The Number One Back to School Essential

It’s back to school time for most children round the world. There will have been the buying of equipment, sourcing of after-school activities or care, the shuffling from here to there. Our minds are preoccupied with not only getting them ready for school but sometimes worry about how they will get on.

It’s a new school for my kids as well as three nephews and two nieces. There is a lot to process. There might be anxiety about work load for some, the fear of exams for others, the will-they-make-friends concern, etc. There is more than enough to keep us all preoccupied.

Through it all though, let’s not forget an essential ingredient that every parent must give their child – encouragement.

We may never understand the pressure kids are under today but we can guess. The need for acceptance, the need to do their best, the waiting to see if they were selected for a sports team or school play, the desire not to stand out, the pressure of exams. Add to that the proliferation of social media amongst them, children today have all sorts of pressures thrust upon them that we’ll never fully understand.

So the one thing I aim to do is to let my children know that their best is good enough. That they can do anything they set their mind on. And when they can’t, it’s OK. They need that safe place where they always have a cheerleader.  And it can get very corny in our home with my daughter getting out her pompoms to cheer her brother on, or me making positive declarations over my kids. My aim is to pump them up so much with confidence that no one on the outside can ever penetrate their veneer with arrows of negativity or condescension.

Keeping their morale up is more important than homework and all the other stuff. Sorry if you are a teacher reading this and you disagree. But a child that already feels he or she is losing is hardly going to feel able in your class.

So as parents, aunties, uncles, friends and the entire village it takes to raise a child, be the greatest cheerleader for every child in your life. Heaven knows they need it.

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A Thin Line Between Sanity And Depression

Photo By Lechon Kirb

I posted this two years ago and sadly it is still relevant.

When I was at University, one of my friends was falsely accused of being in an occult fraternity which led to an investigation that cost him two years of his education. After a long drawn out battle, he was acquitted and was able to return to University. It was at this point he came to visit me; to share his story. He said a lot of things but one comment stuck with me ever since:

I almost lost my mind. I discovered that there is a thin line between insanity and sanity.

He was in his early twenties at the time. He was lucky; he had his faith and supportive family and friends. Nonetheless it was the loneliest time of his life and he led life as a recluse over those two years.

Today, we learnt in the news that the suicide rate for middle-age men with mental health issues has risen by 73% since 2006*.

When my friend was sharing his story with me, I remember thinking how incredibly brave he was. Not just coming through it but for being open about it and sharing his vulnerability. This is not how society generally socialises men to be – vulnerable. Certainly not in Nigeria where I grew up.

We know that today, men, particularly middle-aged men, are more at risk of taking their own lives.

I’m not a mental health worker nor do I profess to be an expert in any way. However, one thing I’ve learnt, after 10 years in pastoral care; is that people, men and women, need an opportunity to be honest and vulnerable without fear of stigma or reproach. People need to be able to share their pain, sorrow and fears and know that it’s O.K. People need a support network to help them through tough times. Before any recovery, there must be the space to be real with themselves.

Too often men are held to very high standards of masculinity and within that strata, there is very little room or respect for vulnerability let alone crying. We socialise our boys from an early age to adopt a false sense of masculinity. We ask them if they are girls when they cry or tell them to man up. We teach them at an early age to stifle their emotions and it’s little wonder that they grow up not learning to deal with them or ask for help. Clearly, this has to change if we want men to be sensitive to the state of their mental health.

Mental health is complex and there will be many issues to unpick in today’s news as to why men are at a higher risk of committing suicide. However, you and I can start by giving boys and men a break from machismo and let them just be.

Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90 (24-hour national helpline)

* University of Manchester’s National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness

What Legacy will you leave as a Mum?

On Thursday, I attended the service of songs or wake keeping for my cousin, Sola, (still can’t believe it). One of his closest friends read a tribute and talked about the legacy he left to his daughter. Although he spoke about a lot of things, the word ‘legacy’ has reverberated through my being since Thursday. What legacy am I leaving for my children?

When Sola’s daughter came up and read her tribute, I was struck by two things. Firstly, what an eloquent young woman – her parents must have been so proud of her. Secondly, how present her father was in her life.  Over the next few minutes she went on to describe explicitly what it means to be present as a parent from a child’s perspective.

Sola poured his life into his daughter and her well-being what his utmost concern. Whilst he might not have had much, he had a lot of love and he lavished it on her. I realised as she spoke, that on this dusty road we call life, he focused on the principle thing – love.

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Mother’s day can mean a myriad of things to many of us. A day to be cherished; a reminder that we are taken for granted perhaps; a reiteration of the fact that you are both mother and father to your child; a reminder that the child you long for is still not yours; maybe sadness over the loss of your own mum – it means so many different things to all people.

