“Mum!”, screamed Toni. Isn’t it saying “go get it rude?”
I said it depends on your tone of voice. Tito butted in, ” Mummy she screamed it at me, she didn’t say it in a good voice”.
“Yes I did, you dumb girl, Toni said”.
This tirade went on and on with one of them starting to cry, soon enough the other joined in. This must be because one must have hit the other. It doesn’t matter who hit who because at this point all I wanted to do is curl up somewhere and cry. I wanted to cry in self-pity; why did I do this to myself? I think I am too young to have these children or any child at all. I had no training or preparation at all on what to expect with motherhood. I took care of my neighbours’ kids but I gave them back. Also, I never saw any of them squabble with their siblings. They were babies. I became pregnant after dating my then boyfriend and now my hubby for three years. It was sudden and unexpected but we embraced it and got married. We had Tito and exactly a year after I became pregnant with Toni. I was not happy at all; this isn’t how I pictured my life. Two children within two years of marriage!!!!!! However, I took to motherhood like a duck in water. The girls were fine for the first three years of their lives and that was all the peace and tranquility we ever had. Why can’t they stay frozen in time?
As a young girl, I fought my sisters but do I ever think of the effect on my parents? Who does that anyway? Parenting is hard or shall I just say motherhood because hubby doesn’t seem perturbed or maybe he’s a good actor? When they fight, I try to ignore and then I get their reports in tears. Then I try mediating but it often falls flat because I’m accused of taking sides. Which results in tears from one or both of them and then I scream at them. So in tears, they retort back saying, ” You don’t have to scream at us”. Yes, you can read my thoughts at that moment loud and clear. When they fight, I can’t smack them because that has been taken completely off the table. The reason? How long have you got? I have been on a lot of training on Positive Parenting but when they fight I count 1-100. By the time I’m done, I can’t remember anything on Positive Parenting and all I want is my Mummy.
One of my goals as a young girl was to get married and have children; girls to be precise. However, I didn’t get the memo on how tough and hard motherhood is. It is so much harder than I ever imagined. Did I even imagine what it would be? When most people have children, they say it is the best thing that has ever happened to them. They claim it is the best thing they have ever done. Honestly, my thoughts are muddled up when they fight. I am very positive that I am not thinking this is the best thing I’ve ever done. I kid you not, it is extremely challenging. However, it is rewarding and fulfilling too. When I use a lipstick and my girls say it is so cool or that doesn’t suit you, then I think to myself, motherhood isn’t so bad. When Tito struts down in my 6 inches shoes without missing a step, then my heart is filled with pride. The girls say we are BFF; best friends forever and I don’t regret having them whether planned or unplanned. I sincerely pray the bickering would be taken a notch down.
I’m not saying I expect motherhood to be a walk in the park. I just wish people were more honest about how hard it is
“Mum, mum, I’m really so happy”. That was Toni my 7 year old even though she’s spent the better part of the morning crying over some irrelevancies. So I asked her, why is that Toni? My teacher said I am on level 3 in my SATs and she said I’m not allowed to tell till I get my school report. I feigned enthusiasm and said well done to her. Now to some confession, I still find it hard to work out the school assessments of children here in the UK. I’m so used to positions like we used to have back in Nigeria. It makes life so easy as you are able to work out a child’s capabilities. So I got to work and googled “assessments in primary schools in the UK”.
This is what I got in layman’s language: “SATs ( Standard Assessment Tests) are given in May, and are used to show your child’s progress compared with their peers”. At Key Stage 1, 7 year olds take their SATs in Year 2. Most children are expected to achieve level two. Llevel 2 is however, divided into A, B and C with A being the highest. Level 3 is beyond expectations so my dear Toni has gone beyond expectations. The confusing part is that a year 4 pupil i.e a 9 year old is expected to be on level 3. Now, Tito is 9 years old and she is on level 3a. She is regarded as one of the best in her class. I need a confused smiley face here!!!!
