Random Acts of Kindness

A Short Story

“Just a couple more blocks to go guys. We are almost there.” Yemi said, trying her best to sound positive and upbeat against the winter cold. Her arms ached from the weight of the groceries bags she had been carrying and from dragging Ola, her 5-year-old son along as he leaned on her for support.

She was tired but she couldn’t show it. She was also cold and hungry. Random thoughts went through her mind….. should I have waited? should I have left the kids alone at home? But she really had no choice. They had run out of groceries and much as she would have loved to take up her neighbor’s offer of a free ride at the weekend, she really had to get some things that evening.

“Mum, I think my toes are freezing” said Anita, her 9-year-old daughter. “Can we just stop and wait for the bus”?

“The bus isn’t coming until 20 mins and by then we’ll already be home” she replied. “Just keeping moving honey, I’ll make you some hot chocolates as soon as we get home”

“OK…. but will I get frostbite?”

“Not at all love. You have your padded socks and snow boots on. You’ll be fine as soon as we get in from this snow storm”

She knew she should have checked the weather forecast before she left home. That was one of the many new things she had to get used to. Certainly one of the many things you are not prepared for when relocating. Back home, dashing out to get groceries was not a big deal, but here she was learning that every outing has to be planned, especially with the kids…… especially in winter….

“God, please help us get home safely in one piece”, she prayed silently. “Let the kids be fine. Let us all be fine….

The sound of a car pulling up in front of her broke her train of thoughts. She stepped to the side of the road, pulling her Ola along, to avoid brushing the sides of the car.

“Good afternoon Miss” she heard a young boy’s voice call out. She kept walking. He couldn’t be calling her, could he? she didn’t recognize the car or the boy.

“Mummy, I think that boy is calling you” Jumoke, her  7-year old daughter called out to her. She stopped and looked back. He was actually running after her.

“Hi, Good afternoon” she replied him. He looked like a young teenager but she was sure she hadn’t seen him before

“My dad wants to give you and your kids a ride home” the boy said

“what?” she replied, stunned

“Hi there, Good afternoon. My name is Joey. I’ll like to give you and your kids a ride home if you don’t mind. Do you stay around here?”

She looked up and realized that his dad had stepped out of the car and come over to her side of the road. His wasn’t a face she recognized. Why was he stopping to help her? Was it safe to accept his help?

“I saw you and your kids walking in the cold and I can see that you’ve all got a lot to carry. We live at the next block” he said, showing her his driver’s license. “If you don’t mind, I can give you a lift so you can get home and out of the cold.”

“mummy please, can we go? I’m freezing….” cried Ola.

She looked down at him and tears filled her eyes. She knew she probably should not get into the car but she doubted that her kids could make it through the remaining 5 blocks with all the groceries bags in the blistering cold. She said a quick prayer for safety and turned to the man

“Thank you so much sir. We stay 5 blocks away on Thomas street”

“That’s fine. I’ll drop you off” Jack replied.

He opened the back of the car so they could drop off their groceries bags. She turned to get into the back seat with her kids and he stopped her.

“You can seat in front” he said

“But what about your son?” She replied. “Let him stay in front while I seat at the back with my kids”

“Zak is a big boy. He’ll jog home from here. Don’t worry about that” Jack replied

She was overwhelmed!!! He waved goodbye to his son and drove off. He chatted all the way to their house, like they were friends. He made the kids feel at home and by the time they got to their house, the kids were laughing and in high spirits. He helped her carry her groceries to the front door and as he turned to leave, he said

“I don’t do this always but when I saw your family leaving the store, I knew I should help. My family and I moved here 15 years ago and I know how hard it can be to settle into a new country with young kids. I am glad I could help make today a little less stressful for you”

Jack drove away, leaving Yemi standing, her eyes filled with tears and her heart with thanks.