In the midst of all the chocolates, flowers, pampering and what nots you may or may not be doing, I’d like to take moment to focus on what it does mean to be a mother – to be a parent. These are the lessons my young cousin taught me on parenting from the view of a child.

  • Children are kind. They don’t always hold your faults against you.
  • They love unconditionally.
  • They appreciate when you spend time with them – quality time.
  • It is important to create memories. It doesn’t cost much to watch a movie on TV together or share your favourite songs with one another. Create unforgettable memories.
  • Encourage them all the time. Motivate them. Be their greatest cheerleader.
  • Though you are parent first and friend later, be the one that they want to come and share their burdens with.
  • When they find in you someone they can trust with their hearts, they share their lives with you and crown you ‘best friend’. This is not a title you bestow upon yourself.

I hope I haven’t rained on anyone’s parade today. It’s a reflective time for me and a stark reminder about what parenting is really about – at least for me anyway. However, I also find it encouraging that what children remember are the simple things, not the things – what they remember is you.

My cousin’s daughter, my young cousin, taught me what IS important about parenthood. In her words, “my dad wasn’t perfect but he was perfect to me”. It suddenly dawned on me that parenthood-slash-motherhood is an act of service not a trophy. It is also a privilege that I probably do take for granted if I am honest. And in those moments when we rush from pillar to post in a bid to do it all, all of the time, this is a wonderful reminder that we are enough.

Her time with her father was so so brief, it is really heartbreaking, but he left an indelible imprint on her heart that will last a lifetime. I wonder how my children will remember me? Have you ever thought about that? What legacy are you leaving your children?

Yours,

RWW

Monopoly Wars

Each holiday we try to get our children unglued from the T.V, Wii, iPad or Nintendo DS. Gosh! So much competition vying for their time.

This time we’ve got them hooked on Monopoly. We’ve had the game for a long time and they’ve played it to varying degrees of enjoyment. However, I guess they are older now and they are gaining an understanding of the value of money.

I observed one of their games and it was a revelation. I saw aspects of their personalities that I was not aware of.

My son, the ever competitive soul who doesn’t put his soul into anything not worth winning, is a ruthless business man. He will get all the title deeds on one or more sides of the board and proceed to deck them out with homes and hotels such that once you pass Go you are filled with dread. Even when you are down and can’t pay income tax, he’ll come knocking on your door for his rent.

My daughter on the other hand, is the trusting individual who spends without thinking and hopes it all works out. She starts the game spending and buying land until she has no more money. She hasn’t quite learnt how to save a little bit for accidentals. She just keeps spending because for her, she wants to acquire those homes and is on a fast track to do so . However, she has progressed a long way from when she refused to spend and wanted to see money pile up and not invest.  Having been on the brink of bankruptcy three times and sent to jail eight times, I tried to get her to quit but daughter refused to be beaten. She remortgaged a couple of her title deeds and miraculously bounces back, repays her debt and ends up owning homes.

There were some very tense moments as both scrambled for success. With each throw of the dice, their decisions become more strategic and focused. It would appear that I don’t have to much more to teach them. Thank God for Monopoly. They have learnt to save, pay off debt, invest and grow their money.

New Year’s Day Tradition

It’s funny how memories are suddenly triggered. I haven’t spent New Year’s Eve (NYE) with my mother in over fifteen years but yesterday I remembered one of her traditions.

Every NYE we would start to say prayers as a family about 11.30pm. After midnight,  we would say Happy New Year, give each other a hug and toast with champagne. My mum would bring out a plate of segmented oranges and pass them round.  And then say in Yoruba, “odun yi a san” meaning this year will be good or better. (I hope no one corrects my translation 😂😂😂)

As we drove home from NYE’s service at church, I told my husband this story.  When we got home, he took out some oranges from the fridge and cut them up. And so the tradition is passed on.

Just as oranges bring sweetness and refreshment to the palette, may 2017 be a sweet and refreshing year for you and your loved ones. English doesn’t do justice to what Yoruba could have done but I’m sure you get the sentiment.

Happy New Year!

How I Lost a £100 Bet

In September, I posted the following on my Facebook page:

My son decided that once school started he would not eat junk food for the next three months. Laughing I said if that happens I’ll give you £100. Lured by the bait, that I know I will never have to pay 😂😂😂😂😂, he accepted the challenge.

Since that day when I inadvertently- I mean foolishly – made that bet, my son has not had a crisp, sweet, chocolate, snack, icecream, nada. For three months, he has had fruit at school lunches; even enlisted his friends to help him keep on top of it. At birthday parties, he has stuck to fruit and veg. And at home, a child who I have had to restrain from having multiple snacks a day, suddenly metamorphosed into an overnight health aficionado.

