As a new mother, I felt disoriented a lot, I imagine like most of you. I mean, who was this wondrous little creature, equal parts mom and dad and maybe bit of a wayward uncle somewhere in there.
New babies are all instinct, nervous system and an unrelenting digestive system. We, the new moms, eagerly search for any hint of their uniqueness – anything that separates them from other babies and helps us learn about the little emerging person they are. Are they independent or clingy? A giggler or more serious? An old soul or a new one (if you’re so inclined to think that way)?
And with every expression of something new – a proclivity or an interest or an emotion – I wondered: Is this just typical baby stuff or is it an expression of his unique Caleb-ness. We found it incredible how much he responded to music and loved to kick around balls with a deftness that seemed beyond his babyhood. We harbored fantasies related to orchestral and athletic prowess. But, really, wasn’t this stuff universal? Don’t all babies love music and playing with orb-shaped objects?
That was the root of my disorientation: which of this stuff was the embodiment of babyhood and which was the embodiment of this particular baby? In this one way (and ONLY in that way) I was a bit envious of a friend who had fraternal twins. At each developmental stage their uniqueness was obvious. Susie was the shy one who loved to snuggle and Jack was the independent one who never wanted to sleep.
With an only child there is simply no point of comparison. A first born defines what a baby is. It’s a tall order for such a little guy.
Now here I am with my second boy in my arms. And everything he does is inevitably compares to his brother. He talks later, clings more, sleeps worse, snuggles more, fears strangers more etc… THAN his brother. His teeth came in closer together, his fingers are longer, he loves animals more, is less interested in television shows and wants to be carried more THAN his brother. You’d think I’d finally be relieved by being able to know my baby in comparison to some precedent.
But instead of providing a touchstone to better understand my baby, I find myself wondering if these comparisons are fair to the little guy. It’s as if I can’t understand him outside of his relation to his brother. Somehow, now that I have a frame of reference, I find myself doing the inevitable human thing of sorting and comparing. Sometimes it provides a useful orientation, and sometimes I wonder if it prevents me from fully seeing my baby.
I love those boys more than I thought possible. I feel more protective of and endeared to them than anyone else on the planet. And cliché as it is, that love grows every day. That love defies an intellectual “understanding” of who each one is as person. But, knowing your child is the color within the thickly etched lines of that raw human love. I want to see those colors as clearly as possible.
What do you other mamas think of this? Do you have trouble truly “seeing” your kids not in relation to their siblings? Does it even matter?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by our writer in Kenya, Mama Mzungu, who writes at www.mamamzungu.com .
Photo credit to the author.
This post is a reflection by our editor, MamaMzungu, in Kenya on the September 21, 2013 shooting in Nairobi, when 10-15 unidentified gunmen opened fire in an upscale, downtown shopping mall, killing 62 and wounding more than 175 people.
I’ve spent the last few days fighting back (often unsuccessfully) tears. When I communicate about this tragedy to friends and family, I find myself most often saying, “there are no words.”
Sixty dead souls, children among them, nearly 200 injured and the senseless death toll keeps mounting. Ravi Ramrattan, among them, is a friend who was kind-hearted, whip-smart and had a manner that immediately put everyone at ease. They identified him by his shoes.
Unthinkably, when I describe him, I have to use the verb “was” not “is;” his bright future snatched from him, leaving a crater-sized hole in the hearts of people who loved him. Those are words. And as I type them, here I go again fighting that tightening in my throat and welling in my eyes.
Still, I need to find words. I need to find some sense or meaning out of this tragedy.
When we first heard about the shooting, we were camping in a forest with some friends. We were walking amid astounding beauty with our children, 3 four-year-olds and 3 babies. We received information in fits and starts when cell phone reception worked.
First it was 15-20 dead. Shit. That’s gotta be a terrorist attack.
Then it was 29. Holy crap. Pit in the belly. Do we know anyone?
Then it was 39. But these numbers could keep going up. Where will it stop?.