In a world filled with so much negativity and distrust………”Be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people”¹.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

  1. https://www.pinterest.com/explore/act-of-kindness-quotes/
Advertisements
Posted in Family, Kindness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Acorns to Oak Trees

I am a ‘to-do’ list kind of person. I like checklists and clearly articulated goals. It helps me stay focused  as I tend to ‘over-trade’ with my time. I have always set out New Year targets (not necessarily resolutions) each year and after marriage, have done same with my husband for some years now. This way, we approach the New year with the same focus of things we want to accomplish, making for less uncertainty as to where our resources should be channeled.

This year I read an article written by one of my bosses and friend on managing one’s life like you manage your career. It struck a chord in me and I decided to try something new…..I got the kids to also write out their targets for 2017. I figured it’s never too early to teach them the value of time as a resource and get them to start paying attention to how they spend theirs. My 10 and 7 year olds were usually asked to set their learning targets in their old school for each term so I figured that the subject of goal setting was already familiar to them. We agreed that they would set targets in 3 areas for 2017 – Family, Social and health.

It turns out that the goals they were setting in school then were more or less dictated by the teacher and the children just wrote it out on the sheet as dictated. After taking time to explain what goals  were (things that are important for you to achieve) and why we needed them (so you can measure how much you have done/accomplished), the kids went on to produce their 2017 goals. For first time goal setters, I think they did amazing (overlooking the wrong spellings and mixed-up sentences 🙂 we sure did get some English work done in the process 🙂 ). Here’s a summary of what they put down:

  1.  Get along better with their siblings
  2. Practice being calm and focused
  3. Take up more chore responsibility at home
  4. Improve in academic performance by reading ahead
  5. Be more attentive and obedient to their parents
  6. Eat healthy meals and (for the 7-year-old) add weight!!
  7. Earn more money to help animals in Earth Rangers
  8. Learn and master a new sport

When do we start preparing our children for adulthood? Do we start from the minute they are born? whatever age they are and with what they understand? Do we give them full responsibility for things, no matter how small? More than depending on us to guide and teach them, I believe it is paramount that we bring up our children to make their own choices for the right things and the right reasons. It might seem much easier and less stressful to dictate to and micro manage them. However, we will not always be there and we need to know that they will be true to themselves and not succumb to pressure, whether from us or from their peers. Whilst we provide the foundation for their life, we need to be confident enough to allow them define the music to which they will to dance.

So this year,

I am focused on empowerment…. allowing my children make the right choices, for themselves.

I am focused on convincing, more than compelling, them to make the right choices.

I am focused on nurturing, patiently answering the millionth question.

I am focused on affirmation, seeking out the good more than readily punishing the bad.

I am focused on the war to produce a butterfly rather than the larvae’s battles with the cocoon

I do not expect that it will come easy, I actually do expect to struggle with my helicoptering ways but I commit to giving it my best shot and most importantly having fun all the way!!!!

 

201720171

 

Posted in Family, motherhood | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The ‘Extra’ Ordinariness of Ordinary Things

Parenting is an awesome and challenging experience. I doubt anyone, including the experts, have it all figured out. However, the joys are in the experience, the learning that takes place everyday, as you learn about your child, yourself and inevitably have your life turned upside down until it is right side up again. As parents, we worry about so many things. Some of them really matter to us eg their health and wellbeing. Others we simply inherit from the pressures of society. We watch and track milestones as though the quality of our lives and that of our kids depend on it. And in this state, we sometimes miss out on the beauty of life all around us.

My eldest son and I had a conversation a while ago about his gym track record. I had been to their school and had seen the name of the fastest runner in his class and was talking with him about his own pace as I know he really likes to run. His response was pretty amazing and completely changed my focus for good and just in time for the New year

He:  mom, I am not the fastest runner YET.”

Me: Sure. I saw it on the board. XYZ is the fastest runner

He: No you are not getting my point. I said I am not the fastest runner yet

Me: (Obviously confused) I heard that. and I know. That’s exactly what I am saying

He: No mum, you do not understand the Power of YET. I am not the fastest runner YET but I am training and will keep beating my record until I am the best runner I can be

Now I was humbled. My 10 year just explained the Growth Mindset thinking with such amazing perspective that I could not have done it better myself. And since then I’ve been thinking of the many times we err (I err) by making milestones millstones for our children. We place ourselves and our children under the pressure of a checklist provided by society and take for granted the ordinary things that fill our days while we pursue the extraordinary.

