1
A parent’s worst nightmare
2
Booking a place in the world
3
My name is…
4
Age is just…a stage
5
How many do you (want to) have?
6
The ride
7
Music and Lyrics
8
While I was planning
9
Celebration of Life
10
I don’t like cigarettes…and I like to smoke!

A parent’s worst nightmare

120 days. Not 120 seconds or minutes or hours. But 120 days. That’s how long some parents haven’t seen or spoken to their children. Children who did not go on summer holidays or are on sabbaticals nor are they schooling in a different hard – to – reach continent, thereby explaining their absence. No. They have been abducted. To be used as bargaining chips, and to prove a political point by their captors. Who uses children to make a statement? Boko Haram. And that ex – CIA agent in the just concluded TV series ‘Crisis’. 120 days. Almost four months and counting. And not knowing how your child is faring. The feeling is, most likely, worse than death. Death would even be better. There’s a finality to it and it brings some sort of closure. This…this, however, is torture, torment, unimaginable horror. One that has, sadly, seen the death of eleven of the affected parents. Once, my elder brother ‘lost’ T in Shoprite for about five minutes. What followed was the most hellish five minutes of frantic searching. The thoughts that occurred during the period. Anything could have happened to her within that time. Someone could have picked her up as theirs and disappeared. She could have walked out of the store and into the mall in search of him. Anything. But no, he found her at an empty check out point, happily tapping away. Those were five minutes. These 120 days seem like a continuing episode in an endless horror, heartbreaking series. Little or no hope of finding (and rescuing) them. Less encouraging words and actions from those supposedly searching for them. Just more gory –upon- gory tales from those lucky to escape the ordeal. How does a parent contemplate that his/her child might be forcibly and violently used as a sex slave amongst other unimaginable vices? How does s/he come to terms with the fact that when the child returns alive, eventually, whenever, there is the possibility of said child been messed up psychologically, physically and emotionally forever? In addition to lost childhood time. These things only happen”more

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Booking a place in the world

‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.’ – St. Augustine I didn’t introduce T to the world of books early but when I did, we more than made up for whatever lost time. I added her brother into that world last year. Fortunately both children love books, reading, writing and all that jazz. Every opportunity to indulge in these activities means quiet and peace in my world, and I’m their biggest cheerleader. ‘No entertainment is so cheap as reading nor any pleasure so lasting.’ – Lady M.W. Montagu I must mention here that T loves, loves books ( a tad more than her brother) and takes every chance she gets to attempt to read and sound out familiar and new words, and sentences. It is only natural that one of her favourite moments is bedtime reading. She chooses the book, the story and reads what she can, displaying her reading prowess, learning new words and testing her memory. She also points out corresponding photos and asks questions when something is unclear. Before now, I’d read the story for her brother and her while they both listened attentively. Not anymore. In the last year, they have both grown and insist on being fully involved in this nighttime activity. This means two books, three voices, extended bedtime reading period, and a lifetime of benefits for both of them. Since starting school and recognizing the alphabets, Chairman literarily hijacks his bedtime book and reads it himself, complete with gestures and animal sounds. T is no different. Her reading confidence and repertoire of words have both increased proportionally to her height and, mummy is only remembered at word roadblocks. Books, like humans, entertain us, comfort us, challenge us and inspire us.They are also fantastic! Not only do they contain rich and varied language that fires the imagination but the children are required to work their memory to follow the plot … and take them to other exotic places. Bedtime reading also means: I get to spend time bonding with them. They develop stronger reading skills. New”more