Toni is very studious and helpful. She strives to get it right and will keep at it till she does. Don’t get me wrong she’s a typical 7 year old with tantrums and can be bossy. Her sister on the other hand is very like me. She has nonchalant attitude towards everything. She reads anything and everything. She hates housework. She hates Maths but I know she can exceed beyond the expected if she puts her mind to it. Growing up, my momma always compared me and my sisters. How I hated it!!!! My elder sister was and still is miles apart from me. She is quiet, reserved with very few friends. Shall I describe myself? The exact opposite, and mum always said why can’t you be like your sister? Er…I can’t because she’s Funmi and I’m Tope that’s why.
Tito, why can’t you be as studious as Toni? My point? Kids are not the same….though they are from the same parents. Saying that, theoretically it is easy to say but quite hard in practice not to compare and want them to be the same. I still make that mistake of comparing one to the other especially the good traits, I am only human. But, I constantly remind myself that they are not the same. I intend to work very hard to maximise each child’s potentials.
Toni however, wants to be a chef while Tito wants to be a dancer so help me God!!!!! Did I add like NEVER!!!!!
On a fateful Friday evening in Nov. 2011, I received a call that sent shivers down my spine. It was from my girls’ school. It was from Children Social Services!!!!! I work with children and families and I have made this type of call a lot of times. I know the score; I know the drill. However, now the table is turned towards me. No doctor ever prays to be a patient in the emergency room (ER). On the morning of this fateful day, Tito my elder daughter was up to her antics yet again. She was arguing and bickering with her sister. We were nearly running late. I was frantic with worry. I was shouting orders to them to get it together. She was crying over something I didn’t quite understand. She screamed at me, “Mum, you have ears, what are they made for?” Now, insane brought up in a country with a culture and tradition that respects elders. I would never say that to my elder sister who is just a few years older than me how much more my mother!!!! I pride myself on how well I try to bring my children up. I lost my cool; I spanked her whilst explaining the reason as well.
Now, I facilitate parenting programmes and beating is NEVER an option. However, on that day all methods of managing misbehaviour flew out of the window. I knew about setting clear ground rules; using directed discussion for rule breaking; using quiet time and time out. On that day, her cup runneth over. I was at my tether’s end. I spanked her because I was mad at her choice of words. I spanked her because I felt she had not lived up to all I taught her. However, I didn’t do it within the dictates of the law. I used an implement; “omorogun” is what Yorubas call it; I think spatula is the English word. The UK law states that you can smack a child but not with an implement and no mark must be left on the child. So I got that dreaded call to come right away. I was so petrified and apprehensive with several thoughts going through my head and mind. Prior to that, Tito had been having a phase of constantly getting in trouble in school. She was allegedly accused of cutting a child’s hair in school. It could not be proved because there were no witnesses. She had also been rude to her teacher; all in the same week. So you can imagine my struggles.
So, I got to the school and there was a Social Worker and a Police officer. They started by telling me there was an allegation against me by my daughter. She had gotten in trouble that day again and was told to write a reflective report of what she did wrong. Innocently, she wrote everything and stated, “Please don’t tell my mum because she will beat me”. The head teacher read it and because these are safeguarding concerns, she promptly made a referral to Children Social Care. They provide services that promote, safeguard and improve the well-being of all children in the UK. If Children Social Care feels a child is suffering any form of abuse, they step in and it is a long journey with the main focus on the well-being of the child. The positive thing is when Tito was asked if she was scared of going home she said no because her granddad would be coming that weekend and she loves her family. Otherwise, she might have been taken from our care that weekend and put on a child protection register pending when an arrangement is made.
I am sharing this to demonstrate how challenging it is to raise a child in a country where electricity or food is not an issue. We have now been brought to the notice of Children’s Social Care. However, we have only had a visit in January which shows they do not think she is being abused. However, I have had my baptismal of fire. I’ve learnt to control myself when my girls push my buttons. I have devised a better method of reinforcing instructions by being calm and staying in control. This way I do not fall into the escalation trap where issues are escalated and it turns into a shouting match. Also, to manage misbehaviour I withdraw privileges; she loves to play on the computer. So when she is naughty I take away the luxury of playing on the computer for a stipulated time and I stick to it for consistency sake.
The road is long but it starts with a step and we have taken that step. Did I mention that I go on my knees?