As the year comes to an end, I reflect on my journey so far and give thanks for the many “extra” ordinary things in my life. The simple things I have hitherto taken for granted eg

…. a baby’s ability to babble and coo, cos that means she’s ok and probably would not have a speech delay”

….. a baby’s ability to pick up a cup when hungry or thirty ….cos it means they have good motor skills and the brain and other body organs communicate just fine”

……Scribbles on my precious book that make quite a mess…. cos it means that I wont have to teach my child how to hold a pencil or a spoon or other fine motor skills”

I would have never thought that a child could be scared of the sound of his own fart, or find the sensation of passing out poop strange and startling. But having a son who had to struggle through and overcome some of these challenges has made me realize that a baby who smiles while pooping all over you deserves a responding smile and perhaps a kiss from a parent who knows that they have been blessed with the most precious gift of all. Just the other day, he showed us a neat trick he had mastered on how to get his jacket on by himself. He lies his jacket face up on the floor with the collar/ hoodie just against his feet. He slips his hands right into the sleeves and flips it perfectly over his head and viola… jacket is all worn!! You should have heard the shouts of victory erupting from his elder brothers and I as  I scooped him up, celebrating this victory. We had reached the summit of one of our many Mount Everests!! I would never have thought that seeing a jacket being worn would have brought me so much happiness and joy. It certainly would not have made my “Blessings List” a while ago. But now I am more mindful of the extra-ordinariness of ordinary things. I am more mindful of not making milestones millstones and conscious to celebrate every little victory and not take anything for granted. We will take a minute to savour our ordinary victory and then we will move on to conquer more lands 🙂

As the year draws to a close, I can think of a thousand things I had wanted to achieve this year but didn’t. And then again, there are a million others I took for granted that happened anyway, without any effort from me. I choose to embrace the stark colours of winter as I remember the amazing brilliance of Autumn understanding that each season adds its colour to make the landscape of my life that much more ‘extra’ ordinary. I am grateful for my ordinary life and look forward to many more ‘extra’ ordinary days!!!! What are you grateful for in 2016?

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, motherhood, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

If You Fail To Plan…. A big case for goal setting

One thing I did learn in MBA is the importance of performance management .  As the saying goes, what gets measured, gets done. Goals provide a basis against which performance can be measured. Good goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable , Realistic and Time based. Goals help you stay focused and should be directed towards a specific objective.

I figured that my inability to prioritize my objectives was more responsible for my overwhelming feeling of frustration, much more than the LPs defiance to my morning expectations. Now was the time to prune the expectation tree. Pick one top objective and set goals to achieve it, then move on to the next. I decided to start with the seemingly easiest and most pressing… getting to school at 8.40am consistently every morning!! With that decided, I scheduled a goal setting meeting with my stakeholders 😊. At the end of the session, the rules were simple:

  1. we have to leave home at 8.25am latest every morning
  2. backpacks must be packed, breakfast eaten and all clothing worn without prompting from mum
  3. a 60% success record was needed to earn the right to either play with any chosen device over the weekend or attend the Maker Club at the community centre
  4. each LP is fully responsible for his performance. Mum is responsible for:
    1. sounding the first wake up call at 6.50, second at 7.00 and final at 7.20. LPs (except LP4 ) are responsible for choosing what to do after the wake up calls have been sounded
    2. ensuring breakfast is ready and served and lunch packs set out by 7.45am. All LPs are responsible for ensuring they feed and pack their meals as applicable.

Pretty straight forward and easy ain’t it? Even I had a huge feeling of relief rising from that meeting. We all seemed to be on the same page…….or were we?

