shared his story with me in reaction to the post, A Man Just Like You and Me.

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash/ https://pixabay.com/en/leather-shoes-boots-tie-laces-691609/

 

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A Man Like You and Me

dad

It’s only when you grow up and step back from him–or leave him for your own home–it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it.
– Margaret Truman –

 

Becoming Dad

Ha, mo de ma’ngbe e jo gan o . . .” my father replied, after some silence; his voice strained with regret.

His eyes were misty and distant as the words fell from his mouth a second time, “Ha and I used to dance with you in my arms a lot.”

I had just asked my father why he never played with me when I was growing up. It was a warm Tuesday morning and the sun’s glow outlined the Welsh mountains. We scoffed a lovely breakfast at The Melting Pot, my wife’s café. While resting our food, we talked about the meaningfulness of things done and left undone. The mood felt safe enough for me to explore territory I should have outgrown but which sometimes dragged me back to youthful despair, hence my question.

You see, he was visiting my family again after several years. We spent more time together during this visit than we’d ever done before. In recent years, we’d begun to discuss matters, from the deep and trivial to personal and philosophical. Each subsequent discussion stretched us, not apart, but closer, as we better understood one another’s worlds.

He leaned forward in his seat and explained that he had no such upbringing or peer influence. Moreover, he was usually away because of work. He reassured me that he loved me, but given his background, he’d only danced and played with me in my very early years. We were both sad that he had neither seen nor met what had been a big need for me.

I am now a proud father of two wonderful children. Ours is a joyful story of love and affection expressed through banter, wrestling, singing, cuddling, debates, work, travel, and discipline.

However, as a young married man I had angst about having children though I relished the prospect. I wanted to be the beautiful father I had carefully conceived, but there was no one to walk me down that road. Because I’d heard that hurt people hurt people and you can become the worst of what you hate, I feared that I would wreck my children.

I studied and I prayed. A major answer came through friendship with our pastors Rob and Sue. The intimacy they shared with their kids freaked me out at first, but I soon realised it was what I longed for. My wounds began to heal as they mentored my wife and me.

I believe every man has a wound or two that may hamper his display of love or calcify his heart towards his children. I also believe each man has enough desire, courage, and capacity to love his children and show it in edifying ways that buoy them into robust futures.

I’m still on the road to becoming a beautiful dad. However, I’m confident that my children are not archiving questions they plan to ask me when they are forty-four and I’m visiting!

Later that evening, my father watched me battle my children on the carpet for what seemed an eternity to him. He exclaimed with delight, “Ha, joo, ma se awon omo yen l’ese o! Please, don’t injure those children o!”

My children and I are enjoying the life my father couldn’t have with me. He treasures our lives because he is part of the reason I found a happy intervention and started a different story.

OluFemi Ogunbanwo lives in North Wales with his wife Margaret and 2 kids aged 21 and 15. He is a Pastor, Family Mediator, and Parenting Coach.

 

Seeing Dad Through Daddy Eyes

My best time with my dad was when I was about eight or nine. Dad was always the disciplinarian. He gets a bad rap in my memory, which is unfairly coloured by that one attribute, except when I focus on this period of my life.

Several defining incidents jump to mind. First was when I told Dad that our dog, Ricky, was run over by a car. My strong, Nigerian, macho dad turned to mush. He was visibly upset and I thought he would cry. I witnessed a sensitivity that I had never seen before.

My fascination with science started early. Dad got me a chemistry set and I had fun with it. I also spent many hours shoving dad’s tester into live sockets for the fun of seeing the light come on. I tried to create my own lamp once; armed with bulb, bulb holder, electric cable, and plug obtained from Dad’s supplies drawer. I put it all together but since I hadn’t learnt about proper wiring, I ended up with a mini explosion rather than a lit bulb when I plugged in my contraption. My ingenuity was rewarded with a tanned bottom.

I remember riding my Chopper bicycle with stabilizers down our crescent-shaped driveway, which ran for about 100 metres linking the entry and exit gates of our house. One day, Dad decided the stabilizers were coming off. He came close, real close, supporting my bike and me, running down the driveway with me, and then suddenly letting go. I went through a mixture of emotions: enjoying his tenderness yet embarrassed at being the focus of attention. I was afraid of disappointing him if I fell, but I relished the adrenaline-fuelled exhilaration of riding unsupported with the wind in my face. I was riding! I was riding!

As I grew older, I felt Dad should have done more, been more loving, paid more attention to me, disciplined me less, and better prepared me for life ahead. So I withdrew from him and moved forward, leaning on myself.

I realise now that even though he looked so big and mature then, he was younger than I am now. A man with five kids in his early forties, he held a mid-management government job. He clawed his way out of poverty with a technical school qualification to insulate his own family from every trace of his earlier life in a polygamous home. He never experienced the love of a father yet he displayed more than he’d ever received.

Have I done better with my son and daughters even though I started out with much more? Would I have done half as much as Dad did if life served me with what he was given?

Faced with my own pressures, my son is being relegated in my thoughts, more often than I’d like to admit, to a day in future when I will have time to be the dad I swore I would be. Remembering my youth brings home the truth that life is only lived in the present.

Dad, I have come to appreciate you more than I did back then. Thank you for giving me more love than you ever received. I hope I honour your legacy by doing the same with my kids.

Carlton Williams lives in Lagos with his wife Anita and has four children. His life mission, expressed in Christian ministry and business, is to help people discover and demonstrate their God-given magnificence. 

 

Photo Credit: Wokandapix/ https://pixabay.com/en/dad-father-tie-father-s-day-798086/

 

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Rethinking Motherhood

Rethinking Motherhood

I

She volunteered at an orphanage in Lagos, driven by her need for a baby. It was symbiotic; the babies also needed a mother. She changed diapers, fed, and held them. She sang quietly to them, tears welling up in her eyes as it receded from theirs. The way they hungered for her touch and cocked their heads to make eye contact with her legitimized her hunger for a child. Her time with them pacified but did not satisfy her hunger. She wanted her own child.

As a single woman in her thirties, legal adoption isn’t an option for her. According to the Family Law code in Lagos State, women below forty-five years don’t meet the criteria for adoption. The law is not her only constraint: culture frowns on single motherhood and her religion is negatively silent about it.

She gave up volunteering after a few visits because a couple adopted the child of her heart.  Although she knew they would do well by the girl, she was heartbroken and reported ill at work the next Monday. She spent the day wetting her pillows, stung by the loneliness that comes with being single and the childlessness that compounds it.

She is not alone. There is a growing demography of single women in their forties and fifties who may never marry or may be past their reproductive years before they get a chance at motherhood.  Should marriage or a steady male presence always be the precursor to motherhood without exception?

