Ramblings on motherhood, toys and straws

These holidays have been an emotional rollercoaster for me and mine. The school holidays began with a bang. My heart was bursting with gratitude and just the sheer amazement that we made it this far. Here, my not-so little boy, all grown, graduating from kindergarten to Primary school (wrote about it here). It was a big moment, I still look back and I’m like whoa, see God. (You may never understand the magnitude of this milestone if you never had to struggle with depression that made you question your ability and worth as a mom. I have blogged about this here and here and here as well).

So, anyhow, graduation came to an end and the very next week he was admitted to hospital, and discharged after almost a week. Mom and baby were ecstatic to have him in great health. Then mom got the infection and off I was to hospital. Took a couple of days off, and was better. Right after that, kid had a stomach bug and it was back to hospital. To say this was a rough ride is to put it mildly. I was really scared, and my thoughts were going crazy. (PS: Has any of you moms ever made the silent prayer that says, I’d rather be sick than my child gets unwell… then you actually get sick and are unable to cater for the child’s needs? I’m like – this is twisted irony 🙂 )

Read More: 7 Gross things moms do (admit it, you have done one of these!)

Fast forward to now, we are both in great health and are thankful for that. And we are back to bouncing off walls and off each other. Don’t go just yet, I am going somewhere with this post… So, J has an affinity for drinking straws, the disposable ones. A weird affinity that sometimes irks me because, I just don’t understand why anyone ought to take their yoghurt in a cup using a straw – but maybe therein lies the wonder and amazement of a child’s life.

Now, drinking with the straws is no big deal per se. It’s what follows once that happens which gets on my nerves. The not-so-empty cup is left on the table, and the straw leaning over. It’s easy to drop the cup by simply having the swish of my cardigan touch the end of the straw. For whatever reason, this is one of those pet peeves I have always had.

How does it relate to the hospital visits? The few days we were at hospital got me thinking how we as parents take so much for granted. We have this misguided illusion of immortality. There is all the time in the world, we think to ourselves. Until sickness jolts us back to reality. The other day I looked at him playing on the floor, strewn with all his toys, LEGO blocks, and my pens and pencils. On the table, the yoghurt cup and straw he had just used. For a split second I wanted to scold him and ask him to clean up.

Read More: Lessons from my son’s bag of toys

Then it struck me, when he was sick, I prayed and hoped that he would get back his health because at the time, I certainly preferred a messy house to a sick child. And here he was, playing, all energetic – yet I was inwardly grumbling at the sight of the messy floor. It struck me that one day, when this rambunctious little boy is all grown, there may never be a messy floor again.

I realized that a time will come, when there will be the last straw – quite literally. When he is taller than mommy, and has a deep voice to go with it, I may never need to tell him to discard the straw and drop the cup in the sink, because he will not be so little anymore. A time will come when there will not be the pattering of little feet up the staircase, a time when the warmth of morning cuddles and wet cheek kisses will be few and in-between.

This struck me because the inquisitive and wondrous stage we are in will not last forever. The genuine sparkle of his brown eyes when he makes a discovery may not be so obvious in a few years to come. I am making an intentional decision to enjoy this stage, to enjoy the endless stories even when I’d rather be scrolling down the gram, to enjoy the balloon games and blowing bubbles while they last – not forgetting the cartoons on JimJam. As I write this, my work desk is filled with toys, and you guessed right – a cup of yoghurt.

 

Feeling like a mom

This seems like an odd title seeing as my son is going on to 5 years in a few short months, but it really is what was, still is going through my head. Really, I feel like a mom. Why, you ask? I’d say that Postpartum Depression (PPD) stole some of my life’s most precious moments with my son. For the longest time, I detested the whole motherhood experience, disliked the fact that I had a little human being looking up to me, and just didn’t feel normal, where ‘normal’ is what new moms are expected to feel…

Then, I wondered how to make the most of those lonely nights, up in the wee hours of the morning, sobbing into my pillow because I did not know what to do…

Now, I embrace the moments, whether they mean nursing after a toddler with flu, or getting wet sloppy morning kisses before dropping in at school.

Then, I asked myself if the dark fog hanging above my head would ever clear, and if it would, whether I would ever get those moments back again, if ever…

Now, I know I will never get those moments back again, the missed memories (which often feel like a few pixels snipped off a photo unexpectedly), the milestones I seemed to have glided right through unconsciously. But, this one thing I know: now is all I have, and I am going to make now count. I will make new memories, I am making the moments count.