WEEK ONE, DAY 1

First wakeup call went out at 6.50am, no response from the troops. Second wake up call went out at 7am and still not even a stirring. I carried LP4 and started getting him ready for the day, mentally reminding myself to breath, let the yeast rise, give them time, don’t yell or go back to your helicoptering ways. I made it through bath and dress up time with LP 4 before LP10 decided to join the fun when the final wakeup call went off at 7.20. 5 minutes later and I heard his conversation with LP7

LP10: Arent you going to wake up? mummy’s team is almost ready for school

LP7: Are you serious? why didn’t she shout on me? ahhh so she wants me to lose!!

LP10: Stay there and be waiting for her to shout o!! I’m going to eat my food after I dress up

Yes!! I was glad I had kept it together. I was already feeling like a dynamite about to explode and honestly was on the verge of walking into the room and waking him up with any shock therapy I could think of (I mean, that’s how it was done in my days right?!!). At 8.10 he was still nowhere to be seen and I announced that i would be  leaving the house in 10 minutes. I went in to freshen up and change and came out to meet LP7 with a mouth stuffed with so much oatmeal that he couldn’t get an audible word out. He was struggling to put on his boots and pack up his backpack without falling over.

mum: Big guy, where’s your brother food?

LP10: In his tummy. Can’t you see how full his mouth is?

Mum: I don’t understand, are you saying he’s eaten all his food? (on a good day, he takes a minimum of 30 minutes to get done with breakfast)

LP10: yes he has! You are surprised, right? I even had to check the dustbin to make sure he hadn’t thrown it away. He ate it all. I guess he really wants to play minecraft this weekend

Mum: (with a wide smile) ok team, time’s up, let’s hit the road

That was day 1. We got to school at 8.38am ….the earliest ever!! I was elated. could this really ahve happeend without me micromanaging and raising my voice?

I came back in the afternoon to pick them from school, still in the euphoria of my early morning success. Bouncing towards me was LP7, with his outdoor jacket open (the temperature had risen to about 18 degrees from 7 degree recorded in the morning). I noticed something was missing from the picture before me so i asked

Mum: my angel, where’s your shirt? did you leave it at gym class

LP7: Hmmmm mummy

Mum: what’s hmmm mummy? where’s your shirt? please go back to your class and get it

LP7: It’s not in my class

Mum: what do you mean “it’s not in your class”? Did you lose it  or leave it in the field? Talk to me!

LP7: hmmmm…….mum, my shirt is at home

Mum: What do you mean “my shirt is at home”?

LP7: I mean i didn’t wear a shirt to school today. I just wore my jacket on my thermal wear and I only realised it when I got to school and wanted to take off my jacket

Mum: (in utter shock and surprise) you mean you sat all through school in your underwear?

LP7: No mum, I had to wear my jacket all day and don’t worry, you dont have to shout because I’ve learnt my lesson. I was so hot that I will never forget to dress properly again

…..and so ended our first post-goal setting day. I could only wonder what the next few days would hold.

NB: Checklist on the door was updated to include “make sure you are wearing a shirt and trouser underneath the jacket!!! 🙂

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Care for a freshly Baked Loaf?

In my opinion, a freshly baked loaf of bread is one of life’s simple pleasures….. It just makes your day better, no matter how horrid it had been. Take a break, seat back, breath in the savory aroma of a fresh loaf and enjoy its sumptuous taste while sipping a cup of whatever hot brew you prefer! That for me is a high point to my day.

I had never considered cooking (or baking) to be one of my hobbies. I am a passably good cook who has never really had any baking experience until recently. I stumbled into bread making and it has now become part of my bi-weekly routine. No matter how tired I am, the anticipated aroma of rising yeast in the oven inspires my arms to knead and my fingers to fold in. I’ve ventured into pies and cupcakes, bakes and grills, but my love for bread far surpasses them all. Yesterday I baked my 10th batch of bread (actual image captured in the picture, no photo-shopping, I am pretty pleased with my amateur efforts) and I sat back to reflect on the experience so far.