The absence of marriage does not take away the longing for motherhood. Ask the forty-five-year-old woman who never married and woke up to the onset of menopause or the thirty-eight year old who found out she has endometriosis.  Ask your friend who was married for fifteen years and lost her husband three weeks to their IVF procedure. Ask your grand-aunt who is divorced from a childless marriage and never remarried.

While adoption laws tend to restrict eligibility for single women, assisted reproductive options are more open towards them. For instance, a woman in her thirties can elect to have a child through ICSI or IVF. But often she won’t. Culture and religion make this taboo for her. Should they?

If we dare think beyond what we have always known, even within the confines of religion and culture, we may find space in our hearts for the unconventional mother.

Ideally, children need a mother and father figure to strengthen their socialization, but our world is far from ideal. We wouldn’t think of taking away a widow’s children because they would grow up without a father figure. We applaud the man who raises his child alone because his wife left him. We recognize that their children brighten their worlds.

Why then do we think less of a mature single woman who chooses to be a mother on her terms? Will motherhood through assisted reproductive options make single women lesser mothers or does it challenge our thinking about motherhood and families?

Step back and look a little closer.

Perhaps if these women were to choose between marriage and motherhood, motherhood would trump.

Abiodun Baiyewu is a lawyer and a human rights activist with a strong interest in medical jurisprudence and reproductive health. She is married and the mother of rambunctious toddler.

 

II

From childhood, many girls are programmed for nurture and they role-play motherhood with their dolls and toys. Their maternal instinct heightens as they grow older and wish to have families. Having children is a dream realized which brings them happiness. Anguished longing therefore afflicts the woman whose dream hasn’t come true as the end of her best reproductive years come into view.

But, is the purpose of having children to quiet the legitimate cry of a woman’s womb? Is it to assuage the loneliness that accompanies being a single woman? Then married or single women who have children would have ceased to grapple with loneliness and be living in contentment utopia by now.

In ‘rethinking motherhood’, two words raise concerns: longing and choice. Longing as a precursor to choice can be a shaky foundation. Longing is usually sustained by focus. If focus changes, what then? If we exercise our choice to satiate every longing, where would that leave us? Which yardstick do we validate or invalidate longing by?

Longing ebbs and flows. Longing that gathers momentum and threatens to overflow its banks one day, is the calm river that grants many boats safe passage the next. Like you, I have longed for something or someone until I thought my heart would burst. And like you, I have learnt to live and thrive with longing unmet.

Some have called ours, the ME generation. My life; my choice, are four words, which can be reduced to one: selfie, because the underlying assumption is that I am the only one in the picture. But choice reverberates like ripples. Our decisions have consequences we may not perceive because the time differential between choice and outcome prevents us from connecting the dots.

For example, can we rethink motherhood without rethinking fatherhood? What about the forty-year-old man who wants to adopt a twelve-year-old girl because he could not find a woman to marry and build a family with? Or the older man who wants a surrogate womb to carry his own child? Does maternal instinct trump paternal instinct? Society is evolving and choice experiments, driven by longing are giving birth to what was once considered unconventional families around the world.

Law, culture, and religion have been put forward as impediments to being a single mother by choice in the Nigerian context. Nigerian culture, steeped in patriarchy and communal living, seems to be antithetical to what at first glance appears like an independent and individualistic lifestyle for a woman.

Religion may pose the question: what is the optimal order for family regardless of the conditions that exist in an imperfect world like sickness, spousal death, or abandoned children? It may argue that it is one thing to accommodate a less than ideal situation; it is another to create one deliberately through choice.

In democratic societies, the law of the land is the will of the majority. In a sense, democratic institutions are custodians of choice. Democracy necessitates an educated citizenry for informed choice. This means asking even more questions and researching answers.

Should we rethink motherhood?

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Photo Credit: gilprata/ http://pixabay.com/en/baby-shoe-maternity-girl-child-666355/

 

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Portraits of Motherhood [3]

Motherhood3

Caramel Kids

My husband John is white and I am black. Our first daughter was conceived after a lot of body heat measurements, lovemaking, and consultant fees. As a newborn, she looked nothing like me but everything like John—dark blue eyes under straight black hair, set in pale skin dusted with freckles. Twenty-two months later, her sister was born.

My beautiful girls have always seen and described themselves as caramel. They say caramel is the mixture of white and black. I also see them as caramel. However, I refuse to raise them as caramel. I am raising them as strong black African women to give them a sense of belonging.

When my seven-year old (who had played all day), wanted to play with her friends some more instead of studying, I said no despite her tears. Her friends in question are white, middle-class, and privately educated. She is mixed race, middle-class, and in a state school. In May, my daughter writes her SATs, her first exams.

Because I worry about my daughters’ academic potential, I constantly emphasize the importance of working hard at school. Only this time, her naïvety irritated me. I told her, “You will have to work twice as hard as your white friends to get where you deserve to be.”

In England, caramel is closer to black, and society regards them as mixed black Africans and not mixed white British. People see their sex and race first. They are not immune to this reality. As a warrior mum, I want them to know who they are and I want to give them every advantage they need to succeed.

Still, my main parenting ethos is to ground them in the kind of love I never experienced. Love, which is professed. Love, which cuddles. Love, which kisses. Love, which makes us spend time together. Because knowing you are loved and accepted unconditionally is a bulwark against ‘colour’ coding and separation.

Yvonne is crazy about retro and vintage fashion. She writes passionately about things that get to her at RealYvonneBlog

 

#Electiongate

E1 ran for house prefect last term. Three girls and a boy competed for the two positions. She wrote a speech and campaigned round school. After the elections, E1 came second. The highest vote was nine. She scored eight, the boy scored three, and the other girl one. E2 excitedly told her sister, “Well done, you got it.”

Imagine my shock a couple of days later when E1 reported that the other spot had gone to the boy.

I let off steam at the school office and emailed the secretary expressing my displeasure. A meeting was scheduled with the head teacher where she confirmed that because a boy and a girl traditionally filled the positions, the second post had gone to the boy.

I contended that since the candidates were not informed upfront, the entire process was a mockery. I decided to pursue the matter further as I felt E1 was robbed. Outlining my grievances in a letter, I pointed out that by denying my daughter equal opportunity the school was teaching her that gender is a deterrent to success in a society where gender discrimination is illegal.

It was a lonely and long fight. Well-meaning people asked, “What’s the big deal?” In the meantime, E1 was offered other positions. I told her it was okay to accept another position, as long as she made it clear she was still holding out for her elected post.

Countless emails and acknowledgements wearied me to the end of my tether. Then one Friday, at the close of school, the secretary handed me a letter. I ripped it open once we got to the car. E1 had been awarded the prefectship!

I turned to her, “You see why it’s important to stick to your guns and fight for your rights?” She nodded, joy brimming from her eyes.

I am trying to raise my daughters to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve or how far they can go. They know that sometimes, they will have to fight. And I want them to know I will always have their backs as God gives me strength.