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My name is…

Do you have an English name? No. Why? Nothing. How do you spell it? Your name, that is. Of course, I have an English name. But what’s wrong with what I’m presently called? I cannot recount how many times strangers have stumbled while attempting to properly pronounce my name; most asking for the spelling in order to assist them. Invariably, not many readily recall it when we meet again. And it often happens to those who know me by name only. So of course, statements like: ‘I’m sorry I don’t remember your name’. ‘Forgive me but what is your name again?’ are all part of trying to make a name for myself. Literally. It was quite frustrating growing up with this tag hanging around me. Teachers, grown – ups and peers alike would stutter and stammer with audible ‘Eh?! What did you say your name is?!’ interjections after initial introductions. It was in fact a primary school teacher who asked if I had an English name. Most times, I felt really embarrassed; other times, very less often, I took it in my stride when I reminded myself that I didn’t have the most difficult name in the world. There was a time I actually contemplated going by my English name but killed the idea before it took root. I liked my name. The way it rolled off the tongue. The emphasis on the second syllable. It was rare. Traditional. Unique. And somewhat unpronounceable for some. Forgettable for others. Mangled by many. Can I call you ‘Id?’ No, you may not. This was the beginning of the era of shorter versions of names by using the first two letters. Itohan became It. Ijeoma became Ij. Izegbuwa became Iz. Some genius thought I’d like to be called ‘Id’. How wrong he was! I couldn’t stand the contraction and didn’t like the fact that ‘Id’ could mean ‘Identification.’ Call me finicky but I was named this way for a reason; please indulge me and call the unabridged version of it. They say it is not what you are called but what you answer”more

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Age is just…a stage

First, they are little and cuddly. A mouth full of spit and adoring, toothless smiles. Then they crawl and learn to walk. One wobbly step after another until they find their balance and you’re rapidly moving items out of their way as they prance around confidently. Their first spoken word (da-da, ma –ma, whichever) just melts your heart: ‘Oh, my baby!’ By 2 – 3 years, they have a great (amazingly so!) grasp of the negative ‘no’ and how to use it appropriately. A close cousin to this is the tantrums they display. This is what experts call the ‘terrible twos’ and, if I may add, the ‘tantrumic’ threes. And this is where Chairman is presently at: throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way while throwing himself on the floor, sometimes. It’s a stage; it’s a stage, I tell myself silently, and this is the accompanying, unfolding drama. Sometimes I allow him release the full range of his three year old angst, then tell him quietly, calmly (and in his ears so that he doesn’t miss a word) what to expect when he re – enacts the act again. Other times, I truncate the display with stern, firm words (sometimes they come out louder than I hoped). Do these methods of mine work? Sometimes. For a while. Then he’s back to his performing act again. I think he’ll do very well as an actor; he just needs the relevant training to nurture this talent of his. While I do not like these tantrums and deal with them as they happen, I’m happy he doesn’t pull them out in public. If not, he’d be grounded until he’s 60! I understand this is usual at this age but am I asking too much if my child isn’t part of the norm or some statistic? Fast forward a few years and that where my dear T is – the ‘oversabi’ sevens. No, I think it began when she was six. I thought it was only teens and twenty – somethings who ‘clearly’ knew better than their parents. Uh uh. Know–it- all seven”more

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How many do you (want to) have?

I wanted five…or so I thought. Until that fateful long weekend I spent with my dad and two younger siblings sans my mum. After five days of cooking, cleaning and catering to everyone’s need (but mine), the number dropped to four. Until my neighbour’s three children spent 15 minutes with us. At the end of which my beau pulled me aside and asked: ‘How many did we say we’d have again?’ It became 3.5, if that number was possible to achieve. I was experiencing the law of diminishing parenthood. Until I finally had my first and, in the words of a close friend, couldn’t quite see clearly for months to come. When the second arrived, I could safely say I had gotten a hang of my role and responsibilities. Or had I? I don’t know. I learn, every day, on the job. Apparently, the unofficial number to have in Nigeria seems to be three for my generation. I cannot count how many times I have heard friends, family or acquaintances say: ‘I’m ready for my third child.’ ‘It’s time to have the third one.’ ‘This is the third and last one.’ Then again, I know couples whose third child was an accident. They aimed for two and landed at three. How did this odd number become the unspoken right one? Who made that decision? Does it have anything to do with setting up committees with an odd number member count so as to prevent an even number deadlock? But there are exceptions to this rule. Two male cousins each with five children…for now; one of whom cited the committee reason for having that number. My gal pal with ‘finally, the fifth and last one has arrived!’ My colleague and friend who terms herself as mother –in-Israel with her four children. All fitting perfectly with my mother’s ideal. ‘Four children is the government approved number’, she claims. Really? Seriously? I doubt that the government is aware of my existence, not to mention the fact that I’m married with children. Having grown up in a large family of ten (step siblings inclusive),”more

