Chile, you obviously don't know me

I’ve figured out what makes raising kids so hard.

It’s not the messes they create, or the feeding schedules if they are infants, or the incessant questions if they are toddlers/pre-schoolers…it’s the mere fact that you and your children are strangers to one another. It’s true. Yes, you may have brought them into this world with love and had hopes and expectations of a certain type of character heaped onto this person you call your baby; but the fact is, your child is an individual with their own crazy thoughts, quirks and behaviors. You yourself had your own quirks and behaviors before you became a parent.  You were somebody before you became “mommy”. It takes five years for a child’s personality to be shaped, and it takes about that long for both of you to acknowledge, recognize and respect yourselves as individuals. How do I know this? Because my eldest daughter showed me just the other day.

Take my hand. We’re going back in time to 7 a.m., March 2nd.

At 6:45 in the morning, I rolled naked out of bed, my body sore from having slept crazy the night before. My 3 yr old and infant son had both decided to wake up at 4 a-freakin’-m and had called for me specifically.

“Mooooommmiieee!! I don’t want to be asleep anymore!” Aya declared. This of course roused the baby. I took them both downstairs, gave the boy some milk, and firmly informed my insane toddler that she could not watch TV – it was 4 in the morning! At 6 o’clock, I left her sleeping on the couch and tried in vain to get 40 winks in myself before I had to drop her sister off at school.

As I sat there on my porcelain throne in the dawn hours of the day, with legs akimbo and the sunlight filtering into the otherwise dark bathroom, I contemplated the craziness of the morning. What a start to my day! I thought things could not get any worse. Suddenly, my eldest child burst into the bathroom, flicking on the light and forcing me to confront in the mirror the image of my naked, battered body, crowned with a one-side flat afro. She picked up her toothbrush, looked at the floor, looked at me and admonished:

“Look at this bathroom floor! It’s disgusting! Do you just want to have a disgusting bathroom floor with dirt and hair on it? And look at the tub! It’s not clean too. Why don’t you ever clean up?”

She was only half-way through her tirade when I felt my right hand twitch. I was about to involuntarily provide her with the first and dirtiest slap of her life, but I restrained myself. Nadjah didn’t know Malaka Gyekye was sitting on the toilet that morning. “Malaka Grant” aka “Mommy” hadn’t woken up yet. Instead of towing (slang in Ghana for slapping) my 5 year old that morning, I heard a voice come out of me that had been dead for a long time. It was Malaka Gyekye, from 1995.

“Do you clean anything in this house?” the bush girl asked in a thick native accent. “Do you?!? And do you know why my floor is dirty? It’s because you and your silly sister pour soapy water on my floor and make it dirty!”

Ms. Gyekye’s biceps tightened.

“In fact, before you leave this house today, you will clean. And you don’t talk to grown-ups that way, do you understand me?”

Nadjah, obviously confused by the presence of this bush, naked Ghanaian woman sitting in her mother’s bathroom, nodded in understanding and silently brushed her teeth. Malaka Gyekye, who had stopped urinating to listen to this 5 year old’s drivel, finished doing so, sucked her teeth and took a hot shower.

******

So folks, when you’re going through tough times with your kids, don’t get discouraged. They are just travelers on this earth, blindly trying to figure out who they are – and until they achieve that enlightenment, your kids will seem insane. I tell you what though: if you occasionally introduce them to the person you were before you became “mommy” or “daddy”, those incidences of appearant insanity will be fewer and further between.

  • Mahmoud joseph kanawatey

    dear Malaka,
    Thank you for those wonderful moments we shared while you were in Ghana it has been imprinted on me for life you are such a great and wonderful person. It has been a honor knowing you.

    Z