Joxy, wife, mother, bookworm, bookaholic, ardent Scrabble player, tennis fan, and foodie, writes at Justjoxy’s blog.

 

A Heart of Gold

My thirteen-year-old son is not special needs. He has special needs and barely qualifies to have some of them met in school. If you met him, you would not imagine that my well-spoken boy struggles in school. This challenge began in pre-school and has now progressed to annual team meetings with teachers.

The meetings always start with, “What are your concerns about Damon?” I exhale before I rattle off the same yearly list, lack of focus and mathematical comprehension, poor grades, etc. His teachers smile sadly and nod because they see it every day. In that moment, I don’t feel alone even though they are witnesses for only nine months.

What happens next is my favorite part and it happens every time. Sure, their faces drop when they describe how Damon hunches over his paper, so they won’t know he hasn’t written anything. But they then mention how his hand shoots up above his brown curly hair to volunteer to read; and my mind travels to the years he cried because he hated reading but persevered until he loved it. They smile as they recount his eager participation in class discussions, which elevates the conversation. We all laugh at the way he smiles and assures us that he’s, “Got this!”

And yes, Damon’s got this, this being the heart of life. He carefully scoops up infants in the church nursery where he volunteers each week. He emanates warmth as he greets homeless people whenever we hit the streets to hand out supplies. You see, I mother a child who on his best day puts in twice the effort to receive half the grade and has done so for nine years. Yet his perspective of the world and himself is untainted. Once when I checked his phone for inappropriate content, I saw a text from a friend who stated he wants to be incredible like Damon.

So yeah, parenting an out-of-the-box kid isn’t easy when it comes to schooling, but witnessing his spirit shine in the face of obstacles is better than perfect marks.

Brina Harwood, recent returning full-time student, aspiring writer, and working mother of four, blogs on occasion at My Life in Crowd Control.

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Portraits of Motherhood [2]

Motherhood 2

An Undulating Journey 

I had no burning desire to be a mother. It was one more thing to tick off my life’s to-do list.

Medical School – check.
Become a doctor – check.
Get married – check.
Have children – check.

But my journey was to be an undulating one.

It was two years into my marriage before I realized ‘have children’ wasn’t just going to happen. There was a problem. The day I sat across a colleague, as a patient, and was told our hopes of having children naturally would never materialize, I died a little.

I understood the diagnosis and the limitations of medical science from a doctor’s stance. I would need to go through series of infertility treatments. Nevertheless, our faith in God held us steady.

As the years turned like the pages of a book, my longing to have a child became stronger. Each day seemed like a year, every menstrual cycle, a thousand years. I established myself as a general practitioner in that time. I examined mothers and their babies while aching for mine. Everywhere I looked someone had a baby in her arms except me.

Almost ten years later, during which time I had three failed IVF treatments and we leaned towards adoption, I held my son on my birthday. We had received a miracle. I cannot put the emotions I felt on paper. At my son’s Dedication Service, I rolled on the floor at the altar—all my yearning, hoping, waiting, crying congealed into worship.

My journey into motherhood began when the magnitude of the responsibility to guide this little person from childhood to adulthood hit me. Two precious daughters have joined the fold. It’s an honour and a privilege to be called mum.

Taye Umole enjoys sharing uplifting stories about how medical science and faith can complement each other. Running is a passion she and her husband share.

 

A Mother to Those Who Matter

From a young age, I mothered my siblings. My dad was present but absent while my mom was absent, not by choice, but present by proxy. From her phone calls, I learned to parent, nurture, discipline, and correct on the go.

So, by my mid-twenties I was certain I didn’t want kids of my own; biological, adopted, borrowed, or otherwise. However, when my siblings and best friends started to pop out little humans, cute and fair, my heart trembled and betrayed me.

Last Christmas, I met my nieces Tara, Didi, and Edikan for the first time. They hugged and kissed me as if they have known me all their lives. My nephew, Jedd, and I are yet to embrace, and I can’t wait to hold him.

I never went back to not wanting kids. Well, when the ones in my life start acting out, for a minute, I’m thankful they aren’t mine. Although I am older, I haven’t given up on having kids. I’m not paralyzed by fear of my biological clock falling apart from ticking for so long. Nor do I care about societal expectations. In the serene peripherals of my mind, I yearn for mine. But, I will not let this desire so consume me that I forget to enjoy living in my now.

My friends are gracious and let me share their kids. Like Elim, who is five going on seventeen. He still calls me Sunshine even though he says I’m not as bright as the sun. Did I already say he is five?

Sometimes, I lose myself in the lives of ‘my kids’ until their mums walk in and reality gives me a big slap. For me, contentment is knowing that I am loved as much as I love.

Every Mother’s Day I get phone calls and kisses from kids who add vibrant color to my life. Because in wiping tears and snot, kissing boo boos, clipping nails, giving baths, braiding hair, doing laundry, and in every other sense of the word; I am a mother.

I just didn’t get to push. Not yet.

Elaine Otuije loves media production, TV, movies, and film. She shares her opinion about most things on her blog.

 

The Bikini Cut

My eyes were glued to the monitor in the private hospital room. Why would my body not go into labour? What had the doctor said? Your contractions are too weak. The excitement that followed my water breaking sixteen hours ago was giving way to worry.

Waiting. Whispers. Deliberations. Phone Calls. Then: we’re going to deliver your baby by caesarean section. The ‘sentence’ sounded awful. I began to cry.

“Can we wait a little?” I had been praying, faithing, confessing, I am like the Hebrew women . . .

“We can’t take any chances Timi; it’s been over twenty-four hours already.”

“But I want to have my baby like normal women . . .”

I sobbed all the way to the OR. I sobbed while the nurse wiped the nail polish from my toes—bye bye pretty red toes. I sobbed until they held the gas mask over my nose.

When I came to, they brought him to me. Long, fair, a riotous mass of black curly hair. “Pretty like a girl,” the nurse said. He latched onto my breast and I latched onto his heart.

I was happy but ashamed that I had been less than a woman. I lied and painted sketches of a vaginal delivery whenever I found myself trading birth stories with other women.

This shame, where did it come from?

For my next pregnancy, I elected for a CS. I could not, would not, go through the trauma of trying for a vaginal delivery and be denied last-minute. Time had not healed my disappointment.

My friend shares a similar story. She would gaze at her preterm baby, a minuscule wonder lying in a glass spaceship, and feel gratitude and guilt and shame.

This shame, where does it come from?

Watching kids play in the park, I cannot tell which one was preterm or which one came by CS or birth canal. Does it matter? They are healthy. The doctor said my scar healed beautifully. He is right. After all these years, I hardly see it. I cannot feel it. I must look for it.

Bikini cut without choice. Bikini cut by choice. My scar of love, my bikini cut.

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

 

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Portraits of Motherhood [1]

motherhood 1

Bye Bye Guilt

Working forty hours a week means I’m the mom who can’t always be there. Quite often, I miss school events and after-school activities. Sometimes I have to sacrifice evenings and weekends with my family.