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As part of the agreement, he was allowed a day off for his birthday. Apart from that day, despite my attempts to sabotage his challenge (believe me I tried) he has resisted and kept at it. A low point came when I started to offer him get-out-of=jail cards at £20 each to eat an unhealthy snack. *SMH*

Although I had failed to reduce my impending liability, I was still confident. I thought even if he lasted a little while, there was no way he would survive Christmas without junk food. Boy was I wrong. Clearly I do not know my son very well because he sailed through the festive season like a pro.

There are so many morals to this story that I don’t know where to start. So here I am, £100 lighter, shamefaced and eating humble-pie for underestimating a child. Now we just need to channel this determination and discipline into keeping a tidy room in 2017.

This will be the last time I ever make a bet with him or any other child for that matter. I’ve been schooled!

There is no S**TA

This Christmas, I would advise you to keep your children well away from mine because they know there is such thing as Santa.

Two years ago, we made the decision to tell them the truth. Yeah yeah yeah, we are mean old parents but:

  1. We were tired of this big bearded man that comes down the chimney once a year taking all the credit for the gifts that our hard earned money provided.
  2. We were tired of keeping up the charade and essentially the lies that went along with it as they got older. It got to the point where  I would have to say that the friend who told them there was a Santa was a liar.
  3. The gift list was getting ridiculously wilder and longer. It needed to be halted. I’m just not cut out to be one of those parents that gives their kids everything they want.
  4. We are mean like that. Hehehehehehe.

Now this year we could ask what do you want and get a list and since they know it’s their parents providing them, there is the understanding that not every wish would be granted.

I wonder if it’ll stop them wishing for those dreamy, magical presents that only Santa can provide?  Who knows. I’d like to think that Santa is not responsible for creativity and high expectations in children.

Anyway, you’ve been warned, keep your kids away or else.

International Day of the Girl 

​The day I had my daughter my world view changed.

I knew that I was her first example of what a woman could be and I found that scary.

I didn’t want to grow up or be responsible for such an onerous role. But I have no choice because I don’t want her to ever feel that she shouldn’t work hard; or that she needs a man to make her complete; or she can’t be sporty and girly at the same time; or be anything she wants to be.

So I straightened up my life so she could be  a Wonder Woman too.

Every girl deserves to know that all things are possible for them should they want it.

We’ve just got to keep punching through that glass ceiling wherever we find ourselves so that the next generation doesn’t have to.

Ignore the Naysayers

Yesterday, my son and I were having a conversation about his impending match, which was today.

He had been telling his friends at school about the match and there was a plethora of opinions about the opposing team.

  1. They trashed J’s team and J’s team is good
  2. They are better than you guys, you can’t  beat them
  3. They are too good

So the conclusion was, you aren’t going to win. Don’t bother.

Way to encourage a friend! 

So I simply said to him, “it doesn’t matter that they beat J’s team, they don’t have you. So go out there and do your best”. 

For all I knew this team might be the spawn of Barcelona FC but I didn’t really care. You can’t acheive anything without first believing you can. You may not always win but you will most certainly lose if you give up before you start.

I asked what his response was and he said, “I told them I bet you I’ll win). *sniff snifff. Proud mama moment*

I don’t care how delusional I may come across. I will chose delusion any day over thinking I’m a loser before the game has even started.

Pssssh. Anyway, they haven’t met the son of Wonder Woman. He went, he scored, our team won. 

The Olympic Dream

The Olympics.

That moment in time when my children imagine they can be anyrhing they want to be.

They are swift to drop every activity and pick up a new one.

They want to participate in athletics, diving, swimming, fencing, archery and even shooting. No sport is beyond their reach.

The Olympics.

That time when everyone sitting on their sofa watching is a winner.

For in that moment, we overlook the dedication, blood and sweat of the past four years.

We can’t see the sleepless nights and the pains endured.

We can’t see the sprains, strains and daily jabs required to just keep a limb immobile.

All we see is the glory. The cheers. The winning. The gold!

I wonder if I explained to my children how much they’d have to give up to attain this glory, would they still want to?  

If I told that chocolate and crisps do not constitute the food of champions.
If I told them that champions don’t spend their moments winning on Nintendo, Wii or watching TV.

If I told them they would not have time for other activities, playdates or spontaneous days at the park.

Their time, an average of 6 – 7 hours will be spent practising their skill and honing their craft – every day.

I wonder if their commitment would be unwavering?

This is the power of the Olympic dream. We are only interested in the medals, not the pain.

The power of a parent however, is to allow them to dream but make sure they see through an activity they picked up prior to Rio 2016  before they jump onto something else.😂😂😂