From my first woeful attempt to my now almost perfect recipe for sandwich bread, I’ve come to see that raising a Little Person is almost like baking a perfect loaf. I say “almost” because you don’t get to eat the child at the end of the process 🙂 . There is an art to bread making, rules that revolve around handling yeast that can make or mar your dough. It’s not just about having a high-tech mixer or top brand products… you MUST know how to work your yeast!!! Or else you end up with a lump of dough that you can either toast to make crouton or dump in the thrash (or if you are like me, eat it and tell yourself it’s not so bad). Consider my parallels with me…

  1. Proof your yeast. This means testing that your yeast is active and will actually rise before adding it to your bread. Yeast thrives better in a warm environment. If the water is too cold or too hot then you’d have yeast refusing to release the required carbon dioxide or taking too long to do so. All that is required of you is to sprinkle the yeast on the right temperature of water and let it be for 10 minutes. Then you’d have proofed it. The same applies to LPs. When LPs are too warm they don’t always see the need to “expel the carbon dioxide”. When they are too cold… I remember my mama’s saying about a child’s inability to learn with a broken heart. You just need to moderate the temperature to give them just the right amount of love to nudge them towards achieving their full potentials. Sometimes we need to take the time to test our love temperature to make sure its in tune with the ‘weather’.
  2. Knead your dough to strengthen the gluten strands. There is something like over-kneaded dough (and under kneaded dough too). Both wont rise!!! All the recipes I checked recommended manual kneading. Do it the old-fashioned way and you would hardly go wrong. Sometimes too many aunties helping out and a helicopter mum constantly picking up after them can be likened to high-tech gadget. No guidance at all is also far worse. Sometimes we need to “cut down on” or up the kneading.
  3. Read the comments in the recipe. Sometimes they give you more insight into how to do it better than the recipe itself. Reading those comments sure helped me realize some mistakes and correct them. In the same way,  LPs understand each other better than we their parents sometimes. Have you ever watched 2 babies babble to each other and wondered if they understand themselves. I believe they do!! In their tiny little world, they make sense. We need to listen to the Little People more. And trust me, what they say can crack you or rile you up, but if you listen closely, there is always something to be learned.
  4. Allow the dough to rise. initially my bread crust would be so dry irrespective of how much I tweaked the recipe. Then I stumbled on one that recommended putting the bread into a cold oven so it continues to rise as the oven heats up to the recommended temperature. Then spread butter over it while it cools down right from the over, covered with a tea towel. That did the trick for me. Bye-bye dry bread crust, hello juicy chewy bread :). You have got to allow the LPs rise to the occasion. Sometimes too much guidance….. stand here, seat still, be quiet, run, don’t run, hold my hand… stifles their own initiative and ability to do what they know to do. yeah, this goes to me and fellow helicopter mum. Back off!! Let them rise.

Bread is never savored in a hurry. You need to take the time to seat back and bite in to enjoy it. Another bread lover also said that you need to close your eyes and capture the taste at the back of your tongue. The same applies to Little People. You need time to enjoy them and watch them blossom. There are no quick fixes, no short cuts, not if you want the real deal. You have to take the time to tend to the garden of lives you have been entrusted with.

Did my bread musings resolve my morning madness or did it just leave me with homesick longings for my favourite ‘agege bread’?? Full details in the next post 🙂

Posted in Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments

An MBA in motherhood?

So I’ve read this story about the Stay At Home Mom who was asked her occupation at the DMV office and she goes on to list out all her qualifications as a mother. Every time the story gets forwarded to me and I read it, it always brings a smile to my face and somewhere in my heart I say “hmmm I hope all men are reading this and getting the message”.

Recently however, that story has been coming back to me in a whole new perspective. So today I decided to give a shout out to all the SAHMs I know!!! You guys rock!!!

Prior to now, the whole idea of being a SAHM has just been like a “heaven like” thought to me. I’d pictured myself dropping and picking up my kids from school, bringing them home to a warm homemade delicious snack, seating at the table and talking about how their day had been and what great things they did, volunteering at their school and being the loudest cheerleader at their football games……..welcoming hubby back home with the fresh smell of a hot dinner and an “only-for-you” perfumed wife. Infact he would fall in love with me all over again and vow never to let me step into an office. Oooo I never want to wake up from this dream.