I felt so guilty but I shouldn’t have because during the summer months with long, light evenings, I made an effort to get home early. However, my reward upon returning home was lots of kisses. Then off my kids went to play with other children on the street, coming back only to eat when darkness fell.

That they didn’t ‘have time’ for me was my wake-up call to make time for myself.

I went to Paris with a friend who was leaving Europe for India, her home. I did miss the little darlings, but upon my return home, I realised they had survived without me, and I without them.

My children make choices to be with their friends at certain times yet I often pass up opportunities to go out with mine because I worry about leaving them. And so guilt swarms and swamps, as though my having a life lessens my love for them. They, on the other hand, go away with friends but I never doubt their love for me.

So now, taking care of Number One is top of my list. Shortly after this dawned on me, I began writing a food blog, chronicling my kitchen escapades. Through it, I have found me in the leaves of green vegetables and the pages of cookbooks. For you it may be gardening, walking, or Zumba. Whatever it is, do it, because nothing liberates the spirit as much as finding personal purpose, over and above being everything else, even if it doesn’t pay the bills.

For if you aren’t full, how can you fountain? 

Read full article

Ozoz is passionate about food in its entirety – cooking, eating, dreaming, writing and photographing it @ Kitchenbutterfly

 

Milk Milk Milk

At the airport, shiny floors, blinking signs, and morning-rush people captivate my daughter, even though she hasn’t slept enough. She points at everything and says, “Wow! Pretty!” before letting go of my hand and breaking into a run. Her giggles drown in the orderly mayhem.

I grab her and we sit down to wait for our 10 a.m. flight to Italy.  Opposite us, a couple neck as if it is their last time together. When he gropes her breasts, I imagine they will soon pop out from her low-cut blouse.

“Mummy, what’s that?” my daughter taps me and points at them.

I look around. People calling, texting, and iPad-ding.

“It’s nothing.”

“No, mummy what’s that?” She is still pointing.

How do I explain? The man’s face has lowered; it is closer to the woman’s blouse now.

“Mummy look, milk! I want milk!” She tugs at my top.

“No, not now, later okay?”

“Milk! Milk! Milk!”

I look around. People still calling, texting, and iPad-ding. So I cradle her in my arms, undo my nursing bra strap, and pop my nipple in her mouth, no flesh exposed. As she suckles, I feel as though I’m being watched. I look up to meet cold stares from all directions.

I should be used to it, but this time I will not let them get away with it. I lock eyes with one woman and say, “This is my two-year-old daughter and yes I still breastfeed her! Do you have a problem with that?”

She looks away and so do the others.

Women are the ones most offended with people like me—mothers who breastfeed in public, mothers who breastfeed longer than six months, mothers who still breastfeed toddlers. They tell me, “You’re actually the one enjoying it and not the child. Oh your poor husband, how is he coping? Once the child can walk up to you and help themselves, you are abusing the child because God made your breasts for your husband.”

I’m giving my child milk for sustenance and that man is sucking the life out of his partner. Why am I the one getting the evil eye? Are a woman’s breasts for sexual pleasure or breastfeeding or both?

Afi Boboye is a wife and a mother who is passionate about breast-feeding.

 

The Aliens in Your Nest

We have five children, eleven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Each child is incredibly different. And while nurture has some impact, they come into the world as varied as wildflowers. The key to the fine art of mothering is recognizing and valuing their differences.

Every personality trait has an upside and a downside. The stubborn child that drives you to anger management class by resisting any parental authority may well persevere to become your hero. In our family, that child and I had the most conflict, because he was the one most like me. It was a case of irresistible force meeting immovable object.

This beautiful child, who charmed the world, knew unconsciously how to push all my buttons. It took some years, but we can finally relate without being like two porcupines trying to dance. In fact, he is my hero. He currently teaches at an orphanage for children born HIV positive, in Cambodia. Got to love God’s sense of humor.

I am sure my mother thought I was an alien. Sadly, our dissimilarities were barriers to close connection.  Learning about personality differences opened my eyes and heart to her gifts. While caring for her during her years of struggle with Alzheimer’s, I recognized her language of love. We never got a chance to enjoy each other, but I learned how to love her unconditionally.

My only daughter and I are also opposite personality types and although we express our spirituality through different religious preferences, it is our deepest shared value. Because of this, we have a much better relationship than I had with my mother.

Our family is a sapling with variegated leaves spread around the world. Each Christmas, thirty-plus of us gather. Love, and our warped sense of humor—one trait we all share, make it a high point. At seventy-seven, I take delight in all the ‘aliens’ in my nest.

Eileen O’Leary Norman is a consultant on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. She blogs at Laughter: Carbonated Grace

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Interpreting Silence, Mine and Maybe Yours

Malala

. . . and I began to see that the pen and the words that come from it can be much more powerful than machine guns, tanks or helicopters. We were learning how to struggle. And we were learning how powerful we are when we speak.1

I was at a meeting. The preacher declared, “If you haven’t found what is worth dying for, then you haven’t started living!” In my mind, I said, “But I am living and I enjoy my life although, I don’t know what I would die for.” The preacher reeled off convictions on which he would stake his life. I thought, that’s good for you, my children are still small, my marriage too young.

In my university, when students would gather to protest against government policies, I always left the campus and went to stay at my aunt’s, as I did not fancy being tear-gassed, arrested, or beaten or raped if the protest degenerated to a free-for-all.

Their protests annoyed my middle-class sensibilities. Shielded by my parents, I had never felt the sting of socio-economic or political policies. The more daring the protest, the more likely, that my university would be shut down, so that, instead of graduating at twenty, I would graduate at twenty plus x, x being anything from one to five years. This concerned me because I had mapped my life’s trajectory without the possibility of detours.

And so, Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography interested me, as all biographical material does, but more so because she is a teenager. She’s described as the educational campaigner from Swat Valley, Pakistan, who came to public attention by writing for BBC Urdu about life under the Taliban. News about her work had floated in and out of my attention in years past, but as I settled to read her book, I shook my head, what was she thinking?

The man was wearing a peaked cap and looked like a college student. He swung himself onto the tailboard at the back and leaned in right over us.

Who is Malala? He demanded?”

No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face not covered.

That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. I later learned it was a Colt 45. Some of the girls screamed.2

Malala’s story, in my view, traces the journey of her convictions, how they were shaped, how they crystallized, and how she learnt to live and expect to die for them. Her father is central to her story. She interprets her world through his eyes. But I get the sense as I read that even if Malala were translated into another set of circumstances, mine as a youngster, for example, she would still shake the world. Named after the Pashtun heroine, Malalai of Maiwand, when she was born, she popped out kicking and screaming.