Then, 59 dead. Silence.
But it was one small detail, not the numbers, that finally made that scene at the luxury mall real: It was a children’s day at the mall. Something I might have taken my own babies to. Some of these children were now dead.
I was going to write something about numbers, how we interpret tragedy and risk through a narrow and almost tribal lens. How I’ve seen a lot of equally senseless and avoidable death from terror of poverty. And those numbers are higher than 60.
How disappointing the truth is that it pains me to my core, when the victims look like me – when I can picture myself and my children in that circumstance.
How, as much as I think of myself as part of a truly global community, the world spins off its axis more for me when my bubble of safety and comfort is exploded.
But forget all that. I’m not in the mood to be philosophical yet. I just want to be sad. I want to mourn.
All life is precious. And fleeting. And nothing is sure. I just want to hug my family extra tight. And I want to pray to a god which I have to cling to, even though such senselessness make me doubt his existence, to bring comfort to the people who are unexpectedly burying loved ones too soon.
Mama Mzungu is a World Moms Blog editor and contributor living in Kenya with her husband and two young children. You can read more about their life and recent events on her blog: Mama Mzungu This article was reposted on World Moms Blog with permission.
The image used in this post is credited to US Army Africa and holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
In the US, people with physical disabilities focus on fighting stigma, on being viewed as people who can do almost anything despite of their physical limitations, and on fighting for the world to make appropriate accommodations in order to even the playing field.
In Kenya, like so many low-income countries, people with physical disabilities, children in particular, are fighting for their very survival.
A friend, who runs a school for the disabled here, recently told me an illustrative story. The man who founded the school was visiting a friend in a rural area and came across a disabled child who was tied to a tree while his parents went to work in the field. The boy was left with a bowl of food and forced to defecate in the radius rope permitted. The school founder, touched by this scene, made it his life’s work to make lives better and futures brighter for these children. (more…)
Our “Casting a Wider Net” series features mothers around the world whose voices have typically been excluded from the blogosphere, due to lack of access to the internet, low literacy or poverty. This feature aims to include their important and distinct perspectives with interviews and occasional video clips.
My grandmother, even at 91, never ceases to amaze me. She has fought back from accidents and illness, car wrecks and strokes, with unexpected strength and optimism, probably from a deep drive to feel fully engaged in the world. When my grandfather, the love of her life, widowed her over 30 years ago, she saw past her grief to discover new joys, taking up folk dancing and beginning a new career as a pre-school teacher. Today, her hands shake, the result of essential tremors, but that was beside the point when she decided to take up pottery – a unquestionably physical art form – in her 8th decade of life. Her brightly colored ceramic creations fill her small apartment and she makes gifts of them for her 5 grandchildren and growing brood of “greats.”
But it’s not just her zest that draws you in. She’s warm, the kind of woman it’s easy to open up to, a good listener and curious question-asker. It’s probably this quality, along with her undeniably sweet demeanor, that has kept her in companionship since my grandfather passed. And it’s this quality that made me want to turn the tables and ask her questions. (more…)
Our “Casting a Wider Net” series features mothers around the world who’s voices have typically been excluded from the blogosphere, due to lack of access to computers or the internet, low literacy or poverty. This feature aims to include their important and distinct perspectives with interviews and occasional video clips.
Meet Wilkister. She’s a mother of seven children, including a remarkable two sets of twins, ranging from 7 to 18 years old. She lives in Western Kenya and tends a shamba (farm) of maize, cassava, millet and vegetables. She met her husband, a primary school teacher, when she traveled to his village to visit her sister who had married a relative of his. The marriage was sealed with a pride price, she moved in to his homestead and has become an important member of his extended family. Her relatives describe her as responsible, strong and hardworking.
Unlike many other women in her village, she graduated secondary school. She speaks four languages fluently and worked as a translator for me on a recent trip to her village. The following are some of Wilkister’s thoughts on marriage, family and life… (more…)