Then, I never understood how someone could possibly embrace motherhood so well, blinded by depression and all the self-intrusive thoughts, I smiled for photos, but I was hollow inside.

Now, I know too well that imperfection is part of motherhood. I understand that what you see is not always what you get for moms; they could well be struggling with it all (This is why I make sure to check up on all my friends who are new moms)

Then, I couldn’t have imagined why I had to go through depression, and especially feeling alone, why it had to be at a time when my career was taking an upward trajectory, and whether I was even ready…

Now, I want to make my voice heard, to speak for moms with PPD, some of who may never understand the different motions they may be going through. Now, I see purpose in it, I see beauty for ashes.

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My favorite humans 🙂 <3

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First Position

“Mom, I want to be number one!!”

His shrill cries pierced the afternoon air, bringing to life the otherwise laid back mood that characterizes life at home, miles away from the blaring matatus and glaring graffiti. At first I was perturbed simply because I did not get the gist of what he was alluding to. What did he want to be first in? I was preparing to do laundry and there he was screaming at the top of his lungs as he ran downstairs. We got down and I changed my slip-ons and he still wouldn’t stop screaming he wanted to be first.

I then realized what he meant was he wanted to be first in everything in that short period of time: first to get downstairs, first to change his shoes for the outdoors, first to embrace the humid air… never mind that I was heading to do laundry and he to play. He threw tantrums for a short while, the usual jumping like a Masaai moran, running to the gate and back like a Kipchoge and spinning like a ballerina dancer. With the latter I requested for a dance which he flatly refused, much to my amusement (because moms learn to Press CTRL+IGNORE for those undeserving gimmicks of manipulation by kids).

When the dust settled, quite literally, I sat the kid down for a pep talk, because he is four years heading on fourteen.

Me: So, Jayden, what is all the fuss with been in first place, all the time, in all things, everywhere??

J: Because I gotta be number one.

Me: But why? Does it make you happy? Or are you doing it just because you want to be ahead of everyone else?

J: That aeroplane is huuuuge mom!

Me: Yes it is a big bird. I ask, why are you so insistent on been in first place?

J: *silence* *chirping birds* *roosters crowing*

Me: See, here is the thing Jayden. You cannot always be first in everything, everywhere, every time. Because sometimes, life is not like that. You make the best of everything, that’s what matters…

I am not certain my son had a good grasp of what I meant, but it got me thinking. How often do we compete against people whose lives are on totally different trajectories? How often do we get ourselves thinking, “I must beat person X on this and this front”, yet it is not so much to be a better person as it is to be ‘ahead’ of them? Case in point, Jayden wants to be first to get out and play, All I want to do is to do laundry, get a glass of wine and read a good book. See, different ‘destinations’.

As I approach my thirties (OMG, the big 3-0!! Is just a couple of years away, yikes!), I am slowly learning that to each their own path of life. There is no need to compete with people whose life paths and purposes do not intersect with mine. It will only lead to comparison, and there is no better thief of life’s joys than this. I am learning to charter my life’s path, at my pace, learning from my mistakes, celebrating the successes and ultimately, acknowledging that doing ‘it’ first (whatever it is) does not necessarily mean I did it right.

I love picking life lessons from my motherhood journey, and boy oh boy, how fundamental these lessons are. Enough with been first, how about I make the most of my experiences in getting to be first??

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The calm before the storm 😀

 

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Perfect Imperfection: The Expansion Joint Analogy

A few weeks ago I spent time at grandma’s place in Kikuyu. I’d missed this gracious lady, and what better way to deal with that than to spend time with her and her great grandson (It is an amazing blessing to have four generations). See, I am a firm believer of spending time with the people that matter and letting them know how much they mean to me. Cucu is an amazing woman, and in her sunset years, she cherishes nothing more than spending time with her children and their children, and in my case, her first great grandson. That was an amazing weekend, and my son had fun.

It is in the fresh air breeze that sweeps across the lush landscape. It is in the panoramic views of the hills yonder where the sun’s golden rays kiss the peaks at sunset. It is in the verdant green of the farms. It is in the crowing of the roosters in the AM, and the mooing of cows at milking time. All these, away from the frenetic pace of life I am accustomed to: blaring Rongai matatus, dust-filled paths, bustling malls and the cacophony of everyday noise.