Malala gives us a history lesson on her beloved Pakistan and Talibanization. It is a story I recognize: Nigeria before and after British colonization; Nigeria in the age of Boko Haram. Politics never sleeps. Poverty and illiteracy make indoctrination and intimidation potent. But Kalashnikovs and RPGs make the rich and educated flee too.

Her photo on the book cover hides fear and courage, a tension that she draws her readers to share with her family in Taliban-controlled Swat Valley and beyond.

Are you scared now?” I asked my father.

At night our fear is strong, Jani,” he told me, “but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.”3

She writes that her father hated the fact that most people would not speak up. She knew he was right. He kept a poem by Martin Niemoller in his pocket.

First they came for the communists,                                                                              

and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.                                           

Then they came for the socialists,                                                                                    

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.                                                 

Then they came for the trade unionists,                                                                        

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.                                        

Then they came for the Jews,                                                                                               

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.                                                        

Then they came for the Catholics,                                                                                    

and I did not speak out because I wasn’t a Catholic.                                                 

Then they came for me,                                                                                                     

and there was no one left to speak for me.

I live in a land where my concerns range from 30% income tax deductions to choosing between Gouda and Maasdammer cheese. Comfort is a familiar place and I do not apologize for it. Privilege comes with responsibility and many are not silent. But I must break my silence and scream with more than sympathy, with my words, my money, my time, and my votes, because Malala proves that one voice can be heard. At a cost, at a cost . . .

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2014

 

1. Yousafzai, Malala with Lamb, Christina, I Am Malala (London: Orion Books, 2014), 131.

2. Ibid., 6.

3. Ibid., 115.

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

An Encounter with LASTMA

LASTMA

Like Mumbai, Moscow, and L.A., Lagos is well-known for traffic jams. The thorny maze of automobiles, motorcycles aka okada, and pedestrians, inspired the Lagos state government to create an agency to ease traffic congestion. Lagosians hailed LASTMA as innovative until LASTMA began contributing to the bottleneck.

“The fear of okada is the beginning of wisdom, and to avoid LASTMA is understanding,” said a friend, when I started driving in Lagos soon after my return. I had survived reverse parking into tight corners on narrow European streets, but here in Lagos, the challenge was different.

LASTMA
Acronym for Lagos State Traffic Management Authority

An initiative to reduce unemployment and sanitise Lagos roads. Commuters lament the actions of its officers, who are the “reason” for the growing number of ATM machines.

Do not confuse them with the:
Army (green uniform)
Police (black uniform)
Traffic wardens (orange and black uniform)
Theirs is a proud cream and maroon

They are not bad people but a reflection an endemic system.

Motto (of a few bad eggs): To bring insanity to Lagos traffic and lay ambush for mugus.

So, I drove very carefully. Too carefully, annoying Lagos drivers who attempted to terrorise me with their ear-splitting horns, dare-devil manoeuvres, condescending stares, and foul words as they overtook my snail-paced car.

Me? I refused to give them the satisfaction of looking at their faces when they pulled up to my car, moments before overtaking. I kept a straight face and commanded my neck not to turn. I could at least hold one ace, I could relish the silent knowledge that they may have won the battle, but I had won the war.

Once, at a junction, LASTMA officers caused commotion by waving go to adjacent lanes of traffic simultaneously. I drove a few meters and stopped in confusion. Maybe that was the mistake—stopping to make sense of chaos; pausing to take stock rather than forging ahead through the pandemonium. Seconds later, two officers headed my way. I apologised and explained that they had unwittingly caused the mayhem.

They insisted that I let the windows down. I was privy to this trick and refused. When they persisted, I relented and wound down a crack. The officer at the passenger-side window stuck his hand through the tiny space with the agility of a monkey and next thing I knew, he was sitting beside me.

Madam, park for side, you dey cause go-slow.”

I complied and the “usual” conversation followed.

My kids began to cry. My son asked, “Sir is our mum going to jail? Is she in trouble?”

I wished he had not spoken. How much is a child’s distress worth to a LASTMA officer?

Oya madam fast, do quick. See as you don make the children dey cry.” Poking his face in the space between the front seats, he said to my daughter, “Small girl, don’t cry. It’s okay.” Turning to my son whose cries were louder, “Tell your sister sorry. You’re a man, don’t cry.”

My son wailed, “I’m not yet a man.”

“Okay big boy, sssh, it’s okay.”

“I’m not a big boy, I’m only eight!”

Realising that conversing with my son was pointless, he turned to me. “Oya now, madam shake body, so you fit carry dem go Mr Biggs. E be like say dem dey hungry.”

I thought about many things but “settling” LASTMA was not one of them. I folded my arms for a long silent sit-in. With an exasperated hiss, officer one got out to engage in heated dialogue with officer two. I saw my chance and took it.

RAKING

The ability to bluff your way through anyone or anything that threatens you on the streets of Lagos.

Any dialogue that begins with, “Do you know who I am?” or in pidgin, “You no sabi me?” is raking.

A loud voice and threatening gesticulations add panache to the craft.

However, in cases of real emergency, access to a high- ranking military officer is a plus.

The next time I encountered LASTMA officers, my driver was negotiating a left turn on a road with no prohibiting signs. Two officers suddenly appeared.

They insisted that he wound down. I gave the driver a simple choice: your salary or the window, and secured his cooperation. They informed us that left turns are illegal. I welcomed the helpful information and the driver attempted to change direction.

They mounted a human roadblock. “Madam just tell am to wind down,” they threatened.

I assumed my best big man’s wife pose, squared my shoulders, and sat up higher. I was glad that for this all-important trip to Shoprite, I decked to the nines Naija-style with designer sunglasses to complete the look! But the officers didn’t budge. So, I pretended to call my imaginary military officer husband after all, power pass power. They backed off.

What is the purpose of LASTMA, to correct or to collect? I hope things have changed since I wrote this post a few years ago.

lagos state traffic laws

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

You may also like:

When in Trouble . . . Just Yell: http://ofilispeaks.com/when-in-trouble-just-yell/

LASTMA in the Eyes of the People: http://flairng.com/new/lastma-in-the-eyes-of-the-people/

Lagos the liquid wonder: http://bizzibodi.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/30-days-of-lagos-lagos-the-liquid-wonder-by-ferdinand-c-adimefe/

Photo credit: LASTMA website

Image URL: http://www.lastma.gov.ng/traffic_law.pdf

http://www.lastma.gov.ng/

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

City of Lagos

Nigeria is like a man with many wives who when not competing among themselves for his affection (read: oil wealth), sit together and complain about his lack of attention (read: dearth of infrastructure). I am married to Nigeria and this is my rant.

From time to time, I enjoy entertaining. Friends were coming over for a bite. Nothing fancy I was told, but I pulled out all the stops including the china and cutlery, which sit in their cartons gathering dust and only grace the table when I want to impress. Anyway, six hours later, I had a three-course meal fit for a king and no guests. What’s wrong with this picture?

