Thursday, August 23, 2012


My overriding fears in this life are 2; that I will die young and my children will not remember me as I don’t remember my godmother. When I speak of her,  I say things like  ‘ wo se she didn’t mince her words koraa’. Omparem Ewuradze, touch, no knock -loudly too- on, wood, tofiakwa!, that my children should say, ‘wo se our mum was very funny’. Every birthday- whether mine or theirs, I rejoice that I am one year farther away from being forgettable.

My other fear, and this more terrifying,  is that I will lose a child. The very thought injects a chill through the marrow of my bones.  Every time one of them runs a temperature I am very, very afraid. To make the experience even scarier, they make sure to be ill only in the night. How I hate 2am on a sick night! My child is ill, the weather is coolish, the trees in the yard are rustling their leaves, and all the dogs in the neighborhood howl eerily and simultaneously.  

That would be enough to spook a lot of people. I have added on to this basic halloween recipe several other factors that intensify its effect. 1. I am an African woman- which means, that no matter what faith I subscribe to, somewhere deep down in there, I am superstitious.  2. Years ago in boarding school, a girl once said that the witches don’t fly at midnight but at 2 am. (I didn’t ask how she knew) 3. I live not far from a cemetery. And 4.  the street light that shines into my yard through the trees is not yellow but a dull orange. For all these reasons, I try not to be awake alone at 2am on any day. On sick nights, I am afraid to be awake but even more afraid that the fever will escalate to critical while I sleep.  Lord but I hate 2am on sick nights. 

Each time on of them is sick, fear number 2 awakes to terrorise me. It doesn’t get a chance to very often. They are not sick much. But it too is never forgotten. From time to time, and usually on a fairly whimsical basis, I earmark an age as a worrisome one and make tediously detailed plans how to guard them through that age.  2-6months was the first ‘danger zone’.  It was elevated to this post by my reading on crib death. When the boys were that age, I hovered while they slept. Their 7th anniversary was met with soul-deep relief. 

Age 2 was the second one, my mother’s lost his twin 2year olds. They were playing in the yard and ate some leaves. They were gone within 24hrs. Every diffenbachia,  evil kontomire, [my name for Caladium. I think the pink patches on it look like gnome-sprinkled poison], oleander,  or other poisonous plant was uprooted and destroyed. Even some poor hapless ones that looked suspicious were vamoosed as well. The boys could only go out  the front door  with an adult. The back door was completely off -limits. Perhaps I was obsessive; at least Kofi thought so.  But hey we made it safely to year 3. 

Ben Johnson’s On My First Sonne has bequeathed  a deep secret fear of the age 7. I have made all these plans, which in my saner moments, I can admit are impracticable. They include; for those 2 years I will have 7 year olds, not spending more than 1 night away from home, taking their temperature daily. Making sure they always have a little card with blood group, allergies, our numbers, etc on them even when they go to a martial arts lesson. Having monthly blood tests. Carrying around an inhaler in case their mild respiratory allergies get inexplicably inflamed one afternoon and more.  

When we got through age 2 unscathed, I exhaled and prepared to cruise untill the dreaded age 7, sure that I was in chill zone. Until Dovie got ill. Pneumonia. We were on admission for 5 nights. Monday through Saturday morning. He was put on a drip and given 3 shots of antibiotic through an IV every day. The first 2 of those days, were thus far, in my 3 decades, the most frightened I have ever been. 

On the Wednesday morning, he woke up and asked me to call GrammaMummy, and he told her that he wanted to eat rice water and he wanted her to cook it nicely and ‘GrammaMummy don’t forget to put some sugar in it and make it nice.’ I was so very happy. I gave him a hug, then I went into the bathroom, locked the door, sat on the WC and I cried. Until that moment I had refused to acknowledge the fear that I would lose him. I cried out all my fear, I cried my relief, I cried my loneliness, I cried my gratitude. And when I came out, he said, ‘ maman, I thought you were going to bath.’ ‘I was’ I lied, ‘I just wanted my teeth to be very white, so I took a long time cleaning them.’ 