In the serenity that cucu’s home is, lying on the grass, staring at the blue skies, all I could hear in the distance was the whistling of the train. This took me back many years when I sat in that stifling hot Physics laboratory, dozing off to Mr. Wachira’s lisp-filled lessons on the difference between DC and AC, and how to connect the simple cell circuit. We should just have skipped to the part where we could jump-start manual cars because that’s what is relevant now…

Moving on swiftly, the little theory I remember from one of my Physics classes was the use of expansion joints. That is what the whistling of the train brought to mind. Now, if you have no idea what expansion joints are, these are spaces left between railway tracks during construction. Just as the name suggests, these joints are built to facilitate expansion as the temperatures fluctuate during the day. This retains the integrity of the railway tracks and ensures the tracks do not get warped, something which would undoubtedly cause accidents.

This got me thinking about my take on life, my love for structure and the place of expansion joints. I realized, for the most part during and after my Postpartum Depression (PPD), I was stuck in ‘perfect mom’ where the absence of this perfection paved the way for ‘failure’. This simply meant there was no room for trying new things, no room for been myself – free to know that it was ok to fail- and absolutely no way to get up from the imperfections.

The one thing that the lack of personal expansion joints led to was constantly beating on myself for not been the perfect mom. I was crippled by my PPD, because things were either fixed or not. I was either a good mom or a bad one. I was either having a perfect day, or it was downright crappy. I either had all the answers or was totally disoriented and lacked zeal. This self-pressure I put on myself always made me fall short because, let’s face it, perfection is a pipe dream. You cannot simply have all the answers to all of life’s seasons.

Through healing after PPD, I am learning that I need not live in this rigidity of either ‘perfect’ or ‘imperfect’. I am learning to accept that I need not have all of the answers to life’s question, and that is okay. I need not use the superficial stuff as a yardstick for my value as a person and mom. My value as a person transcends the structural perfection I have created in my mind.

My value revolves around living my life’s purpose, the lives I get to touch, the people I get to be a blessing to, and ultimately the kind of legacy I leave behind for my kid(s). My value has little to do with perfection, and everything to do with growth. It has little to do with having life figured out, and everything to do with learning through every single experience and relationship. My value has nothing to do with life’s plans cast on stone and fitted into a little box with bows, and everything to do with living life to the maximum.

Here is to expansion joints that allow me to experience life more zealously. Here is to embracing more personal expansion joints that allow for growth and failure, expansion joints that allow me to learn from my past PPD experiences and forge forward with unbridled energy. Certainly, more expansion joints to embrace perfect imperfection.

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Credits: Blackmerg Studios

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Worry Less.

I am a stickler to plans. I like to know the why’s, when’s, how’s and if’s. This mental structure allows me to compartmentalize stuff and therefore know what channel to follow and how much time to allocate each thing so that I am less freaked out when the brown smelly stuff hits the fan. In a perfect world, this happens daily. I have a daily planner, filled out with my day’s schedule, a diary with entries filled out a month in advance and holidays catered for towards end year.

The reality of life is that planning is the best we can do, because life has a way of throwing curveballs at the least expected time. This could be in the form of just about anything that threatens to taint our perfect mental pictures with smears from the past or the present. The curveball could be a power blackout for days, a sick baby, floods, mornings when the car needs to get jump-started, an irrational client, an inebriated neighbor noisily making his presence known at 2AM when you have had a rough night trying to get baby to sleep, rains that ruin date plans, misunderstanding with parents… you get the drift.

I look back at my motherhood journey and can’t help but muse at how my ‘perfect’ life was turned around by the arrival of my son and a monstrous condition such as Postpartum Depression (PPD). See, PPD has a way of rocking your little boat and bursting your perfect bubble before flooding your life with worry. And that’s simply because it does not respect class, race or religion. Anyone, both moms and dads can get PPD.

I learnt pretty fast that I needed to let go of the perfection I had set for myself.

I needed to know that it was okay to plan, and have the plans messed up by things beyond my control, because that’s how life is.

I needed to know that it was okay to sleep past my regular wake-up time at 5AM if my son was unwell the previous two nights.

I needed to appreciate that I was putting in effort and working with excellence even when a client took off with my cash (took years to let the bitterness go).

I needed to learn that some things were simply beyond my control.

I needed to know that I was not a ‘bad mom’ just because I was depressed.

I needed to put a STOP to the incessant worry.

One of the major things I struggled with when I had PPD was the fear of the future as well as feeling like I had no control over this condition. The former was the most chilling… Not knowing what the future held for my son and I, not knowing whether we would ever pull through this dark phase. I am slowly coming to a place where I realize that my worry over life’s imperfection does not add any value to my future; it only subtracts the joy of the present.