Earlier, dark clouds warned of impending rain but since I was neither the bride nor the groom that had rented an open field for their wedding reception in the thick of rainy season, my only concern was for the temperature of the oil as I fried plantain. When, thunder and lightning announced the arrival of a torrential downpour, I shut my windows and began to wait.

It turned out that my guests were stuck in traffic caused by blocked drainage channels. With nowhere to go, the rain kissed the ground and its waters rose, higher and higher, turning the roads to knee-deep rivers. Their SUVs were no match for the floods. Maybe Toyota will seize first-mover advantages by developing a new type of hybrid for the Nigerian market—Toyota Transformer: part landcruiser, part speedboat. Then Nissan, Honda, Kia, and the rest will follow! Far-fetched? Hardly. Inverters flooded the market when investors rightly assessed the gap in the power sector. 

ojogbon.wordpress.com.rain-rain-go-away

Disappointed that my guests didn’t show, I decided to watch a movie on TV. That power supply disappears moments after the sky darkens, was not new to me. That I had to generate my power supply, did not take me by surprise. My inverter was humming quietly and my generator was on stand-by. However, thirty minutes into the movie, the TV went into a convulsion—white lines, static, beep-beep-beep, before sudden death.  What’s wrong with this picture?

The rain, which had slowed to a slight drizzle, changed its mind and metamorphosed into a full-fledged downpour once again. I increased the volume of the TV to drown out the tap-tap-tap of falling rain and snuggled into my wrappa as the room became cooler. But nobody told me; you forgot to warn me about this before I packed my bags and returned to Nigeria, that like oil and water, rain and cable TV do not mix! When it rains, cable TV loses connection to the signal!

tv

Rainy season equals more traffic jams and power outages, with attendant loss in manpower hours and business opportunities. Rainy season means more visits to the mechanic. Rainy season equals (avoidable) flooding which results in suffering for displaced persons. Rainy season means… need I continue?

So you see, I have come to dread rainy season because it is fraught with frustrations that make me rethink my move back to Nigeria.

It is easy to forget that rainy season has its advantages. Rain-fed agriculture increases the farmers’ prosperity, and rain provides water for domestic purposes in areas where running water is scarce. Also, during the rainy season, cooler temperatures bring some relief from the stifling heat.

Well, after another rain-induced frustration, my son asked about the duration of the rainy season. I said that rainy season begins in April and ends in October. He quickly did the math and sighed in disbelief and disappointment.

“Six whole months!” he cried.

I tried hard to sound convincing as I recounted the blessings of the rainy season. I explained that countries with diminishing water resources like Egypt, would welcome a lengthy rainy season, and scientists were experimenting with harnessing energy from raindrops. I told him tales about dancing in the rain, singing rain, rain, go away, but, he would not be won over.

He moped around like a solitary figure shrouded with disillusionment. 

“Six whole months,” he muttered almost inaudibly.

Hey, what’s wrong with this picture? Go figure!

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Related links: Read Diekola Onaolapo’s Rain, rain…go away here

Photo credit:

The City of Lagos
Author: OOT, The official website of the Office of Transformation

Original image url: http://oot.lg.gov.ng/beta/?p=315

Flooded Street
Author: Diekola Onaolapo

Original image url: http://ojogbon.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/rain-rain-go-away/

Vectors from Microsoft

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Who Will Tell Me Sorry?

who will tell me sorry

Time stood still.

After she said, “Mummy I bumped my head against the window.”

Then moved slowly like a ticking bomb, tick-tock, tick-tock.

One irritated child, another crying child, an unhappy mother, and a grim-faced driver rode from Ikeja to Victoria Island. I wielded the power to change the sombre atmosphere in the car—one sentence, “Sorry, let me take a look at it,” was the magic wand that could banish sorrow to a faraway land.

Instead, I sat tight-lipped like a woman whose husband had asked, “What is the matter now?” after forgetting her birthday. The word sorry had become as precious to me as Silas Marner’s gold was to him. I did not have any more sorry to spare.

Our day had started innocently enough. The children wanted to visit The Fun Place, and I acquiesced. Undaunted by traffic, their incessant chatter filled the car before they succumbed to the go-slow and dozed off. They woke up just as we approached Opebi and bounced gently in their seats to the rhythm of their melodious voices.

So what went wrong? Nothing. Nothing really, except that from the moment they woke up, they had been running in my direction in ardent search for those precious words.

“Mummy, I stubbed my toe as I was coming down the stairs,” one complained and looked at me as if I conspired with the builder to build steep steps.

“Oh sorry dear, come closer, let me take a look.”

Then I gave the toe a gentle rub to soothe the pain. The pacified child retrieved his toe, announced that he felt better, and disappeared. As the day wore on, both kids took turns to seek this cure-all for life’s little mishaps.

“Mummy, I fell down.”

“Sorry, ….”

“Mummy, I bit my tongue.”

“Sorry, ….”

“Mummy, I cut my arm.”

“Sorry, ….”

“Mummy, my sister won’t play with me, the sun won’t shine, the dog won’t bark, the flowers won’t grow, there’s no light, there’s no water,” and on and on, and on and on.

To these and their array of mounting complaints, I have learnt to either feign concern or inject a sufficient amount of compassion in my voice, as I give an appropriate response by rote while multi-tasking!

It was the same story at The Fun Place. I opened my novel, read one paragraph and then said sorry. A little sorry here, a little sorry there. I read another paragraph before tales of being pushed and hit, tales of being unfairly treated, and tales of falling down, assaulted my ears. A big sorry here, a big sorry there, and in all, I had read four paragraphs of my novel by the time we determined to leave.

I eased into the car, looking forward to closing my eyes and dreaming of my bed. I wiped apple juice from my hands, mildly irritated by my sticky fingers, and dusted popcorn off my jeans. The gaping pothole that rocked the car from side to side, had caused everyone and everything to shift position, including my mood.

It was at this precarious time that my daughter pouted, “Mummy I bumped my head against the window.”

I folded my arms and pursed my lips.

It was time to count to fifty, but I would not.

I sighed.

Who will tell me sorry? Did I not also bump my head against the car window? Had I not also stubbed my toe last night in the NEPA-induced darkness? I had muttered, “ow,” rubbed my toe myself, and continued with life.

Who will tell me sorry for the fact that I could not stretch my monthly chop money to cover the whole month due to inflation?

Who will tell me sorry for my car shaft, which needed replacement because the road to my house had become a river?

I sighed.

No, I did not think I had any free sorry to dole out. Let her tell herself sorry for a change!

Her cries slowed to a whimper. A quick glance confirmed my suspicion—her eyelids were drooping in preparation for sleep. Something stirred within me. I reached out and caressed her head, “Sorry darling, does it feel better?”

She sagged against her seat belt, a contended smile barely breaking through tired lips, as everyone else visibly relaxed.