As soon as we got home, I washed all their soft toys, soaked the others with bleach, changed their playroom floor, used bleach to wipe all the door handles and every surface they ordinarily touch. Then sat back and felt overwhelmed by the number of places, I couldn’t disinfect that could possibly carry bacteria; the yard, the trees, the walls, …. 

Cool nights a former favorite, now make me nervous. I make them wear socks and a sweater nearly 24 hrs. By lunchtime usually, they have had enough. Then they take them off without asking me.  But I make them put them back on after their evening bath. 

I am obsessing, I know it. But I can’t help it. I am not yet recovered from having to pin my son down while the nurses push a needle in and twist trying to find an elusive vein. Nor from hearing him screaming, crying, asking why they are always hurting him. No, I am not yet over him throwing his arms around my neck asking me to take him away please. Or from him lying weak, and feverish, telling me in a rasping voice to ask God to make the sickness go away.

Today, the woman I buy bananas from told me she had lost a child. While I was commiserating, she added that the child was 7 yrs old.  Now, the old buried fear of age 7 has awakened. The new fear of ‘under 5’ is not subsided. I have to get a grip. I will not become a smothering hypochondriac mother because of fear. I will not. This wave of panic will subside, I know. I just have to ride it out. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How To Pull Out Your Hair Strand By Strand.

To the uninitiated, this may sound complicated; but it really is not. All it takes is a concerted effort to study legal accounting, civil pocedure and criminal procedure in quick succession.  Alternatively, you can try to make two toddlers break no house rules for two hours.

Why would you want to pull your hair out strand by strand? Who knows? By the time you have tried one of these two options, it will seem like a startlingly good and novel idea. And you will wonder ‘why didn’t I think of that earlier?!’

 When my boys were babies, people used to say in assuring tones, that they would be 10 before I knew it and I’d have my life back.’ Now they say ‘eei! Vini is 3 already, you’ll have your life back in just a little bit!’ the latter half of that is said in a ‘see I told you’ tone.
 Kofi and I snorted at those comments. When the boys were 10 and 11, I would be 36, he 41. What would we need the social life of youth back for?  After a decade of not being able to party 48 hrs straight, get drunk as a skunk and sleep it off for 2 days, from where would we summon the interest to do it? We decided that it was an understandable sentiment coming from a generation that had a national 8pm curfew in their early motherhood days. There had been no nightlife to miss missing out on.’ 

But early in 2011, when I went through a partying phase, I almost  got to believing that they were right. For about 2 or 3 months I went out and partied hard every weekend night and some weekday ones as well. Something I hadn’t done since 07. At the time I thought it was the return of my youthful energy. It made sense to think so. After all my kids could now speak. Bedtime is strictly observed in our house and our minder is amazing. The prophecy was being fulfilled.

By the 3rd month, I was drained by the idea of leaving my house at 11pm to dance. My surprising discovery is that between ages 25 and 29 there’s a world of kilojoules. My friends all prefer these days to hang out in places where we can chat above the music.  Yesterday one said to me ‘you know I don’t like younger people.’ She was explaining why she couldn’t enjoy an acquaintance’s company.

If you believe that not having children will leave you unhampered to enjoy long hours on the town, you’re sadly mistaken. That sneaky devil, Age; he gets you every time. We have not only changed, we have grown.

In my early twenties, if I were bored in class I would write rhymes. [by that I mean that silly four to six liners that rhymed, not deep philosophical hip hop metaphors]. Then show them to the people around me to make them laugh, unconcerned whether it disrupted the class or no. But then, in those days to have fun, we’d  pay to go into noisy rooms where they played the same music we had on our computers at deafening levels and gyrate ourselves into a frenzy. 

Now on the verge of 30, when I’m bored in class, I go online, read the New York Times and Arts and Letters Daily. When I am really bored, I consider energy and time efficient ways to do random things. Which brings me back to the topic how to pull your hair out strand by strand. My thoughts at the moment are that the best way to achieve this is to pick your hair in single strands, wind each one around your finger till its taut and then yank. What say you?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Top 10 Things That Suck About Having Domestic Help-

All that glisters is not gold….. Gilded tombs do worms enfold. 