Yesterday morning while doing my devotion I was elated to read and reread this verse:

Matthew 6:27-29Amplified Bible (AMP)

27 And who of you by worrying can add one hour to [the length of] his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothes? See how the lilies and wildflowers of the field grow; they do not labor nor do they spin [wool to make clothing], 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory and splendor dressed himself like one of these.

The next day, as I walked to pick my son from school, I took time to look at the wild flowers, blooming in all their glory. The vibrant orange and yellow colors stood out. It was amazing to think that God took time to ‘clothe’ these flowers, How much more did He care about my son and I? How much more was I worth more than a flower, or the green grass that was trampled on by the sidewalk?

I got home encouraged, so much so that even when things did not go as I had scheduled them, I need not worry because He has my best interests at heart. It is comforting to rest in God’s Word and know that even when things look messy, He is working behind the scenes for my good. And so today, even in the haze of crazy days, may my heart remember that He is in control, and I need not worry.

Bonus Lesson: Most of the stuff I worried about did not even come to pass, hah!

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 Hammock living at Olooseos Resort

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Lessons from my son’s bag of toys

2016 began on a high, and after all the wins and challenges of 2015, there could be no better way to start the new year. I embrace all that this year has to offer, fully immersing myself in it, savoring every experience, and certainly making the most of everything I am grateful for. Part of this includes choosing the things that matter, over the basic trivial things we sometimes fuss over. This post was, in part, inspired by my son’s toys – Yeah, I am that person who draws parallels between life and just about anything.

Packing my son’s toys today gave me a good idea of just what choosing the stuff that matters entails. Part of my son’s toy collection includes hundreds of Lego blocks, cars, trains, lorries and a couple of stuffed animals, namely a duck, Eeyore (the donkey from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ cartoon) and a giraffe. As is his habit, he likes to scatter toys all over, I mean, you cannot possibly have a clean house with this ball of energy contained in the little mammal that my son is!

I have taught the little guy to pack his toys in the toys’ bag once he is done playing. Sometimes this packing is at 11PM on the days when, in his words, “sleep has gotten lost” (direct translation). On days like this, when he is too tired, I have to do the packing lest guys in this house start tripping over the multi-colored building blocks.

I picked his bag, and absentmindedly began packing the toys. In went the hundreds of blocks, the toy cars and lorries and duck-duck as he likes to call the stuffed duck. The toy train and Eeyore did not fit. This puzzled me for a minute because the bag is big enough, and certainly fits all toys on all other occasions.

And no, I did not get him any toys for his birthday this week, so how was this possible? Then it hit me, I always instructed him to put in the stuffed toys and big toy cars and trucks in first, because then the Lego blocks would be able to fit snugly in the spaces created by the big toys. Packing the blocks first means there wouldn’t be any spaces for the big toys to fit. When this reality dawned on me, I smiled to myself, because therein was a lesson for me, and hopefully for you too.

See, life consists of ‘big toys’ and ‘small toys’. The big toys constitute the things that matter for me: life partners, kids, friends, loved ones and a relationship with God. They are the things which, when stripped of everything else, will remain solid for the most part. The small toys are the things which, in my opinion, one can do without, and these vary from one person to another. Personally, the small toys are spending time online, catching up with my favorite movies, playing games and shopping.

The beauty of this parallel is the realization that giving priority to the ‘big toys’ means the ‘small toys’ will fall into place, almost seamlessly. By giving priority to the ‘small toys’, I automatically sideline the ‘big and more important toys’. With the latter comes a life imbalance that’s becomes difficult to restore, and for me, always feels like I am only catching my breath in what can be likened to a rat race.

Lately, I am learning how to prioritize the things that matter. I am learning to wake up early and spend time in prayer and devotion, because when life goes haywire, this is where I will turn to. I am learning how to make time to exercise, in the morning (because anything after 7AM is basically self-deception).

I am taking notes on putting my phone away when the son comes home from school, giving him undivided attention, whether it is doing his homework or telling me the day’s tales of what he learnt, who pissed him, what he ate for tea break and other short stories. (Side-note: I once asked him who he would give up first if a train came from the planets to take one of his classmates away, he had an answer. A subtle way of finding out who he likes, who he doesn’t and why. Ha! Motherhood).

I am taking time to listen to mama when she shares her day’s experience instead of half-listening as I play Temple Run. I am making reminders to call cucu just to check on her and know how she is faring. I am using sticky notes to remind me to connect with friends, not just virtually, but actually meeting, spending time and listening. Here is to re-learning the art of really listening, because at the end of the day, these are the things that matter. The things that make my world go round, the solid blocks that hold my life together. Putting in the ‘big toys’ first is what I am doing, today, tomorrow, the day after that …