So, who will tell me sorry?

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

image design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

A Father’s Love

Father's Love

My father’s love is different from my mother’s love because my dad is not like my mum, as it should be. He is a thinker, not a talker; his low rumble rarely punctuated the soprano-rich chatter that filled our home.

While I can dig up a dozen memories of my mum the superhero, without knitting my eyebrows and closing my eyes, I can only dig up a few of my dad. However, each memory, etched with a permanent marker in my consciousness, represents a turning point that defined me as a writer.

During my childhood, my father was two things to me: Father Christmas and the man I wanted to please at all cost. Perhaps it was because he lived far away and I did not see him every day; the heart often longs for that which is not near. He returned home at Christmas with lots of praise and presents. He brought us tons of Judy, Mandy, Betty & Veronica, and Archie comics.

He made sure I had one Naira every day so I could go to Challenge Bookshop or Leventis Stores to buy a book. That was how I discovered the enchanted world of Enid Blyton and my imagination soared to distant lands and distant shores. I cut my notebooks to mini squares and wrote the stories I would have loved to tell.  That was how I learnt about pace and dialogue without going to writing school. Encouraged by my dad, I read and read and read.

As a teen, we read together because he was home every day. I scanned the newspapers daily, but saved the columns and editorials for weekends. Then I would lounge with him in our veranda, he lost in his world of words, I lost in mine, as the clock ticked away. When night fell and the queen of the night flowers released their scent, we slapped the moths and mosquitoes away, turning the pages of our newspapers faster than we had done in the afternoon.

He indulged my love for reading and there was always money to buy more books, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, The Economist, Times, Newswatch, and Classique magazines. That was how I learnt to argue for what was important to me with my words instead of my voice. Enthralled by the magic of words, my worldview changed one sentence after another. I wrote opinion pieces that enticed people to read and not skim, arranging my stream of thought in a logical flow.  That was how I learnt about exposition without going to writing school. Encouraged by my dad, I read and read and read.

Now a young woman, it is my turn to be Mother Christmas, heaping gratitude and gifts, so my father can continue to read. When we talk, I listen. I listen for it. I listen for the lilt in his voice as I imagine the spark in his eyes, because something he read has transported him as it does me, to lands of possibilities.

As I connect the dots of my life, it becomes clearer and clearer still: my father’s love is different from my mother’s love. Her love is loud and the spotlight magnifies her heartbeat in motion. In the periphery, my father’s heart beats too, at a quiet even pace that masks its fervency.

My dad is the mostly unsung hero who in a time of uncertainty wrote me a letter that has frayed at the ends and torn at the fold. Whether soaring or plummeting, whether laughing or crying, his words have remained with me, reminding me of when I first dared to dream. Reading and rereading the letter through the years, his writing style has become my own.

Happy Father’s Day dad.  Surely, my ink flows in part because of you.

 

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

 

Photo credit: http://www.creationswap.com/LuisGarcia

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Grow Up Mikey

boy amateur boxer by Lisa Runnels

The walls have remained the same—off-white walls with the imprint of dirty fingers near the doors. It is five long years since I was in my parent’s home. I mull over my last conversation with you. Sitting across from me at the restaurant, the table shook when you banged it, rattling our glasses, your rage exposing your fragile heart. I did not speak then, but I will speak now. Mikey, this is my story and it could be yours too.

My parents are not responsible for all the problems in my life. Ha! It is true that in a moment of anger, my mum flung her high-heeled peep-toes at me. But for crying out loud, I ducked with the agility of a teenage athlete, and enjoyed the small victory of seeing for a second, the remorse on her face when her shoe hit the wall and rebounded with the broken heel coming in second place. She has paid enough, and the statute of limitations has run its course.

And what if my dad never said, “I love you,” and never attended any prize-giving ceremony where I stood on the podium looking and hoping, from primary school through secondary school and up till my graduation from university? So, he didn’t know how good I was at Scrabble and how deftly I could steal two-hundred-pound notes while playing Monopoly?

For goodness sake, he put a roof over our heads, we ate until our little stomachs protruded like a ball, and our summer dresses, which caught the wind and ballooned when we twirled, had pink flower petals and yellow butterfly patterns. He spelled L.O.V.E. in a different way, and I refuse to let my juvenile fantasies of challenging his authority in a boxing ring follow me into my twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties.

So your parents expressed their frustration at your (“un”)reasonableness by acting as though you would not amount to much, swearing with their nostrils flared and their breath coming in gasps. Did they not spend time correcting you so you would amount to much, and when they realised that a life sentence in jail for killing you was not worth the trouble, hired the services of a private tutor? Let it go. Grow up and stop holding a grudge.

Do not tell a shrink the stories that you should reserve for your grandchildren and write the shrink a fat cheque afterwards as if you had twenty-five hours in your day and as if you do not have bills to pay.

Dad and mum, you are officially off the hook. My mistakes are my own, born of foolish choices. The things you forgot to warn me about, I could have found out. All those times when we sat (you on the red armchair and I on the cream sofa), and I wondered who taught you to lecture, pretending to listen, so you could congratulate yourself for passing on great wisdom, I should have paid attention to the pain in your voice brought on by the memory of bitter experience. I could have asked and you would have told me more, so much more.

My mistakes are my own. Despite all you did to set me up for a good life, I chose the life that brought me pain, that brought you pain, that brought us pain. I do not blame you and you should not blame you. We have life, we have hope, we have faith, and we have love. You could not buy the sun even if the central bank printed more notes.

Enough already! Everybody stop crying; say, “Cheese,” and face the camera!

© Timi Yeseibo 2013

Photo credit: ©Lisa Runnels/www.pixabay.com (used with permission)

http://pixabay.com/en/boy-amatuer-boxer-fight-sport-72370/

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My Mum the Superhero

Awesome mum

My mum is a woman ahead of her time. Living in a society and a day when having male children was the ultimate sign of fertility and the highest compliment a wife could pay her husband, she did not wring her hands and weep in the maternity ward year after year in quest for a boy child. No, after three girls, she dulled her ears to the murmurs. She dedicated her life to being the best thing that came out of Sapele and poured herself into her daughters so we could be all and more than any male child could ever be.

three daughters

My mum is big-hearted. She stretched the meaning of nuclear family until it extended to include people with whom we shared no blood connection. As a result, we grew up with more cousins, aunts, and uncles than most. Her seeds of kindness have matured and we are recognised and rewarded for being the children of Aunty Gina.