I’ve been a SAHM these past 2 months by choice. I’d like to say that I got to live the dream, but at last I discovered that the story of that SAHM is relevant to me as a woman as much as to any man I think should appreciate SAHMs. Now for the records, I am by no means a lazy person. I have fought battles and conquered enemies (in a manner of speaking) in the corporate world. I got the MBA, Professional qualifications, workplace awards, I was a shining star, I was full of energy (or so I thought). Then I decided to take some time off and focus on building my little people into an efficient, performing worldclass team capable of much more than their mama. And since then, my world has turned 360degrees round.

Mother of little people 10, 7 and 4…. at the office even grown men know not to mess with me, how hard can it be to manage just 3 little people? my team was like 30 times that size!!! Then it happened……..

Day One @ School: we had done the drill 3 times the previous week and nailed it. Dresses were selected and spread out the night before, lights went out early to make sure everyone was bright and sharp. But at last!!! No MBA book ever tells you that 5 minutes is more than enough for 3 fully clothed boys to get half naked and engage in a free for all ‘Big Max ride’ (as they call it) romping all over the floor, piggy backing on LP10 with what was left of their clothing, screaming at the top of their lungs like people on a high. Reason for the undress? they did not want to mess up their clothes (how sweet….. but not so when they all start forming “I cant wear it, come and help me” after you use the taskmaster voice to speak them back to a sense of orderliness). We practically run all the 900 metres to school and arrive just as the doors are closing.  The LP10 manages to dash into the doors before they shut, the middle guy LP7….. (well he says its his first day so he needed to catch his breath so as not to arrive panting in case he is asked to introduce himself to the class). So I had to fill the tardy form for getting the Little people to school at 8.51am (instead of 8.50am). And as I did it so humbly I recalled ‘my oga’ that I had serious beef with then who gave me a query in my HR file for coming to work about 5 minutes late (8.05 instead of 8.00) and I recalled all my ranting and raking. Here there was no one to rant to/for. You just had to fill the Tardy form and send the kids up to their classes and work at not being tardy next time 😦

Day 3: We seem to have gotten the hang of it. We had had a long talk the previous night on how we have the Spirit of Excellence on the inside of us and how average was not a word we believed in. They got it… my little people I mean. They were pumped up from my pep talk and ready to take over the world. We got to school at 8.47am yesterday. So today would be another good day I thought……{the silence before the storm}. Then I could hear it, the rumbling, building up to a crescendo, the raised voices shouting “it’s mine!! give me! I don’t want it!! take it!! I’ll tell mummy…. This can’t be happening! who are these battalion of unknown aliens threatening to invade my almost perfect habitat of saneness. I quickly abandoned my makeup (You know I have to show that I have it all together like Bree in Desperate Housewives). “What’s going on here?” I asked in a raised voice. Before me was a sea of half eaten breakfast, lunch boxes yet to be put into backpacks, yet-to-be worn shoes and 2 titans locked in a power struggle with the third bystander lending his voice to the mayhem so as not to be left out of the “fun”. 3 Little people raise their voices to respond at the same time and the tears start to flow as each tries to prove themselves right. And I start another passionate speech about how “after everything I’ve told you people, why would you choose to settle for average? why cant you choose to do the right thing, at the right time and for the right reasons” (a catchy phrase I coined to keep them inspired as part of the mummy gang. Guess I should choose something cooler and shorter next time) and before I know it, I literally begin to cry…. can it really be sooo difficult to get kids to school on time. And when I heard myself telling LP7 “I hope you are happy now that you have made all of us cry” I couldn’t help but feel like the worse ‘agbaya’ on earth. Talk about sending a 7-year old on a guilt trip. We made it to the school perimeter at 8.40am. This time LP 10 & 7 made the dash through the door (guilt talk was still working on LP7 I guess). Lil munchkin got checked into Junior Kindergarten and mummy started her very long, sober, reflective walk home…… How do I use all the Performance Management models I know to drive this team to excellence???

 

Posted in Family, Uncategorized | Tagged | 11 Comments