A December to Remember

‘I’m Annie’, Chairman declares loudly.

‘My name is Gabby,’ T states just as loudly, not to be out done by her brother.

For the past couple of days, the children have been saying these statements often. Annie and Gabby are two of their cousins whom they met at their grandma’s and spent the recently concluded holidays with amongst seven other adrenaline – filled, very active children.

It is nine days today since we returned to Lagos, and back to our lives but apparently the memories of the holidays are still playing back constantly in the minds of my children.

And who can blame them? They had a whale of a time with their cousins!

There was Santa Claus with four presents each per child, their favourite cartoon characters featuring prominently. Barney. Mickey Mouse. Ben 10.

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They played games and had competitions – artwork (creating a Christmas card) competition, dancing chairs and fashion parade. Of course, this meant more presents. Yay!

They had more ice – cream and sweets during the two – week period than I would normally allow in two months.  Yum, yum.

Everyday was Christmas day at grandma’s! Or how else would they describe going to bed after saying goodnight to their cousins and waking up the next day to a full schedule of play, eat, play, eat, more playing, more eating surrounded by cousins ’till nightfall again?

They went to an amusement park. Twice. This was perhaps the highlight of the entire trip. And on both occasions, the nine of them had the entire park to themselves. For a minimal fee and more than two hours, the children knocked themselves out with delirious, we-can’t-believe-this-is-happening fun.

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They only took quick water breaks and another brief one for snacking.

This was no bouncy castle, choo- choo train – ride park powered by electricity. Almost every fun equipment is manually – operated. The same way they were when my siblings and I visited over twenty years ago. Yes, the park is that old and we have a sentimental (and physical) attachment to it. Imagine, our children are playing in the very same park we did when WE were at that age.

Yes, it is that old. Ancient. But it is still standing and so functional. I wanted the children to experience good, old fashioned fun that didn’t depend on the presence of power (something we are yet to get right and make available constantly in this country. We haven’t had electricity for three straight days this week!) and involved a little more than just jumping up and down.

At the park, I found out which of my nieces/nephews couldn’t climb onto a swing, who couldn’t manoeuver  it to move and who thought someone had to continuously push it to make them enjoy the ride.

Idolor to the rescue! I gave swinging lessons until I got carried away and found myself pretty high (dizzily so) up in the air!

The amusement park was the bomb for the children and they looked forward to the next visit.

Of course, they watched some cartoons but most of the time, they played amongst themselves — hide ‘n’ seek, dancing games, telling stories, fixing puzzle piecess together, reading books, painting, colouring…

The holidays would have been incomplete without their annual bisco – lighting tradition. I wrote about it in an earlier post titled ‘Bangers, biscos and brawls’. 

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Towards the end of their red sand Christmas, we all went to the zoo.  A little educative trip to gently usher them into the new school term. Their voices were high and excited as we moved from one caged animal to the next. It would be the first time they were seeing wild animals at such close range and not on TV.

Learning trip? Nah. Fun visit? Oh yeah.

This ostrich was responsible for their very first excited scream.

This ostrich was responsible for their very first excited scream.

Chairman couldn't get enough of looking at this camel.

Chairman couldn’t get enough of looking at this camel.

The lions looked bored and tired of being stared at.

The lions looked bored and tired of being stared at.

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For some reason, Chairman couldn't or wouldn't see the monkeys until we almost left in front of them.

For some reason, Chairman couldn’t or wouldn’t see the monkeys until we almost left their cages.

Yeah, I know. The zoo needs a major makeover but I doubt that the children, in all their glee and excitement, noticed the poor surroundings of the animals. Perhaps the only snag during the visit was when camel rides were taken right in the midst of the grounds where people walked, picnicked and played.

Like T and her brother, I will remember the Christmas holidays at grandma’s but for different reasons. Whenever the children spend considerable time with their peers, I always wonder what habits (good or bad) they’re pick up, what words would increase their vocabulary and what their peers would take away from them as well. Two weeks in daily, almost 14- hour interaction(they never took siestas!) with the same seven children produced the good, some ugly, the cute and the outright hilarious.

It is one of the very good I’d remember for a long time. One Sunday in church while searching for change for offering for the children, two of their cousins, Lily and Annie, revealed their pink purses filled with almost every currency in the country, and helped me with more change than I needed. When I asked how they came about the money, Lily explained they had, for months, both began saving any money any adult (friend or family) gave to them. I was impressed and mentioned it to their father, one of my elder brothers who not only confirmed it but went on to say they had lent him some of the money too.

I didn’t know T watched the exchange between her cousins and I until a visiting relative gave all the children money to share amongst themselves. Once she got hers, she fished out her very own pink purse and placed the notes in it before stuffing it into her suitcase. She also graciously gave her brother another pink purse to put his in as well. All the children got money given to them from four different adults during the holidays and each time, T put hers in her pink purse and ensured that Chairman did the same. The money’s still there till this day. Now, that reminds me…nah.

saving

I couldn’t be more pleased that she is imbibing this habit and teaching her brother to do the same. It couldn’t have come at a better time from a worthy example. Starting the saving habit with children early on is almost always the best way to help them understand money matters. Now that they have started, it would be easy to encourage them to continue on this path as I’m really good at saving for anything, for the rainy day, for the long – term. And maybe occasionally adding a little to what they already have would also help make the habit stick.

Thank you, Lily. Thank you, Annie. And your cousins hope to see you again soon.

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