My mum is beautiful. From her I learnt that I too am beautiful. Whenever people called me little Gina, my heart welled with pride. I wore her oversize clothes and shoes, and opened her trinket box to deck myself with her jewellery. Then I sat on her dressing table and put on her make-up. When I looked at the mirror, I no longer saw a gawky child. I saw my mum, my beautiful mum.

mom is beautiful

My mum is a planner. If we had to travel, she would sneak into our rooms at 4 a.m., six hours before we needed to leave, and drag our luggage to the veranda where the sleepy-eyed chauffeur would be waiting to put them in the trunk of the car. She would wake us up at 5 a.m. and cajole us to get ready, hollering our names, pulling the bed covers, and yanking our pillows. How we idled away the five hours until departure time is an unsolved mystery. Today, I pack like a pro and my luggage is at the door five hours before I need to leave my house.

wake up now

My mum is a believer. She told me the sky is the limit; to reach for my dreams, to never give up, to believe in myself, and to believe I could do anything. Yes, I could be anything; as long as I was a doctor or lawyer first, fulfilling her cherished dream. I watched her walk in uncharted territory and bounce back from setbacks. Ever the optimist, even now, she asks, “Timi, do you know what is beyond the sky?”

reach for sky

My mom is an entrepreneur. She has a heap of white play sand in front of her home to tempt the grandchildren into getting dirty and saturating their hair with sand. While we grimace she claps with glee the whiter their hair gets. She encourages them to play in her white sand and repay her when they are older by buying her Land Cruisers and Range Rovers. Although I have tried to explain to the grandkids that they are mortgaging their future by accumulating car debts, they cannot resist the heap of play sand in front of grandma’s house.

playing in sand

My mom is a prayer warrior. She called me recently.

Mom: I hear you started writing on the internet.

Me: Yes.

Mom: Why?

Me (thinking): Well, I’ve always loved writing… it’s a global platform to display my writing and not only reach, but also engage wider audiences. I hope to inspire, entertain, and inform. I want to—

Mom (interrupting): After all that grammar, how much are they paying you?

Me (pausing): Em, nothing.

Mom (after a while): Did you quit your job?

Me: No.

Mom: Good. I will pray for you.

My mum is a supporter, my avid fan. She asked my sister to print my blog posts for her to read. Will she read them? I don’t know, but I know she will make at least four hundred copies. She will paste a few copies on the gate that leads to her home and on her front door. She will litter her living room with several copies and carry the rest in her big bag, evangelising everywhere she goes, “Google Timi, she’s on the internet!” Finally at night she’ll bring one of the copies from her bag and look, and look, and look.

It’s mother’s day in The Netherlands. Happy Mother’s Day mums! Look at you; appreciate how far you’ve come. Honour a woman who has nurtured you. Tell her, she’s your superhero!

©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Image Credits:

Awesome Mom by Shad Fox: www.creationswap.com

Disco gal by Robot: www.vectorstock.com

Vector backgrounds: http://all-free-download.com

-European retro pattern background vector 2 by www.zcool.com.cn

-Sun background vector 2 by www.zcool.com.cn

-Beautiful sky theme vector by www.zcool.com.cn

Girls Three by Spike: http://www.clker.com/

Pink 2 Frame author: / inky2010 Glossy Transparent Frames: http://all-free-download.com

All other people illustrations, animes, avatars and vectors by Microsoft

Design: ©Timi Yeseibo 2013

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Through the Eyes of a Child


Ferdinand Reus / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Children are the future because they not only propagate generational lines but also improve on our legacy. Their simplistic view of the world combined with their unending well of curiosity, results in an incessant battery of questions.

During my children’s first visit to Nigeria, they oohed, aahed, and ouched because  everything was new. Growing up in Nigeria had given me some immunity to the culture shock they experienced. Yet, they challenged me to pause and look where I had previously thrown a careless glance because my eyes were glazed over with a heavy coating of the familiar.

Innocent and inquisitive, they kept asking questions. Even though I fielded their questions with the expertise of a savvy politician, I pondered these same questions long after I tucked them in bed and kissed them goodnight.

They asked about the madman who ate and slept naked under an abandoned trailer parked on a busy street. They asked, eyes round with amazement, about the paraplegic who was the unofficial traffic warden. He controlled traffic from his foot chair—so called by my children because he “sat” on what looked like a footstool with wheels underneath that gave him bullet-speed mobility. It was very useful as it enabled him to quickly collect the largesse from patrons without being crushed under the giant wheels of jeeps.

It seems as if everything is different and yet everything is the same. Our progress resembles a swinging pendulum—back and forth but still on the clock. So yes, this future generation asks simple questions about our beloved Nigeria.

“Are we in a war?” my eldest one asked.

“No, of course not, does it look like we are?” I queried, wondering if he was confusing Nigeria with another country he’d seen on TV.

“Then why are there policemen armed with assault rifles everywhere? Why do they hold up their guns and stop cars?” He demonstrated with his hands.

“Why indeed?” I replied playing for time, as I crafted my reply.

“Are there many bad people in Nigeria?” my youngest interrupted my train of thought.

“No not really, like anywhere else in the world, we have good people and bad people,” Annoyance swirled in my stomach and I inwardly blamed those foreign TV shows that depict Nigerians as a bunch of rogues.

“Then why are there so many prisons walls?”

“Where are the prison walls?” I asked because her serious tone belied any evidence of a joke.

“See that one over there, and another one over here,” she responded matter-of-factly, as she pointed to nearly every house on the street.

I said nothing but nodded in understanding.

I explained that crime and instability informed the manning of checkpoints, and necessitated the conspicuous display of guns by policemen. It also meant that people had to protect themselves hence the fences. I tried to remember a time when checkpoints were not a feature on our roads and high fences topped with barbed wire were not the norm. It was quite a long stroll down memory lane. I also tried to imagine a time when their presence would be unnecessary, it was rather hard to do.

Looking through their eyes, I perceived their reality. With my added insight, I saw a nation at war with different uniformed guerrillas fighting for supremacy while the rest of us walled ourselves in, in prisons of inertia letting the bad guys roam free.

Day after day, the questions continued but a simple incident caused me to laugh with hope.

“Look mummy!” my youngest one excitedly cried, waking me up from afternoon traffic siesta.

“Look at what?” I asked groggily forcing myself awake, and willing my eyes to focus.

“Look, over there!” She hit the window emphatically and pointed.

I followed her slim fingers and captivated gaze. I saw nothing out of the ordinary, certainly nothing to get excited about on this run of the mill day.

“I don’t see anything,” I yawned.

“There, there, over there … a banana hat!”

“A what?”

“A banana hat. It’s so cute and clever mummy!”

Finally, I saw it, through her eyes. A street hawker was carrying bananas on a tray on his head—a bonafide banana hat in green-yellow glory! He strode towards us at the prospect of a quick sale; a rather common sight I had become accustomed to.

It is my hope that this generation that sees what we do not see, will achieve what we have so far been unable to accomplish. A banana hat indeed, it was a very welcome respite from simple questions.

© Timi Yeseibo 2009

Photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/people/72092071@N00″>Ferdinand Reus</a> / <a href=”http://foter.com”>Foter.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>CC BY-SA</a>

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.