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The ride

Though Chairman is old enough to sit by himself (with a seatbelt on) in the car, he’d rather perch on my laps whenever we go out. Doing so means he has a clearer and better view of the passing scenery. That’s why he wants the human elevation. As the car moves along, he’d read out the numbers on the buildings, colours of cars, comment on the traffic lights, which car was horning the loudest, the different road signs, the school bus filled with cute, little faces… At first, I refused him weighing down on my legs for this regular ritual as it encroached into the things I wanted to do during the ride, especially if the destination was school. I always used the time as my checklist. Children’s’ mouths devoid of telltale signs of breakfast? Check! Hair, clothes, shoes and socks look neat with no speck of food or stain? Check! Snacks and drinks in their bags? Double check! But this is not to be as Chairman’s yellow body partially blocks my view and compels me to participate in his activity. The entire trip is a whole process for him, one in which he is completely involved. From opening and closing the car doors after he has climbed into the car to securing the lock (and winding down the windows, if necessary). First phase over. Next is the scenery along the way that commands a steady stream of commentary which is quite difficult to ignore in that sharp, clear, small – pitched voice of his. For national peace, local stability and my own personal safety, I join in with questions: ‘What number is that?’ ‘What does that sign say?’ ‘How many blue cars can you see?’ I really do not have a choice here now, do I? Sigh. A few months ago I took that ‘sigh’ back because in the middle of a ride routine one morning, something occurred to me: whenever I am on my way anywhere, I spend more time on other matters (putting finishing touches to my hair and make – up, checking my overall appearance, rehearsing”more

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Music and Lyrics

Rastamouse and Scratchy and Zuma Also known as da easy crew Crime fighters and very special agents Playing reggae when the work is through   Rastamouse is one of the children’s frequently watched cartoons; the soundtrack is one of my favourites. Yeah, I know. I can’t believe it too. But it wasn’t always like this. I had my suspicions when I first clapped eyes on it. The name told me it was Jamaican-themed and I should expect all the characteristics of the reggae- playing, patois – speaking, dreadlock – wearing island country. Fair enough but I wasn’t prepared to read this sentence in the synopsis of an episode: Someone has teefed all the cheese in the mouseland… What were they trying to teach children? To further my chagrin was the mice characters sounding off words or phrases I wasn’t sure I wanted T and her brother to repeat. Laters. Likkle ones. Man, that is dread. Whatta gwan? Irie man. Me love that. Maybe after they have displayed a firm grasp of the English, Yoruba, Urhobo, Spanish and French Languages. Blame it on my training and proper English Language trait. Then there was Bagga T, a character, who looked and sounded like a bouncer (but has deft rhymes especially when saying his name). On the flip side, I found a few things fascinating: da easy crew using a skateboard and roller skates to aid movement as well as playing musical instruments; an orphanage thrown into the plot; and a mice president who almost doubles up as a handyman. Then I discovered, beneath all the peculiarities of the Jamaican culture, there was always a story to tell, entertainment and a moral to teach (or how to make a bad thing good, like Rastamouse would always say). I learnt the entire lyrics of the soundtrack in one episode. Found out when it was going tobe on, made out time to be available and blacked out every distraction while I listened attentively to the soundtrack. After that, I basically listened to it to make sure I got the words right and it has been happy singing ever”more

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While I was planning

For one day only, T becomes a Hausa girl, looking adorable in the traditional attire, accessories and a calabash in her arms. She’s wearing a pair of ballerina pumps to complete the look; I didn’t get her Hausa slippers. Her brother’s roots remain unchanged though; just slightly modified. He moves from a Yoruba boy to a rather dignified – looking Yoruba hunter with his purple dashiki and fila tilted at an angle. Today is world cultural day and the children’s school are not only celebrating it verbally but also visually. The children have been put into groups of different tribes and told to dress accordingly. For five years on this particular day, T has worn outfits sewn from Ankara fabrics. I just couldn’t be bothered into dressing her up like a typical Yoruba girl. I felt this was yet another minor annoyance from the school (as though I needed one!) that involved money, time, thought and resources; all of which I wasn’t quite willing to part with without a compelling reason. Especially when the chances of repeating the outfit for a different occasion is nil. It is the same feeling I had towards other days the school pulled out of its hat – career day, colour splash day, open day, parents’ teaching/reading day, science day, prize–giving day…Enough already! How about a give-me-a-break day? Why dress up in a particular traditional outfit to learn about another culture or more of yours? Whatever happened to teaching it with a blackboard and a white chalk/marker? That’s how I learnt about it. Show the pupils photos, if you wanted to go further and perhaps make it more fun. That was my thinking. Why make me (and other parents) go through the hassle of acquiring different attires and playing dress up with our children when we can just adorn them with simple and stylish Ankara – made outfits and send them on their merry way? Apparently, teaching methods as well as the learning process change with the times. It also changed my way of thinking last year when I saw a fellow female pupil of”more