Shakespeare was not just rhyming. He was onto something there. People talk all the time about how having domestic help is great.  It is, but as there’s a downside to everything, here’s my top 10 list on why having help sucks!

  1. No nudity- you know those Sundays [in my case limited to when the boys are in Tema] when you don’t feel like wearing anything? Well, you don’t have a choice. Best put something on before you step out of the room or brace yourself for embarrassing moments. 
  2. No spontaneous middle of the day sex-  we did it a few times, but afterwards, you come out and feel kind of … not quite guilty or defensive. There’s some undefined desire to establish that you’re still boss or something. I can’t quite tell. We decided that feeling like we had to hold our heads high in the presence of our help was not really fun so we don’t - much at any rate.
  3. no gossip or confiding outside your room- even inside the room, whispers are best.
  4. no carelessness with money- you can still fling change onto the cupboard. it just won't be there every time.

That’s right. There aren’t 10 things that suck about having help. Having help rocks. I am forever grateful that I live in Ghana where I can be unemployed and afford live-in help. 

The reason there’s a thumbs-down  list at all is that the children are growing older and easier everyday. They can brush their own teeth. Although if I let them too often, I’ll need to up my dentist budget. They can bath themselves. Not perhaps to meet international bathing standards but with anti-bacterial soap, there’s little to fear. 

They can go to the bathroom on their own both for number 1 and number 2. Vini still yells when he’s done doing number two: Agnes can you please come and wipe my poopoo bumbum?’ Dovie, with a growing and rather amusing and bemusing sense of privacy will wipe himself whether or not you ask him to call you. Nor will he let you stick around while he’s pooing. ‘mama can you please go. I will call you when I finish.’  but he won’t.  And usually he’s done a pretty good job too.  Their new mantra is ‘I can do it myself’.  After lengthy negotiations, we have reached an agreement; in the mornings adults clean children, at night, children clean children and adults watch. 

If they are thirsty, they get their own water. They don’t need diapers and they don’t wet their beds. They know exactly what they want to wear and won’t accept your help dressing up unless you respect their choices. [ I once told Dove to change one or other part of his orange and green ensemble. He thought about it a minute and replied with a shrug ‘maman these colours they make me happy.’]

And best of all, they have become my errand boys. Such efficient little bell boys they are. ‘Dovie, Pick the papers up for me please.. take that to the kitchen. Vini, bring my phone, fetch my shoes.  Tell `papa uncle John is here.’  MMm. I get to spend long lovely moments in those lazy positions from which only emergencies can move you, while around me, my mini-me s get things done. 

What’s the connection between all these and the feeling that having help has its drawbacks? Simple really, a case of ‘se odo sa a n’ato adapaa.’ [out fades the love, in flows the hate] The horrible endless wheel of chores that comes with helpless babies and makes them oppressive has rolled away.  I now have the liberty to be irritated that there’s some stranger on my compound forcing me to put clothes on to get a drink of water in the night.  Once, I scrambled around trying to make life in our yard appealing to my help Now I tell them  ‘the end of the month is a bad time to annoy me, because its really easy to pay you off.’  Maaba do ankasa!

Of course, bathrooms still need to be cleaned, floors must be swept, things arranged, ironing done, washing up put away, tables cleared, furniture polished, trash taken out… the list is endless.  And no matter how well they are done today, tomorrow they fall to be done with the same energy again. These non baby related chores do not show any signs of going away. 

This is why the top 10 help rocks list trumps the help sucks list. It is admittedly very intrusive to have strangers in your home nearly always but man, it makes for living it up. I wouldn’t give up the luxury for anything. I’ll just grumble I think. Domestic help… I dey biiiii keke!!!!.

Pushing Up out Of The Water

After nearly two years of silence, I'm endeavoring to shake this laziness that hides behind the demands of law school. Hopefully I will succeed both in returning to this blog and reviving your interest in reading it.

 I know, you have heard this before. But this time, there really is a wolf, I swear.