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Celebration of Life

Someone died in my neighbourhood recently. The colourful posters announcing his passage showed a man ten years away from being called a centenarian. They also showed that he had been someone’s father, uncle, brother, grandfather and great grandfather; he had been something to everyone who had known him. And as become the norm, the posters had the headliner ‘Celebration of Life’. That phrase that began to appear in the ‘90s on death notices, replacing the more depressing word ‘obituary’. And perhaps attempting to replace our grief- stricken hearts and sense of loss with new thinking, new paradigms about death. Being thankful that the deceased’s passed this way instead of mourning a life that is no more.  I totally get this. I don’t completely agree with it. Back to my neighbourhood. I was running errands on the day the commendation service was slated to take place. I would have gone by the poster – ridden house without a passing glance but for the sound and scene in front of it that stopped me short. Instrumentalists – a trumpeter and a drummer – gave music that was upbeat, alluring and akin to that of a football supporters’ club’s sound during a match; pall bearers carrying a brown – hued coffin walked towards a waiting minivan; and a woman and a man, gaily dressed in matching olive – green attires, (most likely relatives of the deceased) brought up the rear. Besides the coffin, the pair were the cynosure of the small crowd of people who had gathered. As they followed the coffin behind, they danced and danced to the music. The woman shook all her curves and matching jewelry, every shiny bit of her accessories and attire reflecting the sun’s rays. She bent her knees and got down almost to road beneath her, while still shaking what her momma gave her. The man accompanied her with expansive hand and flanking movements. They were both smiling widely, almost laughing even, as they did so. Some would think the pair were dancing this much because they were actually GLAD the deceased was gone; I choose”more

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I don’t like cigarettes…and I like to smoke!

Me: I’m an early bird, early riser, and wake – up – before- dawn kind of woman. Him: T has a pajamas top with the inscription: ‘I don’t do mornings.’ Now that aptly describes my beau. Me: That’s why I’m a dreamer. Everything’s so nice when I’m dreaming. Visions in my mind when I’m dreaming. I feel like dreaming all the time. I’m the dreamer. I love to build crystal clear, perfect castles in the air. A modern day Joseph-ine, that’s me. Him: He. Is. My. Reality. Check! Me: I hear a story and take it at face value. Him: Hears the same story…analysis, paralysis Me: I can plan one, two, six months ahead. Him: lastminute.com Do opposites attract? Or are men and women different because they’re supposed to be? Y’know, the Mars and Venus concept. My beau and I have had different life experiences which add up to make us whole, complete individuals. These experiences make us very different from each other in our approach to love and life. It is how we handle these differences that matter, not the differences themselves. That’s why I do the morning school run with the children. Me: I love to be prompt, on time, never late. Early, early, early. Him: African time specialist; he does a grand, fashionably late entrance quite well. Me: Old – fashioned, traditionalist, apply the rules, follow the process. Him: Operates in the new age. Rules were made to be broken. If not, why were they made in the first place? Me: I don’t  suffer fools gladly. Him: Gives second, third, even fourth chances with rope enough to voluntarily hang yourself by yourself. Me. ‘Organizer of the Year.’ I could win that award. I love things in their proper place, everything and everywhere arranged neatly, and the world’s at peace. Him: This trait of mine drives him up the wall! Not that he’s messy or anything like that but he doesn’t mind a little disarray here or there as long as it’s not unhealthy. We’re not like two magnets coming together. No. We’re more like puzzle pieces fitting:”more

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